Tom Froese on Evolving Techniques for Distinctive Character Design

By enlisting a varied process of preliminary drafting and mark making stages that move between paper and screen, Tom Froese has developed a style that is sharp and well-planned while also allowing for a lot freedom and lightheartedness in its aesthetic.

Tom’s talent for distinctive character design combined with his eye for strong composition and vibrant colour palettes make for images that are as descriptive as they are attention-grabbing.

He talks to us in depth about the kind of projects he works on, his current techniques and creative process, and about how that has evolved over the years.

“I am a commercial artist. I work with businesses and organisations to produce images that explain, sell and adorn. I aim to create artwork that is original, beautiful, and alive.” 

“Insofar as my work is composed and finalised on a computer, I am a digital illustrator. I have always used analog textures and techniques in my process, although the ratio of digital to analog has grown since getting an iPad Pro and Pencil stylus.”

“Regardless of this ratio, it is important to me that there be a part of the artwork that is spontaneous, chaotic, uncontrolled.”

“By introducing choice morsels of physical textures and small details, an otherwise expected, controlled digital illustration is brought to life. Something confident and uncontainable is activated.”

 

“For sketching, I use use Procreate (iPad Pro 13” with Apple Pencil). This has recently replaced my long-standing use of plain paper, pencil, light table for tracing, and scanner for digitising.”

“For finishing, I use Photoshop. The structure of my illustrations is built up with nested layers of solid colours and vector masks (using the Pen Tool). To these I add texture and details using a mix of digital and analogue mark-making tools: digital brushes by Kyle T. Webster and Retro Supply Co., and various inky marks and textures made with black ink on sketchbook paper.”

“I use a variety of brushes and nib pens, particularly flat sable brushes for lettering, round tapered brushes for details and broad strokes, and fine-pointed nib pens for fine strokes, and cursive or finer lettering.”

“I digitise the analogue marks and textures by scanning and a series of simple steps in Photoshop. I outline these techniques— and pretty much my entire process— in my Skillshare class, Inky Illustrations.”

“My work is inspired by illustrations from the 1950s and 60s, which were often constrained by simpler reproduction techniques like letterpress, screen printing, and limited colour offset printing.”

“In terms of mood, I aim to create work that has a friendly swagger and a gentle freedom to it.”

Above photo by Sharalee Prang

Above photo by Sharalee Prang

Above photo by Sharalee Prang

All images © Tom Froese

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