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  • Madeleine Allcock

How to create spot illustrations

Usually, when we think of illustration, we think of full-page designs full of life and detail. However, a lot of editorial publishing uses small or spot illustrations to add interest to a page, particularly when a lot of text is involved. I created a personal project to explore how my work would look as a set of four icons or minimalist pieces.


As this was an experiment, I chose a subject close to my heart for a fictional magazine feature – sewing! More specifically, my title was "Getting Started In Sewing". I realised how popular this hobby had become in Spring 2020, when booking my sewing machine for a service and was told there was now a month waiting list. Unfortunately, my machine wasn't salvageable, and I haven't gotten around to purchasing a new one yet, so I suppose I was living through my illustration with this piece!


You can make clothing that’s perfect for your style and personality, emulate designers you love, learn new skills and opt out of fast fashion completely.


I wanted the illustrations to help make sewing less intimidating to the beginner, update its image in the public eye from old-fashioned to trendy, and share my passion for a fun, sustainable hobby. After writing out a list of ideas, I started sketching anything related to my topic that came to mind:



I then decided on four icons, refining and simplifying my sketches. They include a set of tools, sewing machine, pattern pieces and a mannequin with a simple tank-top design.

Finished illustration:


For the next set of illustrations, I stuck to the theme but explored character designs, concepts, and ideas, rather than tools of the trade. I broke it down further into subheadings: "Beginner mistakes to avoid", "Finding community through crafting", "Slow sewing" and "Upcycling". Rather than overthinking what exactly I would draw, I spent a day sketching out all sorts of possibilities, with new ideas building on those as I went. This meant I had a good selection of images to choose from, and could see which ones would read clearly and make for an interesting illustration.

Final illustration:

I'm happy with the completed illustration sets, although I'd like to write the accompanying article and create a magazine mockup to help place them in context a little more.


I couldn't resist turning a couple of the other sketches into illustrations in their own right, in a different colour palette:

There's still more I want to explore from the original rough sketches, so this might not be the last you see of them! I'd also like to try out more gender-neutral or masculine concepts, as sewing is a fun hobby that anyone can enjoy. It just goes to show that it's worth scheduling in days of sketching and creative thinking, as it can prove to be a treasure trove of new ideas that inspire your artwork later on.


This post originally appeared on Skillshare.

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