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Turtle print: from inspiration to final design

Many of my print designs are inspired by my travels including the new turtle print.

A couple of years ago I visited the beautiful Greek island of Zakynthos. The island is home to an endangered species of turtle which are absolutely adorable but hard to spot. On a day cruise around the island we were lucky enough to see a few and snap a couple of pictures. I loved the fascinating patterns on their shells and was inspired to design a turtle print.

Loggerhead turtle of Zante

I knew that I wanted to use watercolour paints for the drawings of the turtles to match their watery habitat. It’s great to get all my paints and brushes out; the possibilities of all the different colour mixes is really inspiring. To begin the drawings I always draw a rough outline in grey pencil. For watercolour paintings I draw the outline with a watercolour pencil so that the lines can be blended in to the painting as it progresses.

As well as the photographs I’d taken in Zante I researched more pictures to have a bigger range of angles and shell designs to choose from. I selected three different turtles with a mix of different colour shell patterns because I wanted to give variety to the print.

The final stages

Once I’d painted the turtles it was time to scan them in to the computer and clean up the images. Cleaning up drawings is an important part of the print design process. When sketchbook pages are scanned the texture of the paper is also picked up which can look messy in a digital print.

After cleaning up the paintings the final stage is to arrange the turtles in to the digital print. This stage always takes far longer than I think although I knew that I wanted the turtles to be in a random arrangement to look like they were swimming around. After a lot of tweaking (2mm up, 3mm across and repeat) the design was finished!

Finished turtle print

I also tried it with a sea blue background colour to make them look like they’re swimming in the ocean. Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

Finished turtle print sea background
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It began with a banana

Drawn by Rhiannon banana drawing

Every print I design starts with a hand drawing – you see why I named the business Drawn by Rhiannon right? I always like to have either a photo of the item I’m drawing or the actual item in front of me so I can get all the proportions and colours spot on. Luckily I had a few bananas in the fruit bowl so it was off to a good start.

Drawn by Rhiannon banana hand drawing

If you read my last blog post you’ll know that I have a particular style in mind for this print design which starts with a thick pencil drawing. I tend to like to draw lots of scruffy lines in light pencil to begin with and then go over the best lines with a thicker pencil when I’m happy with the shape.

The next stage is digitising the sketch to get it ready to make into a digital print. Some sketches translate better than others and luckily the bananas were one of the easier drawings; just a bit of tidying up around the edges and removing the sketchbook seam line and it was ready to go!

With the outline sorted it’s time to start on the colour. I use all sorts of different materials for colouring but I’ve decided to use watercolours for the fruit print range. I love how the colours blend so well and show a great range of tone and light with a few brush strokes.
After scanning it in to the computer and defining the colours, it’s ready to be dropped into the outline image.

With a few layers and lots of blending, the colouring-in is complete! I’m super chuffed with the colour effect created by the watercolour paints, but let me know what you think by commenting below.