Inkberry Blog


Common Kingfisher Illustration

Step 1: Pencil Sketch

For my first project of the year, I’ve decided to illustrate a Kingfisher. My first attempt at drawing this bird was back in 2014, which was commissioned by a bird enthusiast based in Helsinki, Finland. It’s still one of my favourite paintings and the reason why I decided to illustrate another. As with the original painting, I will be using watercolours for the background along with graphite and colour pencils for the bird itself.

The illustration will be made using Daniel Smith Watercolours, Faber-Castell Polychromos colour pencils and graphite pencil and painted on Arches Hot Pressed 140 lb watercolour block.

Final size of illustration will be 8.25 inches wide by 10 inches high.

Pencil rough drawing of Common Kingfisher, January 2, 2020.

Step 2: Masking the subject and painting the background

Once the background areas were painted with watercolour, the masking tape and masking fluid were removed. (It’s best not to leave the masking fluid on the surface of the paper for very long, as it can discolour the paper.) I then lightly redrew some of the main details of the feathers and the eye, to use as a guideline for the colour layers. Then I began adding the colour with Faber-Castell Polychromos colour pencils, starting with the bird’s head and working my way down. This way, there is less chance of accidentally smudging the illustration.

I just love the bright colours!

Work in progress illustration for Common Kingfisher, January 3, 2020.

Step 3: Layers of colour with Polychromos

Most of today was spent on studying the Kingfisher’s feather patterns and adding colour. Again to start, I added some of these patterns with pencil, lightly indicating where they should go. Then I proceeded with layers of colour while keeping in mind the direction of light source.

Work in progress illustration for Common Kingfisher, January 5, 2020.


Today’s task was to complete the orange feathers and foot. I may still go back and add more detail, but that can wait until all areas of the painting are filled in with colour. For now though, I am considering the branch and how to illustrate it in a way that will not distract the viewer from the Kingfisher.

Work in progress illustration for Common Kingfisher, January 12, 2020.

STEP 5: Final Details

As the main focus of this illustration is the bird itself, I left the background sky and water very neutral. Even the branch that the Kingfisher is perched on does not have obscene about of fine detail.

Final Kingfisher illustration. Jan 27, 2020.

About Tarja

A professional graphic designer, illustrator and letterer experienced in digital and traditional techniques for design, drawing and painting.

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