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How to create artwork for products.

Ever wondered what it takes to get a design from your imagination onto products in the real world? This blog post is an introduction to the method I use to make a new design come to life.  

There are four stages of artwork development that go into a new line of giftware at Kettle & Quill:

·        Concept

·        Hand-Illustration

·        Digitisation

·        Product Development

Let’s take a look at each stage in turn.


All Kettle & Quill designs fall under an art collection. An art collection is a group of artworks that link together thematically in some way.  

When I am designing a new piece, I first look at what gaps there are in my upcoming collection. Perhaps I am working on a spring collection, but I don’t yet have a piece inspired by daffodils. So, I know I want an artwork featuring daffs as the main subject.

The collection also sets the colour scheme of the piece. For example, I know I want this spring collection to be tied together by gentle yellows, baby blues and primrose pink.

Now the subject and colour scheme are decided upon, I research current market trends. This helps me to do two things.

1.      Take inspiration from designs that are popular.

2.      Look for ways that my artwork can stand out from the crowd and do something a little different.

For example, I might find that bunches of daffodils are really popular. But most artwork depicts them tied loosely together in a bunch. I decide to combine my love for spring flowers with my love for tea – why not depict a bunch of flowers in a teapot?

Finally, I draw out a mini sketch to get a rough idea of the composition.


Many artists today might draw an initial sketch but will then swap to creating all their artwork digitally. I have absolutely nothing against digital artwork, but it just isn’t for me. There’s nothing that beats the mindful feeling of feeling my hand brush against textured art paper, or of the physicality of dipping my brush into the water pot.

It’s my happy place, this gentle creation stage. Seeing colours bloom into life before my eyes, trying out layer upon layer of paint to get that shade of purple just spot on.

After finishing a piece, I will leave the paint to dry overnight (or at least a few hours, if I am impatient!) Then I finish it with a layer of black ink outlines. This is one of the most exciting parts of the process, because somehow that final

layer of ink just makes the colours pop and fizz with

vibrancy and life in a way they didn’t before.



Of course, to get artwork from paper onto a product requires a certain level of digitisation. I am aware that something is lost here – the texture of the original, the exact hue and shade of the paint strokes that simply cannot be replicated by a scanner.

In the main, my editing work is done in Photoshop. But when I am creating a repeating pattern with many individual elements, I may switch to Adobe Illustrator. These programmes are costly for a small business, but they are key to ensuring that my final designs have the quality I am looking for.

This without doubt is the least favourite part of the process for me. Having a podcast or music to listen to while I do the digitisation helps!

Product Development

This is the fun part where I get to see my designs come to life on products! I insert my designs into the manufacturing online system, where I can then tweak the size, shape, orientation and position of the design in relation to the product it will be on. This is the first time I get an idea of what the new artwork line will look like.

Once I am happy with the template, I order in a sample to test the new product. I will be looking for the quality of the giftware itself as well as checking how the design sits on the item.

If I am designing a new paper good, I will instead be exchanging many emails with the forever patient local printing company that I work with. (I tend to ask for unusual things that are outside of their normal line of work!) What thickness of paper, whether its coated or uncoated… questions that help create a beautiful final piece that my customers will be happy with. Again, I will always order samples to check the designs before I put in a bulk order.

If the samples pass the quality inspection test, then I can list the product on the Kettle & Quill website and my new line of artsy-giftware is ready to go!

To Sum Up

Every piece of artwork goes through four stages of the creation process before it becomes a Kettle & Quill line. My favourite part without a doubt is painting the artwork itself – a cosy, happy process that I can get lost in for hours. Although seeing them on products for the first time is also very cool!

One thing is for sure, all Kettle & Quill gifts have had time and meaning invested into them from the start.

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