Envato Elements author and professional illustrator Svilen Petrov gives us his top illustration tips, tricks and advice.
Over the last few years, the rise of digital illustration has opened up endless opportunities for illustrators to make careers from their craft. Evolving far beyond putting pencil to paper, illustration now has no limits – ranging from line art and watercolor to cartoons and vivid 3D illustrations. While keeping up with all the latest illustration styles is a surefire way to stay relevant, professional illustrator Svilen Petrov prefers to transcend the trends and stay true to his own unique style.
Envato Elements author Svilen Petrov – also known as Spovv – didn’t learn how to draw from lessons. Instead, he developed his approach through self-directed experimentation. He’s worked in graphic design, 3D texturing, web and UI design, and freelance illustration, earning him an impressive and diverse portfolio.
We sat down to chat with the Envato Elements author and illustrator to get his tips, tricks and advice on working in illustration design…
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, but my career as a professional illustrator started just six years ago. I graduated from art school, and later from university where I also studied art in my hometown of Shumen, Bulgaria.
I wanted to be an artist, but unfortunately just having the ability to paint is not enough to do it professionally. A lack of friends with similar interests, contacts and places to be seen was also a huge barrier. I started working as a tennis court maintenance attendant, as well as a night watchman, waiter, bartender, and did my mandatory military service. Then in 2006, I got a job as a graphic designer in a garage studio. Since then I’ve been through 3D texturing, web and UI design, and in 2014, I became a freelance illustrator. That’s why my portfolio is so diverse.
Thanks to the internet and portfolio networks, I gained publicity, made friends, and found clients. I didn’t learn how to draw from formal education – the style I’ve developed is based on my perceptions and personal experiments.
I provide my clients with clear outlines and a step-by-step process in writing. It’s good for both sides to have transparency and understanding; it creates peace of mind, which is necessary for the creative process.
I continue to research, observe, study, and inspire myself. Most of the time I sketch by hand first, get client feedback based on the initial hand-drawn sketches, and only then do I dive into digital for the coloring and the fine details. I am inspired by everyday events and people in real life. I like to create stories from them and have fun with the little things.
All kinds of places! Avatars are used by customers on their websites, as profile pictures on their social networks, or for their project systems such as Slack, Teams, Jira, etc. I’ve even had cases where my clients use them for their CVs, which I find very creative on their end! This type of illustration is one of my favorites.
Dropbox, Mailchimp and Waze.
Two simple things — develop your own unique style without copying others, and be patient.
I’ve learned to be consistent and pursue my dreams. My advice is to not give up, and do not envy or compare yourself to others.
I almost always start by drawing with a pencil or pen, after which I digitally complete my works in color. I use Photoshop, Illustrator, Wacom tablet, regular drawing paper, pen, and pencil. I try to have fun while painting. We have to accept our work as fun, otherwise we will lose our love for it.
Show your process: customers like transparency. Accept that your portfolio is the biggest project! It will bring you customers, fans, and even inspiration because seeing what you are capable of will make you believe in yourself and improve your future work! And one more extra tip — keep your portfolio alive and always improve it, even including your old projects.
Illustrations on social topics and diversity & inclusion. From now on, illustration styles will become less unique but more relevant to what’s going on in the world. I also believe that soon hand-drawn illustrations will become increasingly valuable and in demand.
Because most illustration styles can be created very quickly. Often, market trends are copied, and through a few online tutorials, everyone starts to draw alike and make money. As I said above, I believe that this will change and analog illustrations will become more and more relevant to online businesses. We live in interesting times.
Illustration will always be there, but its appearance will change. The line between analog and digital will appear. This will level-up the whole illustration community and illustrators will become much more creative. In the future, trends will not be the leading force, but instead the imagination of the artist will shine through.
Feeling inspired? Catch up on the top trending illustration styles, or discover more Inside Illustration Q&As over at the Envato Blog!