Using Stabilo Pens For Vibrancy And Colour In Children’s Book Illustrations By Colleen Cookson

8th December 2017 Estimated reading time: 2 mins

It’s been my lifetime ambition to illustrate a children’s picture book, so it was a dream come true when my daughter – who’s a creative writing lecturer – offered to partner me by writing the story.

I loved the stories Zoë (who’s published under the name of Zed Jacey) was able to weave in less than 500 words and I wanted to make sure my pictures did them justice. Modern children’s books require a vibrancy of colour that can be difficult to achieve. I started working in acrylics but felt my attempts just didn’t look professional.

This led me to switch to watercolours. While the pictures looked much more professional and appealing, there was still something lacking. That’s when I discovered Stabilo Pens via an article in Paint magazine and they have proved the perfect solution.

I use traditional watercolours for all the backgrounds of my illustrations but when I want real vibrancy and control for the figures and detail I use Stabilo Pens.

I don’t, however, use them the way you might expect. I found drawing with them and blending afterwards produced vivid colours but also hard lines. This works for some illustrations but I often need a softer blend – for example, on faces and for the folds in clothes.

I started experimenting. I tried scribbling the pens on card and then attempting to lift the colour off like paint. Sadly the card absorbed the ink before I’d manage to transfer more than a tiny blot of colour! This led me to try a porcelain palette and this worked wonderfully.

I scribble the pens (68 is best) on my porcelain palette and use a damp brush to apply to the drawing. This is quite a slow, building up, process because it’

s only possible to pick up a small amount of colour at a time but it does make the work very controllable. I can even sit in the garden and paint. I then use the fine points on the 88 pen to produce the intricate details. If you’re planning to try this yourself, it’s important to remember to make sure the first layer’s fully dry before adding the detail (otherwise you’ll end up with a blurred mess).

I’ve included below a few images from our latest book – Madge Eekal’s Christmas – and hope you’ll agree that the Stabilo Pens have enabled me to achieve the vibrancy of colour that a good children’s picture book needs.

Our book is aimed at children aged 3-7 years and was released on 28th September 2017. It’s a fun festive story with an unexpected twist about a witch who can’t get her fairy lights to work (they’re on strike!). Madge decides to find a magical solution but, as her pet dragon reminds her, things always go wrong when Madge uses her magic wand.

Madge Eekal’s Christmas is available from to buy in all good bookshops and online.

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