The SECRETS pro artists know (that you might be missing out on)

The SECRETS pro artists know (that you might be missing out on)

Do you want to learn some of the best kept secrets and tricks of the trade that professional designers and artists swear by but that no one is teaching? Well I’m sharing 5 best kept secrets that all the pros know and that you may be missing out on.

These are the unwritten rules and processes that no one really teaches you about but that you learn by working in a professional setting like a design or illustration agency. I’d love for these to help you in your own creative process so without further ado, let’s jump in.

Secret #1: Use Tracing Paper

This one is going to completely change the way you think of your whole drawing process because it involves sketching like a designer instead of sketching like a fine artist. So secret number 1 is one that is commonly used in design agencies and that is to use layers of tracing paper to develop your drawing.

What you do is build your sketch using separate layers of tracing paper like a diorama. This allows you to play around with the position of your design elements and stay really flexible. It also gives you the ability to easily make tweaks to selective parts of your drawing without having to erase anything.

So this method is great because you can be really spontaneous and stress-free with trying lots of different options without being afraid of ruining your sketch. And another benefit is that it also allows you to save and swap in different layers so you can keep a record of the variations you tried.

I have a video that goes into the process in more detail which you can check out right here.

Secret #2: Don't Rush your Sketch


When I was a rookie and landed my first design job, i constantly felt like I had to get things done quickly to stay on schedule in the fast pace of agency life.

But what would often happen is that, in an effort to go faster, I would skip the beginning stages of building strong ideas and concepts and so my work and designs would sometimes fall a little flat because there wasn’t much substance in what I was doing.

And one day, a colleague came by and gave me this advice. She said i quote “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” which I later learned is actually a mantra from the US Navy SEALs. And essentially what it means is that by going slowly and being deliberate early on, it actually helps you plan things more thoroughly which in the grand scheme of things ends up speeding things up and making everything go smoothly.

So that’s something I still think about a lot to this day. I know that a LOT of people (myself included) get really excited and want to jump straight into painting. We’re looking forward to using our art supplies and doing the whole artsy thing with our brushes and paints. And what can happen is that we rush through the sketch and planning phase.

But here’s where it becomes tricky. Your concept and sketch development are EVERYTHING. They are literally the road map and instructions to a good final painting. And The more time you spend figuring out a smart and well elaborated plan, the easier and more seamlessly everything will come together once you start painting.

Secret #3: Less is More

We see this and hear about this all the time as it relates to fashion or general lifestyle but the same also holds true for art.

Sometimes the most elegant things come from the Beauty of simplicity. How much can you say with less? What is the minimum number of brushstrokes you can use to get the same idea across. Limit your color palette, make sure your painting has a clear focal point, avoid overworking areas.

And while it might be tempting to use every art supply and color and the whole kitchen sink sometimes the less you have available to you the more creative you can actually become with overcoming that handicap. What would happen if you limited yourself to just 2 colors for an entire painting? Not only does it push you to be more creative and think outside the box but it’s also a lot of fun to problem solve and challenge yourself.

Secret #4: Invest in Pro Materials

This shouldn’t come as a surprise coming from me at this point but i’ve said it once and I’ll say it again.. invest in professional grade materials. I talk about this a lot and I actually have a video about student versus professional grade watercolors which you can check out here when you have a minute.

But basically especially with art supplies you get what you pay for. One of the reasons why professional materials cost more than drugstore or Amazon brands is that quite simply, they’re better engineered which ultimately makes your job easier.

The beauty of quality materials is that they’re made with the artist in mind. They perform better, they mix better, the colors pop more, they’re easier to handle. That’s not to say that some of the cheaper brands out there don’t have good products but overall I would say that, your best bet is to stick to reputable brands.

For paints I would stick with the recognizable artist brands like Winsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, Sennelier, Schmincke, Old Holland and pretty much anything sold at a proper art supply shop. Trust me, it makes a difference.

Secret #5: Stop taking things personally

And last secret tip is the one that in my opinion separates professionals who do this for a living from your casual hobbyist and I think it’s something that everyone can benefit from: Stop taking things personally . You might be thinking well it’s my art it has to be personal to some degree.

And while you’re right what I mean about this tip is that most professionals try not to take things personally and attach their sense of self worth to what they create.

I remember coming out of art school and getting my first job in the design world, it was really shocking at times to get brutally honest feedback from clients. It was hard to hear!

But I quickly learned that I had to check my ego at the door and not allow the result of what I create to dictate my sense of self worth.

I know, easier said than done because artists, I know how much the results of your efforts mean to you. But if there’s anything to take away from this is that there will be days where you struggle, where you have artists block and where you create bad art. It happens to all of us! But this is where it matters, this does not mean you are a bad artist or in any way unworthy.

Today’s painting has nothing to do with your talent or progress as a painter. It’s just what you made today. The fact that you still pick up after failures, have an open mind to learn from them and keep going means you’re inevitably going to succeed in the long term.

So those are my 5 insider secrets. Are you curious to try any of these out? Let me know in the comments below which one of these you feel like your art practice could benefit from right now and while you’re at it, let me in on some of your closely guarded secrets.

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