Getting Hands Dirty - Exploring Textures by Diane Ewen

For this week on my turn to post, I invited Diane Ewen, a rising star in children's books to talk about her creative process and how she plays with her art. Read on and have a peek into her process as Diane explains how she goes about illustrating her picture books. 

Chitra Soundar


I was always getting my hands dirty with one art form or another when I was young, and I suppose I just have the creative exploration gene.    

One of the big things I do is create textures to use within my picture book illustrations.   

My process of creating illustrations for the books is pretty simple and generally begins with the humble pencil and ends up in Photoshop on my Mac Computer. 

Once I have my main character and my illustrations drawn, the book has been through the long process of roughs and amendments.   I eventually get to the colouring part, and at this point I feel that most of the hard work has been done. 

For me this next phase is one which involves more of the experimental and spontaneous area of textures.  I feel the book and its characters really come to life now, as I create, enhance and work away at building the whole book up. 

One of my influences in the area of texture is the artist Brian Wildsmith who created some of the most beautiful and engaging foliage painting in his work.  The term explosion of colour appeals to me, and I think, that similar to his work, I try to do the same in mine.

Endpaper and Interior Texture example from Coming to England written by Floella Benjamin

Creating different textures 

Scraper board was one of the early ways/mediums I began to use to get more involved with producing textures, using a method called Sgraffito, (Italian for “scratched”).

 I wanted to find an easier way to create a grassy texture, so I began experimenting and found that this ‘ancient’ method of scraper board was perfect.  It involves scratching the top layer to create patterns which appear on the layer underneath; it was both simple and effective   …

And interestingly, you could get the same effect with wax crayons.

Creating Watercolour – Photoshop 

When I created the main characters for the ‘Never…”  book series with  Rashmi Sirdeshpande, the dinosaur characters’ skin was created in a number of ways.  

In some instances, I painted a watercolour base and in others I worked with chalk pastels or oil pastels to build up the base colour, before importing them to Photoshop and manipulating.

When I say manipulate, I mean I add more line-work on top of this base; for instance, using random circles, cross-hatching, or scratch marks etc.  It’s easy to do this because Photoshop is built on layers.  I can add or remove things easily.  So, it’s then a matter of playing around with the layers. and drawings, to get the texture I feel suits each character.  

I can make virtually any textures/ pattern from scratch, then add them to the pattern palette and they are then completely unique to me. 

Something that people don’t really know is that I taught myself to use the Mac which took ages and brought a lot of sweat and tears.  It was worth it in the end though.  I’ve chopped and changed my processes over the years, and I think that you need to as an artist/illustrator as they say a change is a good as a rest and you might even find a way of working that you like even better than you did when you started out. 

Here is Diane demonstrating her process on video.

If you're intrigued and want to find out more here is Diane talking to Jane Porter about one of her picture books - from the Never... series written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande.

You can follow Diane Ewen on Twitter here  and on Instagram here

Find out more about her books on her agency website: 

Chitra Soundar is an internationally published, award-winning author and storyteller. Her latest picture books are Holi Hai! And We All Celebrate.  She is working on new picture books out in 2023-2025. Exciting!

Find out more at and follow her on twitter here and Instagram here.

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