Frequently Asked Questions

  • Available at certain times?
    Must I be available online at particular times for this course?

    Not at all.  All the course materials learning materials, assignments, exhibits, videos, etc., are online, so you can take the course whenever suits you, and at whatever time.  It should be easy to fit it around your job, family commitments, travel schedule, etc.

  • Can I catch up if need be?
    What if I’m too busy for a given week or two, will I be able to postpone my learning or catch up with the class?

    Yes.  You’ll have access to all previous lessons, so you can revisit them in any time.  You’ll an additional 19 weeks after the end of the last lesson to continue to access the course - 6 months total.  

  • Length of Course?
    How long does the class take?

    Course materials, lessons and assignments are rolled out over a 7- week period and are available for nineteen additional weeks.  If you keep up with the lessons, you’ll finish 8 weeks.  If you go slower, or are interrupted, you have 6 months to access the lessons.  You could still spend more time completing your work after the 6 months if you like.

  • Pace?
    Can I take the class at my own pace?

    Yes, within the course’s 12-week framework.  

  • Is it a good idea to keep up?
    Are there advantages keeping up to the 7-week roll-out of the course?

    It can be helpful to be part of a group of students who are working on the same assignments together - you can bounce ideas and be inspired by eachother. But that happens even when students start to ‘spread out’ as their rates of progress to vary.

  • Compressing the Course
    Can I take the course in less than 7 weeks?

    Sorry, no.  You can go slower than the class schedule, but not faster.

  • Lesson Regularity
    Are there lessons every week?

    There 5 ‘Lesson Weeks’ - these mimick the 5 weeks in my weekly live class.  But there are also two weeks exclusively for completing work, posting it and commenting on it.


  • After 7 weeks
    What happens at the end of the 7-week roll-out of the class?

    After the last lesson, there are additional 5 weeks during which all course materials are available.

  • Time spent on the course
    How much time will I have to spend on this course?

    Students usually spend a total of 40 to 50 hours on the course. You could spend a bit less or lots more - if you want.  That will depend on your learning and working speeds and available time.


  • Schedule flexibility
    How flexible is the schedule?

    Because there’s lots of flexibility built in, you might devote 2 hours one week then 8 the next and still stay current.  You could also stretch out the rate you’re working to 10 or 12 weeks, reducing the amount of time needed per week.

  • Lack of Photoshop experience
    I have art skills, but no Photoshop experience, is the course still okay for me?

    Let me answer this with an email that a student sent me:

     I didn’t have any [Photoshop] experience before the class, I had maybe only a few times tried it out but it seemed very complicated and time consuming, so I was a bit worried too. But the first videos are actually very good for beginners - good pace and simple explanations. I'd maybe suggest to practice a bit before starting with the first assignment - I tried to follow through all the steps in the first two videos. It didn’t take too long when I already remembered the basic shortcuts etc and the first assignment is easy enough to start knowing your way around Photoshop. My friends [who will take the next class] haven’t used photoshop before either, but I told them the same thing - it might look too complicated at first, but the videos and study materials are really good and help a lot. So in my opinion it shouldn’t be a problem. Of course I’m a bit slower than others [who already know Photoshop]  and it’s harder for me but I find it very interesting and and exciting!


  • Lack of art training/experience
    I have computer skills but no training in art. Will I have problems taking the course.

    I think you’ll have more fun than problems!  People in your situation have blossomed in this class, reasons being: a) we’re not concerned with accurate portrayals of subjects, ‘off’ or naïve illustration is full of charm, and b) we even encourage exploring tracing, which many professionals employ in their work.  You’ll do fine.


  • Lack of computer skills
    I have no Photoshop experience, limited computer experience and find it difficult to learn computer skills. Is this course okay for me?

    If you generally find using computers hard - and hard to learn about - I think it would be better if you took some basic computer classes first.


  • Lack of art skills
    My art skills are rusty or nearly nonexistent, is the course okay for me?

    Yes.  A big part of what we do in the course is designed to let you achieve artistic results (see Student Work) without elaborte art skills or training.  This isn’t a how-to-draw or how-to-paint class, it’s more of a how not-to-know-how to draw or paint and still create great images class.  Visit the Coursework Gallery or students’ Facebook group and watch as students post and discuss work-in-progress and finished images.  Some of the student posting are just like you!

  • Help with the course
    Can I expect help regarding creative or technical issues?

    There are five levels of help.

    1. Tutorial demo videos and PDFs. The videos are very clear and thorough.  Those involving the most digital instruction have a matching PDF that you can view while trying your own work.  Print them out or view them on an tablet as you work on the computer parts or the course.

    1. Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs. Once you’ve enrolled, you’ll have access to FAQs for students where you’ll find hundreds or searchable questions about the lessons, art supplies, equipment, methods, Photoshop, illustration and so on.

    1. Third, the FAcebook group.  Iin every class there’s a great deal of knowledge among students from different backgrounds. Some know lots about computers others lots about paint and ink, or composition. So asking fellow students for help via the Facebook group can be very fruitful.  Tutors also answer questions there.    Check our student Facebook group and see.

    2. Fourth, you can email questions to the tutors.  They’re answered at least once each week, but usually much more often.

  • Type of illustration explored
    What kind of illustration does this course include?

     We create handmade drawings, textures and colors first, then we use a computer to develop our hand-crafted elements into illustrations - illustrations that might be impossible to do on a single, flat sheet of paper. With simple Photoshop methods we can change colors, re-size and relocate elements or add or subtract them. The images we creat aren’t  computer art. We use real brushes, not Photoshop brushes. For computer-generated art, consider courses that focus on that. What we produce has a handmade feel, yet takes advantage or digital methods.  You can get a flavour of the type of work created on the course by looking at the tutor’s choice Gallery, our Pinterest board, or view ongoing coursework being posted in the Coursework Gallery.


  • Drawing vs. Illustration
    What’s the difference between drawing and illustration.

    This isn’t necessarily an issue there’s complete agreement on.  :)

    My opinion is that, drawing is typically a personal artistic endeavour, not connected with a client or non-art use.  Drawings (as opposed to paintings) often consist primarily of linework and may include shading.  On the other hand, illustrations serve a specific function, tied in with written material - books, magazines, newspapers, or a purpose like advertising, packaging, signage or greeting cards.  A greeting can consist of a drawing, but because it’s on a greeting card, I would classify it as an illustration.  Illustrations are likely to have areas of color more often than drawings, but the primary difference is the function they serve.

  • How the course works
    What’s going to happen each week?

    In the five Lesson Weeks, you’ll start by getting new learning materials, both written and in videos.  Written parts explain the assignments and their underlying aspects.  Some videos will be demos and ‘how-to’s, related to both handmade work and digital techniques.  Others will be more general in nature, such as interviews with illustrators. You’ll work on your assignments, share thoughts with other students, view work by previous students and see videos explaining how some of their illustrations were created.


  • Not interested in professional illustration
    I’d like to learn to learn more about image making, like having control of style, color, texture, composition and combining handmade and digital methods - but I’m not interested in being a professional illustrator. Will the class work for me.

    Of course.  If you're not interested in illustration as a profession, simply skip those parts of the class and just proceed with your assignments as artwork. People take the class for all sorts of reasons, and working on general image-making skills is certainly an achievable focus.


  • Computer averse
    I don’t want to use a computer in any way in my illustration. Is this course okay for me?

    It would be far better for you to take an Illustration course that doesn’t include computer use. I don’t know of online illustration courses that are ‘computer-free,’ but Central Saint Martins, where I teach, offers live illustration short courses by other tutors that don’t utilize computers.  If London is accessible to you, try one of them.


  • Drawing development
    Will this course teach me how to improve my drawing ability?

    That’s not particularly an objective of this course, nor do we spend time learning drawing techniques.  That said, students sometimes decide to explore new approaches to drawing that the nature of the course opens up and many feel they’ve made real progress.  There are other short courses – both live and online – focused on drawing.  I teach two at Central Saint Martins myself!

  • Advanced Photoshop
    Will this course teach me advanced Photoshop skills?

    That’s not the emphasis of this course.  In fact it’s pretty much the reverse – that it only takes some basic, simple Photoshop methods to combine and manipulate handmade work into stunning illustrations that also look handmade.  Often more advanced Photoshop skills result in less handmade looking results.  That said, it’s possible there’ll be Photoshop steps shown that you aren’t familiar with – this happens even with Photoshop ‘pros.’ There are other short courses, both live and on line, that focus specifically on Photoshop skills, including advanced skills.


  • Advantages of learning just basic Photoshop
    What’s the advantage of limiting Photoshop instruction to some simple methods?

    A student who had taken a Photoshop skills course at Central Saint Martins and my illustration class there told me she’d learned more about using Photoshop in my class than in the Photoshop class.  ‘Really?’ I asked.  ‘Why?  She explained it was because so much was taught in the Photoshop class that she was overwhelmed, couldn’t grasp it all and forgot most of it straight away. That’s only one student, but I feel I’ve made the right decisions regarding what to include about Photoshop for a class like this.


  • Portfolio building
    Will this course help me build a portfolio for applying to college or university?

    I’d rate the quality of work coming out of this class as generally good to outstanding. Illustrations you do in this class would certainly be appropriate to include in a university level application portfolio. As with any efforts, results will very according to individual ability and effort.For those interested, we’ll have some materials regarding school application portfolios in class. 


  • Already know Photoshop well
    I’m a graphic designer and know Photoshop very well. Is there any value for me in taking this course?

    The graphic designers who take this course generally want to add handmade skills to what they can do, and they typically get that result.  Yup, get a paintbrush in your hands, smudge around some pastels and use a light box!  And designers have emailed subsequent to the class showing me their expanded skills being employed with handmade imagery incorportated in their work.


  • Adobe Illustrator
    Does this course teach Adobe Illustrator?

    It doesn’t, and it’s not just time constraints.  Adobe Illustrator produces hard-edged images that don’t look handmade.  Well, they aren’t – they’re made on the computer!  In this class we’re learning about using handmade methods and manipulating them digitally – which isn’t what Adobe Illustrator does.  We’re after that warm, human, traditional-art-materials quality. Despite the name ‘Illustrator,’ many illustrators never use that program, but use Photoshop for the reasons above.


  • Deadlines
    Will there be deadlines?

    Not real deadlines.  There is no requirement that illustration X, Y or Z be completed at a certain point. But when you do finish an assignment please do post it as indicated in the lessons.

  • Illustration topic choice
    Can I work in class on subject matter that I’ve been interested in developing?

    Absolutely!  Of the seven images you’ll be asked to create, the subject of 3 are completely up to you and 2 other are pretty open to interpretation.  Also, I’ve never said no to a student who suggested a personal variation on an assignment.


  • Using previous work
    I have some illustrations that I’d like to redevelop using techniques in this course. Would that be permitted?

    It’s rare for me to not permit things (an exception would be something beyond the scope of the course).  However, I’ve had two students try redeveloping previously done handmade work and the results were very poor, in fact awful.  My advice is to start something new in this class or, if you’re committed to working on something you already created, start a new version of it.  I can just about guarantee it’ll be faster, more fun and turn out far better in the end!


  • Evaluation
    Will there be tutor evaluation of my work?

    There won’t be a formal evaluation of each illustration posted. But we’ll strive to provide as many tutor comments as possible.  If enrolment is large, some posted images will be skipped. That said, in both my live and online class, comments from students are often just as valuable, or more so, than those tutors make. And you and fellow students will be encouraged to say more than just, ‘I like it.’ Explaining why you like something is an important part of improving critical thinking. Expect some thoughtful comments about your work and please provide the same for other students.  Have a look at the ongoing Coursework Gallery to see commenting runs.

  • Online and live course difference
    Is there a difference in between your online illustration course and you live illustration course?

    The learning materials and assignments are virtually identical.  The main difference is one is online and the other is live, with the qualities inherent in each of those methods of teaching and learning.


  • Similarities to live course
    In what ways do you think you’ve made your online course like your live course?
    • The assignments are identical.

    • The methods being taught are identical.

    • The teaching materials – videos, handouts, etc. are identical.

    • I show the same examples of professional and student work.

    • Everything I explain to the live class is either written about or shown via video in the online class.

    • The same supporting tutors are involved in the live and online courses.

  • Live course advantages
    What are the advantages of your live course compared to your online course?

    An obvious advantage is that in the live class I’m right there with the students. This means I can see how you’re using paint or what’s on your computer screen and talk to them about any questions right then and there. I can prod students, interact easily with them and get them to try different things. The live course has a fixed meeting times, which some students find helps them focus on getting things done.


  • Online course advantages
    Are there advantages of your online course compared to your live course?

    The online class allows students to be anywhere and work on days and hours of their choosing. They have continuous access to teaching materials and illustration examples.  There are more videos available in the online class.  Students don’t have to worry about missing a day of class - class is always in session.  By contrast, the live class requires that you be at Kings Cross, London, on 5 specific days, 10am to 4pm.  Also, oddly, the online students communicate more with each other, create a more interactive and supportive group and learn more from each other.  


  • Choosing online vs. live
    Which is better, your live course or your online course?

    There’s no answer to that because it depends on a student’s circumstances. If you live in or near London or can afford to travel and stay here plus the cost of the course, and if fixed schedule suits you, then the live course would be better.  If you can’t come to London, can’t attend on a fixed schedule, have budget restrictions or other issues that would make taking the live course impossible, then the online course would be better for you.


  • Reason for online course
    Why create an online course with the same teaching materials and assignments as your live course?

    The live course is the most popular illustration short course ever at  Central Saint Martins.   Student reviews are very positive and work produced is top-notch.  However many people can’t take the live course.  So I decided to make a course where those unable to come to London or meet on a regular schedule could learn from the same teaching materials and apply themselves to the same assignments.  Also I love teaching both!  But with the same materials and assignments.

  • Most popular CSM course
    You say that your live illustration course is the most popular illustration short course in the history of Central Saint Martins. Based on what?

    Enhanced Illustration - Pencil, Pen, Paint and Pixels runs 7 times a year, and has often been over subscribed – packed with 18 eager students. No other illustration short course at the school has ever come close to that frequency of classes or numbers of students.  Student feedback comments are consistently highly positive.


  • Most popular London illustration course
    Is your live illustration course London’s most popular Illustration short course?

    I know of no other illustration course in London that has enrolment figures close to mine.  In addition, Central Saint Martins is easily London’s most popular art and design school for short courses.  It has more successful short courses than all other London art and design schools combined.  Finally, Central Saint Martins is the most popular art and design school in the world.


  • Central Saint Martins connection
    Central Saint Martins, where you teach live classes, also offers online short courses. Why isn’t your online course offered by the school rather than being unaffiliated with the school?

    Ah, a good question. When CSM asked tutors about doing online classes in 2009 I began developing one. However, the platform and scheduling that was then decided upon weren’t how I wanted to organize and run an online class. This is not meant to detract in any way from the school’s online classes.  I have numerous colleagues at Central Saint Martins who have adapted to the school’s setup and are happily teaching successful CSM online courses.  For better or worse, I decided to ‘go it alone.’


  • Using site on different devices
    Will I be able to access course materials on my phone, tablet, Ipad, etc.?

    Yes, you should be able to access the website from any mobile device connected to the internet.

  • Forgotten password
    What if I forget my password?

    You can reset your password by email using the ‘forgotton password’ link at the login page. If you have any trouble doing that, you can send us an email on and we will help you get logged in again.


  • Don't have Photoshop
    I don’t have Photoshop on my computer. Will this be a problem?

    You can download Photoshop for a free 30-day trial. When that trial is over, you can download Adobe Photoshop Elements, a very similar program, for another free 30-day trial. Those 2 free trials should take you through the course.  Then you can decide if you want to sign up for a paid version.


  • Photoshop trial
    Is there a free trial version of Photoshop available?

    Yes. It lasts for 30 days. Go to the Adobe website and download it. When that trial is over, download Adobe Photoshop Elements, a very similar program, for another free 30-day trial. Those 2 free trials should take you through the course.


  • Photoshop alternatives
    Photoshop is quite expensive. Is there a less expensive alternative?

    Yes.  It’s called Photoshop Elements and will do everything we do in class as well as Photoshop.  However, please begin the class with the free 30-day Photoshop free trial, so we’re all using the same program.  There are some small differences in command menus between the two programs.  Toward the latter part of the class you’ll find it easy to switch to Photoshop Elements.  And you can get another free 30 days by downloading Photoshop Elements – 60 days free, total!


  • Buying just Photoshop
    I’ve seen on the Adobe website that Photoshop is part of Creative Suite, which is very, very expensive, considering that I don’t need the other programs that are included. Can I sign up or buy just Photoshop?

    Yes, Adobe offer different packages, and there is one called the Photography Plan which includes Photoshop along with other programes like Lightroom which are geared towards Photography. This package is/was less than a quarter of the price of the full Adobe Suite package in spring 2016.  But as offers can change over time, please check the adobe site.


  • The Adobe site offers Photoshop for a monthly fee. I’d rather buy it outright than ‘rent it’ for the rest of my life. Can I buy Photoshop?
    The Adobe site offers Photoshop for a monthly fee. I’d rather buy it outright than ‘rent it’ for the rest of my life. Can I buy Photoshop?

    Unfortunately Adobe have moved towards the ‘renting’ model, if you want a current version of Photoshop. You can purchase old versions of Photoshop, but they won’t include the latest features.  Once you sign up to pay a monthly fee for Photoshop, your version of it and other programmes in your package will be updated automatically.


  • Old Photoshop version
    I have a very old version of Photoshop. Will that be a problem for this course?

    On the whole, no - you will find that most of the methods and tools we use would be the same in an old version of Photoshop.  Where older versions are different I try to explain the differences in the tutorials.


  • Mac vs PC
    Does it matter if I use either a PC or a Mac?

    No.  Photoshop works virtually the same in both. The main difference is the key called ‘Command’ on a Mac is called ‘Control’ on a PC. We use the Mac name for this class because Macs are more prevalent among illustrators and graphic designers. I’ve never heard of any problems encountered by PC users following course materials in either my live or online courses.