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Steven Noble Illustrations » Steven Noble Illustrations

Posts Tagged ‘Steven Noble Illustrations’

Scratchboard Illustration Technique

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

The scratchboard (scraper board) technique requires very precise strokes applied from a precision carving blade (knife) whereby the artist works in a negative fashion by scraping away the black ink to reveal the white clay board underneath. It’s almost like reverse psychology. You have to think the opposite of what you normally think. You’re adding light and taking away the darkness one stroke at a time. Scratchboard is merely a medium and not a style. It can be translated into a variety of styles and treatments such as woodcut, pen and ink, engraving and steel engraving styles, as well as a variety of other stylized scratchboard techniques including very fine traditional “18th -19th century” vintage engravings.

See scratchboard styles: www.stevennoble.com

The Woodcut style is defined by simulating the old fashioned woodblock carvings of the 18th century and often re-creating a retro modern version to fit today’s needs for advertising, packaging design, publishing and logo identity purposes. The technique requires the use of the scratchboard medium which works most effectively to accomplish this end result. Furthermore, the style is mostly associated with “bold” , less detailed, line strokes along with loose uncleaned cuts along the outer edge of the illustration. This is a clear distinction from the other scratchboard styles such engraving, and steel engraving styles.

See woodcut samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Woodcuts/

The scratchboard engraving style is more closely associated with the old traditional engravings of the 19th century with some slight variation. The line work is semi to highly detailed with the lines flowing in a parallel fashion with cross cuts to form breaks in the tapered tips of the lines and cross shaded lines to form the darkened shaded areas. The style encompasses what some people associate as the “Wall Street” journal style. Line engraving is a similar process in that the black and white lines are applied positively onto the “white” (un-inked) scratchboard. The lines can, thereby, be scrapped off to create broken lines in order to soften and taper an edge. The second process is accomplished by using a knife to negatively remove the pre-inked blackened scratchboard to reveal the white board in closely controlled and parallel strokes to create the effect.


The “steel engraving” style is created similarly to all the above techniques. However, the line style is more closely associated with the “currency” bills such as the US Dollar currency and other bank notes. The “original” technique employed the use of a chisel and a steel or copper plates in which a small bar of hardened steel with a sharp point was used. This is pushed along the plate to produce thin strips of waste metal and thin furrows. This is followed by a scraper which removes any burs as they will be an impediment to the ink. It is important to note that engraving must be done in the reverse or mirror image, so that the image faces the correct way when the die prints. One trick of the trade was for engravers to look at the object that they were engraving through a mirror so that the image was naturally reversed and they would be less likely to engrave the image incorrectly. Steel plates can be case hardened to ensure that they can print thousands of times with little wear. Copper plates can not be case hardened but can be steel-faced or nickel-plated to increase their life expectancy.

Many clients request a customized illustration for their TradeMarks and logo identities because of their need for a very specific image that is closely associated with their corporate identity. For example, Land’s End required a very specific type of lighthouse to represent their company. Aerial Funds needed a turtle illustration that was closely tied to the central theme of their company which was the story of the “Turtle and the Hare.” The White House Historical Association wanted an illustration that represented the specific perspective that they wanted to achieve with the White House building.

See logo samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Logos/

2007 Create Magazine

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Create Magazine Article: “[THE FULL PACKAGE] – The Northeast Wraps Up Designs”

Published: March 2007


A product can be great, but without attention-grabbing packaging or labeling it can still be flat. Being aware of trends and working hard to bring to the client’s vision to life be essential for commercial illustrator Steve Noble, who is nationally recognized. The challenge for an illustrator is to interpret the client’s vision and create a drawing that lives up to the image that  until then had resided for the most part only within the client’s mind.

   “Products have always had logos that identify them, “Noble said. “It’s really crucial. Without that identity, people don’t remember because sometimes they remember the visual more than the product. It is what makes the product  –  without that there is nothing.”

    To start the process Noble ask the clients to send him reference materials and the layout. After a detailed discussion, Noble is ready to begin translating the verbal into a visual which can be tricky, he said. “Sometimes that doesn’t always cross over right,” Noble said. “What they think in their head doesn’t always translate onto paper.”

    According to Noble, that is when 20 years of experience comes in handy. “ I know exactly sometimes what will work and what doesn’t work.”

    Once he has an idea of the general theme and images a client wants, Noble creates an image employing various techniques such as woodcut, traditional engraving and steel engraving styles, as well as a variety of scratchboard techniques. After several rough drafts and feedback from the client, Noble finalizes the image.

    In one recent project, Seeds of Change contacted Noble to create an  illustration for it organic chocolate bar packaging. The company had developed a general idea for the label. Using the list along with the layout and thumbnail images provided by the art director, Noble was able to fine tune it with a parrot in the center and adding cacao trees in the background and chocolate bars at the bottom.

    One trend Noble has noticed is that many of his clients that sell organic products are choosing woodcuts over other illustration styles. “They’re looking for something with a more natural look,” he said. “They want a more earthy look…There has been a lot of demand for that sort of thing, whether it’s food, vitamins or other things.”

     The “established look” is in for many wineries that want their labeling to give consumers the impression that their wine has been around since at least the 1800’s. “They want an aged, established label with an old look,” Noble said. Winemakers believe that their wines are taken more seriously when their bottles sport a venerable and dignified label rather than a more modern look.

    “That’s where I come in,” he said. “ We did four different labels for Rodney Strong. They wanted a fetching, engraved look. They’ve been around for 40 or 50 years, but wanted to make it look like they’d been there for 100 years.”

     Noble finds that Japanese clients have a fondness for Tuscan and Italian themes for their coffee packaging. “They like Italian coffee and lattes,” he said. “I ‘ve done a lot of scenes from Venice and Tuscany.”