How I doodle

There are two questions I get asked most often about how I create my doodles. The first is, “Do you draw them yourself?” Answer: Yes! The second is, “What tablet do you use?” Answer: none. I’m a real pen and real paper and really messy fingers kind of a girl.

Here’s a quick peak at my creative process (originally from an old blog post from June 2008) :

How I make my doodles

1. Armed with a list of the doodles I want to make I use a sketching pencil to sketch out the ideas onto a medium textured, medium weight cartridge paper. I have a constant struggle trying to find a paper that has enough weight to hold watercolours (and all the other stuff I throw at it) with enough texture to create some depth to my drawing, but not too much texture that the drawn lines end up wobbling about everywhere! I think I have pretty much found a compromise with this 220gsm paper now.

2. Once the doodles are all sketched out, I either go over the pencil with a black pen, or if I’ve really piled on the pencil when working out the design, I trace my finished outline onto another sheet of paper. I’ve used Pilot Drawing Pens here. Then I  rub out the pencil lines and I’m ready to colour.

3. The first stage in colouring is to lay down a base wash all over the doodles. Sometimes I use watercolours, watercolour pencils or my favourite Inktense pencils for this stage, but here I’ve mainly used watercolour style marker pens as I want a really rich, solid, bright colour. I have a mixture of pens in my collection, but for these doodles I mainly used Marvy Le Plume II (the small nib at one end is really handy for tricky little bits).

4. Next stage is to work over the first wash of colour to add more detail and some definition. I used some more pens and some hard (ish) pencils here to build up the colour. One of my favourite effects at the moment is to lay down a lot of pencil pigment and then work over it with the pen, blending everything together (WARNING: this technique doesn’t do the pen much good, it needs a good clean afterwards and the nib takes a bit of a hammering too. Don’t try it with your favourite pens!) Rubbing soft pencil or pastel pigment into the paper is another fun way of building up some interesting effects. And getting satisfyingly grubby hands too :)

5.  Once I am happy with all the shading and the colours, the next step is to scan everything into Photoshop. Then comes the bit that I enjoy the least: extracting and cleaning up the doodles.  Sometimes I also need to change the colours slightly if I’m working to a swatch. The only good part about this stage is cleaning up any lines where I’ve made a mistake in the drawing and seeing the “proper” doodle take shape. Other than that, I have to admit that I find it incredibly tedious!

So, that’s the process in a nutshell: lots of washes and layering of colours and media to build up the design. And lots of messy fingers and happy accidents, and a few disasters thrown in for good measure (think full cup of tea knocked over my desk, keyboard, and almost finished sheet of doodles…..shudder. It brings me out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. Thankfully it has only happened once and my kids were in bed and so didn’t hear the rather naughty words that came out of my mouth!)

If you have any questions, let me know! I shall do my best to answer them!


  1. 3

    Allison Hughart says

    thank you so much for sharing your process. i always doodle and wondered how i could get those into the computer without having to use wacom tablet! those are incredibly hard to use and master!

  2. 5


    Wow, Kate, I have even more respect for your talent then I did before! You should illustrate books and other things! You’re so talented! I love your style! :)

  3. 6

    cheryl says

    wow! thank you so much for sharing what you do! how fun! very inspiring! i love doodling so this is a great fit for my style… i’ve never used “good” quality stuff so i am interested in checking out the supplies you use too! THANKS again for sharing the how to! you’ve got a great style and i’m so happy to learn from you! =)

  4. 8

    JulieBee in Iowa says

    Thank you for showing us how you make your doodles! I was wondering how you did such a great job and then I saw the How I Doodle link to the right. I wish I doodled so well! :) I love your art, Kate. It’s very cute and colorful.

  5. 9


    I’ve been doing my doodles in this way for years but have never yet managed to scan them in with good enough quality that I can actually use them! It’s sad really because I have a whole stash of doodles which I’ve painted and would like to use :( So I always end up going back to my Wacom tablet and just drawing them on there…I hate the compromise though and would rather just be able to use the ones I drew and painted by hand. I’d be interested to know how you preserve your edges as mine look jaggy no matter what reolution I use on my scanner. My scanner is supposed to scan up to something ridiculous like 64,000ppi too! If you could possibly help I’d be really grateful as I’d love to finally use the stash of doodles that I’ve got sitting on my desk LOL.

    • 10

      Kate Hadfield says

      Hey Louise, thanks for your comment! I do clean up a lot in Photoshop after I scan, because I am rather messy when I draw / colour! Cleaning up my mess and extracting the doodles takes me a long time – as long as drawing and painting them does. I’m not sure if that really answers your question though! If you would like to chat further, feel free to get in touch! :)

  6. 11


    Thanks Kate (sorry, just called you Karen in an email….I have a friend called Karen Hadfield and I think it stuck! LOL). I’ve just emailed you, rather than take over your comment thread :)

  7. 12

    Sophie says

    Hi Kate! I am amazed for how gifted you are at designing! Thank God for you designers!!! =D
    I was wondering if you could make a simple tutorial to show us how to extract an image. I have found several tutorials and how-to’s but all seem quite difficult to me. Maybe you have a different approach that is somewhat different… I hope. =/
    Thanks a lot on advance… =)

  8. 19

    ChristaChrista says

    Kate.. love this explanation and pictures to accompany it.. Love your doodles too!! BTW PSE 10 has a great extractor that takes a lot of work out of the tediousness and fairly clean too! I have been playing as I love to color and have embarked into trying my hand at watercolor pencils and copics.. very fun here :)

  9. 21


    Awesome info Kate and I’m thrilled to discover they sell everything you mentioned at Range just around the corner from me.

    I’d love to know what scanner you use and the settings you use when scanning your doodles.

    Boo x

    • 22

      Kate Hadfield says

      I have a Canon scanner (the 8800 model although I don’t think they make this one any more!) and I don’t really tinker with the settings much when I scan, I prefer to do that in Photoshop! I hope that helps a little!

  10. 23

    Amber says

    I can’t see the illustrations and I tried in IE, Firefox and Google Chrome. Is there a problem with my computer or are have the links disappeared into internet limbo? I’d love to see the illustrations as you describe what you’re doing. I absolutely LOVE your work and wish we had the money for me to buy out your store!

  11. 26

    Mahalo says

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your art/ designs….Thanks for showing us your amazing work.I get so inspired…..

  12. 28

    Jenna Barrett says

    Thanks for sharing! I have said it once, and will say it a million more times I am sure – I LOVE YOUR WORK!!!! You have been blessed with a real talent, and I appreciate your willingness to share it with us. My classroom has your things ALL over it – and I can’t wait to make even more with the rest of your art.

  13. 29

    Sueli Aparecida Pereira says

    Lindo, lindo o seu trabalho!!!!! uma explosão de cores… de vida…alegra minha alma!
    Beijo enorme no seu coração!
    Abraços carinhosos

  14. 30

    dianne yorke says

    OOOOOOoooooo just found your website this is gonna cost me a fortune as I want them all perfect for cardmaking love them well done Kate !!!!

    • 32

      Kate says

      Hi Fern! Thanks so much for letting me know about TPT’s Facebook shout out – how exciting! Thanks for following me too! :)

  15. 33


    Thanks so much for sharing your process! It is a real gift to see the steps – some artists won’t share their process (perhaps out of fear of giving away their secrets), but you can’t copy talent! =) You put so much work into these and it is evident in the quality. Your sets look amazing! I’m so glad you are on TpT (I found you through their shout out too)! Creating educational resources has the same downside – the actual fun creative part takes no time at all compared to editing, organizing, writing up notes for the teacher, and creating a listing with everything involved (preview, description, thumbnail images, etc.). =)

    • 34

      Kate says

      Thank you so much for your kind words Meredith! I’ve drawn this way for a long loooong time (since I was a child!) so it’s just second nature to me now, I love to add in all the little details :)

  16. 35

    Julio Cesar de Campos Rodrigues says

    Hi, Kate!
    How are you?
    I hope everything is fine…

    Just a quick note to let you know that you are realyy appreciated. Thanks for sharing your labor of love and ideas with us!

    Warm regards from your Brazilian fan,

    Teacher Julio Cesar!


Leave a Reply