Manga inspired illustrations with watercolours and markers.

Illustrator Gigi Chong works with an exciting technique where she combines water colours and markers. The influences in her work clearly originate from anime and manga, where characters emerge in beautiful and colourful combinations with soft fading. Learn how to use her technique and try new ways of using creative tools that will bring new life into your creative joy.

Combine aquarelle with markers

My name is Gigi Chong and I am a full-time student and amateur illustrator, but I would not mind the opposite either! I primarily work with water colours in combination with markers and I paint manga inspired illustrations. But I also paint short comics.

Where do you find your inspiration Gigi?

Since I was a child, I have always loved anime and manga, which probably has influenced my present style of drawing subconsciously. During more recent years, my inspiration has come from nature and, above all, other artists that I follow on social media. I get incredibly motivated by watching other successful artists, so I usually have studio vlogs, podcasts, and videos in the background while I am drawing.

What does your work process look like?

I always begin with a small sketch, and I mean small. Usually, it is only a thumbnail sketch. During the outlining process, I try not to think about details that could possibly block my flow. Instead, I try to bring forth an over-all image as well as the emotion I want to mediate. What I like about small sketches is that you can see the whole picture more clearly. It is like watching a painting hanging on a wall ten meters away from you – you get an overview of the composition.

Once I am happy with the outline, I redraw it to a bigger format on normal printing paper so that I can trace the sketch onto a cold press watercolour paper (high texture) from Canson with help from a light table. The light table I use is Daylight Wafer; it is both easy and clever because you can adjust the light!

After that I tape the corners of the paper onto a solid foundation so that the paper will stay flat even when I begin using watercolours from Winsor & Newton. I usually brush one layer with nothing but water onto the entire paper first, then I apply the colours. Because the paper is already wet the colours will blend naturally onto the paper and the transitions between different colours will get softer. The watercolours make a first layer that covers all white areas on the paper. After this comes the fun part: markers! I use Copic sketch markers because I really like the broad palette and the soft brush tips. 

When I work with Copic markers I usually think about which colours will blend well with each other. When I am shading, I prefer not to use the darker version of the same colour I have been using. Instead, I choose a darker shade of another colour. For example, when I am shading orange hair, I use a purple colour to shade it, instead of a darker orange.

When you work with alcohol-based markers and want a soft transition between colours, I find it easier if you choose closely related colours, for example yellow and orange. If you want to blend colours not related to each other, like blue and orange, you can try using another colour in between them that looks a little bit like both blue and orange like, for example, purple. It is also easier to blend colours before they have dried completely. In other words, you need to work fast.

From hobby to profession

Turning my hobby into my profession is something that I am currently trying to do whilst being a university student. I mostly focus on making my social media presence more prominent by building an online community, mostly via Instagram and YouTube. This means that I share illustrations, videos from when I am drawing as well as comics that I draw every week. I am also a firm believer in being proactive. For me, this means taking part in conventions (which can be so much fun but at the same time a bit scary), creating my own projects and continuously building a network within the world of illustrations. If these methods are successful or not is for the future to decide!

Gigi Chong

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