Skip to content

Republic / Icons and Illustrations / How the illustrations on this site were made

The illustrations around the site are drawn by Niklas Rhöse, a designer and co-founder of Republic. Here he tells a little more in-depth about how it is possible to draw digitally, as well as the thoughts behind the design.

Digital drawings with an:Analog feeling

When we started work on the new, we agreed that we wanted to create a stylish, classic, layout that was very much based on typography and self-drawn illustrations.

Since much of the oth­er graph­ics around the site come from dif­fer­ent cus­tomer projects, we need­ed to find a way that was clear­ly dif­fer­ent from this and which at the same time felt like us”.

So we decid­ed to move away from pol­ished and col­or­ful vec­tor illus­tra­tions, and instead cre­ate draw­ings that felt anal­o­gous and did not com­pete with oth­er graphics.


All images are drawn on an Ipad Pro (12.9 ") with an Apple Pencil. It is a pressure-sensitive pen, and it provides control and feels very close to traditional, analog drawing. The strokes get darker with more pressure, and you can tilt the pen to create a light shade, just like a regular pen or brush.

When I started painting digitally, it was almost only Wacom that produced pressure-sensitive drawing plates and pens, and in addition, if you wanted to be able to draw directly on the screen, the stuff would cost a couple of monthly salaries.

Today, there is really good equipment in several different price ranges that suit both creative beginners and experienced artists who want to put the color tubes on the shelf. One tip is the YouTuber Brad Colbow, who researches and grades these types of products in a pretty fun and easy way.

But do not skimp on the pressure sensitivity itself, because it is the most important component. There are variants where you draw directly with your finger on the screen or "stupid" pens (often called stylus) which are really just a piece of rubber. It works for browsing around and clicking links and buttons, but not for drawing.

Apps and software

As I said, I use an Ipad Pro to create images and drawings, both for customer projects and as a private hobby. There are a plethora of drawing apps, but the consensus among both professional illustrators and happy amateurs is that Procreate (from Savage Interactive) is in a league above its competitors. It's easy to get started, but if you need to, there are advanced features like creating your own brushes, layer masks, and animation.

Other great apps are Autodesk Sketchbook, Tayasui Sketches, and Photoshop for Ipad

An illus­tra­tion from start to finish

Here is a time­lapse of the draw­ing that illus­trates Acces­si­bil­i­ty” here on the site. I thought back and forth on how to illus­trate it, and want­ed to find a way to make a seri­ous sub­ject a lit­tle more fun but respectful.

As you can see in the movie, I start­ed by sketch­ing a sim­ple stick man” to find the right pose and expres­sion. In this sit­u­a­tion, it is more impor­tant to find the right ges­ture and move­ment, than that the pro­por­tions and anato­my will be com­plete­ly correct.

Then I built on the stick man with real shapes to get a lit­tle more vol­ume. I used sim­ple basic shapes like spheres and cylin­ders. Here you need to have a lit­tle con­trol over per­spec­tives and direc­tions in order for it to look con­vinc­ing.

Since the fig­ure would be cov­ered with clothes, I did­n’t have to wor­ry too much about the details once the basic shapes were in place, but could con­tin­ue to dress up” the shapes. I looked up some ref­er­ence pic­tures of pirates to get a bet­ter idea of​what kind of clothes were used.

When the lines were in place, I start­ed apply­ing shad­ows and grayscale. This makes the image eas­i­er to read because it makes it clear­er how the objects are con­nect­ed. Shad­ows and high­lights helps cre­ate an illu­sion of 3D.

It's not easier to paint digitally, but it's a bit more convenient

– Niklas Rhöse

Tips & tricks:Pencils och screen protectors

Procreate has lots of good brushes "out of the box", and there are additional quantities to download for free or buy, or you can create your own directly in the app.

For the pictures here, I wanted an analog feeling, and used only two different brushes; a "pencil" for drawing lines and light shadows, and a "drawing charcoal" for inserting darker areas and larger areas. They are called 6B Pencil and Charcoal Block in the app (see screenshots from Procreate below)

Many peo­ple find that the glass of the iPad is a bit slip­pery and dif­fi­cult to draw on, and many oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers of draw­ing boards have a slight­ly mat­te or rough­ened sur­face to mim­ic the feel of paper. It’s a mat­ter of taste, but I think you get bet­ter con­trol with a lit­tle more resis­tance to the sur­face. I use a very plain mat­te place pro­tec­tion, and it works great. There are more expen­sive vari­ants specif­i­cal­ly designed to draw on, but I hon­est­ly feel no dif­fer­ence. The qual­i­ty of the screen gets a lit­tle worse with an extra lay­er, but I think it’s worth the compromise.