How to Set Up Your Home Office for Optimal Creativity

Working from home has some obvious pros and cons. On the one hand, you can get to work straight away and stay as late as you like. On the other hand, finding the motivation to sit down and actually work can be difficult. For illustrators and designers, your work area needs to foster creativity. Being a freelancer requires organisation, so by taking the time to set up your workspace in the right way, you can ensure you always get the most out of your time spent at your desk.

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Separate Your Work and Leisure Area

While working from home allows you to integrate your work and life, this can be disastrous for productivity. When in the office, your body needs to know that this is a time for work. Trying to work from your bed may be tempting, but as this is a place of relaxation, your brain won’t be in the right frame of mind, which may also disrupt sleep. A relaxed mind will struggle to come up with creative designs.

Ideally, you should have an entire room dedicated to work. This is a room for just you and business partners, not friends or family. You could even go a step further and have a separate work computer and phone that are not connected to games, films or social media.

Of course, this isn’t always possible. If you need your phone to work, make sure you logout of personal social media and messaging accounts. You may be able to block all irrelevant websites. For instance, you may only wish to have access to the website you are illustrating for or any other pages from which you are earning income, such as relevant paid survey sites. This ensures that there is nothing distracting you from the task at hand.

Making It a Nice Place to Work

One of the greatest benefits of working from home is that you can design it to your tastes. Your office should have plenty of light, preferably natural, to keep you feeling alert. A pleasant view, particularly overlooking nature, will encourage creativity and activate a visual mindset for design and illustration. Looking out of the window reduces the strain on eyes occurring from staring at a screen, so it’ll stop you feeling tired.

Your office should be clean because clutter demands attention from the brain, leading to fatigue. The more minimalist your office space, the more you can concentrate on design. Find a room that is quiet and put on some relaxing music or background noises that are not distracting. Finally, make sure that you are comfortable. The temperature should be perfect and your chair should provide adequate back support.

Illustrating from home offers enormous freedom, but it is up to you to make your space conducive to productivity and creativity. By creating a clear space for work, that is separate to your leisure space, you can set up your office in a way that allows concentration and creativity to flourish.

Contributed by Lucy Wyndham

How to make illustrated maps

For this tutorial I'll explain how I make what is the majority of my commercial illustration work : maps.
I'll take you through step by step how to make a versatile illustrated map. I'll mostly be using Paris in the examples.

It can be great to invent maps and places like some of the legendary world-builders have done like Tolkien, George R. R. Martin and Roald Dahl have done with their characters and worlds.

But also maps can of course be useful in the real world like in area and city guides. Maps can be a lovely balance between form and function.

In this article I’ll show you how I make mine, and how you could use these 8 steps to make your own maps in your own styles.

     1. Choosing your area

In this case, the area is the city of Paris. The perimeter of the city on the Google Map here has a lovely shape that I'll be incorporating into the design. 'My Maps' (different to the usual maps section), is a great tool to plot and choose your area. 

     2. Collecting images and research

A lot of the places we want to map may be places that aren't possible to visit in real life - so collecting images of the places and making sure you research the place properly can help give you a better idea of what you want to map. Depending on how you want to draw the sites Google image search and Street view can give you great face on images of the places to draw.

     3. Routes and paths

Draw out important routes and paths. This recent rural map here shows one of the selected walking routes of the UK.

     4. Drawing out the main roads

When drawing an urban map, a good place to start is with the general shape of the place, including the main roads. Sometimes the city will provide a border like in the example here, or sometimes there will be rivers or the sea to break up the composition.


     5. Smaller roads and routes

After this step it can be useful to add smaller roads, rivers or streams. These can be a different colour to differentiate them from the main roads and other areas.


     6. Adding places of interest and sites

Now the main areas of the map are there, you can start adding sites and buildings to your map. If like me you are using a layer based software like Photoshop, these can be drawn separately and then dropped on to the map. I find it useful to add them as a 'linked smart object' - This allows resizing and organising the sites without pixellation.


     7. Decoration and foliage

Now you have your main sites and places of interest, you can start adding decorations and fun little details to the map. Trees and foliage are something I like to make unique to each map. With so many varieties it can give you loads to work with and interesting shapes and colours.


     

 

8. Extras and finishing touches

Finish off your map with a nicely drawn title if using one, and any other details like the inhabitants of the area.

Thanks for reading and if you make a map or this helps your illustrations, please feel free to contact me to ask anything or show me your maps - hello@alex-foster.com