Illustrating people: Easy tricks to add to your tool kit

Hey there!

Elly here to help close out the Season of Kindness and I am super excited to share with you some arty tips for drawing people.

When I have the time, I love to sit and watch people going about their lives. Shopping, playing at the park with their families, meeting people at the airport, singing loudly in their cars when they think no one is watching. Humans are amazing and observation helps us to develop empathy and kindness.

Drawing is one of the greatest ways that we can learn how to see, because when we sit and spend time looking at something to draw it, we must give it more than just a passing glance. We look at the textures and shapes and light and we uncover hidden beauty. When we turn this gaze to our fellow humans, we can see past the differences to the wonderful commonality that we all share.

But you guys, drawing people is hard. Especially if they aren’t sitting still in front of us while we agonise over getting all the details as right as we can.

So I have an arty cheat for you.


  • Watercolour paints or ink
  • A pen. Any kind. You choose.


  • Using loose strokes paint ‘body’ shapes in your journal. Be bold! Your people shapes don’t have to be perfect or even very realistic.
  • Once the colours are dry you can overlap the shapes with a new colour to make fun effects as watercolour (or ink) is transparent. If you are impatient like me, you can overlap while the shapes are still wet and get cool colour blending effects.
  • Use your pen to add details to your shapes. If you don’t feel like drawing in public for whatever reason, there are references everywhere for people on the Internet or draw from your favourite film! Put the buttons on their jackets, swish their hair over their ears, turn your watercolour ghosts into little people.
  • Admire your cute illustrations.

Action steps

  • Draw your family or friends. What colours would you use to represent each person? How do you feel after spending some time observing them?
  • Prepare a page of watercolour ghosts at home. Spend some time outside at a cafe, or park, or even in your work place, filling them with the people you see.


Elly lives in Sydney, Australia. Her favourite part of journaling is being able to play. She loves being able to test out ideas, and styles, and mediums without pressure. This applies to the ideas she’s expressing too: getting to work through experiences and communicating opinions in a place that is fun, safe, and colourful.


  1. CIndy Jacobs

    Oooh! I’m super excited! This looks simple and fun!

    • Eleanor McComb

      Yay! I hope you have fun making people 🙂

    • Eleanor McComb

      So do-able! <3

    • Eleanor McComb

      Thanks V!

  2. Marsha Smusz

    Love this idea! Thanks Elly and GM! So glad I found all you messians!

  3. Katie Smith

    I’m so excited for all of your tutorials this year, Elly!

  4. Tanyalee Kahler

    Eeeeekkkkkk!!! This was awesome Elly! Now to try to get my people to look as stylish and cool as yours – sketching goals!!!!!

  5. Maria Villafana

    love your journal! and i did add watercolor bodies. Waiting for it to dry before adding the black pen {nervous}

  6. Jenny Sehlstedt

    Brilliant! Got to try this!S

  7. Clare Etheridge

    This is so inspiring, they are so effective, I am going to use a magazine to get some people to paint!

  8. Talia carbis

    Ooh I love this! Such a simple way to get over the fear of drawing people! Thanks Elly!

  9. Sasha Zinevych

    Aww, Elly! This is such a fun, easy, and engaging tutorial! Absolutely love it! <3

  10. Miriam Gault

    Thanks Elly. Another technique to try. I like the way it is kinda forgiving.

  11. Rebecca Johnstone

    This is so cool! and a game-changer!