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Interior Design Illustrated Marker and Watercolor Techniques (learn to render)-Book Review

Updated on January 31, 2011

It goes with out saying that CAD is the rendering tool of choice and it certainly gets the job done but the problem is it has no heart and soul. Hand rendering is a lost art that needs to be brought back. When well done, it has the ability to appeal to a client's very core and that's exactly what we want when we're trying to get them enthusiastic about our designs.

In Christina M. Scalise's book, Interior Design Illustrated, she teaches basic to advanced rendering skills in a comprehensive, interesting and inspiring way. Though this book is not for beginners and you must have a handle on how to draw at least one point perspective I think its an invaluable resource for design students and interior designers who want to improve their rendering skills.

The book, published by Fairchild Books, Inc. in 2008, is packed with examples and step by step illustrations on how to complete a beautiful rendering for an interior design project. Its broken up into chapters that each cover a specific aspect of drawing for interior design and each chapter is then followed up with a series of exercises designed to help you implement the techniques that you've just read about. In addition to the exercises, there are tons of great tips - as if you had a really great teacher looking over your shoulder and offering advice while you draw.

Chapter Breakdowns

Okay, I'm going to say right off the bat, this is a textbook so it's not cheap but its the only book on rendering you will ever need.

  • Chapter 1 is dedicated to Creative Tools and gives you a complete rundown of every tool you will need to complete beautiful, professional looking interior design renderings. In addition Christina illustrates all the different ways these tools can be used. Included are also two amazing color charts that show the effects of layering markers and water colors. Your shown clear examples of what effects markers and water colors have on different types of paper and advised which colors you'll need to start off with.
  • Chapter 2 runs down a comparison of medias, shows examples of different designers' renderings so that you get a feel for the different means of expression, goes into more depth on marker layering, explains the benefits of white areas and demonstrates some basic marker techniques. It then repeats all of the above with watercolor.
  • Chapter 3 covers artistic interpretation. You're taught how to illustrate surface shapes to the best effect, how to deal with color and light, shadows, textures and patterns, details and shapes and how to synthesize and interpret what you see into a personal rendering. In addition composition is addressed as well as perspective, value study, color study, and sighting. You're then given tips on how to evaluate a great illustration.
  • Chapter 4 is all about room vignettes and covers design concept, commercial spaces, retail spaces, hospitality spaces and residential spaces.
  • Chapter 5 is all about interior architectural elements. At this point the book moves into more advance illustration techniques such as minimal illustration, drawing different types of ceilings such as slanted, grid, painted, wood, floating, curved and coffered ceilings. It also covers windows, views from windows, day and night through a window, doors of all sorts such as pocket, glass, brass, sliding, stairs of different types of materials, and ornamental architectural details.
  • Chapter 6 is dedicated to walls and their coverings and materials. It gives step by step instructions on how to render faux finishes, paneling, patterns in wood, stone, glass, tile, relief, wallpaper, upholstered walls and special finishes. Window coverings are explained in detail in addition to murals, mosaics and other effects.
  • Chapter 7 covers floors and their materials from wood to stone to tiles to carpeting. Different finishes for the materials are also illustrated. Plush carpet as well as woven rugs are demonstrated. In addition special floor coverings like animal skins, shag, and geometric designs are covered.
  • Chapter 8 covers every aspect of furniture illustration from the upholstery materials to upholstery techniques. In addition you'll learn how to draw hard furniture like wooden chairs, glass tables and metal trim. A variety of lights are demonstrated as well as their effects when lit.
  • Chapter 9 is dedicated to enhancements such as plants, accessories, and artwork that help to finish a room. Scalise goes into as much detail and step-by-step examples in this chapter as she does in every other, so it's a very in depth overview of how to address these important details.
  • Chapter 10 is all about materials and textures such as shiny metal, reflective glass, stone, rough vs. smooth, etc. You are shown both marker and water color techniques to help you become a better illustrator.
  • Chapter 11 deals with patterns and teaches you how to suggest just enough to convey a space's personality with out getting you bogged down in detail.

Excerpts from the Book

An example of all the different effect possibilities using markers.
An example of all the different effect possibilities using markers.
Here Scalise gets into mare complicated techniques like attractively rendering a different types of ceilings.
Here Scalise gets into mare complicated techniques like attractively rendering a different types of ceilings.
Step by step instructions for illustrating complicated pieces of furniture.
Step by step instructions for illustrating complicated pieces of furniture.

There are two drawbacks to the book. The first is, I think it should be spiral bound so that it lays flat on the table and the second is that the cover is soft. Neither one of these flaws are tragic and hopefully the publishers will fix them in the second printing.

All in all, I have seen my rendering skills advance by leaps and bounds using this book. Its really my go-to bible of interior design illustration techniques. After you have finished going through all of these chapters and their assignments there is no doubt you will be more than proficient at rendering interior design illustrations, too. More than that though, you will be phenomenal because along the way you will have also found your own style. That's something that will set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

Article by Anne Alexander Sieder all rights reserved. For hardcore interior design fans, check out my blog

Customer Reviews from Amazon

"Great for both new and experienced users. I really like the marker and water color sections. They also have some great ideas for sample and textures. I found it really helpful and worth the money."

"As an Interior Design student I was shown this book by a proffessor. I loved it and the beautiful renderings.I recommend this to anyone that is learning or just want to improve their rendering skills. I was thrilled to receive it for a graduation gift." Cathy


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