Creating visual metaphors: Alex Castro’s illustration tools

While The Verge is a place where stories are told, they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if it weren’t for the artwork that accompanies them. Alex Castro is the illustrator for The Verge, and he is the best person to describe how his work complements our reporting.

What follows are Alex’s thoughts about the tools he prefers to use.


I’ve heard illustrations described as “visual metaphors” that reflect the meaning of the words. I create artwork for Verge articles that communicates the sentiments of a story and catches the reader’s eye. Sometimes, it’s creating batches of simple graphics that could be used for a number of stories. Other times, it’s reading and rereading reports and features trying to dissect what the main takeaways of the stories are and creating visuals specifically for them. Often the hardest part of a project is the initial brainstorming when I’m extracting themes and attempting to translate them into visuals.

Alex Castro started out as a designer and creative director at a church in Florida, working on everything from video promotions to campus signage. He began at The Verge as an intern and joined the staff as a full-time illustrator shortly after. 

What you need

An illustration setup can be as simple as a laptop or as elaborate as an independent art studio, filled with art supplies and tools. It really depends on the style of work. Many digital artists make use of drawing tablets and displays in order to draw directly into their computer software of choice. I do most of my work on the computer, so I tend to not have too much around me. I like to keep a sketchbook and pen handy in order to sketch ideas down quickly or take quick notes.

Computer, tablet, and sketchbook

When we were in the office, I worked on a 27-inch iMac and a 22-inch Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet. Since I’ve been working from home, I’ve switched to my Alienware Aurora R7 system and purchased a 19.5-inch Huion Kamvas Pro drawing tablet, which I don’t love as much as the Cintiq, but it’s a great budget option. I also have used a Wacom Intuos tablet, and sometimes I prefer its workflow over the display tablets since I don’t have to be hunched over the display to draw.

Wacom Cintiq 22


Prices taken at time of publishing.

22-inch creative pen display

$1,200 at Wacom $1,200 at Amazon

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