From the Studio 4

Wherever I go whether it’s online or at one of the many events we attend people are always asking about how I make my illustrations. I recently did this image for Illustration Friday’s topic Beneath so I thought I would you it to talk about my illustration process.

The Idea

First I sketch out idea thumbnails on the computer or an a scrap of paper. Once I get one I like I enlarge it in Painter 11 to the proper illustration size.

After that it’s reference gathering time. I gather anything related to the project from my files, reference books and the good old internet. If the figure(s) in the shot are human I either use my reference library, my Japanese Ball Jointed Doll, my roommates or in some cases myself. If the figure(s) is an animal I use my reference library, my large collection of figurines and toys or studio cats.

The Sketch

Now it’s sketching time. I lower the opacity of my initial thumbnail and sketch on a new layer above that. When I used to draw my work on paper I would use blue lead in a mechanical pencil. Now that I work mostly digitally I have customized a pencil in Painter 11 to respond the same way. The result creates a digital sketch that is nearly indistinguishable from my traditional paper ones. But there’s also one or key difference, the digital version is far more Green since it doesn’t use any paper.

Process-Sketch

The Line Work

Once I have the sketch the way I want it I lower the opacity and ink the drawing on a new layer above that. I use a custom designed brush to ink a clean copy of my sketch in Painter.

Process- Line Work

The Under Painting

After that I turn off the sketch layer and place a layer beneath the ink layer. I work up the base colors for the painting. I mainly use two brushes I have custom designed. One Is my general painting brush and the other I have designed to respond like watercolor.

Process- Under Painting

The Details

After that I place a layer above the ink layer and move in for the details pass on the illustration. Once again I mostly use my two custom brushes but sometimes I use others as well.

When I feel the painting is complete I clone the file and either send it off to the client or upload it to my sites for our viewers to enjoy.

Process- Details

And there you have it.

Alot of people assume that digital is easier than traditional or that it does the work for you. Sure you can use filters or special brushes but in the end it is usually highly noticeable that you did. I never use filters or “FX” brushes in my illustrations. The techniques I use to digitally paint are the same ones I learned to do traditionally. Every dot, blade of grass or strand of hair or fur is one stroke of my hand. The only difference is that my hands and the environment are cleaner in the end because I paint choose in digital media.