After comparing the pros and cons of traditional versus digital art, I thought it would be useful to share my illustration process.
Step 01. Discovery and Communication
Before a project gets going, a foundation must be laid. For a personal project, I start by outlining my goals. However, I approach client work with a questionnaire and conversation to discover their goals. This helps us get to know each other while exploring the details of what the client has in mind. Most importantly, it helps determine the unique goals that will help capture their story in the artwork. I find it's best to communicate through email, Skype, or face-to-face, if possible. This communication allows me to know if the project and client relationship will be a good fit.
Step 02. Research
Following the discussion of establishing project goals and expectations, I begin doing research. This can include reference photos provided by the client, or from the internet. My research often includes character poses, props/clothing, environments, and color palettes. I also research character personality to get an idea of mannerisms and clothing choices that would be natural for the character/subject.
Step 03. Thumbnail Sketches
After gathering and immersing myself in inspiration and research, I sketch thumbnails into a sketchbook or in photoshop. Thumbnailing is all about quickly getting ideas onto the page. I try out a variety of character proportions, shapes, and overall compositions. The thumbnails are the scaffolding or foundation of what will be fleshed out into the final artwork. Throughout the creative process, I ask the client for feedback to confirm that I am on target with their goals for the project.
Step 04. Linework
Next, I scan my thumbnails, enlarge them in Photoshop, and print a few options to pencil on top of a lightened sketch. During the penciling stage I start defining the shapes I sketched in my thumbnails, giving them dimension.
There’s something about the energy captured in thumbnails and drawing on paper that feels more intuitive than my digital pen display. I occasionally work digitally from start to finish. However, my current preference is to start traditionally, as I prefer the results I’ve been producing.
When I am done penciling, I scan the sheets so that I can make copies. Next, I ink on top of the pencils, scan the inked page, and clean it up in Photoshop, if necessary.
Step 07. Digitize
Once the linework is done, I continue working in Photoshop to establish mood through light, color, and textures to capture the story moment in the best way possible.
Step 08. Revise and Finalize
After adding color and light to the composition, I make alterations where it's necessary. That can mean revising elements such as clarity, mood or story that may be holding the artwork back from meeting the goal(s) that captures the character and/or storytelling moment.
Step 09. Completion and Delivery
There is one more stage to my client work process that I refer to as Completion and Delivery, but this blog post is a general overview of my process. If you're interested in working with me, the detailed version of my client work process is on my process page.
Overall, I believe it’s important to always be working to improve my process. Experimenting with different techniques and mediums and learning new ways to capture storytelling moments, are some of the ways I work towards becoming a more effective and efficient storyteller.
I hope you found something useful in my process that can help you capture the stories inside of you.