Category Blog

In part two of this illustration process series I talked about finding reference and incorporating that into planning for the final art piece. Now that it’s all planned out, I’m ready to start the final!

There are a few ways to translate the plans into the final. If it’s a digital piece, then it can be as simple as creating a layer and roughing out a clearer version of the thumbnail. If you’ve ever watched one of my speed drawings which I’ve recorded off my iPad, then you’ve seen what I’m talking about.

It’s the traditional media pieces where sometimes you have to get creative in how you translate the thumbnails in the most useful way. If I have no other option, like a mural on a wall for example, I’ll usually lightly sketch it out directly onto the material on which the final piece will be with a pencil or something else that’s temporary or washable. Though, if you want to get fancy and have some flexibility in being able to resize on the fly, you could project the image onto the material using a projector and take it from there in whichever way you see fit.

Usually with paper you do have some more options – for example, I used an animation light box for a long time to get nice clean lines without having to redraw anything. If you don’t have a lightbox, you can get the same effect by putting a lamp or flashlight under a glass table or even large picture frame, and drawing on top of that.

Don’t ever use the fact that you don’t have fancy gear or tools as an excuse to not make art!

Alternately, you can just go straight to drawing or painting directly and keep the thumbnail handy for reference, but I personally like the consistency and quality that I get by having the rough sketch ready for a final outline. As long as I can manage to get the blueprints down without affecting the final materials in a detrimental way, that is.

Anyway, once I’ve translated my thumbnail into a blueprint (if applicable), I’ll start outlining if it’s a pencil or ink piece. From there I let the pen guide me over my rough sketch until everything that I want to be outlined is outlined.

Oh, I almost forgot. Know what your light source is, preferably in the thumbnail stage, but if necessary you can start working this out in the outline stage, too. If you’re going to be doing any sort of inked shading styles, like straight black and white or hatching, then this will be very important in figuring out how to best use values, as well as negative and positive space within the composition.

If it’s a painting, then it’s imperative that you have an idea of where that light source is before you put any paint on that canvas. Start blocking out the shapes and colours, and put those light and dark values wherever it makes sense for them to be depending on the light in the scene.

Now back to my favourite style, pen and ink. If I decide to take that to colour I like to use soft-lead coloured pencils with watercolour accents – in which case I’ll put down the watercolour as a base where I want a super saturated look, then add details and gradients with the pencils once it’s dry.

How do you get your thumbnails and rough sketches ready for final production? What are your favourite techniques and media to draw with? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

Next week I’ll be telling you about an exciting project I’m launching – so be sure to tune in next Thursday to hear all about it!