New Illustration: “Cold”


Here’s a bit of background on how I create my illustrations, using my latest image, “Cold”, as an example. First I start off with a sketch in my sketchbook. I draw loosely with green Kimberly drawing pencils and use kneadable erasers most of the time:

Original drawing in my sketchbook...
Original drawing in my sketchbook...

The next step is really refining and darkening my line work, in preparation for scanning into the computer. I lay a sheet of tracing paper over my sketch, and using a Staples OptiFlow pen (or other nice and smooth ink pen) I redraw the sketch with dark lines and any relevant shading I want to show in my linework after its colored.

Scanned sheet of tracing paper
Scanned sheet of tracing paper

My next step is scanning the tracing paper into the computer. I usually scan in grayscale to get the subtleties of the scan to show, rather than scanning as 1-bit line art. Also, I try to always scan 300 dpi, because you never know when you’ll need a hi-res version of your illustration.

Working off my scanned image, I’ll adjust the brightness, contrast and levels of the scan in Photoshop, and erase any smudges that might have gotten on the original drawing. I’ll select the layer once I’m happy with the cleanliness of the image, and float it to a new layer and then changing the blending mode to Multiply (after selecting the white with the Magic Wand tool then deleting it). This allows my coloring layers beneath the lineart to show through, but it doesn’t mess up the top line layer.

I’ll start by creating a few layers for color, laying down the background color as well as a few swatches to use as a painter’s palette (for the eyedropper tool):

Coloring the drawing with a handy pallete layer in Photoshop
Coloring the drawing with a handy pallete layer in Photoshop

Once all the coloring is finished (the longest step), I’ll create a new layer for shadows. Using my marquee tool is the quickest and easiest for me, as I block in large areas of shadow, referring to my original sketch in my sketchbook. Once all the shadows are filled with black in the shadow layer, I’ll apply a Gaussian Blur to give a soft effect, if necessary.  It looks a bit dark, but this is what I’m seeing a this point:

Shadow layer painted on and Gaussian blur applied
Shadow layer painted on and Gaussian blur applied

Having the shadows on a separate layer helps a great deal, because I can adjust the intensity easily with that layer’s opacity slider. I decided on 15% opacity for these shadows:

Shadow layer complete with opacity turned to 15%
Shadow layer complete with opacity turned to 15%

The next step in this illustration was the lighting effect. This was different from the shadows, because I have a TV casting a cool glow across the subject. I create this effect by blocking in the area that will be OUTSIDE of the lit-up area using the marquee tool, and filling it with a dark blue color to add intensity. Once that layer is filled, I’m going to apply a gaussian blur to this effect as well for a more subtle dramatic effect. Take a look at the layer in the layer palette:

Creating the shadows from the TV
Creating the shadows from the TV

Note I’ve turned the opacity down a bit. Again, it always helps to have it on a separate layer…

Shadow layer (from TV)
Shadow layer (from TV)

Once those final touches are done, the illustration is ready! Here’s a smaller, web-friendly version (the original is 300 dpi)… Voila!!

Final illustration!
Final illustration!
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2 Replies to “New Illustration: “Cold””

  1. cool Rob! I love seeing other illustrators processes. Since I’m a traditional paint and marker girl I like learning the digital process too. Your little sick girl is very cute…hope she feels better! ;) hehe

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