Thursday, April 30, 2009

My steps to creating a digital illustration

In the spirit of show and tell, today I will be showing you some of the steps I take to creating a digital illustration. I'm not dealing with the painting part today, just the compositional planning part.

Step one: I do a bunch of sketches while thinking about the concept that I am trying to show visually. I might have a couple of concepts for the idea at first, but pretty quickly one wins out over the other as the best idea to develop further. I don't worry about the actual composition at this point. I am looking to collect quality elements that I can develop and put together later on into a cohesive image. At this point I'm visualizing the concept in my mind, the idea, even if I have not sketched it out properly.

Step two:  I scan in all the sketches that I think would be good to use for the composition, and bring them into Photoshop, where I organize each of the element into a framework that I like. This step, to me, is a lot like playing with Colorforms. (As a kid, I played with lots of Colorforms. My favorite was the Peanuts.)

I will then bring my sketch into Adobe Flash, place it on a layer, make it into a graphic and lock it in a layer. I wil make it transparent and use my sketch to guide my illustration. There are many similarities and also a lot of differences. I often do a lot of on-the-fly changes to the original sketch, and additional embellishments while I do the drawing part.

When I am satisfied with the ink job, I export it as a vector art (Adobe Illustrator) file. I then open it in Photoshop, crop it to the correct size and then move on to the painting. In general I place the "ink" layer above my painting layers. Once in awhile I will paint in a layer on top of the "ink" but that is much later in the process.

You can see the finished piece here. Hope you enjoyed this window into my process.


Kristi Valiant said...

So you use Flash for drawing the "ink" part? I've used Illustrator for that purpose and then Photoshop for painting the color, but haven't used Flash for inking. Why do you prefer that?
Thanks for showing us your process, Kathy!

Kathy Weller said...

Hi Kristi,
I like the natural line of Flash. I find it is a more organic line and it is more true to my non-digital line. I think Illustrator is fabulous for some things, but drawing organically is not one of them, least not for me. I've never been able to find a way to work with the tools in Illustrator to produce a satisfactory result in line art. Flash to the rescue! I have been using Flash for years but was not using it as a vector drawing tool - I'd only used it to develop web content. I was ecstatic to learn that you could export a drawing done in Flash into an Illustrator file with no loss of quality.

Thanks to Bob Flynn for that tip. I learned about it on his blog here:

Check it out!

Thanks for your posting!! :)

Laura Zarrin said...

I'm so glad you shared this. Here, I thought you were some kind of goddess who just drew each head on the page in order. I was feeling pretty inadequate. Love all the different looks and personalities in this piece. I might finally open Flash to try it out. I've had it for 2 years and have never opened it. I don't like to rush into things.

Anonymous said...

Cool! I thought I was the only one who used Flash like this. I like the line quality as well.

Bob Flynn said...

Flash is great for drawing! Though the Illustrator brush gives a very crisp line, I find it lacks a handmade touch. And it's far easier to color in Flash if you choose.

Thanks for sharing your process, Kathy! I have to say I really like your pencil version. You've got a great handle on inking in Flash, too.

Edrian Thomidis said...

It's always so informative to read about how other artist work. I never thought of using Flash for drawing. I have used it for animations, but I can see how it would help make cleaner lines. Thanks for sharing. I might just give it a try!

Kathy Weller said...

Laura, you are too funny. (...Can we still pretend I'm a goddess? I like the sound of that. Hah ;) )

Andothersuchthings: ...and you've been keeping the secret to yourself??? hee he just kidding :)

Bob, thanks for reading. I really appreciate your Flash tutorials. Hey I have looked for MX online (ebay)I have not given up trying to find it. I'm really curious about it for drawing now!

Edrian, do give it a go! It's really fun. And all you have to do is Export as AI. Vectors are clean as a whistle, as clean as they were in the source file, anyway. :) We all know Flash isn't perfect, but it is the closest thing I have, for natural vector line drawing! :)

Kristi Valiant said...

Thank you Kathy for the wonderful tip on drawing in Flash and for explaining. Illustrator has always bothered me because it's not as organic, so I'll have to give Flash a try. I've never used Flash much, but I have it, so it's time to try!

Robert Squier said...

I wouldn't have guessed that Flash was a better drawing tool than Illustrator - thanks for the tip! Congrats on the SCBWI poster win, the colors, characters and interpretation of the theme were spot-on!

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