Sharing my illustration process.

  • Hey gang! I wanted to share my thought process when coming up with an illustration. I won’t go into my actual digital painting process, but I’m happy to answer any specific questions.

    And please share any and all of your own processes!

    *submitted version

    I find I can get some of my best work when there are constraints and sometimes that can mean making your own. In this case I know I needed to have Lisa, her robot, and something had to go wrong. This was a lot to wrangle, so I needed a plan.


    This image needed to accomplish some very specific things, so I started this illustration off by listing possible actions the robot could have done wrong and see which feel like low hanging fruit and which could be more interesting to illustrate. A big one was deciding to show the moment after the disaster had happened. I’ve struggled with making an “in the moment” illustration with a big action really work in the moment. Making this an after the moment opened it up for a little more fun and then the viewer gets to have some fun piecing together what has happened. Lastly I wanted to challenge myself by not drawing the robot. Most illustrations for me have more thumbnails, but I felt like because I had narrowed down what the idea of the illustration was, that worked out a lot of the settings. I still like to explore Ideas just to make sure. You can see I explored an option where we see this happening from a birds eye-view outside.
    On a side note about thumbnails and coming up with a lot of options. When I was in school I took a lot of animation classes and worked on a number of short films in school. So I’ve spent some time analyzing film and because of this I think a lot about where the camera is in the scene and where it could be.


    Lisa also needs to come across as an inventor. Giving her a workstation in the garage seemed like the best solve, and then in the garage that gave me more ideas for what could have gone wrong; the robot stealing dads car! I wanted to show hints that that is what was taken, that’s where the picture and trophy on the shelf, and I wanted to show she was taking over the garage. This was partially shown with the Forbidden Planet poster over dad’s old race day poster.


    Breaking down my choices for Lisa. I have a lot of fun posing my characters in their scene, exploring what makes the narrative read best. Lisa is an inventor, this needs to be clear. An apron with tools in the pockets helped show this. For her wardrobe, I remember hearing that in film if you want your character to read as smart, you put them in yellow. The stripes were also important, you put stripes on a character when you want to show that they don’t always fit in with society. Think Pippi Longstockings. Other choices, I wanted to make sure the apron was clearly visible, so I knew I couldn’t have her left arm cross her body and obstruct the apron. Last thing that factored in was knowing that Lisa would be a light character on a dark background and not to let her values stray from that.

    Here are my first digital sketches for this illustration. I usually start my process out on paper. I can't quiet explain it, but this process always feels clunky to me when I start it out digitally, but I love using digital for the stages after.


    When I plan out my linework I like to throw a blank white layer underneath and turn down the opacity to see the drawing below. Throw back to the animation days with animation tables that had lights behind them.

    Lastly here is the final illustration. Since the Crit Arena I've lightened some of the darker values a bit and while making this post I saw in my notes I missed that Lisa needed to be messy. I added in some little smudge marks to show shes been working.


    Thank you for checking out my process! Like I said, I didn't break down my digital process. While it's fairly simple, it would take a book to write out. Instead if there is a specific question I can go into, I'm more than happy to help 🙂

    *Edit: Added scan of original notes page

  • This is really cool, Norman! I'm really digging the grungy textures and even Lisa's hairdo. And very interesting to know about the significance of "yellow" and "stripes" in film. Whenever I draw stripes it's only because it's the easiest pattern to create other than polka dots 😅
    Thank you for sharing your process!

  • SVS OG

    @Norman-Morana wow! Thank you for this.

  • SVS OG

    How cool! Thank you!! And interesting about the stripes. Maybe all those preppy stripes from the 80s were saying more than we thought! 😂

  • @Norman-Morana Thanks for being so generous in sharing your process, really interesting info' - it's always great to see how other people work and this scene was one of my favourites

  • Your style is far and away one of my favorites on this forum. Thanks for sharing your process!

  • SVS OG

    Taking the SVS live classes has helped me get into the habit of thumbnails! It was tough at first (I could maybe do 5 in an hour then needed a break) but now I can doodle out at least 5 ideas in minutes! And my compositions are better for it.

    Nice work on the illustration! Thinking about value early on helped it become a strong piece. And it's great storytelling that the object causing the destruction is off-screen, gets my imagination going.

  • @Neha-Rawat Thank you, Neha! There's all kinds of little tricks like that you could do with color! It's fun when you can pick up when a film maker is using color is a specific way. The movie Amelie is a great example. I think it was in that movie that whenever you saw something blue enter a scene something good was about to happen.

  • @Rachel-Horne said in Sharing my illustration process.:

    You're very welcome, It was fun to write up 🙂

  • @Coley you're too kind haha, thank you 🙂

  • @carriecopadraws Thats fantastic! It's exciting to hear about people's art break throughs 🙂

    And thank you! I've definitely found more success when spending extra time in the planning phase.

  • Hi @Norman-Morana, thank you for sharing your process! Most people have no clue how much goes into an illustration! I am taking notes from your lesson!

Log in to reply