It's here! As promised! A few days later than planned, but still. This is a stage-by-stage snapshot of how I generally put my illustrations together, specifically this year's Christmas card. I'm not giving away all my secrets here, but I think it gives an idea of the steps involved in my style and how I go about it, which I hope you might find interesting. Here we go:
OK, Step 1:
What I have here is a scanned in sketch of my main reindeer character; not much more than a doodle, really. Also open in the right there is Vistaprint's template for their Christmas cards, which is going to be my canvas. Vistaprint are great at providing templates for all the products they offer. I use them for pretty much all my printed promo. The other box is my layers palette, which keeps track of all the different layers I'm using.
I ummed and ahhed about this year's design for ages, working out a range of ideas in more and more detail until this simple guy just popped out of my pencil, kind of fully formed. I generally work out my very first rough ideas in my sketch book (on real paper, gasp!) and then scan them in for more developing and tidying, which is.....
Here I've taken my trusty Wacom and drawn over my initial sketch on a new layer in Photoshop, using different coloured lines for all the different coloured parts of his body. I then delete the sketch layer; I don't need it anymore.
This stage is using the magic wand tool to capture all the different areas within the outline and filling them very simply with block colour. The samples of colour on the right there are ones I created and used for The Project, but thought they'd work well here, too. They all have strange names like "Dizzy's Legs" and "Frankie outline". It's going to be so odd drawing and colouring other things. Anyway, moving on to...
One of my favourite stages, the adding of textures. I have a texture library of interesting stuff I've either found online or scanned in myself. Husband pointed me in the direction of a great site called BittBox which has a TONNE of fantastic free textures available for use in artwork and the like. The top one there came from them and is wolf fur, I believe. The bottom left is a towel I scanned in ages ago when I was working on the Star Pirates project. Here, I've just changed the colour of it to a nice brown. I've been using it in The Project, too, as a texture for shell and mud.
To use, I just drag the texture layers over the top of my colour layer and then play with the opacity and multiply tools until I get the effect I'm after.
Adding in shadows. They, too are on a separate layer. Again, I fiddle with the opacity and multiply options to get the right feel.
And highlights. Again, on another layer and fiddled with opacity-wise.
The laydeee reindeer. She is exactly the same reindeer as red-nosed Rudolph. Honest, guv. I've just flipped her and altered both the outline and the block colours just by sliding the Colour Balance tool around, and gave her some flirty, girly eyelashes. They are the best thing about drawing girls. Girls must always have eyelashes. I guess she's either Donner or Vixen. She's kinda cute rather than sexy, so let's go for Donner.
Adding textures. She has a different body texture to Rudolph; I used the wolf fur. I also scanned in a wooden button I have to add to her cowl.
Dragging them over to the canvas, adjusting their positions on the canvas/template and rotating them both out slightly so the lights (watch this space) will look a bit more in tension.
The background. I went for a simple dark blue here, using a rough bristled digital brush to get a nice texture on the outline. I didn't think too much about this shape, I didn't want it to look too contrived. I always like to have something "breaking the frame", to use poncey, artist's jargon, so the characters aren't restrained by the background at all. The trees are on another layer on top, just coloured the same white as the canvas background to look like a paper cut-out or similar. I've laid a half-tone dot in a slightly darker blue over the background to give it a bit of interest; I think you can see that better in my banner up the top there.
The lights! Woo! These are just a simple green line drawn between the two reindeer on another layer.
The bulbs. I added tiny little vertical lines to the main green ones and then drew a basic blub shape on another layer. I then copied, pasted and rotated that bulb a gazillion times and altered the colours using the Colour Balance slider again.
My absolute fave bit of doing the whole thing, adding the GLOW. These are on another layer behind the bulbs, using the same colours and a very soft-edged brush and knocking their opacity down a bit to give that Christmas glow.
I also decided here that the two deer were looking too alike, so Rudolph now gets to have his mouth open and Donner is looking up at the lights. It's very easy to change things at this stage while all the elements are all still on separate layers. I just had the redraw the outline around his mouth, then remove the excess block colour and texture with the rubber tool.
Nearly there. I added in a few robin chums as you really can't have enough fat, friendly, fluffy robins at this time of year. They were really simply drawn, no outline or anything, just a blob of brown, really, with other blobs of other colours on top.
The snow is copied over from last year's card, I just moved the flakes about a bit to give the best view through them. The snow is actually the top layer, I like being able to see the characters through the flakes, it gives a nice feeling of depth and movement.
The end! When I'm finally happy with it after a whole lot
of faffing with this and that and the other, I flatten the whole thing
and remove any guidelines. I always do an inside/back for my cards in
greyscale, not only as it's free to print one, but it gives you another
opportunity to show off your stuff and demonstrate you can work in black
and white as well. I took the fairylights theme and wound them around
to read "Merry Christmas", added a few bulbs, a half-tone background,
and one of the robin chaps from the front. I always stick in my contact
details, too, although I've blurred them here as, as much as love you, I
don't need random phonecalls.
There we go. That is pretty much it. It's taken me much longer to write this than I thought it would. When you're working on something like this, you just do it automatically, so to actually think through each step and write it down in something like clear language is actually quite hard! I hope it makes sense and was both entertaining and informative. Enterformative, if you will.
I'm off to make up the last of my Christmas crafting; I'm very much looking forward to some time off after this crazy busy year!