Illustrating a Picture Book Spread

From Sketch to Final Illustration

Rough sketch

I begin with a story idea and goal. My goal here was to add more animal scenes to my portfolio. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship to zoos. I love seeing all the animals up close, but I also have this feeling of wanting more for them. The idea behind this illustration was born from that feeling I get. What if the zoo animals escaped and went to live in a neighboring forest? I imagine myself as that little mouse, welcoming them to their new home. This was the initial sketch I worked on. I sketch with a mechanical lead pencil in my sketchbook or on my iPad using the Procreate app.

Refined sketch & color palette

Once I’m happy with the composition, I work on a more refined sketch, and choose a color palette for the project. Each element is drawn on a different layer so I can move things around later. I can also duplicate elements. You’ll see I added an evergreen tree to the bottom left of the finished illustration and erased a tree limb from the top left tree.

Adding color and shading

This is usually the most fun part of the process for me. Adding color, shading, and then adding texture and all the fun little details is like filling in a coloring book page. I’ve learned that keeping a folder of my favorite brushes, both in Procreate and Photoshop, is a huge time saver. Trying to choose which brushes to use while painting eat sup a lot of my time and impacts my enjoyment. Having a color palette ready to go also helps. With those basics out of the way I can relax and enjoy myself. I’ve always loved coloring. The way you use color really defines the mood of your art.

Editing in Photoshop

Sometimes I paint everything in Photoshop, but I typically begin adding color in Procreate first. It’s just a faster way to block in color. Next, I import the art layers into Photoshop. I use a large Wacom and an iMac for editing. This is where I move things around, tidy everything up, add more texture, check colors, play with layer masks, resize the images, etc. Each Illustration is a multi step process, but it like everything it gets easier and you get better at it with practice.

Helen Deasy
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