Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Night Visitor: Process

The Night Visitor is one of the newest images I posted to my website, It's the kind of illustration you might find in your standard, children's picture book. There's not a lot of Photoshop trickery or effects here, just basic lines and colors. I'll break it down, though, because  it's fun to see illustrations go from scratch to finish. At least, I think so.

Ok, here we go. This shouldn't take too long. This is the pencil sketch. I wasn't sure whether I wanted it as a single-page illustration or a two-page spread, so I planned for both, just in case (those little crosses in the middle top and bottom would line up with the gutter in a two-page spread). I scan that into Photoshop and then decide on some colors. 

I wanted a night scene, but wasn't exactly sure how my lights and shadows would fall. So I did a quick, rough color comp to see what worked. Yes, it's sloppy. But it really helped me zero in on my color choices. 

With the color comp still visible, I start painting over it with more refined brushstrokes. Yes, I did the cat first because he seemed like fun. Lots of soft brushstrokes here smoothing out the rough stuff underneath.

After the cat, it seemed like the headboard would be the next fun thing to paint. I was right. Just rough vertical stripes of lighter and darker brown to create the woodgrain. The blanket was really just long, sweeping strokes of bluish-shadow and pinkish-highlights.

I saved the details of the boy's face until last because it's probably the most important part of the illustration and maybe the most difficult too. No secret blueprints, here. Just layers and layers of color and texture. In the end, that vast expanse of red blanket seemed a little plain, so I decided to paint rocket ships on it. Again, no secret Photoshop tricks, I just painted each little rocket ship to match the folds in the blanket (you can see them in the image at the top of this post). That's all for now, but I'll have another image in this series to break down soon. -v


  1. I like the addition of the rocketships. How long does it usually take you to work out one of these from start to finish?

    1. Ten minutes. Sketch to Final.

      No, I honestly have no idea, Beth. Like most people, the concept comes like a thunderbolt, the rough works itself out in a few minutes, then it's just a matter of how many naps you take between layers of digital color. I'm manic about getting faster, though. This image, a few years ago, would've taken me a month due to under-confidence and over-thinking. But I got this one done in just a few days, on and off. My goal is to get so fast that I finish before I start. -v

    2. Do you hope back and forth between projects, then? (I do this sometimes, because I feel like I burn out on an image if I spend more than a few hours on it at a time. I have to take a break and walk away for awhile.)

    3. Definitely, Beth. This afternoon I had an editorial illustration on one monitor and my webcomic on the other. I bounced back and forth. But like I said, I'm really trying to up my speed so that the piece is finished before I have a chance to get "burned out" on any one image.


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