Jun 23, 2013

My process - How I create artworks

I've got lots of people asking me how I create my artworks.
Often people are not even sure if I work digitally or traditionally and this is something always surprises me because I think it's obvious.

So that's way I've decided to write a tutorial where I show my process.
I love reading other people work process and I always find it incredibly interesting. Hopefully somebody will find interesting mine!:)

So first thing I do is drawing onto paper.
When I have my sketch ready, I trace the final drawing using a light box.
I don't really use any particular paper, but I prefer drawing on slightly rough paper just because the lines gets a bit more textured.

Then I scan my artwork and open it in Photoshop.
I adjust contrast using the levels (image > adjustment > levels). Usually I use these settings (but it really depends... so play with it!)

Then I separate the white background from my lines, so that I can treat them separately afterwards. I learned how to do this using a wonderful tutorial from the awesome Dani Jones.
She's an American illustrator and comic artist and her website is packed with amazing tutorials and tips. I SERIOUSLY recommend to go onto her website and check them all. In particular, this tutorial here will explain exactly how to separate your lines from the background.

After doing that, I usually do a colour rough. I always find this step really difficult... colours are so tricky!

To tackle this critical step, I usually get inspiration from websites such as Colour Lovers when you can browse lots of different palettes created by users.
Otherwise I like to use Colour Scheme Designer to help me find good colour combinations.
Also, I look online for photos that have the colours and the mood I want to use for my illustration and I go from there.

Once I decided which colours I'm going to use, I start painting my piece.
I paint an element at the time. Each element is on a different layer, so it will be easy later on in case I want to make changes.
I start with adding just a flat colour.

After that, I add darks and highlights.
They go on different layers as well. These layers are linked to the corresponding flat colour in a way that a clipping mask is created.
To do this, it is very easy: press OPTION on a mac keyboard (ALT for Windows users) and position the mouse in the middle of the two layers you want to link together.
You will see that an arrow and a white squared will appear.

Click and you will see that the upper layers will be magically linked to the first underneath.
This means that everything you draw in the top layer will stay between the edges of the first one.
In case you need more info about this step, please have a look at the Dany Jones tutorials... I learnt this from her too! Here the tutorial.

To paint my darks and highlights over the flat base, I use a textured brush. I like to use a mix of brushes that you can find in the Photoshop presets (or you can create your own! I don't... because I'm extremely lazy ç____ç).

I like to keep everything organised (I need to since I can end up having more than 100 layers!) and so I like to create folders to keep all the layers of an element together.

I also like to use textures in order to make my piece look more organic.
I really love using watercolour or paper textured because I reckon they spread colours very nicely.

There are heaps of websites where you can download free high-res textures, here a few:

Once I've painted everything, I take care of lines.
I like to colour the lines with a similar but slightly darker tone.
In order to be able to affect the lines only, you need to select the lines layer and press the little square right above the layers near the word Lock.

Once the layer is locked, you will be able to paint the lines of your drawing without affecting anything else.

Ans that's it! DONE

I hope you will find this tutorial helpful.

Happy drawing!:D


  1. lovely tutorial laura, i've been wondering how you create your beautiful artwork!

  2. laura you're a wonder!
    grazie for sharing.

  3. This was super informative and clearly laid out. Thank you for sharing this process - I learnt a lot. Your work is always gorgeous. Nice to see how you go about the technical side of things.