Here’s an entire illustration project from start to finish. The steps are not frequent enough for this to be a “how to”, but it does illustrate the process pretty thoroughly.
The client is “The Marlin Company”, which produces workplace and employer communication subscription materials. Part of their products are posters that communicate important workplace ideas and concepts like “Teamwork” and “Quality”, etc. I do art for a humorous line of these posters almost every month. I get the concept and description of the ‘scene’ I need to illustrate. My job is to create an image that is humorous yet gets the message across clearly. This is a typical project for them:
1. The Initial Project Concept-
I get an e-mail from the art director describing the project for me, including the text and any specifics they want to make sure are included:
( 12 x 17 (horiz) Cartoon showing an office of five to six older workers ?¬¢‚Äö?á¬®” men and women, diversity in race, please. Enthusiastic types who are concentrating intently. Sign on the wall says ‘HighTech Enterprises.’ They all have flat-panel monitors, and jazzy new computers ?¬¢‚Äö?á¬®” everything shiny and modern. But there’s one young geeky-looking white guy in the middle. He’s got a Royal-style manual typewriter and is typing away. A few dozen pieces of crumpled-up paper are on the floor. His desk is an old gray metal one, propped up by telephone books in one corner because a leg has been sheered off. He also has a crank phone attached to a post. He’s sitting on an old straight-back metal chair.):
Text: Got the right tools for the job?
For us to work at maximum efficiency, let’s correct any deficiency. Please take the initiative to speak up if you need something ?¬¢‚Äö?á¬®” as soon as you notice a hiccup, rather that waiting until we develop major heartburn. You’ll keep the work ?¬¢‚Äö?á¬®” and your blood ?¬¢‚Äö?á¬®” flowing at a healthy pace!
I read over the initial direction and read the text that will be on the poster carefully,and think about what the message is and how best to “sell it”, or to reinforce the message visually. I draw out a scaled down layout box and start working up a concept. I used to work up three or so different ideas, but after all the years we’ve worked together I know what they want, and just do one I know they will think is effective. Here’s the rough:
This is obviously very rough and is meant only to establish the basic layout and concept for the piece. The client never sees this stage… it’s too rough to show them. I do this stage for myself as the basis for my pencil sketch.
Once I have my rough worked out I scan it and enlarge to art size, then sketch it out on the illustration board (in my case Strathmore 4ply 500 series bristol, kid finish).
Here I do most of the drawing, working on the characters and environment, getting the details figured out. When done scan this stage and send it to the client for art direction.
The art director and client review the pencil and get back to me with any changes or direction needed. There is usually something small that needs adding or changing, but again my familiarity with the client keeps that to a minimum. In this case they just wanted me to add an old fashioned green visor and armbands to the central figure.
If necessary I would have made those changes and send the revised pencil to them for final approval. However in this case they just said “go for it”, so I went straight to the next step:
In this particular case the style they wanted was my ink and color, MAD type style, so the next stage is inking. First, I “knock back” the pencil a bit by rolling a kneadable eraser over the top of it like I was rolling out bread dough. This lightens up the pencil image so it’s easier to “draw” with the ink rather than just tracing the line. Then I get busy with the ink. See my inking tutorial for more details. Here are a few intermediate steps, click any for a closer look:
6. Scanning-After I thoroughly erase the pencil lines I scan in the inks. I scan as grayscale, 350 dpi at 100%. Then I bring the scan into PhotoShop and prep it for coloring. See this blog post for details of that process. Once it’s prepped up and ready, it’s on to the color. No need for the client to see this stage unless they want to.
8. Final- I flatten my file and save as a CMYK compressed TIFF, upload it to my FTP site and send the client the host URL, user name and password to retrieve it.
Self explanatory, but pretty important. It’s very easy to forget to send an invoice if you do no do it immediately.
That’s a typical job from start to finish. As in most things, communication is the key. The client needs to see in that final piece of art what they expected to see, or you will be doing revisions after the fact… not a fun thing to do.
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925 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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