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The Twirl – Illustration Process Walkthrough (with Photos)

Tutorial

Process shots, from the roughest concept doodle to the final illustration

tldr: I’ve put together some working images from the development process of this piece. Read on for a step-by-step overview of this illustration.

It's easy to fall into the trap of staying in your comfort zone when working on assignments. To push myself out of that zone on this piece, I laid out a few ground rules before I started thumbnailing – no matter what the conceptual direction, my illustration would include at least three people and complex background.

The Finished Illustration

body language illustration
The Twirl – Final illustration

And so here it is, with at least three people with a complex background. The underlying idea for this piece is about body language; the flitting hair twirl and neck exposure, the social mirroring going on between the couple at the bar, and the other couple who are clearly disinterested in each other.

I've put together some working images from the development process of this piece. Read on for a step-by-step overview of this illustration.

Off to a Rough Start – Fast and loose sketches

rough sketch of illustration
Really rough sketch

My sketch for this started out really rough. I usually work very quickly and loosely at this stage. A lot of what I'm drawing wouldn't be understandable to anyone other than myself at this roughness, but what I'm trying to do is block out a concept and a dynamic composition. I'll be able to fit the details into the composition later on if this sketch moves forward.

Cleanup to a Tight Linear

rough sketch of illustration
Develop a tight linear to work from

From the rough, I clean things up a lot before moving on to color. I like to get the drawing finalized before painting. I've learned from experience that if I leave things to be figured out later, those are always the weakest points in the final piece.

Underpainting

illustration painting progress
Under-painting and blocking in some colors

The next step is to destroy everything and paint over it. I start by setting a tone for the piece with a background color. Then I block in some larger areas of color to establish the composition.

Building up color

illustration painting progress
Working up the details
The painting process is just a matter of building up layers and working around the piece.

Final details at the very end

body language illustration
It's the textural details and patterns that bring it together

The last step is to add textural details and play with its levels in Photoshop to really make it pop.

As always, I'm just trying to experiment and to learn something new. Comments and feedback are always welcome.