Creating Full Color Digital Illustrations From Your Hand-Made Drawings

Sara Blake, Illustrator, Fine Artist, Designer, Art Director

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4 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Phase 1: Artboard, Concept & Sketch

    • 3. Phase 2: Hand Made Elements

    • 4. Phase 3: Digital Elements

15 students are watching this class

Project Description

Create a digital illustration from a hand-made drawing

Artboard, Concept & Sketch

  1. Determine subject matter and content

    Whenever you start a new project, you inevitably have to ask yourself, “Why am I making this?”— this helps inform much of the process and expecations for your final piece from the get-go. If you are setting out to create a personal project or piece of artwork, the answer to this could quite simply, be “because I want to make something cool-looking,” but you may also need to fulfill upon a certain client brief, or to communicate a specific idea. This will help determine your approach early in the game. Will you be more experimental or would it be better to get your layout and sketches polished in an early phase? The beauty of working in a sort of hybrid fashion, drawing your elements by hand, but working with the final piece digitally means that you can ultimately have many different versions of the same piece. Not only is this extremely helpful for presenting alternates to clients, but it can also help you troubleshoot and prototype. 

    Please refer to the Phase I project guide PDF attached below in Additional Resources.

  2. Gather reference for artboard and description

    After selecting a concept or subject matter, you will want to solidify your idea for yourself. Create one or both of the following:

    A) Written statement of purpose describing what you want to make, where you want it to live, what medium you’d like the final digital image to take (if it will be printed somehow, etc.) This is your project so this can really be whatever you want. Maybe you just want to make a piece about a poem you love. In that case, share that here. 


    B) An artboard in the form of a PDF or a Pinterest board with a collection of visial references for your subject matter, style, or higher level ideas. Upload this to the class. 

  3. Create 2-5 Quick Sketches

    Create 2-5 rough sketches of your piece—and I mean rough! They can just be thumbnails a couple inches wide or really quick scribbles. You don’t need to waste time getting any detail or making anything pretty at this stage. Get down and dirty. I only spend 60 to 90 seconds per sketch. Upload these to the class. 

Hand Made Elements

  1. Create your drawing

    Check out the Phase II Class Guide as you start out this unit, as I provide detailed information about what you will be completing in this portion of the class.

    Choose your most creative sketch from Phase I. Give yourself a big chunk of time to render out your final piece using some tips in this guide: 8 hours is a good estimate (or) as long as you want. 

    Keep in mind the following:

    Does your drawing feel balanced? Is there a good proportion of light to dark space, negative to positive space?

    If there is type, is it legible? (Ask some friends.)

    And most importantly! (people don’t say this enough)—screw everybody else, do YOU like it? You are the artist, you are the one making the time investment. Are you confident and happy? 

  2. Scan & Share

    Scan your piece into your computer and upload that to the class. Refer to class guide for scan settings and tips.

Digital Elements

  1. Read Phase III Project Guide

    Almost there! Before you embark on the final unit of this class, check out the Phase III Project Guide attached below in Additional Resources.  Plenty of info in there to send you on your way!

  2. Clean Up

    “Clean up” your drawing in Photoshop using some tips from this PDF and video. 

    Eraser Tool:

    Adjust Levels:

  3. Flat Shapes

    Lay down flat shapes under you line work to help you work and make selections. 

  4. Isolate Line Art

    Isolate your line art to make color and texture experiments & decisions easier & quicker to implement. 

  5. Experiment & Play

    Have some fun! Prototype and experiment. Refer to class PDF and video for some tools to fascilliate this process.

  6. Make 3 Digital Variations

    Save out 3 versions of your piece and select the most successful. 

    Identify your favorite/s as your showcase. You can decide if your final project is a single strong piece or a family of variations. 

    Here are my 3!

Additional Resources

  • Phase I Class Guide

  • Phase II Class Guide

  • Phase III Class Guide

  • Photoshop file of my bat illustration. (16.9, Requires photoshop to open)

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