Editorial Illustration: Communicating an Idea Visually

Anita Kunz, Artist and Illustrator

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7 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Developing Your Idea

    • 3. Concepting

    • 4. Sketching Ideas

    • 5. Illustrating

    • 6. Finalizing

    • 7. More Creative Classes on Skillshare

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Project Description

Create an editorial illustration

What is Your Idea?

  1. Choose your idea

    What idea would you like to communicate visually? What issue in current events do you feel strongly about?

    • climate change
    • animal rescue
    • new technology
    • elections
    • cats on video
    • the possibilities are endless


    Make it easy! For example, climate change could conjure up pictures of scorched earth or polar bears. Write down your ideas in one word. If you're having trouble, use Google! But start with one word.


  1. Visualize your idea

    OK, this really is the fun part! Let's say your idea is about climate change and a polar bear. How can you visually make an interesting and unique picture? I sometimes just write down the words "polar bear" on a piece of paper and then write down all the words that are associated: fish, water, ice, cold, icicle, fur, etc.

    Take each word and see what other associations you can make. At the end you should have many words. Now, see if you can create random connections with the words. This is the beginning of lateral thinking and the basis of a lot of creativity.


    My topic is corporate greed, so my words will be money, bank, world, globe, business man, gluttony, fat cat, bag of cash, shark, and dough. From this I will look at the words and utilize the ones that appeal the most to me. In this case shark and business person. So that's my idea, a business person as a shark.

Sketching Ideas

  1. Sketch your idea

    I've decided to draw a business person as a shark. At this point it's advisable to use photo references, just so you make sure you draw the subject correctly. At this point I'm going to get photo references for sharks, so I draw the fins properly. I usually paste references around my desk so I can access the images easily.

    It's important not to copy photographs! They are copyrighted images and belong to photographers. The trick is using the information in the photos, but never trace or copy directly! I'm not getting any references for business suits because I can make that up. Often making an image is a mixture of using references and making up the rest from your imagination!

    Now begin the drawing! I use tracing paper. Tracing paper is your best friend! You can draw with pencil and correct any mistakes until you get the desired effect. It doesn't need to be too detailed. Just have some idea of what you're doing in the final painting.



  1. Start painting!


    I usually use watercolor to paint on an illustration board. I transfer the sketch onto the board and begin painting. I use a trick whereby I isolate the main figure and paint on an acrylic frisket to protect the main element of the painting. That way I can be really loose with my paint in the background.


    I paint the background first, and when I'm happy with that, I remove the frisket which by now has dried into a rubbery compound. Voila! I have a half finished painting. The background is complete and I can now concentrate on painting the figure which in my case is the shark/business person. I paint layer over layer, usually light to dark and then finish with the highlights in opaque paint.




  1. Finishing touches

    The painting is now finished but that doesn't mean the artwork is necessarily complete! We now have amazing technologies that allow for unprecedented new ways to make an image even more interesting. For example I can scan my shark painting and open it in the Photoshop program. There I can utilize all sorts of interesting tools.


    Look what happens when I use the color levels tool, or the dodge and burn tools. We artists have any amazing number of tools at our disposal. An editorial illustration doesn't need to be a traditional painting any more. It can easily be in digital format. You can play with the image until you're really happy with it. Remember to push, don't just be happy with your first attempt! Really challenge yourself and you'll be surprised by what you can come up with! Don't give up, most artists fail often. Remember to play!

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