Inspiring Illustrations: Make Beautiful Motivational Posters with Procreate | Katherine Liu | Skillshare

Inspiring Illustrations: Make Beautiful Motivational Posters with Procreate

Katherine Liu, Designer & Artist

Inspiring Illustrations: Make Beautiful Motivational Posters with Procreate

Katherine Liu, Designer & Artist

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9 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Choosing a Quote

    • 4. Collecting Inspiration

    • 5. Using the Symmetry Tool

    • 6. Sketching Different Layouts & Concepts

    • 7. Refining Your Art

    • 8. Adding Textures and Depth

    • 9. Wrap-up!

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About This Class

Let’s illustrate some imaginative, inspirational posters together!

In this class, you’ll learn everything you need to know to turn your favorite quote into a beautiful piece of art in Procreate (drawing app on the iPad) with a distinctive style. 

I’ll share my unique process for creating motivational posters, and we’ll walk through how I create my art step by step. You’ll learn how to:

  • Gather inspiration through references and moodboards
  • Sketch different layouts to see what works best with your quote
  • Translate your work digitally with Procreate and learn to use the symmetry tool to make a cohesive piece of art
  • Add harmonious colors and textures that make your poster pop!

Whether you’re new to illustration or an experienced artist, you’ll learn new skills and find fresh inspiration—and by the end of the class, you’ll have a finished, beautiful motivational poster that you can print on different products or publish online. Let’s jump in together!

Meet Your Teacher

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Katherine Liu

Designer & Artist


Hey, I'm Katherine! I'm a designer and artist based in the Bay Area, and I love teaching others how to create beautiful artwork. I'm a full-time designer at Instagram, and on the side I also run Meridrop, my small business for motivational & joyful home goods and stationery.

In my free time, I enjoy playing ukulele, looking for good dessert spots, and foraging for mushrooms in the forests of northern California.

To see behind-the-scenes of my art, find me over on Instagram.

Thanks for joining me,

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1. Introduction: Hi there. My name is Katherine. I'm a designer and an illustrator. I do digital product design, but I also run my own small business called Meridrop, making motivational and joyful home goods and stationary. In this class, I'll be showing you how to make your own beautiful motivational poster featuring one of your favorite quotes and drawn with the Symmetry Tools in Procreate. Throughout this class, we'll learn a couple of keystrokes together. Picking a limited color palette, sketching layouts to find one that works with your quote. Using tools in Procreate with Symmetry Tool and adding textures and depth to your digital art to make it stand out. This class is aimed toward students who have some experience doing digital art, and specifically, to benefit the most from this class, we'll need an iPad and Apple pencil, as well as some experience with the Procreate drawing app on the iPad. As for who should take this class, it's really meant for anyone, so whether you make art for a living or you just want to draw some cards or posters for your friends. We're going to be creating posters together, but you can use what you learn in this class for making almost any kind of physical product. For example, instead of a poster, you could make postcards, stickers, or even pillows. Really anything that you can imagine printing on. By the end of this class, you'll have your own beautiful poster featuring your favorite quote. But you'll also have learned what you need to continue making cohesive, beautiful digital art with a lot of life and texture. 2. Class Project: For your class project, you'll be making, from start to finish, a poster featuring one of your favorite quotes. All of the posters behind me are examples of the end result. Although, of course, yours is going to look a little bit different depending on your personal style and the inspiration that you find. We'll walk through this whole process together. First, I'll share some tips on picking a quote. Then we'll dive into collecting inspiration to inform the graphic elements, illustration elements, color palette, type, and style of your poster. Then we'll start sketching different layouts in Procreate to see what will work around your quote and we'll also start learning about the symmetry tool. Then we'll start finalizing your poster, still using the symmetry tool to create your final artwork and put in your color palette. Finally, we'll add some finishing touches with texture and detail so that your poster will have more depth. Be sure to document your process and share every step of it in the project gallery so that everyone in the community can learn and get inspired by each other's projects. 3. Choosing a Quote: When you're choosing a quote, there are few things to keep in mind. The first thing is the length of the quote. Is the quote easy to display and read on a poster? Obviously, there's a range of lengths that can choose from, and you can also include some longer quotes. But you probably don't want to write up like a whole page, or paragraph on your poster. Second is clarity. Is the quote understandable with no context? If you're going to post your quote, or your poster, I guess somewhere online, for example, Instagram. You can definitely use your caption, or the other parts around your piece to really tell more of your story. But if you're going to print out your poster and put it on a wall, it shouldn't be super confusing to people what the quote means, unless that's where you're going for. Then the third thing is imagery. Does the quote bring up any specific imagery or symbols, that might help you think about what you want to include in your illustration elements? Of course it's okay if you can't think of anything, or if the quote is just very general and it doesn't bring up anything specific. For example, I often incorporate a lot of florals and botanical elements in my posters, even if it doesn't really have anything to do with original quote. But if it does have something specific, it will help you think about what you want to illustrate, and how you might want to lay out your poster. Now talking a little bit about where to find your quotes. One that I often draw from is my own thoughts. I keep a journal pretty occasionally, but I will sometimes go back and try to look for things I was thinking about, and maybe like quotes from my journal that I could pull out of. You can also, of course, search quotes about almost anything on the Internet now, say quotes about creativity, or quotes about loneliness, or whatever is really pulling at you that day. If you're really interested in positive affirmations, there are so many online. This is a really good topic for a poster actually, because if you do want to hang up your positive affirmation in your room, a poster is a really good physical reminder for you. Finally, quotes from books, or films. I think this is another great one because it helps you relate to a wider audience, say people who might not have known about your art before. If they have watched the same movie, or read the same book and are really big fans of it, they'll be able to relate to your art. Often books and films have really great and memorable quotes. The quote that I ended up choosing is, "Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise." This is a quote by Victor Hugo, from my favorite musical Les Miserables. I don't know if I'm saying that correctly, but this is the quote that I'm going to draw my poster around. You'll see how I informs my mood board in the inspiration that I collect, and eventually the layout and the final art. 4. Collecting Inspiration: Now that you have your quote, it's time to jump in and start gathering inspiration around it. Of course, if you already have a really good idea of what you want your poster to look like, what kind of colors you want to use, and the imagery that you want to include, you can go right into sketching, but I always like to do a little bit of research and inspiration gathering just to see how I can expand my ideas. Here are some things that I like to find inspiration for. The first is colors. A limited color palette can really help your art standout. You can limit yourself to two or three colors if you really want to be strict about it, but my personal palates often include around five or six main colors with some different shades of each color in between. Second, I like to look at what I call style of the poster. Is it more based on typography or more based on illustration while the type takes a backseat? Does it all look really hand-drawn and have a little bit of that rough edge on the style, or is it really neat and vectored and have more of the digital look? Finally, I like to look for examples of imagery or symbols that I might want to include, so more of like graphic and illustrated elements of your poster that helps support the message of your quote. When you're looking for inspiration online, you might see some of all of these elements that you want to pull into your poster. For collecting inspiration, I really like to use Pinterest because it's so easy to save all your ideas in one place and Pinterest actually has so much content on it that you could just stay on Pinterest, or if you have your own photos or your own magazine cutouts that you want to reference, you can upload those as your own pin and that all sit together on your board. I've created a mood board on Pinterest for this class to collect inspiration and it includes a bunch of images that I really liked that I thought either the color really stood out to me where it had some graphic elements that I thought were really cool, so I wanted to save it so that I could refer to it later. The cool thing about Pinterest is that even if you only have a few pins on the board, so for example here, I actually don't have that many pins on my board, they'll recommend him more ideas for your board. Based on the ones that I have here, they'll show more content from Pinterest that is similar in style, or maybe it's by the same artist, and that way, you can pull more and more content in to just inspire your own work. The quote that I've chosen for my poster is, "Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise." I went in and just pull up a bunch of images that I thought really stood out to me in the context of this quote. For example, some of this sun imagery which you can see has a really hand-drawn style, which is more of my personal style. I don't really go for the really clean, vector digital line look. I really like having a little bit of rough edges and texture in my art. Then some of these, like the color palette really stood out to me, so I think I see three main color palette themes that I might end up choosing from. One is this really dark background that you can see in a couple of these actually, with really bright colors that pop out from that background. I think that's really, really cool. Another is having more of a neutral palette. For example, this pin or this one with this gradient of colors where none of them really stand out as the main pop of color there, but they're all matching together really nicely. Then the last theme that I really like is this monochromatic look where they're really taking one color and just adding different shades of that. For example here, all of them are different shades of red and I think that could be another cool scene. The main thing that you want to keep in mind with inspiration is that you don't want to copy what other people are doing. For example, if I took the color palette from one of these pins, I wouldn't want to also copy like the symbols that are in it or copy the style necessarily. I think what you really want is to look at all these things that really resonate with you and pick out bits and pieces that you can use to inform your own work and incorporate into your own style. I might get inspired by the colors, but also look at the symbols from another piece or look at the way that people have drawn, for example, this piece without any outlines on the characters. Those are the kinds of things that I'm talking about when I'm collecting inspiration. It's really just like all these tiny bits and pieces of work that I really like that I say, "Hey, maybe I can try exploring that kind of concept in my own work." Zooming out a bit from Pinterest, I've created a little bit of a summary here of all the things that I had wanted to gather inspiration for. So one for the colors, I decided to go with that color palette that I really liked with the darker, almost midnight blue background. Then I added in some colors that I thought would really pop with it. Two, for the style, I chose hand-drawn, which is basically always my personal style. So not really unique to this poster. But finally, for the imagery, I thought some symbols or images that would go really well with my quote is one sun and stars, obviously, since the quote mentions the sun rising. Then I also thought the quote reminded me of like a promise that the darkest night would end and there's always hope in the future, and I thought that rainbows or flowers, any kind of symbol of life would really go well with that. I also wanted to explore those concepts. I'm not saying that I will definitely add them in, but definitely something to keep in mind when I'm sketching and trying to figure out what will go into a poster. 5. Using the Symmetry Tool: Now, if you're a [inaudible] , hopefully you have a good idea of what your color palette is going to be, as well as some of the style and imagery inspiration that you might want to include in your piece. Let's stop at Procreate, and start learning about the symmetry tool, and how we can use it both for our sketching and for our final artwork. Once you open up Procreate, you'll want to go ahead and create a new canvas using this top-right icon. Now, you can see that you can set the width and height of your canvas, which is going to be the size of your art. So depending on what you're trying to print on, or what size of poster you want to create, be sure to keep those dimensions in mind, and check with the printing company that you might want to use. I also want to show you that the bigger your canvas is, the fewer layers you'll have to work with. For example, increasing the height here has drastically reduced the number of maximum layers. I'm just going to go ahead and keep it at 3,000 by 3,000. You can see that the DPI here is 350, which is really high. So it's pretty much good enough for printing on a physical product anywhere. Now switching over to the color profile option, you'll see that you have two big options. Say you have RGB and CMYK. RGB is mostly meant for digital art whereas CMYK can be used by printers. So I would definitely check with whatever printing company you decide to go with, what kinds of formats they accept, and then base your decision off of that. I'm going to skip over the time-lapse and Canvas properties options here, just because they're not as relevant for what we'll be doing. Once I've created my canvas, you can see that it's just a blank white art board, and let's dive into how to use symmetry tools. By tapping on this tool icon, which is the first one on the top, you will see that you have a couple of actions. I'll tap on the Canvas action, and you can see here that there's a drawing guide option that you can toggle on and off. Once that's toggled on, you can press on "Edit Drawing Guide" and you'll see that you have the options to basically change all of the settings for this guide. I'm going to go over to the last option called symmetry, and you can see that you have a couple of different guide options; vertical, horizontal, quadrant, radial. This is just different ways that your art is going to get reflected over these guides. I'm going to go with the vertical, which means that the left and right halves will reflect each other. You can see here that you can also adjust the thickness, the opacity of the guide, and this is really just to help you see the guide better. You can also adjust the color in case it's harder to see certain colors on top of your artwork. Now, going back to the art board itself, let's just adjust so you can see the whole art board. If you go into your Layers panel, which is the icon on the top right here, you can actually see that this layer that we have, it says Assisted on the bottom. What that means is just that Drawing Assist is turned on when you tap on the layer, and that means that symmetry is turned on. So whatever I draw on the left or I draw on the right will be reflected on the other side of this guide, and yes, it works. If I go back into the Layers panel and I decide to turn off Drawing Assist on that layer, you'll see that the Assist label on the layer goes away, and whatever I draw on the left side, on the right side will not be reflected. I just drew something really random that was like a normal drawing. I'm going to toggle back on Drawing Assist, and you can see that now the drawing is actually reflected again. Actually, another method that I like better is to just keep things on different layers. You can see here that my Layer 2 does not have Drawing Assist turned on, so it's just a normal art layer. Here I can write, I can draw things that I don't want to be reflected over the line, and I think this is just a cleaner way of organizing your layers and turning off and on Assisted Drawing for a single layer whenever you want something to be symmetrical or not. Let us walk through some examples of the different kinds of symmetry, and how they would show up in a piece of artwork. We already looked at vertical symmetry, but basically the idea is that your guide is cutting your art in half from top to bottom, so what's on the left will be reflected on the right and vice versa. Obviously, you can also see here that the quote that I've written on top is the only thing that is not symmetrical in this piece, Unfortunately, I don't use horizontal symmetry very much in my artwork, but I just wanted to show you an example by turning the last drawing by 90 degrees, and you can see here that the guide would actually cut from left to right, so what's on the top would be reflected to the bottom. Quadrant symmetry is also a really interesting one, and it provides a lot of opportunities to continue playing with symmetry. You can see here that with quadrant symmetry your art will be cut both from top to bottom and left to right. So what's in each of these four quadrants is reflected in the other three. Finally, in radial symmetry, it gets even more complicated with your art being sliced in a lot of different directions, and with this you can get a lot of really nice and intricate patterns. You can see here that this is even a good way to make a repeating tile pattern, for example, especially when you want a little bit more of that elegant style where you have a lot of details. 6. Sketching Different Layouts & Concepts: Let's get into sketching. The quote that I've chosen for my poster today is even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. You can also sketch with just a pen and paper. But since we want our final poster to be symmetrical, I just find it a lot easier to do the sketching right and appropriate where I can actually see the symmetry being done live instead of trying to make the symmetry happen on the paper. Great. Now before jumping into sketching, here are a few tips. The goal of sketching is really to create the blueprint for your piece. So finding a layout that both works with your quote and incorporates some of the relevant imagery. For example, the imagery and symbols that you found while collecting inspiration. I always try doing a few sketches maybe two or three or even more than that before deciding on one of the layouts just to stretch my ideas and try to come up with concepts that maybe I didn't think of during my first sketch. Finally, I feel like sketching is all about focusing on the overall structure of the piece and how the illustrations in your quote will fit together. Thinking about exact colors can come later. Of course, if you want to, you can also try adding in a bit of color into your sketch to see how the colors will work together. But I find that I often change my colors later in the final art anyway, and I'll show you a couple of tips for that later. For now just focus on your overall structure and layout. Here on the right you can see the sketch I did for one of my earlier pieces. I'll show you how the final elements of the drawing sat on top of that sketch. As you can see, it actually stayed pretty close to the initial sketch, but in some cases, the final artwork that I do does end up displaying quite a lot if I feel like, in the middle of the final art process, some elements just aren't working together and I'm going to change some positioning or change the layout a little bit. But I hope this gives you a good idea of how useful the sketch can be as a blueprint for refining your art later. Let's get started by sketching our first concept. For concept number 1, I thought about the sun rising out of the valley and I also thought about the sun's rays as kind of a rainbow motif and the moon and the stars are up top as if the sun is pushing it out of the way, or the plant motifs are sitting at the bottom sharing that the sun is bringing life, and the quote is there sitting in the middle. You can see that I've incorporated quite a lot of the different imagery that I talked about in the inspiration section and we'll see how the next concept goes. Time for our concept number 2. In this concept, I wanted to bring the plant metaphor of life to the forefront. I have a sun almost like growing out of the middle of the flower. I'm not sure how clear this metaphor is going to be, but I'm hoping the colors will help bring it together. I'm just adding a little bit of extra detail like the sun's rays and the leaves to help flash it out a little bit more. I'm also adding the stars on the bottom as if the sun is pushing those stars away, and now I have my quote up at the top to balance everything out. Finally, just adding a few more sun rays just to help even out the whole image. Now let's jump into our final concept. For sketch number 3, the concept is going to have the sun as the central element again, but this time really taking center stage. I have the sun's rays emanating out from the middle, and I'm going to draw in a pair of hands holding up the sun. This is going to be a little bit difficult, so we'll have a couple of tries to get the hands looking a little bit more hand-like. The reason why I wanted to draw hands is to share that humans are holding up the sun, which is a symbol of hope and life for the future. Now just finishing things up by adding the quote, which will be a little bit interesting because I'm trying to incorporate it into the sun itself and then finally surrounding it with stars, showing that the sun's rays are pushing away the darkness. Now we have our three concepts, our three sketches sitting side-by-side. It's time to decide on which one we actually want to use for our final artwork. Just looking at these three side-by-side, I think that the first two are a little bit more visually interesting, there's more elements, there is room for a little bit more detail there. I've narrowed it down to the first two concepts, the sun rising out of the valley and the sun growing out of a flower. But I do think that I like the concept of the first one just because it includes so much more imagery and it also has a little bit of that rainbow metaphor and it also allows me to draw in the moon, which makes it a little bit more clear what the darkness is, where the sky is in relation to the sun and the flowers and the plants. For now I'm going to go with concept number 1, although I could definitely try to explore all three of them in more detail and see which one works with colors. Let's jump into the next section. 7. Refining Your Art: Before we get started, one quick tip is to actually make your color palette in Procreate so that it's really easy to draw from the same colors as you're making your art. Now, let's get started on actually turning our sketches into our final artwork. You can see here that I have my sketch as the base layer and I've actually lowered the opacity to around 15 percent, 20 percent, just so I can still see my sketch, but it's not too in the way as I'm drawing. I'm also going to turn on Drawing Assist for a new layer just to start my new art and I'm also going to make my background the darker color in my color palette. Now, you can see that I can't really see my sketch so I'm actually going to go to the Layer panel and Invert my sketch so that the sketch color is lighter instead of darker, and that way I can still see it. Just for good practice, I'm going to rename it as My Sketch Layer just so I know when I'm looking in the Layers panel. Now that we have the background color and the sketch layer in place, we can just start drawing in our final art. This step should be pretty simple because you already have your sketch and you know how to use Drawing Assist to use its Symmetry Tools, so it's really just about turning your sketch into the final colored art. One tip that I do have is to keep all your colors on different layers. You can see here that this blue hill-like drawing, I am keeping on a separate layer and now I'm going to start drawing the sun in but on a different layer. This way you will be able to change your colors really easily later. If you wanted to, you could draw everything on one layer, but imagine if you wanted to change the color of one element, it would be really hard to pick that element out again and change it without affecting everything else in your final artwork. Just for that reason, I advise keeping your layers separate and working with as many of them as you can just so you have an easier time with clean up and if you want to change anything, you can do that really easily without impacting the rest of your art. One more thing to keep in mind as you're making your final artwork is that it is totally okay to deviate from your original sketch. As you're drawing your final art and putting your colors in, you might realize that some of the things that looked good or you thought might look good in sketch form, don't actually work when you're putting in the details and the colors. In these cases, you can try different layouts, different patterns, and you'll be able to see in the final comparison actually that I did change a lot of the plant positioning, Here here you can see that I started to draw the plants in a horizontal pattern, whereas in my sketch, I had them laid out more vertically, but I just thought that the whole piece flowed better together with the plants being horizontal. So it is totally fine to change your mind as you're drawing, it's all part of your creative process. Amazing. Now, we have our almost final artwork, I should say, just because we haven't added that final layer of textures and depth to the piece, but we are almost there and the final piece is going to end up looking very similar to this, but with a little bit more detail. Let's jump into how to add texture. 8. Adding Textures and Depth: For the finishing touches to our posters, I wanted to go over two topics. One is tweaking colors to get them to where we want them to be. Two is adding textures to give our posters a little bit more of that handmade feel. First, let's jump into how to tweak colors. To demo how I change colors on a layer, I'm going to use this blue hill layer as an example. The first method is to use the hue and saturation and brightness sliders in the adjustments menu. Once you tap on that option, you'll see a bunch of sliders come up on the bottom. The first one actually changes the hue, which means the color on the spectrum of colors. You can also change the saturation, which is just like how much color there is versus how gray it is. Then the third slider adjusts for brightness, how dark or light that color is. You can do that to make little adjustments if you just want to see how a different color or different brightness might look with that layer. The second method is what I call the Alpha Lock method. In the layers panel, I'm going to go ahead click "Alpha Lock" on the blue hill layer. What that means is only the pixels that already have color on them will be affected by anything I do on that layer now. If I have a specific color that I want to use, for example, I want to change the color of this hill to this pink, I can go ahead and paint in with a really large brush now. It's only going to affect the pixels that have color. So only colors in the part that the hill is already on. It's not going to affect any of the transparent pixels. The other method is to fill the layer. You can do this from the layer menu. Again, it's only going to be able to fill the pixels that have color. That's another good way to do it. Basically the first method I would say is more if you want to make minor adjustments, or just play with the color and see what happens. The second method is a little bit more precise. For one, you already know what color you want to change it to. Then you can just go ahead, Alpha Lock and clean over it. All right, let's jump into adding textures. My secret for adding textures is to actually use textured photos. If you go to the actions menu, press, "Add" and insert a photo, it will open up your photo gallery on your iPad. Here you can see that I've actually saved a bunch of textured images that I really like. You can find these online or take your own photos, whatever works for you. Once you tap on one of these photos, it will drop right into your canvas where you can use it to start texturing your artwork. You can use basically any texture. Here, I have paper and watercolor, two textures that I think work really nicely and give it more of that handmade feel. Let's start by adding this watercolor texture to our middle sun. This is what I call single layer texture, which is basically just applying a texture to a single layer in your art instead of the entire canvas. In the layers panel, first, I'm going to start by hitting "Select" on the sun. In the bottom panel here, you can see that I can go ahead and tap "Invert". What this means is now I have selected all the area of my canvas except for my sun. Now when I open up the texture, I can go ahead and say "Clear", which means that all the area outside of the sun will be cleared. I'm going to drag the texture on top of my sun. Now you can see the watercolor texture is basically the same size and shape as the sun. The texture looks good, but we don't want our sun to be blue. In the blending mode, I'm going to set it to overlay. But you can use any blending mode, so just try all of them out and see what you think looks best with the texture. Because our watercolor layer is blue, it has distorted the color of the sun. By going to adjustments and the hue and saturation sliders, I'm going to lower the saturation of the watercolor layer to zero, so that way we have the original color of our sun, but with the added texture of that watercolor. In the layers panel, you can see that the watercolor layer turned from blue to this gray ghosty looking thing and that's what we want. Now I'm going to make this for our paper texture layer. Let's talk about whole canvas texture. Now we want to cover our entire canvas with one texture, which is going to be this paper texture here. I'm going to select it and just expand it to cover the entire canvas. Again in the layers panel, you can change the blending mode, so I've changed it to overlay again. Now when you zoom in, you can actually see there's a bit of that paper texture over the entire artwork. It has changed the color a little bit to be that yellowy color of the paper. You can actually adjust the hue just to see how it can tie your whole piece together by adding a new color on top. But in this case, I'm just going to lower it's saturation again so we have all of our original colors. But you can still see that paper texture is sitting on top. Now it's just a matter of continuing to add textures to each single layer. For example, the moon up top, the other parts of the sun, the hill. I'm just going to fast forward through that as I continue applying the single layer texture strategy to all of our layers. One other thing to keep in mind is that if you feel like the texture is too overpowering, maybe it doesn't look realistic because it is just too bright, you can lower the opacity of that layer and that way it'll look a little bit more subtle over your artwork. Now that the texture is added, we are done. Let's do a comparison of the sketch to our almost final artwork without the textures, and our final artwork with all of the textures and a little bit of extra detail added. It might be hard to tell from far away how the almost final and final artwork are different. But if you zoom in and look at the details, it really does make a difference just to see a little bit of that texture that brings a little extra charm to your digital artwork. With that, we're done. Here is the final piece. 9. Wrap-up!: Thank you so much for joining this class. I hope you had a ton of fun and also learned a lot of new skills to carry forward with you on your art training. Don't forget to document your whole process from your mood boards and inspiration to your sketches, to your final artwork, and share it with everyone in our community through the project gallery. I can't wait to see what you all come up with and see you next time.