Mastering Paper Art: From Digital Illustration to Dimensional Art | Fenway Fan | Skillshare

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Mastering Paper Art: From Digital Illustration to Dimensional Art

teacher avatar Fenway Fan, Designer/ Illustrator/ Multimedia Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

14 Lessons (44m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. What To Cover

    • 3. Tools

    • 4. Class Project: Mystery Creature

    • 5. Inspiration

    • 6. Sketching

    • 7. Inking

    • 8. Coloring

    • 9. Layering

    • 10. Picking Cardstock

    • 11. Cutting

    • 12. Peeling

    • 13. Gluing & Framing

    • 14. Final Thoughts & Behind The Scene

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About This Class

Love digital illustration and crafting? Learn this unique workflow from Disney artist Fenway Fan! Adobe Illustrator and Silhouette Cutter will be used in this class but you can apply Fenway’s workflow to any drawing software and cutting machine!

Mastering paper art and learn a whole new approach to bring your digital drawing pop out from the frame with this fun class. Dive deep into Fenway’s unique perspective on color, design, and paper crafting, your digital illustrations will come alive and turn into a magical dimensional art piece like never before!

Key lessons include:

  • Where Inspirations come from?
  • Creating digital art, demo with Adobe Illustrator
  • Creating and organizing your layers for cutting
  • Setting up cutting files and cut, demo with Silhouette Studio
  • Helpful tips building up your paper art

Plus, Fenway will introduce you to her unique whimsical style of character design, color palette and dimensional art techniques. 

Whether you’re new to paper art or curious about using a cutter, you’ll gain an arsenal of tips, tricks and tools you can use to start creating right away. After taking this class, you’ll never be far from bring your digital art to a whole new level and empowering you to create art you could never imagine while relaxing and having fun at the same time!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Fenway Fan

Designer/ Illustrator/ Multimedia Artist


Award-winning Designer/ Illustrator/ Multimedia artist/ Founder of IOO Studio

Clients include Disney, Hasbro, Blizzard, NBC Universal and more

Art showcasing at Disney’s WonderGround Gallery


Fenway Fan grew up in China, in her early twenties, she moved to the United States to pursue her dreams of becoming an acclaimed artist. After receiving MFA from RIT on film and animation, Fenway worked with the noteworthy Tee Bosutow on his UPA documentary film as Lead Character Designer. Shortly thereafter, Fenway moved to Florida where she caught the attention of Disney, and was hired as a Graphic Designer for Disney Theme Park Merchandise, creating unique designs for Tsum Tsums, Vinylmations, pin... See full profile

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1. Intro: Doing paper art is a way that I relax. I coat my zen time. Listen to some music while I assemble these small pieces together, relaxing while making my digital art pop out from the frame. I just love it. Hi, my name is Fenway Fan. I'm a Chinese designer based in Boston. I moved to the United States 10 years ago. Over the past decade, I've been working in the entertainment and toy industry. I love to draw digitally. But one day in 2014, my hard drive broke, so sadly I lost most of my digital work then I started to think, maybe I should create something physical so that it stays forever. I started to exploring paper art not only because it was the Chinese tradition, but also I was inspired by my colleague Costa Alavezos, an alumni of Brittney Lee. They are both masters of traditional paper cutting. Then I start to think, how do I translate my digital work, 100 percent into paper art. Then I find there was such a thing called cutter. It took me a while to figure out a workflow that can apply to any of my digital work. Dividing by layers, cutting by colors, assembling by parts. With the help of a cutter, I can not only get clean cuts 100 percent translated from our digital work but also save time concentrating, creating more concepts. Today I'm very excited to show you step-by-step. Welcome to my class. Once you fall along, you'll be the next master of paper art. Now let's get started. 2. What To Cover: First of all, let me briefly introduce what we will cover in this class. People have different workflows. Here, I'm going to break down my own workflow step-by-step. I have divided each chapter and name the title by contents. In this class, we are going to cover inspiration and sketching, digital illustration in Adobe Illustrator, on the basic, inking, coloring, to sorting the layouts by layers for easy cutting, file preparation and cutting in silhouette studio by colors, peerling tips, gluing [inaudible] and framing. During the class, please feel free to post your questions on to our discussion board and don't forget to share your finished projects in class gallery. I'll check back with your comments and very excited to see what you come up with. 3. Tools: In this class, we are going to use some tools like a very basic pencil, eraser, scissors, a subtle knife, and small tools like tweezers, starter tools, hot glue gallon, lots of glue sticks and we're also going to use a lot of color cardstocks. Here I choose cardstock around 65 pounds because I find this weight is a very good balance. Not only make great curvatures in cuts, but also stays firm and hold the glue weight. You can also use textured and even patterned cardstocks. Be creative just have fun. As for the digital tools, there are different softwares as long as you feel comfortable with you can use any. I am going to use Adobe Illustrator as an example because it's always easy to create files in factor so that you can edit the size as you like without destroying the quality. As for the cutter, there are different cutters on the market. I am going to use silhouette cameo or portrait because I find the editing toward your silhouette studio, works are similar to Adobe Illustrator, which worked really well for me. There are different options as long as you feel comfortable with after learning, you can actually apply my workflow to any of the software and hardware. 4. Class Project: Mystery Creature: For our class project, I have picked up something very interesting for you. It is mystery creature, or animal, or monster, ghost, whatever you want to call it. Maybe it was some imaginary friend from your childhood. Fairy, elf, cute animals from your dream, or even scary ghost, monster, or gigantic as dragons. Or even think about yourself. What if you have a option, what animal or creature you want to be? 5. Inspiration: Before I draw something, I always like to get myself relaxed, step away from the computer, eat some snacks, play some music, or water some plants. Just do whatever help you relaxed and start thinking, what if I'm a little fox fairy that I can travel through time and locations, then I have fluffy tail, pointy and big ears. That's how I get my foxy, little fox collection. But sometimes I get stuck too, so I start by looking at other people's work. You might notice this book on my desk for a while. Yes. That's my favorite master theory book [inaudible] , a book that dated back more than 2,000 years ago. I am always amazed by the western imagination for our ancestors. I always loved to look through this book. Here are some examples. Look at this monster. It's a creature that has dragon body and human face called [inaudible] What about this book, World Monster by Shigeru Mizuki, featuring hundreds of different monsters all around the world. He is a master of art. Or this book, Creatures Fantastiques by Jean-Baptiste and Camille. It has lots of different animals, also with details like how it's structured. This is a dragon and here it says how it has fire from his mouth. All kinds of dragons, and a qilin. Qilin is Chinese unicorn, and mermaids. Now it's a year of mouse, so I want to do something that is mouse related. So I find this guy, it is called [inaudible] , a creature that immunity with all kinds of poison, body like rat, head like bunny. It also has deer ears and can fly between trees and the land. It's an animal that can fly and has all the undefeatable power. That seems something I want to do. So we can start sketching later. 6. Sketching: Just remember this monster looks like a combination of bunny, deer, and a rat. So it's a monster that can fly with its tails. Rabbit head, mouse body, tail that can fly. Let's add on some details and try some more different shapes. Since it can fly among trees and length, let's narrate background for her. Now it's your turn to draw your own creature. Now and let's move on to the background. All set, let's move on to the inking process in the computer. 7. Inking: After we collect all the sketches we want, we just scan it. I'm just going to scan with my cellphone. Once we have all the scans, we're just importing to any digital drawing software like a Photoshop, Illustrator. I am going to use Adobe Illustrator as an example. Let's get started with the digital process. Open up your Photoshop. Let's bring in the sketches we have. This one I'm going to use a background. I'm going to cut a character from this sketch and paste over my background image. Adjust the size. Since a frame I have is the square one, that's why I adjust my background to square as well. As for the head, I really like the other one with the eyes closed. Let's move this guy over here. I also like the stretching legs. Let's try if that works. When you're satisfied, just save another version of the sketch. Open up Adobe Illustrator, create a new file, rename it, and bring over our new sketch. Adjust the size to match the art board. I'm going to bring the sketch on top layer, and bring down the opacity, and lock it, and rename each layer. Now, let's start inking. One of the tools I like to use most is Pathfinder. Normally, I draw all the size, the shape on top of the base shape, select the base shape. Using shortcut control C, control F to paste on to the original position. Then I select the best shape and the top oversight the shape, and hit Pathfinder tool, the Insert button to cut out the shape we want. Another helpful tip is once you have a group of elements like everything on the head, just group the head, and it groups the body itself. Then select the head and the body to groups, the character. It's easy for us to move the positions without messing around the elements on itself. Also, I'd like to draw elements in different layers. For instance, think about which goes on top and which comes at the bottom. Like all the grass elements, I put them on the foreground. The tree branch, I put them on the foreground. The tree leaves, I usually put them on the background layer. I also like to use the stroke tool to adjust the thickness of the branch. After editing, I also like to select the strokes using the expand appearance tool in object menu to outline the strokes. When we have most of the elements, we can play around and re-adjust their positions. I like the horizontal layout that I will save one version and save another version as a square layout because the frame on hand is squared. So we finished our inking process. Let's move on to the coloring process. 8. Coloring: The coloring process is my favorite stage in the digital process. I now only select the shapes that share the same color. For instance, here there are the hat, the back, and the legs, are the same color. I normally select all the shapes and use the eyedropper tool to select the same color. You can repeat this process using the same method. Another tip I'm using here is the color contrast. If the character is warm tone, I normally color the background cool tone. In this way, the foreground will pop out very easily. It's all about contrasting and balancing. Contrasting between warm and cool tones, balancing between the light colors and the dark colors. Now it's your turn to color the art. Here, I'm finalizing the details. Since I have a transparent frame which has glasses for both the front and the back, that's why I decided to add an extra layer of negative heart shape so that the light will come through from the heart shape. After finishing, don't forget to export, JPEG or PNG file. 9. Layering: Now we have everything on its layer, and we can take a look. From the background, caricature, foreground, and top layer. Have you noticed there is a quarter-inch room around all the layers except the background layer? Remember to do this and I will explain that later. Let's get started preparing the color layers. Do you know how many colors we have? We can do that by selecting all. The shortcut is Control A, and click the color wheel tool, it says 15 colors. That means we are going to prepare 15 different layers and export them into silhouette studio. Then cut 15 different color cut stocks. Before that, let's create the color chip layer and make 15 different color chips. Just to give ourselves a hint what color we are working on, let's draw a square and duplicate by holding the Alt key and drag it. We can select both squares and use the same method to drag and duplicate. Make 15 squares, and use the eyedropper tool to pick the colors. Here, I'm starting from the background and then the caricature. You can see, when I pick purple, I pick all the purple and then the blues. Different blues from dark to light. Sometimes when we are processing with the paper, we don't necessarily have all the slighter different color ready. For instance, I see two oranges here are very similar. So during the paper process, we can just use one orange and that's why I merged the two colors. Now, we have all the color chips ready, and the color chips are on its own layer. Let's rename the layers so that we have a better idea of what content we are working on. Let's create 15 blank new layers and name each layer as the name of the color. I click in the purple and select saying, Fill Color, " and then Control C to copy. Select a blank layer, Control V to paste to copy the light purple on its new layer. Since the color chip, we won't be cutting it out, let's remove it. I also like to tighten up the layout, the shapes stay close to each other so that we can save more paper during the cutting process. Don't forget to rename the layer purple light. By doing it more efficiently, let's create a new action. Name it, same fill color. We can even have a short cut function key setup and start recording. Let's repeat the process again. Select the dark purple and the same fill color, Control C, copy. Don't forget to stop it because that's the action we want to record. Then let's select the blank new layer, Control V to paste and remove the square and adjust the layout. Rename it, purple. We can repeat it by clicking the little triangle play button in the action board. Let's finish out all the different 15 layer. We have all the colors ready, it's time to export them. I'm going to enable one layer at a time. Exporting PNG, transparent background. Don't forget to rename it the same name as the layer, purple light. I also recorded an action so that I can just hit the play button and it will automatically be saved. 10. Picking Cardstock: I have two prints, one is a good print that I referenced for the colors. You see all the colors are printed here. Because the colors you printed are very different from what you see on screen. The other one, I just print on crap paper. It's just a layer reference that I use when I assemble all the elements together. If you scratch it, you don't need to worry about it. But this one, you can use it for the step when you choose colors. Let's put the color reference on top and then start to pick out the cut stacks. First, I take out all the colors I see similar to what I'm looking for and then I compare them closely later on. No need to worry about that we have too many color for now. This one maybe too dark, but let's see. Now it's your turn to pick out your colors. 11. Cutting: Time for cutting. Let's open up Silhouette Studio and bring in each colored PNG file. Hit "Okay". Now, I'm bringing blue color. Let's open up trace tool, select "Trace Area", and draw a rectangle. Bring the threshold to 100 percent. That means all the non-transparent part is highlighted, and bring down the scale. You see, the smaller the scale is the more detailed it is. If we bring up the number, we can see it is more blurry and less accurate. So I like to keep it small. The Trace Style, we normally select the first one. Which means it will cut both outer and inner edges. Let's load that blue color, and hit "Send". We can adjust the numbers here: force, speed, and passes. Normally, I just choose "Cardstock, Adhesive-Backed". Not only can card stick a paper, but also very thick card stocks. Now the machine starts cutting. Meanwhile, let's look at the next color. It depends on the different brands, the card stocks thickness can be a little bit different. For instance, the Paper Source card stocks are normally thicker than the card stocks that are finally Michaels, which has found recollection brand of £65 in bundles. If the paper is really thick we can bring up the passes, like cutting two passes rather than one pass or bring down the speed. Normally, I set the speed as two or three. Two for a thicker cardstock, three for standard. As for the force, we can leave it with a default setting. Last thing is that we can always play around, experiment, and have fun. If I have a plain cardstock, we can start from the setting card stock plain to play around. The blue layer is all set, let's bring in more colors. Let's finish cutting for all 15 colors. 12. Peeling: What I'm going to do is I'm going to peel off all the elements I have. I'm going to use some tools like these, a tweezer and X-Acto knife. Let's start with the purple one. I'll try to stick with the order the original layout and finish peeling for all the 15 colors. 13. Gluing & Framing: It's time to put them together. Here is my layer reference that I put it aside. We can start from the background. Before moving to the paper process, we need to measure the frames we have. Normally, there's about a quarter-inch thickness wall inside the shadow box. That's why I leave the room beforehand. For instance, the frame I have is seven by seven inch. The background is seven by seven, and the artwork that's layered up, so maximum is 6.5 inch so that it won't be cut up by the flame wall. Depends on the different brands. Each shadow box might vary a little bit different. Please remember to measure the frame always before you get started. Here, I'm making some spaces so that the negative heart shape wall will be raised up a little bit from the background. The spacer is very easy to make. Simply just cut some paper chips and then roll it up, and glue it at the back at whatever you want it to be raised. Stick to the background. There you can see there's some space between each layer or each content. The background is good to go. Let's move onto the middle ground elements. When I make the trees, I collect all the contents I have for the tree, and glue behind the first layer of the tree. Before we start to glue it together, we can use a dotted tool and a pencil to make a curvature. We can shape the tree as we like using any tools like our fingers and the nails. Here, I'm cleaning up the tree holes. When we apply the glue, try to avoid the holes so that people won't be able to see the glue from the tree holes at the very front. Then carefully glue it to the second layer. Let's do the same thing to the other tree. Avoid tree holes, and glue it to the second layer. We can even shape it before the glue dries out. Remember, we can always shape it before and after we put the glue. But it is easier for us to shape the paper when there is nothing on it. Please also remember, it is always from the bottom to the top. That means we glue the bottom elements first and then stack up the contents. Try to pay attention to the spaces between each elements, and putting spaces as we like. Since the hot glue gun we are using, it automatically has a spacing feature so we can use this feature. Put one drop first, when it's dried, stack up the second drop. Then we're going to have a nice spacer made from the glue drops. Another method is a paper spacer. Just like what we did with the bag one, which was made from the paper chips. There is a third method that we can use is foam tapes, which is ideal for flat surfaces. I personally prefer the first two methods because they are reversible. If I don't like it, I can just cut it and then redo. Especially for the second method, I can easily cut paper spacer beneath the content and make another one to replace it. Be careful not to put too much glue at one time. Oops, extra glue drip on my artwork. Don't panic. In that case, we can easily remove it after it's dried using X-ACTO knife or we can cover up with extra piece of elements on top to hide the glue. You can even cut the glue spacer or melt it using the top of the glue gun hat. When it's heated, it will be melted again and you can reshape or build it as you like. Another tip I use a lot is before the glue spacer dries out, you can lift it up and wait it's dry so that it won't collapse. If accidentally dripped extra glue on the table top, before it dries out totally, you can scratch it so that you can remove it without leaving any marks on a table. The background is almost set. Let's move on to the character. First, we can make a curvature of the face. Remember, it is always easier to scalp or shape the paper before we're applying the glue. If you see some glue sticking out, you can use a dotted tool to poke the glue inside before it dries out. When doing the mouth structure, I always like to place a piece of red card stock behind the open mouth instead of sticking mouth shape red color on top of the face. But you can do that with the eyes and eyelashes. Sometimes we may miss some shapes. When I was looking for the body piece, I can't find it. Well, it happens. Here we can either restart the cutting machine and cut that piece or simply trace that over and cut with scissor. Don't forget to use the layout reference. I find it very helpful when putting together the caricature. Now, I'm making the rope from the parachute by cutting some thin lines from the card stock. It's time to make the caricature pop out from the background. That's why I'm making a big spacer between the caricature and the background. I'm making two of them to keep the balance. One behind the caricature, one behind the parachute. When the glue dries out, you may noticing some very fine lines of glue. Feel free to remove them with a tweezer. I have two last leaves and I would like these two leaves on very top layer. Here I am going to glue them just behind the glass. I'll glue it inside of the shadow box. The same for the other leaf. One very important step before you framing it is to wipe the class very clean. One tip is using the rubbing alcohol. Again, I'm using the little tweezer to clean out the glue fine lines. Looking good. Now, let's frame it. Yay, the shadow box is ready. Congratulations, we just finished one masterpiece together. Let's take a close look. How do you like it? I hope you had fun. 14. Final Thoughts & Behind The Scene: I think that's it for our class. I hope you learned stuff. The most important thing is you enjoy the process because that's the meaning of paper art to my own point view, the way that I relax. I hope you feel the same way. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment in the discussion board or find me on Instagram I can't wait to see what you come up with. Good luck. Here's a little behind the scene magic. I hope you enjoy, see you soon.