Composition For Illustrators: Expressing Ideas With Story, Structure and Style | Tom Froese | Skillshare

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Composition For Illustrators: Expressing Ideas With Story, Structure and Style

teacher avatar Tom Froese, Illustrator and Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      About the Class and Project


    • 3.

      What is Composition?


    • 4.

      Don't Compete With Your Camera


    • 5.

      The Aspirational Principles


    • 6.

      The Actionable Principles


    • 7.

      The Structural Principles


    • 8.

      Six Composition Types for Illustrators


    • 9.

      Project Intro and Setup


    • 10.

      Project Process (Overview)


    • 11.

      Photoshop Tutorial


    • 12.

      Stamp Mockup Tutorial


    • 13.

      DEMO: The Single Object


    • 14.

      DEMO: The Still Life


    • 15.

      DEMO: The Flat-lay


    • 16.

      DEMO: The Figure


    • 17.

      DEMO: The Scene


    • 18.

      DEMO: The Montage


    • 19.

      Putting it All Together


    • 20.

      Conclusion and Next Steps


    • 21.

      Go Deeper with a 1-on-1 Session


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About This Class

Composition is SO important to learn as illustrators, but for many of us, it is also SO confusing and hard to put into action in our own work! I made this class to help illustrators learn how composition works, and specifically, how you can USE this understanding to make more outstanding compositions in YOUR OWN work!

What You Will Learn

  • HOW COMPOSITION WORKS for illustrators working in a flatter, graphic style
  • Why some principles are COMPLETELY USELESS!
  • Which principles are the most ACTIONABLE
  • How to use 2 SIMPLE GRIDS to give your compositions more structure
  • Just 6 COMPOSITION TYPES to use as starting points

And of course, you’ll get to put it all together in a JUICY PROJECT — a series of 6 ILLUSTRATED POSTAGE STAMPS based on the theme and country of your choice! It’s a very challenging project but there’s absolutely NO way to learn composition except by trying it with your hands in a very specific way.

There really is no class like this one — which aims to teach composition in the most ACTIONABLE way possible. My goal is to show you how the principles work in a more universal sense, but also to guide you

in how to use them in your own personal way.




What is the Class Project?

  • Create a series of 6 illustrated postage stamps
  • The stamps are based on the country and theme of your choice
  • You will use the Six Types of Compositions taught in the class to tell the story of your country/theme in 6 different ways
  • Follow along with me or use your own style/techniques/tools
  • This is an INTENSIVE project. Prepare to go deep with this one!

What does the Class Include?

  • PRIMER - Key insights about Aspirational, Actionable and Structural principles of composition.
  • SIX COMPOSITION TYPES - An introduction to 6 popular compositional approaches that can help you come up with more ideas and tell stories in more creative ways.
  • EXERCISES - Each lesson concludes with an opportunity to "TRY THIS" — putting what you learned in the lesson to the test.
  • PHOTOSHOP TUTORIAL - Learn the basic techniques and brushes I use to create my stamps in the project demo.
  • MOCKUP TUTORIALS - Learn how to use the provided Stamp Mockup files in Photoshop and Procreate
  • The PROJECT - (see above section)

What Resources are Included as Free Downloads?

  • Harmonic Armatures grid (PNG and EPS)
  • Rule of Thirds grid (PNG and EPS)
  • Stamp Mockup files (PSD and Procreate)
  • Thumbnailing Template (PSD and Procreate)
  • Refined Sketch Template (PSD and Procreate)
  • Final Art Template (PSD and Procreate)

Why Take This Class?

  • You want to make sense of the principles of art and design
  • You want to learn how to use composition to tell better stories and have stronger ideas in your art
  • You want to learn how composition relates specifically to illustration
  • You want to learn quick starting points for ideas and compositions
  • You want to learn how work in a flatter, graphic style of illustration (rather than 3D or realistic)

Who is This Class For?

  • Beginning illustrators looking to learn the basics of composition
  • Anyone looking to learn about composition for flat/graphic style illustration


To get the most out of this class you should have the following experience/skills:

  • Some experience with illustration, either as a student or professionally
  • Basic skills in illustration software, such as Procreate, Photoshop, Fresco, Adobe Illustrator, Clip Studio, etc.


To complete the class project, you will need the following materials/resources:

  • Sketchbook/pencil or digital equivalent.
  • An illustration app on your computer or tablet, such as Photoshop, Procreate or Fresco.




Class Editing

Huge thanks to my video editor, Mark Allan Falk, for his hard work and patience (and fantastic skills) throughout this project.

Script Reviewers

Thank you so much to the following kind souls who reviewed my very long early manuscript for this class.

  • Nicola Balkind
  • Endriu Gilbert
  • Lucy Lambriex
  • Siobhan Twomey
  • Jutta Schneider

Example Illustrations (Copyright Information)

I have used many illustrations from many illustrators and artists to help students visualize the various principles that I am teaching in this class. There are so many amazing illustrations here that it was not possible to secure permission for every single one of them before publishing this class. However, I believe my specific usage here falls under Fair Use under international copyright law, as follows:

  1. The works have been included in the class for educational purposes, to exemplify the principles being taught.
  2. The works are clearly contextualized as such examples and not used to as illustrations in their own right. In this sense the use is Transformative, according to The International Copyright Alliance.
  3. The works are always displayed alongside the artist/author name.
  4. The work is shown in a favourable light

Artists are listed below under the respective lesson titles in which they appear. If you are one of the named artists and would like to see your work as used (but are not a Skillshare member), please let me know, and I will give you access to the video. If you would like to request removal of your image(s) from my class slides, please contact me at, and I will do so immediately.

All images are copyright of their respective authors/creators.


  • Yasuo-Range
  • Zebu
  • Daniel Salmieri
  • Pam Wishbow


  • Laura Jean Allen
  • Anderson Design Group
  • Grace Helmer
  • Sophie Gogishvili
  • Fagostudio
  • Cruschiform
  • Thomas Campi
  • Chris Van Allsberg
  • Karlotta Freier
  • Herbert Green / Rachel Cocker
  • Ryo Takemasa
  • Laura Simonati
  • Roman Muradov
  • Scotty Gillespie
  • Giacomo Bagnara
  • Martcellia Liunic
  • Eight Hour Day
  • The Printed Peanut
  • Klas Fahlen
  • Sara Boccaccini Meadows
  • Peter Donnelly
  • Miroslav Sasek* (Typo in Slide)


  • Irene Rinaldi
  • S. Neil Fujita
  • Henri Matisse
  • Paul Rand
  • Max Kisman
  • Craig Frazier
  • Keith Negley
  • Ophelia Pang
  • A.M. Cassandre
  • Francesco Ciccolella
  • Samuel Earp
  • Ed Cheverton
  • Lab Partners


  • Adrian Johnson
  • Virginie Morgand
  • Richard Vergez
  • Laura Liedo
  • Stephanie Wunderlich
  • Antti Kalevi
  • Maria Picasso I Piquer
  • Dorothy Siemens
  • Geoff McFetridge
  • Martin Azambuja
  • Lisa Congdon
  • Andrew Holder
  • Noemie Cedille
  • Mauro Bubbico
  • Paul Thurlby
  • Charlotte Trounce
  • Shutterstock
  • William Benson
  • Kohei Shioi
  • Miroslav Sasek
  • Carpenter Collective
  • Benoit Tardif
  • Ryo Takemasa
  • Hiroshi Nagai
  • Luzi
  • Tom Clohosy Cole
  • Spencer Gabor
  • Alberto Lot
  • iStock
  • Loris Lora
  • Ben Wiseman
  • Rebecca Green
  • Malika Favre
  • Noma Bar
  • Francesco Ciccolella
  • Emiliano Ponzi
  • Cecile Gariepy
  • Georges Remi
  • Lora Lamm
  • Hacco
  • Alvin Tresselt
  • Christoph Niemann
  • Jen Leem-Bruggen
  • Herbert Leupin
  • Marijke Buurlage


  • Sebastian Curi
  • Kento Iida
  • Giovanna Giuliano
  • Miroslav Sasek
  • Paul Rand
  • Paula Rusu
  • Raymond Biesinger
  • Spencer Gabor
  • Andrew Holder


  • Catherine Pape
  • Masao Takahata
  • Cyrus Highsmith
  • Kyoko Nemoto
  • Bojan Oreskovic
  • Floor Rehbach
  • Antti Kalevi
  • Lan Truong
  • Tess Smith-Roberts
  • Monika Forsberg
  • Tisha Lee
  • Tara Deacon
  • Gisele Murias
  • Marcus Oakley
  • Agostino Iacurci
  • Tersa Bellon
  • Harriet Seed
  • The Printed Peanut
  • Anna Kovecses
  • Vincent Mathy
  • Clover Robin
  • Andy J. Pizza
  • Rosendals tradgard
  • Mariso Schoen
  • Abbey Lossing
  • Oleh Haramov
  • Sjoerd Van Leeuwen
  • Lo Cole
  • Tang Yau Hoong
  • Ariel Lee
  • Catarina Sobra
  • Sam Kalda
  • Kati Szilagyi
  • Emil Wikstrom
  • Doublenaut
  • Yiffy Gu
  • Lena Yokoyama
  • Hedof Studio
  • Cari Vander Yacht
  • Raul Soria
  • Beatrix Hatcher
  • Fonzy Nils


  • Carpenter Collective
  • ç½ ææ
  • Asahi Nagata
  • Ethan Fender
  • Sara Tomate


  • Paul Rand
  • Amelie Fontaine

B Roll and Supporting Imagery

  • Ruvim Miksanskiy (Forest drone shot video)
  • Suzy Hazelwood (Record player video)
  • Dmitry Varennikov (Stars in night sky video)
  • Luz Calor Som (Galaxy video)
  • BJ Zurc (iPhone in the Sunset video)
  • Tima Miroshnichenko (Young woman with architecture drawings video)
  • Tima Miroshnichenko (Female painter thinking in studio video)
  • Kęstutis Paškevičius (Flying over field toward forest video)
  • Yaroslav Shuraev (Female artist with drawing board)
  • Sasha Kim (Young woman illustrating plant with tablet video)
  • Amina Filkins (Flower arranging videos)
  • Antoni Shkraba (Couple seated in art gallery video)
  • Sirisvideo (French apartment exterior photo)
  • Thao LEE (Karate on the beach photo)

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Tom Froese

Illustrator and Designer

Top Teacher

Tom Froese is an award winning illustrator, teacher, and speaker. He loves making images that make people happy. In his work, you will experience a flurry of joyful colours, spontaneous textures, and quirky shapes. Freelancing since 2013, Tom has worked for brands and businesses all over the world. Esteemed clients include Yahoo!, Airbnb, GQ France, and Abrams Publishing. His creative and diverse body of work includes maps, murals, picture books, packaging, editorial, and advertising. Tom graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design with a B.Des (honours) in 2009.

As a teacher, Tom loves to inspire fellow creatives to become better at what they do. He is dedicated to the Skillshare community, where he has taught tens of thousands of students his unique approache... See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Trailer: This class is called Composition for Illustrators. It's about how to arrange things in our art, so it looks great, tells the right story, and it all seems to fit together nicely on the page. There are currently no classes that directly teach composition for illustrators in the specific way that I illustrate, which is in a flatter graphic style rather than in a more three D or realistic way. I made this class to help make the rules of composition easier to understand and more importantly to make them easier for you to use. This class is for anyone who wants to finally understand what the heck composition is and how the heck it works. My name is Mr. Tom Rose. I'm an award winning illustrator and a top teacher on Skillshare. If you want to become more confident and masterful in your compositions, I made this class for you. I hope you'll join me on Skillshare. I'll see you in class. 2. About the Class and Project: This class is all about composition for illustration. If you're an illustrator and want to learn more about composition, this class is for you. This class is based on my own approach to illustration. Which is more flat and graphic and not so realistic or three dimensional. I need this class because I've always found traditional teaching on composition overwhelming. And so much of it is based on a more photographic or realistic approach. My goal for this class is to make composition as easy to learn as possible and as easy to start using what you learn as soon as possible. By taking this class, you'll learn how composition works for illustrators, particularly those working in a more stylized graphic way. What the most important principles to learn are, and how they can or can't help you make better art. You'll also learn just two simple grids for giving your compositions more structure. Of course, you'll get to put it all together in the final project, a series of six illustrated stamps based on the country and theme of your choice. In terms of requirements, you'll get the this class if you're a beginner or immediate illustrator having some experience working with illustration in some way and knowing your way around the tools would definitely help. Even if you're more experience, you might learn a lot in this class if you tend to work in a more realistic style. Of course all are welcome. Whether you have zero experience or many, many years. I believe that you're going to learn a ton in this class. No matter what. This is not a technical class. I won't be teaching you every step of my illustration process in the project. This is really about the principles themselves and how to apply them. However, if you're curious about my process tools and techniques, I will be sharing these in a quick tutorial to show you the brushes and basic techniques I'm using in Photoshop. In the class project, the class is divided into two parts, the primer and the project. In the primer, you're going to learn about composition in a more theoretical way in a series of lessons at the end of each lesson, I've included short exercises called Try this. These are totally optional, but they're a chance for you to go a little bit deeper with each subject before moving on with the next one. Then of course in the project you'll get to put everything you learned in the lessons to. I think you'll have a lot of fun with this one now. Don't get me wrong, just because these are little stamps, it doesn't mean it's a little project. Your task is to create six different types of compositions. So this one is going to stretch you to the limit, but if you push through, you'll be rewarded with a beautiful set of illustrations to share on the class projects page. And of course, wherever you share on social media. Be sure to use the hashtag composition for illustrators when you do. 3. What is Composition?: Simply put, composition is putting a bunch of different things together to make something new. A chair, for example, is a composition made from different pieces of wood and metal. A sandwich is a composition made from two pieces of bread and some kind of ingredients in between them that aren't bread. The single idea of the sandwich magically appears once the multiple ingredients finally all come together. For illustrators, composition means creating an illustration, a picture made from various marks, symbols, and ideas. We put all these things together to make a picture that tells a story, that conveys a message, that makes us feel something. A singular image emerges from all these separate parts, and that's the composition. The hard thing for many of us is to know how to make better compositions in our art. We all seem to sense when a composition works or doesn't. But when it comes to making a composition work ourselves on purpose, it's not always so easy. In the story of art, EH Gombrich writes this little anecdote and anybody who has tried to arrange a bunch of flowers has experienced this strange sensation of balancing forms and colors. Without being able to tell exactly what kind of harmony he's trying to achieve, we just feel that a patch of red here may make all the difference. Or this blue is all right by itself, but it doesn't go with the others. And then suddenly a little stem of green leaves may seem to make it come, right. Don't touch it anymore, we exclaim. Now it's perfect. This is exactly how many of us think about composition. That it's something we just have to work at until it feels right. But if this were the case, there's nothing that I can teach you and it would be useless for you to take this class. Of course, there's tons of teaching out there about the principles of composition. But the big problem is that there are so many loose principles out there, and it's hard to bring them all together in a way that makes them easy to understand and use. That's definitely been my struggle. I look at all the different principles out there, like balance and unity, and harmony, and many of them just seem so abstract. Like, what does unity even look like? I can see how some principles work when they're pointed out to me, but they don't guide me in making decisions in my creative process. Now, in the quote from Gombrich that I just read to you, there's a clue about what we need to do about this problem. He describes this experience of not knowing exactly what he's trying to achieve. Achieve is the operative word here. That's a great question. What is he trying to achieve? This is the biggest question we can ask. Where it comes to working out our own compositions. We understand that composition exists and we know what it means. You may already know a lot about composition theory, but have you been asking yourself this question, What are you trying to achieve? That question has guided me through many illustrations over the years. And it's even guided me in putting together or composing this class for you. What you're trying to achieve in your art will drive your every decision as you make it. If I have a favorite word, it's probably specific. When you're trying to solve a problem, you always have to get specific about the details. Otherwise you can only swirl around in a vague sense. And in this class we're going to be very specific about what composition is, not in a universal sense. But just for illustrators like us taking this class who probably work in a more graphic or stylized way to get this class together, I had to base everything on how I work in my own specific way. That was the only way I could figure out how to teach you what I know in this class. Here's how we're going to understand composition. Composition is inferred. It's the act of choosing what to include and where to place it in an illustration. It's also a noun, it's the result on this act of composition. The composition is the final illustration. Another way we're going to understand composition is that it's specific in different ways. First, composition is specific to who you are as an artist. How you approach composition will really depend on your style, what you're interested in, and your own unique sense of what should go where. What particular approach might look good in one style might not look great in another. In this class, we're going to get very focused specifically on a more graphic style of illustration, which we'll learn all about in the next lesson. Another way in which composition is specific is in the context. What might work in one illustration project might not in another. What might look good in a book might not look right on a wall mural or on a postage stamp. In the class project, we're going to focus on one specific kind of illustration project, a set of postage stamps. This gives us specific goals we should be aiming for in our compositions. And that will guide all the other decisions that go into that. The third way in which composition is specific is to the story, idea, or message, or the feeling you'd like to evoke. Basically, what is the message or the feeling of the illustration? Whether to place something at the top or bottom of your page really depends on what you mean by putting it there. In this class, we'll focus on how we use compositional techniques to tell stories and communicate ideas. In the class project, you'll be thinking about how to tell your own story in six different ways. Each one is going to require a different compositional strategy. What is composition? It's all of these things. Telling stories, cracting purpose built images. And it's also a unique expression of your intuition, your sense of how things just should look while these things aren't easy. And a pastor in this class, you'll learn how to come as close as possible by knowing more specifically what you're trying to achieve. 4. Don't Compete With Your Camera: One pain point I've heard from other illustrators is that it's hard to illustrate without using reference photos. One goal in my own life has been to eliminate the need to use reference photos and draw more from my own imagination. I want to draw less from photos and more from what's inside my head or my heart. Now while I've become very comfortable drawing just from heart, my dirty little secret is that I still have to use reference images all the time. The difference is that I'm not directly using the photos. I use them more as a way of learning about what the things I'm trying to draw look like so that I can more confidently draw them in my own way from heart. Now sometimes I just use one image as a reference, and sometimes I just use a whole bunch and what comes out is sort of a mash up of all my references. You know, there was a job I had to do once where I had to illustrate a cozy French apartment. And I didn't really know what that looked like, not being French or living in an apartment. But I went and looked for a bunch of different pictures of this subject and I made a mash up of these in the final concept that I presented to the client and which ultimately became the illustration. What I don't want to do is just find a scene and draw it directly, even if I draw it in my style. So it would be almost plagiaristic to go and find one photo of a French apartment and just draw it exactly as I saw it. As illustrators, we're usually being asked to express a unique idea or tell a unique story, always in our own way. Rather than just imitating what we see in a photo, we need to add some kind of value to what we're illustrating. One challenge I give myself is, how can I create an image using illustration that wouldn't be possible in just a regular photo. What's the unique way that I can represent this idea or story as an illustrator? Another pain point I hear from illustrators is that they like how their sketches look, but when they try to turn it into an illustration, things seem to go wrong. While this may have to do with their skills or experience level, it's very much about composition as well. It's something we particularly encounter when we're trying to represent perspective and three dimensionality using a flat illustration style. What works with a carefully drawn sketch, with subtle shading and loose sketchy lines, just doesn't translate when you try to use flat shapes and solid colors in the final art. What I wish I knew a long time ago is that not only are some illustration styles more realistic and others more graphic, but that there's a fundamental difference in how these can be built up. They're modeled on two different paradigms. One is graphic and the other is more photographic. While a graphic style of illustration looks easier to do, it only works if we understand how it works. It's more natural for most of us to draw things as they are in reality. And that's why it's hard to step out of this and illustrate in a more abstract, stylized way. Now let's take a look at photographic and graphic composition types or paradigms to see what they look like and what the differences are. Let's start with photographic composition. When illustrations are more realistic and three dimensional, we can say they follow photographic paradigms when illustrating. In this paradigm, we think in terms of things like framing, our shot lighting, camera angles and depth of field. Here, illustrations are more like little windows into a world beyond. Now to say an illustration is photographic, it doesn't mean that it has to look realistic or even photo like even a comic book or a graphic novel can be very stylized. And also use photographic composition using certain camera angles or show scenes up close or pulling back wide as though there were a camera moving toward or away from the subject in physical space. Now, photographic style composition can be very appropriate in certain settings, like narrative images, as we might see in many kids books or graphic novels for instance. Now let's look at graphic composition. Here we have illustrations that are flat and symbolic, and we can say that these follow a graphic paradigm. Photographic means writing. With light, graphic just really means writing. And in this sense, illustrators write with symbols, shapes, and other kinds of visual elements, thus following a more graphic or even graphic design paradigm. In hindsight, I could have called this pictographic composition. Because we're writing with pictures, with graphic composition, we might think more in terms of layout than scenes, even when we illustrate scenes here, we're not thinking in terms of framing a shot as though there's this entire scene beyond where we happened to be standing as we snapped our photo. We're designing a new image, we're not finding it through a viewfinder. In graphic composition, we work in a more stylized and flat way to stylize means to represent something in a way that's less realistic. And it can even be formulaic. We can represent the various objects, characters, and symbols in a more symbolic and simplified way. Now, even though a graphic approach to illustration is more contemporary, we can find graphic composition in pre, modern and even ancient art, such as with Byzantine iconography, decorative art on Greek pottery, and of course, Egyptian hieroglyphics. In graphic composition, we're not so much making little windows into other worlds, but combining elements on a page, including the page itself, like the surface of the page, to create a new object. In this way, the page or surface is part of the image itself, not something that we just put the image onto. In many cases, the context of the illustration and the illustration itself are hard to separate. Commercial graphic style illustration has a very comfortable relationship with the surfaces that it goes on. These are often products unto themselves. It's hard to separate the illustration from the surface. The stamps we'll be creating in this class project. A great example of this relationship of context and illustration. While the illustrations are on the stamps, it's hard to differentiate the stamp from the art. They work together to create a new object that we call stamp. Now my dichotomy between graphic and photographic composition types is meant to make a point. There are two paradigms that are significantly different from one another when we're trying to make an image. By understanding the differences, we can more easily know which paradigms will work best for our own style and for other factors in the given job. Sometimes we need to be a little bit more photographic and sometimes we need to be more graphic. Of course, there's always going to be some overlap. Each of us has a range within our own style and techniques that we use. And then we'll also find that certain jobs are going to require more of one approach or the other. As we develop as artists, we begin to understand what our particular blend of graphic and photographic, or stylization and realism looks like. Now that we're at the end of this lesson, here's something for you to try. Look for two or three pairs of illustrations. Each pair should handle a common subject or theme, but one image should be more photographic and the other more graphic. For example, you could look for an illustration of a popular landscape feature or building such as Al Capitan or the Empire State Building. By doing this exercise, you'll get a better sense of the differences between graphic and photographic composition. You might even start to think about how you would want to illustrate these subjects in your own way. Have fun trying this, and if you do, you're welcome to share it on the class projects page. I'll see you in the next lesson. 5. The Aspirational Principles: One of the big problems with traditional composition theory is that some of the principles are completely inactionable, As nice as they Sound Principles like unity, harmony, and balance are so abstract that they don't give us much of a clue about what to do to make these things happen. Like how do you unity? At the same time, I think we can all relate to wanting our work to feel more united, harmonious, and balanced. Perhaps it was your quest to achieve these in your work that brought you to a composition class like this in the first place. My solution is to reframe these less actionable principles. As aspirational principles. There are goals we have for our compositions, but we can't really achieve them directly. That's what the actionable principles, which we're going to go into in the next lesson, are for the aspirational principles are ideals not guides. They're like a north star that can lead us forward, but we can never truly arrive at them because there's no ultimate singular expression of these things. But I still think it's worth describing what these might look like or what they are as aspirational goals. So let's start with unity. In artistic terms, unity means that all elements in a picture work together seamlessly. They form a cohesive whole. One way of thinking about unity is one thingness. When an illustration is united, it is doing one thing and it is about one thing. We see an illustration as a singular image or idea rather than a bunch of little bits. When we humans stand united in something as a group, it means we agree on certain principles and we can therefore work together toward a common goal. Similarly, we sense an illustration is unified when we see the picture as a whole. Before any particular detail within it. Nothing seems out of place. There's no one element that's kind of rogue in doing its own thing. Everything is working together. If you've ever sensed that an illustration of yours is biddy, like you could see all these little bits and parts and they're all distracting. And you don't see everything together or you feel like it's lacking cohesion, you're probably experiencing a lack unity. The challenge with unity as a principle lies in its vagueness. The question I have is unity of what's being united. Just as we humans require shared principles and goals to be united and illustrations, elements need to be arranged towards one singular goal. It's harder to achieve unity in your art directly. It's more about understanding the illustration's fundamental purpose and aiming for that. Instead, the more specifically we understand what we're trying to make and what we're trying to say in it, the more clearly we'll understand what kind of unity we're trying to achieve in the first place. This brings us back to the concept of a project brief where we define the goals and intentions of whatever illustration we're supposed to be making. Of course, you'll get a chance to see how this works in the class project. We don't call it a brief, we just call it like the set up or the project declaration, but it's the same thing. Now for me, unity and illustration is about everything fitting perfectly and feeling at home on the page. For illustrators, especially those working in a graphic style, unity is often achieved through simplicity and restraint. Each additional element, color, image, or idea that you try to cram into the composition could threaten its overall sense of unity. For graphic illustrators, a key to achieving unity is in having a specific goal for the work, plus working in a more constrained style and using as few elements as possible. Now, while this might sound limiting, it's actually a goal that every artist should have for every piece of art they make, no matter how complex the style or the detail in it, we should always aim for one overarching thing above all the others in every piece of art that we make. Now let's look at harmony. Harmony sounds nice, doesn't it? But what does it mean? Harmony is a kind of unity, but it's mostly related to color. It can also relate to how certain shapes or subtle qualities work together or not. It's how separate things seem to work well together. Some combinations work and some don't. In music we understand harmony as being two or more notes that sound nice together as a chord. Notes can either be in harmony or in dissonance. We don't know why certain notes sound harmonious, but we can mostly agree when they do or don't detecting harmony, especially in our colors. Is much the same. We perceive it, but we don't understand it similar to achieving unity overall. A key to achieving harmony is just having fewer colors or different types of elements that need to work together. Another key way to achieve more harmony is by developing your understanding of color theory. For more of my thoughts on that, you can check out my class, the one palette illustrator. I think there's a lot in common between visual art and music. The more complex a song, the more difficult it is to make all the notes harmonize in the same way. The more complex the color palette and all the different bits that go into an illustration, the more difficult it is to harmonize them all together. So lastly, let's look at balance as an aspirational goal. We all want to have more balanced compositions, right? I think we can all say from experience that a balanced composition makes us feel balanced. If a composition is unbalanced, we feel imbalanced. So what does it mean to achieve balance? Well, it's easy to achieve it in a symmetrical composition. But it's harder when we try to do something more asymmetrical. Typical advice, if you're trying not to be symmetrical, is to imagine the various elements on the page as weights on a scale. The scale is like this, balance evenly across the page. And then whatever you do on one side, maybe with a bigger thing you do on the other. If they're smaller things, then all those small things have to equal the weight of the big thing. And then the scale in our imagination evens out. Now I think balance is a lot easier to understand than unity or harmony. But it's also hard to achieve because there's no physical way to measure exactly how balanced the composition is. It's very subjective. This is really one of those perfectionistic principles that we have to feel out with our own sense of balance. Some of us will be more comfortable when things are more precarious in an image and others we just can't stand the tension. And we need everything to feel grounded and super balanced. Of course, we don't want to be too much of one or the other. We don't want to be too imbalanced feeling or chaotic, and we don't want to be super boring and super balanced, and super symmetrical all the time. Illustration is always a balancing act. It's a balancing act of the elements we have to work with on the page, as well as how those things relate to the message and overall purpose for the art. Now that we're at the end of this lesson, here's something for you to try. Find one or two examples of your own illustrations describing your own words, whether you think the composition works or not. And why don't worry about using proper art terms because we haven't learned them yet in this class. But after you've taken this class, read through your observations from this exercise again. Now, try describing your observations using your new vocabulary and understanding. In this way, you're going to see how far you've come in your understanding of how composition works. This exercise is like a time capsule. So you're going to evaluate your own art in your own words right now. And then you'll see how you think about those same things. Once you know more about composition, enjoy trying this. And again, feel free to share it on the class projects page. Otherwise, we'll see you in the next lesson. 6. The Actionable Principles: Whereas the aspirational principles are more abstract goals we should all strive for in our work. The actionable principles are much more hands on. While there are dozens and dozens of principles out there, I've chosen just ten for how they relate specifically to a more graphic approach to composition. You can think of these as a starter kit for learning about composition. One of the biggest problems with compositional theory is that there's just too much information. And it's hard to use it all when you're on the job. If you can keep just the principles you'll learn here in mind for a given project, especially in the class project, I think you'll find them to be more than enough. The first principle is hierarchy. In illustration, hierarchy is the arrangement of elements on the page according to their importance. At the top of this hierarchy is whatever is the main focus. This is the most important aspect of your image, followed by other elements in descending order of importance. This structure creates a sense of order and it guides viewers on what to notice first and how to navigate through the composition. Without a clear hierarchy, an illustration can become confusing or overwhelming, or it can just look flat. The essence of an illustration should revolve around a singular story, theme, or idea. We talked about this in our lesson on unity. All elements within the image should contribute to this central message. Hierarchy helps in emphasizing the primary subject, supporting elements, enhancing the mean message. In simpler illustrations with a single object, the hierarchy is naturally very straightforward. It's just the one thing, there actually might not even be a hierarchy. However, in a more complex work such as a montage, and we'll talk about what montages are, when we talk about the six types of compositions, it's crucial to establish a clear hierarchy to avoid clutter and confusion. One of the questions we can ask in our illustrations is, what's more important? Is it the overall image or a specific element or moment within it? For instance, illustrations depicting crowds similar to those in a Wars Waldo book, will often use a flat hierarchy where no single element should stand out. In this sense, not every image demands a strong hierarchy. In my personal work, I typically focus on one dominant element supported by three or four levels of lesser prominence. Elements higher in the hierarchy are detailed and larger, while those lower in the hierarchy are less detailed subdued this approach is especially evident in my illustrated maps where the hierarchy starts with the title followed by primary and secondary icons. And these are all integrated within a network of roads or geographic symbols. You can see an order of information. And this guides you through the map. And even though there's lots going on, it still holds together and feels orderly. I firmly believe that hierarchy is the most important principle. In illustration, applying it effectively can significantly enhance both the composition and storytelling of your work. The next principle here is simplicity. This one comes from a set of principles called Gitald Theory, which tries to explain how we perceive and understand the complex world around us. Gitauld is a super interesting topic that I'd like to cover in a separate class. But I'm stealing simplicity from Gestalt Theory because I think it's such a useful principle. The law of Simplicity states that we tend to interpret things in the simplest way possible. Our minds are going to do whatever they can to simplify things so that we can say, yep, got it. And then we can move on to the next thing. When we're outside and we see a whole bunch of trees in one place, we call it a forest. And when we do that, we're simplifying all these many individual things into the most simplest form we know. In this case, the simpler way of understanding what we see is as a group rather than the individual trees. We see the group and call it a forest. You've probably heard the saying, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is a gestaltists statement and it speaks to the way a group of things suddenly becomes a totally new thing. Now interestingly, sometimes the simplest way to see a group of things is by their individual parts. Basically, whatever is easiest for us to perceive in the moment, that's what we're going to see. For example, looking at an image of three distinct shapes grouped closely together or even like layered over top. You're likely to perceive these as individual shapes rather than as a singular combined blob. This happens because our minds are more used to recognizing the familiar, separate, or simpler forms than the abstract shape. They make when they are combined. This principle of simplicity is a valuable compositional tool, particularly for discerning if our images are clearly understandable or not. If an illustration is overly complex or convoluted, it risks being misunderstood or ignored altogether. Complexity can be daunting. And if it takes too much effort to figure out what an image is or what it means, people are likely to move on rather than engage with it. In my own work, I frequently apply this principle, especially when representing specific objects. My aim is to always strike a balance between making these objects recognizable while also infusing them with an element of intrigue. Essentially, I want my representations to be easily understood yet visually compelling. When applying the principle of simplicity to your work, consider how the various shapes and how they come together are as readable by others as you intend. You can ask, will other people recognize this symbol or will people see this clearly right away? Aim for compositions that strike a balance between being familiar and readable in this way. And interesting because sometimes we do have to add a little bit of noise to an image or a little bit of chaos or a lack of clarity to make it interesting, we just want to work out a balance where what we intend the viewer to see is actually being seen. The third principle here is scale and proportion. Now, scale in proportion different, but they're also very related. I'm treating them as a set here. In composition, scale refers to the perceived size of an element. We can say that an object or figure is large or small compared to something else. When we think about a scale model train for example, we understand that it's a smaller version of the real thing, but otherwise it has the same proportions. When we're making a scale drawing, like if you're in architecture, all the sizes are the same proportions that they would be in the final construction. Now we tend to work with scale without really needing to think about it. It's just such an easy principle. Things that are closer tend to look larger, and things that are far away are smaller. But we can use scale more on purpose to show that one thing is more important than the other. As we do when we create different levels of hierarchy, Usually the top level of the hierarchy, those things are bigger than all the other ones below. We can also use scale to create contrasts in our work. The larger we make a dominant element, for example, compared to all the others, the more dominant it's going to look, and the more dynamic the overall composition will be. Proportion, on the other hand, refers to the relationship of elements regardless of their size. Well, a scale model of a train could be larger or smaller. Its proportions are the same no matter what. But on the other hand, think of a kid's toy train. It's probably not designed proportionately to a real life train. It's going to be sort of distorted and out of proportion to be more playful and whimsical. Proportionality is not just about how big or small something is, but it's about other things like tall, skinny, squat, and wide. These are all proportional qualities. So when a graphic style of illustration, we can play freely with proportions of whatever we're drawing and how one artist uses proportion can be a defining feature of their style. In my own work, I freely play with proportion of my figures to create unexpected gestures or to exaggerate a gesture or how the person is standing. I might make their hand bigger than their entire body, for instance. Now, it all really depends on the purpose of the artwork. Sometimes I'll choose to be more proportionate and sometimes I'll choose to be more disproportionate in whatever it is that I'm drawing in your compositions. You can use your understanding of proportion and distortion to make certain elements larger on purpose, even if that's not how they look in real light. You can distort proportions to create emphasis or even to fill in an empty space in the composition, if that's what you need to do. You can also play with proportions to make something funnier, such as with a caricature. Playing with proportions is a great way to transform an ordinary scene or figure into something more extraordinary. In summary, here, both scale and proportion are key elements in composition. Scale focuses more on the size of individual elements, while proportion deals with the size or relationship of sizes of things within an element. The next principle here is repetition. And similarity. Repetition is another super useful principle because it's easy to know when we're using it. Repetition can bring a sense of unity and harmony to a composition right away. It can also give it a sense of movement or balance depending on how it's used. Repetition is closely related to the Gestalt principle of similarity, which states that we tend to associate elements that are visually similar. We've seen birds of a feather and we see them as a flock. Generally speaking, unless there's only one element, a composition will need some repetition to achieve a sense of order. If there are numerous elements without any repetition among them, this would be utter chaos. As a rule of thumb, if you do something in one place, you should probably use it somewhere else. You can repeat an element such as a symbol or mark, or you can repeat a color, a pattern texture, or any other visual quality. Repetition is how we achieve pattern flow, or movement, and even harmony in our work. We also use repetition to define hierarchy by repeating a certain quality in the same way across all elements of the same level. Repeating those same qualities elsewhere tells us that similar groups are in some way related. The opposite of repetition is variation. We usually want to achieve a balance of repetition and variation, but the exact amount always depends on the situation. One way of achieving this balance is if you repeat an element, say in a pattern of some kind. You can make them all relatively similar, but just redraw them each time. Or vary the shape just a little bit so that you identify them all as the same kind of shape or element. But you also see that they are not just cut and paste. In this sense, you get a nice balance in tension between repetition and variation. In a graphic style of illustration, where we limit ourselves to just a handful of different elements, we lean pretty hard into repetition. Working with a limited style requires a very creative balance of both repetition and variation. How we use this becomes very much a part of our ideas, our concepts, and of course, our compositions. Next we have grouping and proximity. We can use grouping to organize certain elements on the page by placing them closer together. The same elements on a page can feel chaotic or orderly depending on how they're grouped. If they're all floating evenly spaced on the page, we may see no particular relationship to them and therefore not know where to look or what to get out of what we're seeing. On the other hand, if they're organized into groups of some kind, we'll start to feel a sense of order, effectively perceiving fewer things on the page. That's the law of simplicity at work. Just for example, we might only have to count five groups of things, rather than hundreds or thousands of elements that are contained in those groups. Grouping is related to the Gestel principle of proximity, which states that we tend to perceive elements that are closer together as being related. That's all to say, that when things are close together, we see it as a group. Grouping can help associate elements, but it can also create spaces around those elements that allow the eye to move or flow around the image. When I think about grouping, I think about how to organize things on a shelf. If you have different books and trinkets to display on your shelf. If you space them all evenly without grouping them into smaller clusters, I think it would feel chaotic, it would just look weird. Instead, we can summon our inner Martha Stewarts to cluster our belongings on the shelf in various ways, perhaps by color theme. We can further make interesting arrangements by combining a mix of books and objects. In this example, each cluster becomes a little moment on the proverbial bookshelf. The principle at work here is grouping. We can tell more interesting stories by how we group certain objects on the page. And we can create visual moments that the eye can move between rather than getting stuck on a more flat mass of stuff on the wall. Now let's look at framing. Framing is a technique for giving emphasis to part of an illustration. While the idea of a frame may call to mind a border that goes around a whole image or a whole page, it's more about drawing attention to a moment within the image. Framing can be very direct or it can be more indirect. We can literally frame something in a window or a door, or even an actual frame. Or we can frame something in a more subtle way, such as placing a point of interest in the clearing between two trees. We can use framing to create a focal point in an image or to compartmentalize different areas. Of an image that need to be viewed separately. We can also use it to situate the viewer or tell a certain story. For example, framing someone in a window can give us the sense that they are indoors and we are on the outside. Looking in it gives a sense of intrigue to the image. We wonder what's going on in that room through the window. Referring to the principles of grouping and proximity, a group of elements can be related without needing to frame them. But you can also consider the space that happens to be around them as a frame. But by framing certain elements on purpose or more directly, they're forced into a group. That relationship of that specific group of objects is made very explicit. Each framed area in an illustration is like a smaller composition. In a larger one, you can create a sense of consistency by repeating this framing throughout your image. The next principle here is alignment. Alignment is a great way to get a sense of structure on the page when certain elements correspond on an invisible axis or a path. We can say that they're aligned when things are far apart from one another, but they're aligned, the alignment makes a relationship between those things. And it also brings a sense of unity in the overall composition when things are aligned and closer together. On the other hand, especially when paired with repetition, alignment can create a sense of movement and flow leading the eye along the same path when elements are too aligned, like there's too many things in alignments and you can really see a sense of a grid. It's really going to start looking rigid if elements are not aligned at all. On the other hand, the composition may seem to melt or feel blob like now. Any of these scenarios may be right depending on what you're trying to do in the image. Sometimes you really want a gridded structure and sometimes you don't want to have any sense of a grid at all. Alignment can be very loosely based on things just lining up, either in a horizontal way or in a vertical way. Or we can do this in a more forced way by having some kind of a grid. And then we have all these different regular intervals at which things could align. And we'll look more at that in the lesson on structural principles. Next, the next principle is figure and ground, also known as positive and negative space. Figure and ground describes the relationship between what we perceive as subject or figure, and the surrounding space or background. The principle of figure and ground states that we tend to perceive elements either as the main subject or as part of the background. Where there is ambiguity between figure and ground, we might momentarily be confused or intrigued. The classic example of this effect is the optical illusion of two faces in profile, which can either read as a vase or a bird bath. Depending on how you look at it, we can use our understanding of figure and ground to evaluate whether our subject stands out from the background, if that's our intention. This is easier to do in a simpler, more graphic composition where there might only be a solid background. But it's a lot trickier when we have a complex composition with a foreground and a background and there's overlapping and adjacent elements and colors all going on in the same area. We can use figure and ground to help us ask, is the figure and ground clear enough? If it's not, we can use contrast and scale to set our figure more apart from the background. Now typically we'll see darker and larger things as figure and lighter smaller things as ground. We can play with this relationship to create ambiguity, intention on purpose. And sometimes that's something we want in an image for some reason. For example, some illustrators like Noma Bar or Malaka Fab are very intentional about this relationship of figure and ground. And they're very skilled blending these to mean one thing and then another depending on how you're looking at the image. Even more representational illustrators like Miroslav Shashek will use this relationship of figure and ground in a playful way to create very graphic effects. Now, classic examples of figure and ground usually have stark black and white images. Everything's very crisp. But the relationship between figure and ground isn't always that simple. As we've already gone through in more complex scenes, figure and ground is just more subtle and we need to find ways to make the figure stand out from the background without blending in. The next principle here is closure. The principle of closure states that we tend to perceive objects as complete, even if they're not. When you perceive a shape that's may be suggested but not actually there. That's the law of closure at work. Just look at a lot of well known logos and you'll see closure at play. The implied inner circle of the Starbucks logo or the peacock body that's not actually there in the NBC logo are examples. And same with the spherical shape that we perceive. By piecing together the four separate shapes in the Xbox logo, we can use this principle to create a dynamic image that completes itself not on the page but in the mind of the viewer. Using closure very purposefully is a key way of achieving a graphic look in your illustration. Just by leaving out a part and letting the white space behind suggest a presence or idea, you can create a powerful, captivating image. Now, closure is a bit of an oxymoron. It actually works best when something is left undone or open, and not fully enclosed at all. In my opinion, closing up a shape completely, such as with a thick outline, can mean that it gets cut off from the rest of the image. It closes it off from the air supply of the rest of the composition. Skillful use of closure in our work can create a powerful connection between the image and surface, resulting in a stronger sense of unity. And of course, it will also create a stronger connection between the image and the viewer. The next principle here is movement and flow. This is another pairing of principles, but they both pretty much mean the same thing. Flow is how I describe the way the eye moves around. In illustration, it's the same principle as what is more traditionally known as movement. I prefer flow because it's more about how the eye flows around a composition rather than suggesting actual movement. Such as birds in flight or car driving fast on a road. Flow in an image can be intentional or by accident as much as possible. We should be in control of how the eye moves around our compositions. This can be done very bluntly, like adding cartoon like motion lines or arrows. Or it can be done more subtly by letting gestures and the direction of certain lines carry us around without realizing it at first. Movement can also be suggested by the effects that an object leaves in its wake. If there is a moving object in our illustration, and it leaves some, a trail behind it, that will of course give our image a sense of movement. And we can use the line that's created by this object in motion to lead us somewhere else in the image. And this creates more of a visual flow. What I call flow is related to other principles like the Gestalt Law of Continuation that says that objects along the same path will appear to be related. And the principle of leading lines, where certain elements more subtly lead our eyes to the main subject. In your compositions, you can use flow to keep the eye moving around the page in the way you intend. Keep in mind that more movement or flow in an image will make it seem more dynamic and less will make it feel more static. Either of these might be more appropriate for your given purpose. An illustration of a storm you see at night will jostle A view are more than one of a calm at sunrise. You can be the judge of which one of these kinds of feelings you need in whatever context you're working in flow. And an image can go in any direction or follow any path. It can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, circular, zigzaggi or any other shape. Flow can be in one direction or multiple directions at the same time. There's no correct shape for flow in a composition. Just try not to send the viewer off the page before they've seen the whole thing. In my work, I use leading lines, alignment, hierarchy, and even gestures. And where the eyes are looking in my characters to lead the viewer to the main subject or around the image. So that wraps up our actionable principles. Now it's your turn. Here's a bit of homework. Go on a compositional scavenger hunt. See if you can find examples of each of the actionable principles in illustrations that you find online. By actively looking for these in art and illustration, you'll start to learn more about how they work to tell different stories and in different contexts. You'll also get a better sense of how they might work for you. Enjoy trying this, and once you're done, feel free to post it on the class projects page. And then we'll see you in the next lesson. 7. The Structural Principles: Now let's take a look at what I call structural principles. While the actionable principles are largely about arrangement and order of individual elements, the structural principles are about how these things hold together as a unified whole. When you look into outer space, what's holding all the stars and planets and galaxies in place where they are, Astronomers actually believe there's something called dark matter. This is the glue that holds all these galaxies together. The invisible force that holds a composition together is a lot like dark matter. We know what's there even though we can't see it, and we can definitely sense when it's not there. Scientists can say that dark matter probably exists, even if they can't measure it directly. We can see the evidence, by the way, things hold together. Our solar system holds together due to dark matter. In the same way, artists can say that there's some invisible glue that holds our compositions together, giving it that elusive sense of unity. We all crave in our work what is this compositional glue, its structure? And to give our composition structure, we look to grids. Grids are a great way to bring a sense of structure to the page where we might not otherwise find it. While there are thousands of grids and other possible ways to structure our compositions. In this lesson, we'll look at just three. We're going to do two grids, The rule of thirds and harmonic armatures. And then we'll look at what I call self structured compositions. Let's look at the rule of thirds first. The rule of thirds is like a grid with instructions on how to use that grid. It tells us where we can put our subject in an image to make the most interesting image. It also gives us a guideline for how to structure the page in terms of proportion, Like how much of the page should we fill with figure versus ground. As a grid, it's pretty simple. There are just two horizontal lines and two vertical lines that divide the page up into three rows and three columns, which makes nine equals squares. In terms of placement, the general idea is that you should place your subject at either the left or the right third of the composition, or at one of the intersections of these lines. Now, in terms of proportion, the rule of thirds suggests that the ratio of figure to ground should be 13 to 23. Either one part figure and two parts ground, or the other way around. For landscapes and other scenes, the rule of thirds will suggest that you place the horizon line along either of the horizontal lines. You're going to give either 23 or one third of the image to sky, depending on where you put that line. Typically we place the horizon line along the lower third. Now this rule of thumb is great because of its simplicity, and it really is tried and true. A lot of experts say that the rule of thirds works, and I think we should believe them. When we don't have a strong sense of composition, we can trust that the Rule of Thirds works for most situations. That's not to say we shouldn't be thinking for ourselves here as well. Sometimes just centering our subject and making it larger in the frame is perfectly fine. Just ask Wes Anderson who's based his entire career out of doing this. Now let's look at harmonic armatures. A harmonic armature is a geometrical grid of lines. Not just in straight up and down and side to side directions, but also on diagonals. In this way, harmonic armatures give us a more flexible grid system. And this gives us more options for building structure into our compositions in more dynamic ways. A harmonic armature has the rule of thirds grid built into it, but it's like the rule of thirds on steroids because it just gives you so many more options with all those extra angles. Personally, I never heard of harmonic armatures until very recently. Actually, not until researching for this class. I know what the science is behind harmonic armatures, but it really seems to work well for me. I like that it gives me the three by three grid plus all these various interesting spaces and intersections to line things up a more in diagonals. I also find it really interesting to lay harmonic armature grids over existing artwork, like by other artists, to see how intentional they are about using such rules in their compositions. For example, when I've put it over the work of Miroslav Sasek or Paul Rand, I instantly found a direct relationship. Between this grid and their compositions, it makes me think that they must be very intentional about using this particular kind of grid. Now the question is, is that true? Are they really using harmonic armatures on purpose? Or is it a coincidence? Are harmonic armatures just so flexible and catch all that like a horoscope? They seem to apply no matter what the situation. Either way, I've started using these in my own work, just as an experiment, but also to help create a more complex and invisible structure in my compositions. Now there is the risk that you will over utilize this grid and your illustrations will be so heavily influenced by it that it will be very obvious. What should have been an invisible source of unity in your art could, in the words of designer Al Rlbert, end up being more like a street jacket. So the last source of structure that I'm going to talk about is what I call self structured composition. When structuring our compositions, we can create this sense of everything holding together artificially as we did with the grids. Or we can find something within the content that we're actually using in the illustration as the structure of the illustration. This is what I would call intrinsic structure or self structure, where little or no help is needed to really help the illustration hold together. So an example of what I'm talking about here is maybe an apartment building with many windows, where in each one we see a different scene. And we have this apartment building as the dominant object in the scene. So we just have this natural grid of windows that we can structure our illustration or story around. Another example of self structure is in a figurative illustration, where the figure just dominates the composition and therefore provides all the structure that we need. The illustration holds together just by the way the body or figure fills the space. An illustration can also be considered self structured if it's really simple, if there's just like one object and it's really large, or it's one dominant object and all the other ones kind of gravitate around it, almost like moons around a planet. This is an example of a more organic kind of self structure. An illustrated map is also a self structured composition because the roads or other geographical features at the bottom layer provide a structure for the illustrated icons and lettering and everything else that's on top. Even when laying out an illustration with lettering or type such as a book cover, it's not always necessary to impose a grid. It could be enough for the illustration itself to dominate the page and to just balance it out with a much smaller title and by line. So those are your three principles of structure. We have the rule of thirds, harmonic armatures, and then just self structured. So now that we've come to the end of this lesson, here's something that you can try yourself. Gather five to ten illustrations that you like from the Internet and analyze the structure of the composition next, using the rule of thirds, four harmonic armatures grids that I've provided as downloads. In the see how many of the illustrations conform to one of these grids. What did you find? Were most of the compositions aligned with either of these grids or were they more random? Have fun trying this. And again, if you want, you can share what you find here in this exercise on the class projects page. When you're ready, I'll see you in the final lesson. 8. Six Composition Types for Illustrators: As we get closer to the final project, I want to introduce to you six common composition types as you'll see in the project. These can be super helpful as starting points when trying to figure out our ideas and of course, our compositions. If you look up types of composition or compositional examples online, you'll find many examples of little thumbnail drawings with different shapes, symbols, and hypothetical scenes. Some of these are shaped circles or triangles, or their letter shape like S, curves or zigzags. You might also find little thumbnail drawings of little scenes such as boats in a harbor or a landscape with rolling hills. I think these are meant to give artists compositional starting points. But because there are so many of these and they're usually shown without any context, I've never found them very helpful for me. They seem to put the cart before the proverbial horse because they suggest a solution before we fully understood the problem that we're trying to solve with our illustrations. The risk is that we'll try to conform our ideas to one of these prefabricated examples rather than finding the best solution for our particular situation. Now that being said, the composition types we're going to go through in a moment are like these prefabricated examples. They do suggest a solution before we've understood the problem. But I think they're more useful because they're specific to illustration. And they're specific to illustrating ideas and stories in particular ways. They don't tell us exactly how our compositions should be arranged or even what our style should look like, but they give us a structure to work with. The closest comparison I can think of is in music, where we have well known patterns like two verses, then a chorus, then two more verses, and then repeat the chorus again, and maybe a bridge, and then back to the chorus a few times. That kind of thing. You can tell millions of unique stories in any number of music styles using the same basic structure. Another simpler example would be like the haiku or the limerick As poetry structures, they are well known structures that you can conform your words to. You can have all kinds of ideas and express your self or tell stories in these poems within the constraints that they give you. That's how the six composition types can help you come up with better ideas and compositions in your art. Now let's take a look at them. The first composition type is the single object. The single object is exactly what it sounds like. It's an illustration of a single object on the page. This is the most simple illustration since there's no deep concept and the compositional problem is very straightforward. There's only one thing in the overall composition being the only thing on the page. It's probably going to be centered and we're going to be focusing on the overall shape and details of the object itself. The challenge with the single object is to represent the object in a way that's both recognizable and interesting for this class. Part of the solution is to choose an object that can easily be represented in a flatter style. And also to choose the most recognizable or interesting angle or side. Something from one angle might not look as clear or recognizable as seen from another single object. Illustrations are often used as spot illustrations in editorial or publishing contexts. If an object has particular significance or meaning to a certain subculture, they can also be used as T shirt graphics or a motif on greeting cards or even tattoos. A single object can be more straightforward or it can be more expressive. It can be more proportional and literal, or it can be more stylized and minimal. Now let's look at the still life. A still life is a drawing, painting or photograph of an arrangement of inanimate objects in physical space as boring as a bowl of fruit or an arrangement of kitchen. Where might sound, people can't seem to get enough of still lives. For illustrators, the still life presents one possible way to tell a story. While we tend to think of still life paintings as studies or something an artist does for practice, a still life can contain a whole lot of information that will take on specific meanings depending on the context. It might even suggest something about the artists themselves as a indirect. Self portrait. Or it might suggest a desirable hearing or combination of related objects, such as foods that go well together. Now, challenges with creating still lives include what to include in the arrangement and how to arrange the objects that you're referencing in a pleasing way. Which objects will best tell the story you want to tell and what is the best way to represent them As a set In some kind of a space, a still life can be drawn from an actual physical arrangement of things. Like you can put a banana and an apple and some grapes in a bowl and start to draw or illustrate that. Or you can just illustrate a set of objects as though it were a still life from your imagination. For graphic illustrators, the challenge is going to be how to present or represent a still life without being overly dimensional. As with the simple object, a still life can be very straightforward or can be more expressive. It can present the objects more or less as they are, but with a bit of style. Or it can be a much more abstract study of color, shape, and space. Now let's look at the flat lay. A flat lay is an illustration of a group of objects in a carefully spaced flat arrangement. A flat lay is a lot like a still life, but instead of representing the arrangement in a more organic or overlapping way, the objects are represented in their entirety without any layering and often without respect to scale. For example, in a drawing of art supplies, a pencil may take up the entire height of the page. While a sketch book, which is in real life, larger than the pencil, might take up only one quarter, like a still life. A flat lay is a great way to tell a story about something in an indirect way. That's why I sometimes call flat lays object stories. They're also great for showing the idea of something in a thematic way. If the illustration is about girls night out, you can think about which objects are most emblematic of the idea, such as wine, Uber ride, and maybe karaoke. I don't know why I chose this as my example, since I've never been invited to a girls night out. Flat layers are a great option for simple kids books like alphabet books or posters, or even as the basis for an illustrative pattern for gift wrap or textiles. While usually flat lay is an arrangement of simple inanimate objects, it can also be an arrangement of characters, creatures, or even miniature scenes. The key thing is that all the objects in the flat lay together tell one story or suggest one theme. Flat layers can be very rigid and grid like with everything in perpendicular arrangement. Or they can float more freely as though they were suspended in jello. The next composition type will look at is the figure. The human figure is by far the most common subject in art and illustration, which makes sense because we are people and we like to draw people and we like to see people in drawings. When an illustration is primarily based on the human figure, we call it figurative. The key element in figurative illustration is, of course, the focus on a human, usually one human, either in full, from head to toe, or in part, perhaps from the chest up. Figurative illustration can be more directly about the person in the picture, such as with a portrait. Or the person can be there as a more symbolic, metaphorical device. The person might be very active in the scene or they might be at rest doing nothing but looking back at you. Figurative illustration can be simple and straightforward or can be expressive and highly stylized as a storytelling structure. A figure can be about a particular person, whether real or fictional. On the other hand, it can be more about what the person is doing or interacting with. In this case, the figure is just a holder or just a way to point your attention to something else in the picture. A figure can also be more integrated into the illustration, providing the entire structure and even becoming a grid on which other ideas are overlaid. The biggest challenge with figurative illustration, I think, is that many illustrators simply struggle with how they draw people. That's why when I started illustrating, I avoided figurative illustration at all costs. I simply didn't know how I drew people or I didn't have a consistent way of doing so. But at one point I had a breakthrough. I didn't really have to draw people proportionately. I realized this. Was my choice at the time. Even though my style was very graphic and stylized and unrealistic, whenever I tried to include people in my work, I unconsciously went back to realistic proportions. As soon as I started to play with the proportions of the figure and bend and stretch them, however I wanted, my work suddenly got a lot more figurative and it also got a lot more expressive. It was shortly after this time that I published odd bodies here on skill share, which today remains one of my most popular illustration classes. So the next composition type we're going to look at is the scene. This is another popular kind of illustration. It's an illustration of a place or a space. A scene can be outside or inside, and it can have people or characters in it, or none. A scene without characters or a central object would be a landscape or a streetscape, or maybe an interior if it's indoors. In this case, the scene is the subject. The challenge for illustrators working in a graphic style is how to represent a sense of space even while working flat. How do we deal with overlapping elements with a very limited color palette, or little or no perspective, or shading to work with? Now here we have to get out of our natural photographic mindset, rather than thinking in terms of camera angles, perspectives, and seeing things as either near or far from a camera. We want to think more about how to tell the story in a flat layout. How can we represent things in a way that maximizes the shape of the space or page that we're working in. Here's where we might have a fight with our temptation to compete with our cameras. How can we create a more graphic representation of this scene? The first question for a scene is, what story are you trying to tell? What is this illustration about? What is happening in the picture? Or what are you saying about the scene? What's the significance here? Now, as important as the story is to our scenes as graphic illustrators, it's not so much how interesting your subject is, but how you represent it. That's what's interesting about it. This is where our decisions about scale, proportion, our use of figure and ground, and how we cleverly work around stylistic constraints really start to shine. Okay, so the sixth type of composition is the montage. A montage is an assembly of various images, marks, symbols, and other elements that come together around a single idea or theme. In illustration, the montage is a very common approach, especially when it might be difficult to express an idea in just one symbol or scene. That's maybe more conventional. A montage is often specific enough to relate to an overall idea or theme without being so specific about the message. It's not to say that montages can't be deeply moving or meaningful, but because they're a bit more open to interpretation, it's harder to go wrong As a story telling structure. Montages are great for free association when you don't need the viewer to come to any particular conclusion, maybe it's just more about a vibe or a feeling. The challenge with montages is finding your limit. It's possible to add too many ideas or elements into the composition in this way. It's similar to the flat lay, where you want to choose just the right amount of symbols or objects to include to tell the story. When making a montage, I recommend that you add just the minimum possible separate elements needed to tell your story and focus on how to compose them in an unexpected way. Maybe certain objects are unusually large or everything interlocks like pieces of a puzzle. In my earlier illustration work, a lot of my concepts took a montage approach. This was partly because it was an easier way to represent a theme, but it was also because my particular style was just better at telling stories in this way rather than directly including things like the human figure. There really are many different ways you could go about a montage, as long as you stick with the formula of combining multiple symbols or elements in a single composition around a common idea or theme. Montages can be full bleed, extending past some or all of the edges of your page. Or they can be more of a cluster of elements floating in space of the page itself or against a solid background. Now, the ladder is far more common, and for this class, I would recommend it as your starting point. Okay, here's one more thing for you to try before we move on to the project. See if you can find examples of illustrations for each of the six composition types. Look specifically for examples that are more graphic and flat. This exercise will, of course, help you see how these six composition types truly are everywhere around if you look. And they'll also give you some inspiration for the final project. As always, once you're done trying this, share what you find on the class projects page and then I'll see you in the project. 9. Project Intro and Setup: At this point, we've gone through all the basics of composition and now it's time to put it all into action. In the class project today, you'll get to create a set of six illustrated postage stamps based on the country and theme of your choice. Not only are a stamps super fun to illustrate, they're also a really great way to practice composition. Because they're so small, they'll help us stay focused on the overall composition rather than getting too bogged down in tiny details. Another great thing about stamps is that they often come in sets. So we're going to get a chance to create a set of six different illustrations, each one based on the six composition types we learned in the previous lesson. This is a great way to see how the different principles of composition work in a variety of situations. As you'll see in my demo, what seems to work in one type of composition, me not in another. Just as important. You'll see how each of the different composition types allows you to tell a story in a different way. In my demo, I was able to use each type of composition to inspire a different idea for each of my illustrations. Now, fair warning, we do have a lot to go through in the next few videos, but I'll do my best to guide you through each step of the process. So the first thing we need to do is create our project plan. This is where we declare our country and theme, and then we brainstorm ideas for our six stamps. Let's make our plan right now, and then later we'll look more into the actual illustration process. To make your project plan, you just need a piece of paper or the digital equivalent. I made mine in procreate with a basic pencil brush at the top of the page. Write my project plan Next, write down your country. Of course, I chose the country. I live in Canada. I recommend choosing your own country because it's more personal that way. But you can go with any country you'd like next. Choose a theme. It could be a hobby or a favorite subject, or a holiday like Christmas or Halloween. I originally wanted to choose space as my theme, but since it was November when I made this class, I started thinking about winter. I thought it would be fun to try to make a series of stamps based on my memories of being a kid in the winter, growing up in a small town in the 1980s. So my theme is winter in my childhood. Now, just because it's a stamp for an entire country, it's fun to think about how I could make these stamps really personal and autobiographical. I already know tons about my own life and that will make coming up with my ideas later on a lot easier. Next, write down the six composition types down the single object, the still life, the flat lay, the figure, the scene, and the montage. Leave some space between them so you have room to write down some brainstorming notes between them. For each of these composition types, you can begin to think about what you'd like to illustrate. When I did this step, I just made a new layer and went over in a new color in procreate and started brainstorming right there in the project plan. As you can see, I wrote out my brainstorm right here in my project plan in blue. Once I wrote down all my ideas for the six different composition types, which will end up being my six different stamp illustrations, I went over them to make my final selections. I circled what stood out to me for each one. Of course, we'll all want to know what size and aspect ratio we're working in. If you can fit it on your page right in the dimensions you'd like to work in. Once you complete your plan, you can save that as a Jpeg and share it to the class projects page. I'm just going to send this J peg to my Mac and then post it on the Skill Share Projects page through my desktop browser. 10. Project Process (Overview): Now that you've created your project plan, it's time to start the illustration process. In this lesson, I'll share with you the five steps I take every time I make an illustration. This is a high level look at how I went through each stage. I'll speak more to my actual compositional decisions for each composition, type, or stamp in separate videos as we go, let's just quickly go through these steps to start and then we'll go through each one in more detail. Next, in step one, we gather reference images based on our chosen country and theme. In step two, we start mode or observation mode drawings. This is where we just draw from our references. Which is a way of downloading all this visual information to our memory so that we can draw more freely from imagination. Later on in step three, we begin to come up with ideas in what I call high mode or ideational sketches. In this step, we're working a bit faster and rougher. We're just coming up with as many ideas as we can without being too critical. In step four, we select and refine 12, maybe three of our favorite rough sketches. This is where we work out our compositions in more detail with more of a critical eye. Finally, in step five, this is where you build up your final illustration in your own illustration style using your favorite apps tools and techniques. If you're still working out what your style is and which tools you use, you're very welcome to follow along with me in the Photoshop tutorial video. In this class, I'll give you a quick demo to show you how I build my illustrations using Photoshop, including which brushes and colors I use. In the mock up tutorial video, I'll show you how to use the stamp mock up files that are included in this class for you to use. If you'd like. Remember that the point of this project isn't not to be perfect but to practice what you learned in the class. If you're struggling through the project, it means you're actually asking questions and trying, which means you're learning something new. All right, let's look into the first step of the illustration process in more detail. The first step is to gather reference images related to your theme. With six illustrations to find references for, There may be a lot of images to keep track of. So for each stamp, I created a folder named for each composition type. Then I went looking for images relating to my chosen subject matter for each one. Now I'm looking for images that look like how my final illustrations will be composed, if that makes sense. I'm looking just for images that will help me sketch them out later and remember certain details that will give them their character. For almost all of the illustrations, I'm looking for images that show the most simple, recognizable view of my subject. Because that's how I'll probably want to draw it in my style. Basically, whatever is going to look good in a flat graphic style, it's helpful if I can find reference images that are close to this as much as possible. Now, we're not copying the photos, but if we're using the information from the photos, it's good to have as much of a complete set of information as possible. But at the same time, I'm also grabbing some images that show other angles as well. I can figure out how to flatten things up in my own style later. That's almost the whole point of this project. Often I just need images that give me ideas for certain details like the patterns or designs on a 1980s one piece snow suit or what did a hockey stick look like back then? I don't need these in any particular angle to know what those look like. I'd say spend maybe 30 to 60 minutes looking for reference images. Maybe stop at a maximum of 25 images per illustration. You might finish a step way quicker or much more slowly than 25 minutes. It really depends on what you're looking for and how carried away you want to get with this step. Really, there's no rush. Enjoy the hunt. And when you're ready, come back to this video. The next step is to draw from our reference images. You can do this step with an actual paper and pencil, or you can use a digital sketching equivalent. I always use procreate with a six pencil brush for my drawings and sketches. If you've taken my other classes, you'll know that we're not sketching code ideas here, but just spending some time drawing what we see from observation. That's why I call these mode or observation mode drawings. This is a nice and easy step, especially if you're used to drawing anyway, because It can feel really productive. And you get to draw, but you're not really working your creative muscles too hard yet. It's a nice, easy transition as we get closer to actually coming up with our ideas for our compositions later on. If you're not confident about your drawing abilities, don't worry about trying to draw well here. The point of this step is simply to download that visual information to your memory that you can sketch from later without heating references. As long as you're looking closer at the details of your subject matter while you're drawing them here, That's all that matters for this step. I filled one page and procreate for each of the six folders of reference images, or one page for each of my six composition types. Now one of the nice things about Omo drawing is that as you draw in cruise control here, you actually find some ideas for the final illustration start to come up. For example, when I was sketching my figure reference images, I started to see how I might be able to use the figure and the snow angel shape in an interesting way. I also found myself lingering on certain details that I was interested in, like the badging for the GT snow racer, which as a little boy I would have been super into. And to be honest, as a grown man, I still am. The details you tend to get carried away with here could be clues to what interests you the most and what you may want to include later in your final concept. Somehow allow yourself to really sink into this stage. I didn't think about it, but I actually spent 2.5 hours just drawing from my references here. When you're done, I recommend taking a bit of a break so that you can come into the next stage with a fresh mind. As you wrap up this step, please remember to share your O mode drawings on the class projects page. Okay, now it's time to get out of crews control and start actually coming up with ideas. This is going to be a more challenging stage for a lot of us because this is where we need to start thinking about how to tell the story or convey the idea that we want in each composition. This is an iterative process, meaning that we need to sketch out variations for each composition a number of times as we work out our ideas and our compositions. Now this is the rough sketches stage, meaning you can be a bit more free than will be in the next step. You don't need to think too hard about composition if it doesn't come naturally Yet, think more in terms of what to include in the image that can best tell your story. For example, with a single object that's really about how to represent your object in the clearest and most interesting way. Iterating will help you find what you're looking for here. To help you with this stage, I've included a sketch template file that you can load into Photoshop or procreate, or even print out if you'd like. Of course, these are in the one by 1.5 aspect ratio that I'm working in myself, but you can easily see how this could work in any other size or format. To start, I opened the sketch template in procreate, and then for each illustration or stamp, I created a new layer. I labeled it in the top left corner, and then I started to iterate. I always start off a bit weak and hesitant, but I warm up after a few iterations In the template, I've included thumbnails from both tall and wide orientations, so I can easily sketch out ideas in both ways, in both orientations, to give myself different options for each illustration. One of the fundamental questions we ask about a composition is, how do I know what to include in the image? Now I'll speak more to how I thought about the composition for each stamp in the next few videos. But because I did a lot of preparation in the planning and mode stage, I already knew what subject matter I was going to include in each stamp illustration. I didn't have to ask how do I know what to include here for any of these. Because that was already determined for me by the earlier steps in the process. Mostly what I'm doing here is looking for how to arrange these different objects, figures, and symbols in ways that best tell the story that I want. I also just want to point out here how much working from a preset composition type almost makes decisions about the composition for me, I don't have to think about them at all. For instance, I know that for the single object that I just need to fill in the art area of the stamp with the GT snow racer as much as I can. The narrow format of my particular stamp, that one by 1.5 aspect ratio, further gives me a constraint to work with. I need to show the object in a way that fills this narrow area as much as possible. And it just so happens that the GT viewed from above works perfectly. Of course, as we progress through the different illustrations in the project, the compositions do get more challenging. But each of the six composition types has some clues about the final arrangement of things built right into them. Now this stage can take some time as well. I spent another 2.5 hours working on the entire set of Iterations? Well, that seems like a long time to spend just on rough sketches. Keep in mind that we're doing six illustrations here That only averages out to about 30 minutes per illustrated stamp, which in my experience, is lightning fast. Again, as you wrap up this stage, please remember to share your rough sketches on the class projects page. Now that we've gone through the rough sketches, it's time to find our best ideas and refine them to make them even better. I recommend taking a bit of a break between the last stage and this one. I find that I always see my rough sketches in a new light. If I come back to them later in the day or even the next day, I see things more objectively and I even appreciate many of the ideas more the second day or later on than I did while I was drawing them here. I was just judging them based on my gut feeling. Which sketches did I just like without thinking about it too much. Like when I looked at these sketches, which ones really caught my eye. But at this point I was also asking which ones tell the story in the best possible way. Which ones filled the space well, or would work well in the final stamp layout, where we have to consider the country name and the stamp value, and very importantly, which ones that I think would work well in my flatter graphic illustration style, as we'll see in the final for the still life for example, I chose a composition I liked. But it was more difficult to work out in a flat graphic style because it had a lot of overlapping and even some dimensionality in the boots themselves. I spent longer trying to work it out. And ultimately, I don't think I'm as comfortable or as happy about how I ended up with this one. You know, if I were to do it again, I'd choose one of my sketches that had less overlapping of all the different boots, or I would just resketch the whole thing altogether. Keeping in mind that my style just works better when things aren't overlapping as much. But in terms of learning about composition, this experience of mine speaks to the fact that a conventional still life, where we think of all the objects together in one physical place and being in proportion to one another isn't necessarily the right goal for a flat style, if you're working in one like I am. Of course, for this project I wanted to just keep moving. So once I made my selections, I turned to a more refined style of sketching. I created a larger high resolution file, placed my rough sketch in there, and I started to refine over it with more clean lines. At this stage, I'm not trying to be perfect, but I'm definitely trying to push myself in that direction. I use the rough sketch as a guide, but now I can start to think more in terms of the final layout. How can I make the composition fit the final proportions of the stamp as nicely as possible? And how can I make it work in with the typographic elements that have to go in there as well? This is where I started to use my grids. I use the harmonic armature to help me place the composition around evenly. I tend to see things in a crooked way. And it's not until I turn on my grids that I can see how wonky my natural perspective is. But even if my sight was perfect, I also like to use the grid to align things more intentionally. That's what we talked about in the principles of structure lesson. As you can see my rous, where I started making my selections. I started identifying ways in which my compositions could be improved. In this more refined stage, I was able to actually make those improvements. I started just refining one set of sketches at a time. I would refine just one of the single object roughs, and then just one from the still life roughs and so on. By the time I had these six refined sketches, I was actually satisfied enough to move into the final illustrations if I really feel the urge later on. Maybe I'll go back and try refining a few of the others some other time. Again, as you wrap up this stage, please remember to share your refined sketches on the class projects page. This is the last step and possibly the most difficult. This is where we make it all come together in the final illustration. So most of the composition should be worked out by this time. In the refined sketches, we know what we want to include in each illustration and we should have a strong sense of where things are going to go by this point. It's just a matter of whether everything is actually going to work out as we envisioned. Once we really start to create this final illustration, there is a strong relationship between how we sketch and how we illustrate in our final style. If we know our style well enough, the transition from sketch to final should be relatively painless if you're not quite there yet with your style or techniques yet, knowing this fact should at least help you by explaining why this stage might not be so easy for you. In terms of composition, we'll mostly be working out our colors, textures, matters of shading and contrast. And of course, the particular details that we might be prone to fuss over, like noses, eyes, and lettering styles. You'll see that even for me, the transition from sketch to final isn't so painless. Like I said, I was getting hung up on the boots composition because I was trying to show all those things, all the boots in a very layered and for me, very three dimensional way. I ended up resolving it somewhat by flattening the boots and simplifying some of the details. But I don't see the clarity I'd ultimately aim for in what should be a simple composition. If I were to redo this one, I'd redo it as a much more flat straight on arrangement. The other piece I spent a lot of time with was the scene overall. I'm happy with the concept, but I have mixed feelings about where I ended up with the figure. I think it's mostly in the gesture and I'd like to resolve this more as well. But of course, this is just a detail, We have to remember that for this class, our focus is more on composition than on getting those smaller details in the composition right as a whole. I'm really happy with how this one turned out. All along the way I was using my harmonic armature grid to help give each illustration more structure and alignment, and to help me divide the page up into more pleasing proportions according to the rule of thirds. Another element that will all be focused on here is the lettering for our country, and the value, and maybe even a little caption for each stamp. You can choose a font that works well for you or even try your hand at some custom lettering for mine. I just used a quickly made font version of my own hand lettering. Finally, as a quick but very satisfying step, I placed each final piece into a stamp mockup file, which adds the perforated borders and adds a bit of papery texture to the artwork. I've included the mockup files in Photoshop and procreate formats as free downloads. In the project resources page, you can learn how to place your artwork in the mockup file and make your own customizations in the mockup file. Tutorial in this class. Again, please remember to share your final stamp illustrations on the class projects page as well as on social media using the hashtag composition for illustrators, I'm super excited to see what you make. 11. Photoshop Tutorial: This is a quick tutorial for illustrating in Photoshop with the same brushes and colors that I'll be using for the project demo. If you're curious about how I'm building up my artwork in terms of tools and techniques, this video will pretty much explain the basics. I encourage you to create your illustrations in your own way using your own tools, techniques, and style. But at the same time, I don't want any lack of experience to hinder you from just enjoying the project. Please feel free to use this tutorial and download my brushes and color palette to use in your own project. Now, before we begin to use Photoshop brushes, you're going to need a graphics tablet of some kind. I use my ipad and Apple pencil as a graphics tablet for my Mac. I do this using Astropad Studio. I've left a link in the project description so you can learn more about how to do this. Other than that, you're going to need to download the final art template Photoshop file from the class project page. As well as the brushes and palette files, which I've also provided. I have the brushes, palette, and final art template files here loaded up in my finder. Let's just start by opening the final art template. Once you've opened your file, you can also install the brushes and swatches in the same way. Just open these files using Photoshop and they should load automatically in to your Photoshop. The brushes are going to show up in your brushes panel. You should see a little group of brushes called composition class brushes. And likewise, the swatches will show up in your swatches panel as a little group of colors here called composition class palette. If you don't see either of the brushes or swatches panels, just go to window and make sure that brushes is check marked and swatches is checkmarked. And you should see them probably somewhere on the right side of your screen. If you're following along with me and making your stamps in the same one by 1.5 aspect ratio, use the final art template file as provided. The stamps I'm designing are meant to be one by 1.5 " overall, including the perforated edges and white border. That means the art area itself will be slightly smaller and slightly different in proportion. All you need to know is that if you use my final art template, everything's going to work out perfect. Just opening my image size properties here for a second. In Photoshop, you can see that the dimensions are just under an inch wide in this case, and a little 1.5 " tall. But you will notice though is that the resolution is super high, 2,400 pixels per inch. I've super sized the image here so that it will look good at size is larger than just one by 1.5 ", which is pretty tiny. In order for these illustrations to look good when sharing on the project page or on social media, the resolution needs to be higher. Now, just one more technical note. If you're using the provided sketch template for the refined sketches, this final art file is double the size again, As long as you just use this file as provided, it will fit perfectly in the mock up file. And of course, I have a tutorial for the mock up file in the next video. Now I'd like to take you on a little tour of this file. Let's take a look at the layers in the layers panel. Here we have three layer groups. These are little folders that have layers within them. First we have the art layer group, this is where you'll build up your illustration. Next we have the grids layer group. We're going to go over these in just a moment. But third here we have the sketch layer group. This is where you're going to place your sketch first. Let's just take a look at the grids layer group here. Here I've included two grids, the harmonic armature and the rule of thirds grids. We went over these in the structural principles lesson, but I've provided them here just for your convenience. I've also included a safe area, this is an even margin all around the file just to make sure that certain elements stay a safe distance from the edges, Particularly your country name and stamp value or any other typographic elements that you're going to want to place near the edge, but not all the way to the very edge. Now you can show or hide any of these grids just by clicking the little icon in the left column here in the layers panel. One more thing about the grids here is that I've set the opacity to around 30% That means they're visible, but not too distracting as you're building up your artwork. If you want to make changes to the opacity here, just click the little lock here to unlock the layer group. And then you can change the opacity to make them more visible. Or make them less visible as you want. I like to have the set to around 30% depending on what I'm doing in the file. I like to just make sure that's locked so I don't accidentally move it while I'm making the art. Now to start actually illustrating, we'll be placing one of the refined sketches that we made into this file. To do this, you can just drag your sketch file from the finder into the file or you can use file place linked and do it that way. Now when I placed the sketch in my file, it went right on top of all the layers. You just want to make sure that you put your sketch in the sketch layer group. If the sketch is in the wrong orientation as it is here, you can just rotate it 90 degrees to match and then scale it to the right size as needed. So I'm going to use the transform tool by hitting command and then I place my cursor just at one of the corners. And holding shift I will be able to rotate it at even increments until it's at 90 degrees, one way or the other. I'll also scale it from the center so that it matches the size of the file. I'm holding shift and option to make sure that it's scaling proportionately. And by holding the option specifically, that means I'm scaling it from the center. Once you have it in place, you can just double click it to commit that change. Now you'll notice that the sketch is fainter because the layer group is set to 20% opacity. Here again, this is, so the sketch is visible but not too distracting. While you're building up the illustration over top, you can adjust the opacity of the layer group as you want. You can make it super intense or you can make it super faint. Whatever you need to do. I like to keep it at around 20% now with just one more note before we move on. You can see that my artwork is the wrong way around. Everything needs to be shifted counter clockwise by 90 degrees. All you need to do is go to image and image rotation and rotate it in whichever direction you need to get it sitting the right way. Maybe this is a good time to save our file so we don't overwrite the template. So I'm just going to save As and call it still life, final art. In my project, I'm using just four brushes. This helps me keep things simple and brings an overall stylistic consistency to the illustrations. Of course, this increases the overall unity in the work. Now I've included the brushes that I'm using in this class. For your convenience, if you installed the brushes already, you'll see a little folder of brushes here called composition class brushes. Three of these are actually provided for free to creative Cloud users. So if you're using Photoshop CC, you'll have access to these from Adobe's website. The only exception here is the heavy grain brush. This one is by Retro Supply company. This is from their Woodland Wonderland brush set. They graciously, let me include this for you for this class. Please consider purchasing the entire Woodland Wonderland brush set using the link provided in the project page in this class. So now I'm going to show you how I use each brush to build up my final illustrations. So let's start with brush beauty. We want to make sure that we're in the art layer group and I've created a layer that you can start on that says create stamp art here. Let's start with that. Maybe before we get going, I'll fill this in just with a solid color and then start illustrating my elements over top of that. I'm going to choose this pink like that. Just fill that in using the fill tool. As you can see, even though I filled it in with a whole solid color, I can still see my sketch and those grids just enough without them being distracted with brush beauty selected. I want to set this to a size of around 100 pixels. I'm going to use this as a way of defining my larger shapes in the illustration here, I want to choose a different color. I'll go with yellow. I'll just start by creating an outline around one of my larger shapes. Once I've created that shape and I've closed it, I can hit G on my keyboard to activate a bucket fill tool, and I'm just going to fill in this shape. Now if you zoom in real close, you'll see that there is a bit of a hair line between the area that you filled in and the outline. All you have to do to get rid of this is fill it in again, and that hair line should disappear. Now every time you create a new shape or a new detail, create a new layer. This way everything stays editable later on. As you can see, I didn't do that when I just made this shape. I made it right on the background and I don't want that to happen. So I'm just going to undo and do that the right way. Now I'm going to hit new layer and draw that shape on its own layer. Just the outline first, and then fill it in once. Fill it in twice, and then it's looking good. Now let's create a new layer and create one of these boots. I'm going to make this boot in this blue color. Close up the shape hit for Phil. Fill it in once. And to get rid of that hair line, I will fill it in once more to add smaller details, you can use the same brush just at a smaller size here. Maybe I'll make the brush size 50 pixels to add some of the details over the boot here. Now to create a consistent edge quality in all the shapes and details, including these white lines that I just made. You can see that right now the edges are blurry and aliast compared to the boot shape. Just to make these all consistent, I'm going to hit on my keyboard for the fill tool and just tap these once to fill them in, and it automatically roughens up that edge and it's consistent with the rest of the illustration. Every time I edit a shape or add a new one to restore this consistent edge, I always fill over with the bucket tool. Again, this takes away that blurry digital looking edge. Another use for the brush beauty before we move on is lettering. I'll just create a new layer here for a moment just for a quick demo And I'll do some lettering, maybe make this slightly larger. I have my grid turned on so that I can make my letters more or less even to get a nice edge on these letters so they don't look so obviously drawn in with a brush. I use my eraser tool and tidy up those ends like this. Just like other details, I can use the fill tool, tap it on each separate element there, and then they have this consistent rougher look that I'm going for. In this particular style, you can go over and make a little adjustment here and there as you need. But if you zoom out and even scale down the type a little bit, you'll find that everything looks pretty good. That's another little secret tip, if you're making type or hand lettering, make it bigger than you need it and then shrink it down and place it where you need it. That way the lettering will just have a slightly more refined look to it than if you just. Drew it in at the exact size that you need it. Now let's look at the heavy grain brush. I'm going to create a new layer here for this one. I really want this to be large. Maybe 400 or 500 pixels. So it's nice and chunky. If it's too small, it's going to just feel like a brush more than a texture. And I really use this heavy grain brush as a texture, not really a paint brush. Let's select a darker color here from the class palette. And I want to create some shading over this boot. In this sense, I want to create a bit of a shading texture over this boot. In this scenario, I want the sheeting to clip just to the boot or the object below, and not to go outside the edges like I have here. To make sure that happens, I'm going to bring this texture layer that I just made, bring it right above the boot. Right above the boot. And then in the layers panel, I right click. And there should be an option to create a clipping mask. As long as that layer is directly above the object that I want to clip it, I will get this. What you see happening here, as you can see the white detail, the boot is also going over the edge. So I'll just actually select that layer because it's directly above another layer that's clipped to that object. If I go create clipping mask, it will join in the clipping mask. Fun for that group. This heavy green brush is great for shading and texture, but it's also good for adding glowing effects as I did with the head light beam and the halo of the moon in my montage illustration. Now I'm just going to draw one of these socks here to get us ready for the rough rowdy brush demo. In some cases in my project, I wanted to create more wild texture, something that's different from the heavy grain. For this, I used a brush called Rough Route, which almost looks like it's a smudgy ink with some wood green in it. I'll show you what I mean. So I'm just going to select my rough rudy brush and I'm going to make that size, pretty big 400 pixels to start and making sure that I'm working in a darker color. For this example, I'll create a new layer. I'll just show you what this brush looks like. It's a very smudgy, distressed looking texture that it creates. To use this one, I use it more like a texture than a brush similar to how I use the heavy grain, but in an even less controlled way. What I do is I make it really large. As I did, I made this one like 450 pixels. Then I make a few samples to work with. I'm just going to make that one sample there on a separate layer. I'll create one more sample somewhere else so that the texture that it creates is different. I make it a little bit lighter, so it's not as intense and it's more subtle, something like that. With this one, I might even erase the edges a bit just to give them a bit more of an edge, a clean edge. Then what I can do with these is just apply them as a clipping mask on an object below. I'll just bring the layer that I'm working with here and apply it as a clipping mask to the sock that I made. The effect that I'm going for here is like a dirty sock. It's not really meant to imply shading or roundedness of the sock more just like it's dirty. I'll do the same with this texture here. I'll apply it as a clipping mask over this sock. This is pretty intense. I might want to try slightly lighter and play around with it a bit until I get the effect that I want. But that's how I was using this brush in the class project. If you want to see exactly how I use this in the project, I used it in my scene illustration where I have that driveway that's being shoveled. By copying and pasting this texture in slightly different angles and scales, I was able to suggest the way snow looks on a driveway when it's been scraped off with a shovel, where you see remnants of the white snow on the dark asphalt. Now let's look at the rough eraser, which is just one of Kyle Webster's inkors that you can download from Adobe's website. I just renamed it to Rough Eraser. I use it as an eraser brush to get a rougher edge than what you can get with one of the default brushes that come with Photoshop. Those ones tend to look a lot more digital, and I'll just show you what I mean real quick. Photoshop will give you these general brushes as erasers. They're soft round and hard round and they just look really clean and digital, which I don't like in my more messy style here. To use the referasersan eraser I hit to activate the eraser tool, I'll just select referaser from my brushes panel. I'll make sure that that's a reasonable size, maybe 20 pixels, and start erasing wherever I need to. Let's just say I want to change the boot a little bit. I'll just select the boot layer there and with my eraser tool activated, I can just start erasing, maybe cleaning up some of the edges there or maybe if I wanted to create a different shape at the top. My eraser allows me to do that because it's a bit rougher, it's not so clean and inconsistent looking. Now just a tip here, if you erase your shape here, anywhere on the shape, but you want to bring back that consistent edge quality. You can just go to the fill tool and make sure that the color of your object is the same from your palette. And then just tap that fill tool and then that whole edge is brought back again. This technique that I use right fill in again to get that edge is very specific to using these brushes. This may not apply to every situation. You may not always want such a rough edge like that in every case. That pretty much wraps up the Photoshop tutorial. This is just an overview of my brushes and techniques that I'm using in this class. These are all the brushes and techniques that I use, and I just use them very consistently. And you can really get a lot from a little in this way. Again, if you haven't already, be sure to save as a new file and name it appropriately when you're done. Once you've completed your illustration and you're ready to share on the class page or social media, be sure to hide the grid layer as well as the sketches layer. And then you can save it out as a Jpeg for sharing. 12. Stamp Mockup Tutorial: Part of the fun of this project is seeing your stamp in a more realistic way. For this reason, I provided a mock up file. I have one for Photoshop and one for procreate. They work a little bit different in each of those programs, so I had to create two different types of mock ups. Let's start with the one photo. You can download the file from the class projects page, and then you can just open it up in Photoshop. And once you have it loaded, you're going to see something like this. Now in order to use this mockup file, you're going to have to work in the same dimensions or aspect ratio that I used in the class demo. And that I provide in the final art templates For more information on that, you can use the Photoshop tutorial in this class. The different parts of the mock up file are the background that surrounds the stamp, and then we have this perforated border. And then of course, the area where you place your illustration, it's pretty simple. There's a bunch of different layers here that you can see in the Lys panel. But really all you need to do is go to this layer called Place Art in here. It's a smart object, meaning you can click on it and it will open a separate file here. And this is where you want to place your existing illustration. You can do that just by grabbing your artwork file and dragging it into the canvas like this. Or you can go to file Place Linked and find it in your finder or file system. That way once you get it in there, you might find that it is in the wrong orientation. All you need to do is rotate it 90 degrees. I'm going to do that just by holding shift. Once I loaded it, it was already in rotate mode. You can see that these little corners are a little squares. And that just means I can transform it before committing it into the file. So I'm just going to hold down shift so that I can rotate it at these even increments. And then I'm just going to scale it up until it is exactly the same size as this canvas here. Now in order to scale it from the center, I'm holding down option and shift at the same time depending on your settings in Photoshop, you may or may not have to hold shift, and once you have it at the exact right size, you can just double click it. And there you go. All you have to do now is just save. I'm going to hit command S to save and then close this file. As you can see, my artwork is here in the mock up. If you find your stamps in the wrong orientation, don't worry about it. All you have to do is go to image rotation and rotate at 90 degrees clockwise or counter clockwise as needed. There we go. Now before we get too far ahead, let's just save this as a new file because we don't want to overwrite our mockup file because we want to keep that blank for future illustrations. I'm just going to save it as figure mock up because this is my figure illustration. And then I'm going to hit Save. Now if you want to change the background color, all you have to do is select that background color layer in the layers panel. Then you can tap any color in your swatches panel if you like to change the color that way. I like this darker blue color. Although I might make it just a little bit more subdued so that the stamp can pop forward a little better. And I'm going to hit, okay. Another way you can change the color is just double clicking on that background color layer. And you can use the color picker to change the color from there. I'm just going to save the file again. And of course if you want to share this on Instagram or on the class projects page, you're going to need to save it as a Jpeg or PNG. Just be sure to save As and then select Jpeg or PNG and save your mockup file. In that way, for the procreate mock up, just download the file from the class projects page and open in procreate. Once you have it in procreate, you can add your own art to the appropriate layer. Just going to the layers panel here in procreate, that layer is down at the bottom. It says, replace this layer with your art. In procreate, there are no smart objects you just cut and paste your artwork into here or place it from a file if you've saved it in that way. I'm going to go to the little wrench here and add a photo. And I have my stamp artwork here in my photos. And I'm just going to rotate that while it's in this transform mode with the marquee border here. Just rotate 45 degrees and it will perfectly center and rotate it into the mock up like that. When you're done you can just tap that arrow at the top right menu there, and your stamp mock up is in there. If the entire stamp is in the wrong orientation, you just rotate using your two fingers like that and it should snap to a 90 degree increment like that. That's it, you're done. Now again, looking up close, you can see that nice papery texture that all happens automatically as long as you place your file under this stamp layer group here. If you prefer not to have that print papery texture, you can actually just hide that or disable it in the layers panel. Finally, if you want to change your background color, I don't want it to be this dull gray. I'm going to select the background color layer and then I'm going to choose a color using the color picker here. Maybe a similar blue that I used in the Photoshop mock up tutorial. And then of course I'm just going to tap this disc at the top right corner and drag it until fills that entire border area a new color. And there you have it. Now keep in mind the artwork that you place here has to extend to the perfect edge of the art area here. The way this file works and procreate is that it's basically like a frame or a window that your illustration file shows through. You just want to make sure that your artwork fits exactly in that area so that there's no gaps in the edges. You also want to make sure that you're not over cropping so that things are getting lost at those edges. And that's it, that's how you create your mock up in Procreate and Photoshop. 13. DEMO: The Single Object: For the next six videos, I'll go over how I worked out my compositions for each of the six stamp illustrations. We've already gone over all the steps of the illustration process, including the more preliminary steps of gathering reference images and drawing in mode. Now we're going to take a look at my compositional decisions, both in the rough sketches and the refined sketches. And of course, also in the final illustration stages. We'll start here with the single object in the rough sketches stage. This is where I start to come up with ideas. Here I've created a page of thumbnails in the aspect ratio that I plan on making my final stamps in. In this case, it's about one unit in one dimension and 1.5 units in. The other. Half of my thumbnails here are in vertical format and the other half are in horizontal format. And this will give me a chance to consider both of these layouts as an option for each illustration. I provided the same thumbnail template I'm using here as a download in the class projects page. For the single object, the task was pretty straightforward, fit the GT snow racer into the layout. When I sit down to start ideating, my first few iterations are usually just warm up. So there's not a lot of creativity happening in the first couple of sketches here. But then as I get going, you can see that I'm starting to work out the proportions of the parts of the sled. There's the seat, the skies, the steering wheel, and the frame. I'm also thinking about the inner details, like the pattern of the lines on the seat by the second row of my thumbnails. I'm being a bit more creative, seeing if I can make variations in the angle that I'm drawing it in or the point in view of the object in the middle left sketch. I started to think about the placement of the typographic elements as well. And this, of course, includes the country name and stamp value. Because of how things were fitting, I had the idea of pointing one front sky to one corner, which makes a more dynamic composition, There's more movement in it. And the front sky points your eye to the top right corner in an interesting way. In the next sketch over, I started to play with adding some badging or logos from the snow racer which are fun to illustrate and add a bit of extra nostalgia for me. I'm also playing with showing some perspective. Even though I'm working in a flat style, it's still an interesting challenge to see how far I can push it by suggesting some depth in this way. You can see me just trying a few other things, some that don't work and some that do. The horizontal layout got me thinking more about a side view rather than a bird's eye view from the top. I also started playing with adding a tow rope to the piece to give it more of a story. Now in this rough sketches stage, I try to just iterate through ideas more quickly and less critically. The reason thumbnails are so small is that you don't want to spend too much time with them. Think about the general composition here and not get too caught up in the details. You can also permit yourself to have bad ideas that go absolutely nowhere here. Nothing is precious At this stage, we'll get more analytical and critical. In the next step in this project, I ended up just filling one page of thumbnails for each illustration, and then I moved on to the next. After I was done all my rough sketches for the entire set, I went back and reviewed them, looking for about three of my best ideas to take into a more refined sketch. In procreate, I just added a red dot to my selections for my single object illustrations. I like three of my vertical sketches and one of my horizontal ones. That was the last one there in the bottom right. Now, my decisions here were based on three main questions or criteria. First, what did I just like in a gut feeling way? Second, what filled the space? Well, third, what do I think told an interesting story or made for an interesting or unexpected composition? This is, at a high level what I'm looking for in all of these rough sketches. As I went through these, I realized that I forgot to include a little detail on the GT, which is this little foot break. This is like a little spring loaded scraper that you push down with your foot to slow yourself down on the hills. For me, I think this is a pretty key detail to this product, to this sled. Now, once I made my selections, I brought it into the refined stage. In the refined stage, I figured out my overall concept and now it's time to work out the details. Here, I dropped my rough sketch into a larger canvas and procreate where I could do just that. It's at this point that I can start thinking more precisely about the layout, including having my harmonic armature grid visible. I've provided the same refined sketch template that I'm using here as a download in the class projects page. It includes the two grids, the harmonic armature and the rule of thirds, as well as a safe area which gives you an even margin all around the edge so you don't place your type elements or other details too close to the edges for the single object. I ended up going with the vertical orientation, and I really like the one with the ski, turned to just one side. It was a perfect balance between a very straight laced composition. And a bit of quirk to me, the tilted ski makes me smirk a little bit and in fact, if this GT could smirk, this is probably what it would look like. I also liked how the ski really gave you the sense of the fact that you could steer this thing with an actual steering wheel. This is a pretty important detail for a six year old boy trying to dominate the school hill. I'm not trying to pay too much attention to the literal proportions of the sled, but I do want to make sure the skies all relate in terms of width and the round shape of the ends of the skies. I'm also thinking about the proportions of the overall object relative to the overall image. I want to fill the space evenly, but I also want to leave enough breathing room in the space around it. I didn't measure the figure to ground ratio here, but the volume of space that the overall object takes, including the spaces within it, is around two thirds of the available space. My object is pretty symmetrical on its own, so it seems very obvious to me to just place it centered and lean into this. So I'm making sure that the two side skis are the same size and that the seat is evenly centered between them. Of course, I'm also looking for ways to bring repetition in. And you can see this happening in the details of the skis and the seat. I'm also repeating the angles of the frame. So the angles at the front of the frame as well as angles in the rear part are the same. They're parallel to each other. For the front ski, which is on an angle, I'm aligning it along one of the diagonal lines in the harmonic armature grid. And this will point precisely to the number five in the corner. So of course, as you can see, I'm now including the typographic elements, which is my country, the stamp value, and even a little caption for that extra typographic pizazz that I like to bring my illustrations. Now I fuss a lot with the details of the foot brakes here. I knew that mechanically they linked somewhere under the steering wheel. But compositionally, this would look overly complicated and it would challenge the principle of simplicity, which is one of our actionable principles. So I ended up attaching these to the frame in a way that technically isn't right or correct, but compositionally, it just looks simpler and in my opinion, it looks better place. I struggled to feel right. Was the X pattern where the frame connects to the two side skis near the steering wheel. It kept feeling really unbalanced. To me, there was a concentration of details in one area, just at the front where the frame connects to the skies. There again, this challenged the law of simplicity and created a sense of imbalance. So I didn't end up resolving this particular detail at this stage, but I knew I could work it out more later. In the final art stage, again, I went through the refined stage for the entire set of illustrations. And once I had them all in place, I was ready to start the final illustrations. I started with this one, the single object, and that's what we're going to go through now. For the final illustrations, I worked in an even higher resolution file, and this also included the same grid options as the refined sketch template. I talked through this in detail in the Photoshop tutorial, including how to drop the sketch into the file and how to enable and disable the grids. I provided the same final art template, which these grids as a download in the class projects page. In my process, I do find that most compositional problems get worked out in the refined sketch in the final stage, my decisions are much more around matters of style, especially color and texture. But as you'll see in some of my pieces at this stage, such as the still life, the final stage can challenge some of the decisions that I thought were bulletproof in the sketches in this illustration. Compositionally speaking, I'm definitely working out the relationship between figure and ground. I want my GT Snow racer to stand out nicely against the bright color I've chosen for the background. While the red background color will pop forward and that blue toned dark color I'm using here will recede. That's because cool colors like blue recede and warm colors like red will pop forward. The darker color that I'm using here has a stronger value, so there is a strong enough contrast to establish this figure and ground relationship. I'm also looking for opportunities to use the white paper color in a graphic way as well. By making the tubing white as well as the type at the top, I'm creating a more dynamic figure and ground relationship. You'll see a lot of repetition at work in the details of the ski and seat. One way I'm doing this is by using the same line width for these details. Now I've added some variation to these elements by making some of them horizontal and others vertical. And of course, there's slight variation in the quality of each repeated line. I didn't just cut and paste them all. They're all kind of drawn separately just to make sure there's some slight variation between them. The main part of this frame is all one uniform width, and then just the smaller connecting parts near the steering wheel are a thinner width, but they're all consistent with each other. I also repeated the little rivets in the frame along the skis. I wanted to include yellow in this piece, but I was struggling to use it in a way that felt balanced. Yellow is such a high viz color that it really draws your eye toward it. In the end, I used it as a pop of color on the badge in the center of the steering wheel, and then on the tow rope that leads off the side of the page and then back into it from the bottom edge. Now here, this is the principle of closure at work. You perceive that the rope is going off the page and it continues at a sight until it appears back in the frame somewhere else. Of course, this yellow curvy line only exists at the top right area and then there's a little line at the bottom edge and any sense that it somehow is one continuous line that goes off the page and back into it. This is all in your mind in terms of hierarchy. We have just one object, so there's not much to think about here in the illustration itself. However, as a typographic layout, the stamp does have a hierarchical relationship to consider that of the type elements to both the image and to the layout of the stamp. I wanted to make sure that the lettering for the country in value were identical in style and size. As you'll see in the set, I've chosen to always have the country in stamp value along the same edge and never kitty corner from one another. That means I never put the country in one corner and then the stamp value on the direct opposite corner, if they were on opposite corners like that, because of the law of similarity, I would associate them as related, but my mind would leap back and forth across the composition, trying to reconcile them as one thing. This would mess with the flow of the overall illustration. With the captions, I decided to place these much smaller in size. And here it just made sense to align it to the left edge of the Canada lettering at the top. I used the Safe Area Guide in my fat house to make sure all these typographic elements had a consistent space from the edges. 14. DEMO: The Still Life: In this video, I'll go over how I worked out the Still Life illustration, just as I did with the single object. I iterated through some thumbnails for this one. For still life, I want to think about what my chosen objects would look like together in physical space. But I also want to think about what story they tell. The reason I chose the boots Matt as my life, was because of how they stand out in my memory. I just remember there always being all these boots by our front door in a family of six. There ends up being a lot of footwear to deal with. I particularly wanted to highlight the idea of my Napoleon Dynamite style moon boots. And if possible, the fact that the liners always seem to be coming out along with my foot when I took them off. I also wanted to show them alongside adult boots, which would give more context and a sense of scale. They will look more like small kids boots alongside larger adult boots. I also remember the brown rubber mats we used, and how dirty flesh from our boots would melt and pool up in them. I explored ways of using the mat as a unifying device. Not only does a shoe maat literally group together all the physical boots, but it's also a great framing device in the composition. A challenge for me here was in representing objects in physical space with laying and dimensionality, all using my flatter graphic style of illustration. Normally, my way of handling this kind of storytelling is by representing each object separately and in a more flat way. But because I'm going to be doing this in the flat lay illustration, I had to challenge myself to be slightly more photographic in my approach. In this piece, I filled out my page of thumbnails, trying both horizontal and vertical compositions, and then moved on to the next step. Just like the last time I went through my ruffs to find my best ideas, again, I asked, what did I like, just as I got feeling what filled the space well, and what do I think told an interesting story or made for an interesting or unexpected composition? I chose my first iteration because I liked how it was in a vertical format, which was unexpected for a shoe mat, which to me, along with boots, seems more like something you'd represent horizontally. I also liked how the mat itself filled only about half of the frame and then left a lot more background space at the top. I also liked the relative simplicity of this one, at least in the sketch format. Whether it will work in my very constrained style and color palette is a whole other thing. I also like the few of the horizontal sketches, these gave me more of a chance to include other storytelling objects like liners coming out of boots or perhaps wet socks and mittens. You'll see in some of these thumbnails that I included the floor in firmus vents. While I liked how these told the story, I also felt like they strayed too far from the idea of a still life and were actually more like small cropped in scenes because they included more background context for the refined sketches, I chose to go with one of the horizontal concepts. I like this one because it had the moon boots plus some other kinds of objects like socks and mittens. And not just the boots. As I placed it into my refined sketch template right away, I knew that I needed to flip it to work in the typographic elements. One constraint that I've set for myself is that I always want the word Canada to read before the stamp value. The country name had to go where the taller boot was in my sketch here, so I just flipped the whole sketch, and that solved my problem. Next, I decided to show more of the background by reducing the mat, so it only took up two thirds of the space. I placed the back edge of the mat along the top horizontal line, using the rule of thirds grid. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to represent these boots in three dimensions, which as we know, isn't a strong suit of my flat style. I also spent some time here fussing over what to include for the boots. Was it just one boot, or one boot plus one liner? Or two boots? And no liner. And what would the details be on those boots? I ultimately ended up with the two moon boots sitting tall on the mat on the right side. And then the mittens and the socks flopped onto the right side. I like how the mitts and socks broke through the frame of the mat to help unify the relationship of the subject against the background area. By letting the socks or contents within that framing device of the mat bleed out into the background color area, It helped unify the overall composition, rather than keeping things stuck in their own separate compartments. Now by being indecisive here, I gave myself what the writer Barry Schwartz calls the Paradox of Choice. By creating a few different possibilities in this stage, but none really being significantly different overall. I would have a hard time feeling satisfied with whatever I ended up choosing. As it turns out, when I got to the final stage, I abandoned the whole thing and went for the first iteration, the vertical one. So with this one, I continued to flounder about, again, my biggest challenge being how to represent these boots overlapping one another with some sense of dimensionality, but in my flat style and with only four colors. In hindsight, I think I started strong, but I started to overthink things. Things were looking good when I had the boots all flat without showing the top or open part of the boots. Now towards the goal of simplicity, I was trying to figure out how to show these boots in the clearest way possible. So you can see them as individual boots rather than a clump of different odd shapes. I tried different strategies here, including adding some sheeting and exploring a more three dimensional way of representing the boots, and trying all kinds of different details. Now, the strongest part of this composition was the use of the Wellington boots, which are very iconic and simple people recognize them and how they were the most dominant element. That was a strong thing about this illustration. The yellow mat as a framing device is also strong and I like the proportions where it takes up roughly the bottom two thirds of the overall space and leaves the top three to just background color. I liked incorporating the criss cross texture of the matt treads. This is a use of repetition and I cut away this pattern to let the pink background show through. This is a use of figure and ground as well as closure, as the separate diamond shapes that are still left behind hold together as one single object. So now that I'm looking at it, what wasn't working with the more three dimensional boots was the white parts in the top. In the top parts of the boots, they created too much of a hot spot for the eye to gravitate toward, since there were no other areas with that stark white in the composition. Again, I got super over thinky here and kept going back on what I think were stronger decisions earlier on. While many things do get better with refinement and further consideration, often our earlier iterations will be the simplest, and that's often exactly the right decision. In the end, I arrived at something serviceable. I went back to the flatter style of boots with a stronger sense of repetition in the top horizontal lines of each boot as each one echoes the other. But in on unique way, I tried a few different variations of the diamond grid pattern on the Shumap, but I did go back to just the pink one, and I liked how this created a less distracting background for the boots and therefore stronger contrast between figure and ground. In this case, the figure of the boots on the ground of the matt, I ended up choosing white for the typographic elements. And this brought more unity by echoing the white details in the boots which would have otherwise been isolated to just the one area with the kids boots. And the sock bringing white in other places just brought more balance to the composition. Now one element you might not expect throw off your compositions is where to place your signature. I've heard of at least one artist who decided not to add their signature to their illustrations just for this reason. Now for me, it's always been important to include my signature, not just as a way of stamping my identity on it, but also to add a bit of visual interest. Also, I'm not going to lie, this is very much inspired by my favorite designer and illustrator, Paul Rand, among many others of his era, who would always leave their signature in the final work. 15. DEMO: The Flat-lay: Now let's go through how I worked out the composition for the flat lay illustration. Just taking a look at all my rough sketches for this one, I'm working out two main questions here. What collection of objects can I use to tell my story? And what's the best way to arrange them all in the space? Of course, my story here is playing hockey in my backyard, or more generally, the idea of having a skating rink in our own backyard. When it got cold enough, my dad would flood a part of the yard using the garden hose, and soon enough there'd be some skeetable ice. A flat lay is a way of telling a story in a more cryptic way, like a bus. Rather than showing what is happening, you can show objects that suggest it. This is what makes object stories like this. Interesting objects in a flat lay float on their own with even space all around them. Objects can be all the same size or you can vary the scale. Unlike a still life or a scene where we might be more inclined to show objects in a more realistic scale. Here we can make objects that are small in real life be the largest element in the composition. If we want, it can take a few tries to figure out the right arrangement, and that's what I'm doing here. I ended up choosing the 31 circled here in my thumbnails. I like the center one because of its simplicity. There was also a dynamic hierarchy, with the net being the dominant element and everything else hovering around in a much smaller size in its gravity. In this one, I really liked how the only clue to this being an outdoor rink was the tree. A close second was the top sketch where there was a more even composition with each object taking up roughly the same amount of space. Now I ended up finding the one on the bottom there a bit too bitty, meaning there didn't seem to be any single object holding it together. And I think between the shovel, the two hockey sticks and the net shown from the side, no single object had very much presence on the page. Now, in my refined sketch, I decided to go with the top one, since it had a nice mix of objects and told the story well. The composition was nice and balanced. And there was a variety of different shapes that interlocked nicely Objects like the hose and the hockey stick created a nice flow leading the eye up the hose, over the tree, and then back into the middle. From the end of the hockey stick, I spent a lot of time working out the garden hose detail how much should be coiled up and how much should be more straight. I ended up with more coil on the bottom and more straight on the top here to suggest how a real hose might look when it's being used. Now, of course, I second guessed myself for a few minutes and placed the hockey stick where the hose was. Instead. Later I landed back on a situation where I didn't need to show so much of the hose. Maybe just the end and the spare nozzle would be enough. But there was some awkward space left there. So I added a shovel handle with just the stick and the little plastic handle part at the top for a little extra pizazz. I added in some snowflakes as well. Repeating these in some of the spaces would bring more unity and eliminate some of those unresolved spaces. Now by the time I got to the final art for this one, I realized I wanted more of my stamps in horizontal format. So far the boots and the GT were both vertical, so I ended up pivoting and went with the sketch with the hockey net. Of course, refining that first. Before getting to this stage for this one, I wanted to add just one more element to reinforce the backyard element. And that's what you see going on with the little house in the top right corner. I'm a big sucker for flat lays. Especially when I get to add little graphic details like the NHL crest on the hockey puck, the branding on the stick, and the lettering on the hat. So in terms of hierarchy, we have the net dominating the coverage area. I like this element because it's so airy and it gives a lot of play between figure and ground. The red frame and the white net are also highly contrasting colors against that deep blue background. In terms of simplicity, I've chosen just a few objects to feature here and did my best to represent them as simply as possible. The house is very logo like and not at all like what my childhood house looked like. The tree is likewise highly simplified. Now I noticed there was an imbalance of colors. I had a lot of white along the right third, and I had green only occurring in the hat and the hose. I balanced the distribution of white by adding some blue gritty texture to the hockey stick. And I introduced another area of green by placing a small evergreen tree by the house. I peppered in some more white with some snowflakes, which also helped hold the objects together and fill in the unresolved spaces. Now, can you see closure at work in the hockey stick? The blue stripes and the grungy texture actually cut away at the hockey stick shape. The stick is broken up into segments, but you still see the whole thing. Just as one continuous object for the type elements, I felt that Canada would sit nicely along the top edge. I wanted the baseline of the lettering to move the eye inwards. So I placed it on the inside of the illustration rather than along the outside edge of the art area. So why didn't I just make the baselines of the country name and stamp value the same? Well, it's because it would confuse the orientation of the stamp. If I had those on the same baseline, then I'd want to rotate the stamp so that those were upright. But then when I did that, the rest of the illustration would be the wrong way. And then there would just be this constant back and forth in my mind of which way is the right way. By placing the five upright in the final composition, along with the caption on the other side, we get a strong sense of which way is the right way around. Meanwhile, the country name can fit in the composition the way I want it to. 16. DEMO: The Figure: Now let's go over my thought process for the figure. For my ruffs, I started with the obvious one, kid making snow angels in a vertical orientation. I iterated through different combinations of limb positions. Should I do the limbs all splayed out or should they be more closed into the body? In one case, I got a bit more photographic and showed a kid getting up and trying to look down behind him to see the angel that he just made. I also tried some variations that reminded me of Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Here I was thinking about possibly showing a fine lapse, trying to show a sense of movement in a single still image. When I got to the horizontal thumbnails, I immediately had to think outside of the box, even though these are literal boxes that I'm thinking in. I'm so used to thinking about a snow angel in a vertical position, what else could I do here? I tried a variation with two figures possibly being the same kid in two different positions. Like one was all the limbs out, and then the other was all the limbs together, close to the body in one box. I got distracted and drew a kid going down a hill in a toboggan, which was totally off concept. And I quickly gave that up. I tried a couple ideas with footprints leading into or away from the snow angel shape. And one of these had just the snow angel and just the figures foot as they walked away. And finally, I tried to fill the entire horizontal space with the snow angel kid, but in a less expected, more foreshortened way. I ended up finding a few of these as interesting possibilities for further refinement. I really liked how the top left one showed a contrast in motion. We had the snow angel shape spread out all the way, kind of up and out. And then the figures, arms and legs were down and closed together. This created a strong sense of motion. The sketch is very dynamic, even though it's centered and very singular. I was also very drawn to the vitruvian concepts that I sketched out, but only a notional curiosity about the horizontal piece at this point. So I put a little question mark over it. This was a case where the rough sketches were easy and fun to come up with, but the final execution was going to be a lot more difficult. I ended up trying to develop the piece with contrasting motion of the angel shape and the limbs of the figure. The trick for me was going to be in how I showed the snow and differentiate between the undisturbed snow and the depressed area of the snow angel. This is something I wouldn't be able to figure out just with a pencil. I'd have to work it out more in the final style. Seeing what I could do with my brushes, I was also realizing that the proportions of my tall format weren't exactly right for this figure. Unless I really distorted the proportions a lot. There ended up being a lot of negative space over and under the figure in the layout, which I thought was too much. In one sense, it did dwarf the figure, which plays into the experience of being a small kid in the bigness of the outside snowy world. But it also felt like something I could have done shooting a photograph, I could have taken a picture of this kind of composition. I figured I should be able to do more as an illustrator by thinking outside this more literal approach. That being said, I tried to just be decisive and ended up here and I figured it could still be charming. Once illustrated in my final style. Now just like in the flat lay, I changed my mind as I headed into the final for the figure, I decided I wanted to try another horizontal layout, and I thought I should give that side by side concept. I try, I built up that sketch in a more refined way and then headed into the finals with more confidence. I like how this concept is more unique for the idea of a snow angel figure. I like how it creatively solves the issue of how to fill the stamp area more. The proportions of the wide orientation art area are perfect for two snow angels, while a single snow angel didn't fit well in either situation, either the horizontal or the vertical very well. This shows both the figures at the same level of hierarchy. The story is both of these figures together. I really like the simplicity of the white snow angel shapes and I decided that the surrounding area didn't need to be white, like literal snow. The white angel shapes, when combined with the winter gear that the figures are wearing and also combined with their gestures, this would be enough to suggest snow angels without being so realistic or literal about it. In both figures, we have repetition and variation. Both are kids, both are over their snow angel shapes and both are in winter gear. But each one is also unique as predicted. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to create a snow effect here with the shapes of the angels and how I would add a bit of texture here to make it really feel like snow. I tried all kinds of different brushes, even some outside. The limited set that I chose to use for this project, what I was looking for was a texture that suggested the motion in a dynamic, surprising way, but which also felt stylistically aligned to the rest of my set. No solution that I could find here really did this for me. So I pivoted. Rather than trying to represent motion, I would just use the heavy green brush to suggest shading within the angel. Instead, I'm sure with more fussing around, I could have figured out an elegant solution for the motion. But for now, I had to just keep moving and my final solution ended up looking pretty good. Now where it comes to figures, one detail you're bound to get hung up on is in the faces. How do you show a face that matches the style of the rest of the figure? How do you show a face that doesn't take all the attention away from everything else and make you look right into its eyes and notice that face too much versus like just everything else in the illustration. Thinking hierarchically, the faces on these figures is very secondary to the overall gestures and the angels. The faces are important to include for a bit of personality, so they don't look too anonymous or serious, but they're not the main feature. So here I chose to go for closed smiley style eyes and very minimal details in the nose and mouth. I figured it out quickly with the boy inside profile, I was able to show a little joy on the face with minimal marks. And I think the rosy nose is a nice touch for this little picture story. After much fussing around with the girl space who was at first going to be looking straight up. I asked why reinvent the wheel. I just put her head in profile as well and called it a day. Now I have a question for you. Think about grouping and proximity. The way I have these two figures touching each other and somewhat overlapping. How do you think the piece would have looked if I separated them altogether so that the wing tips of the angels weren't touching. With this illustration have the same sense of unity. Would the story be different? In what way? You can tell us what you think in the class discussion page. 17. DEMO: The Scene: Now let's look at the scene illustration. As we move into the scene and montage illustrations, we're encountering more complex compositional problems. Of course, to start in my roughs, I'm trying just to figure out what my overall scene is. I already spent some time in the initial brainstorm thinking about the story I want to tell. I landed on the memory of shoveling the driveway. There were a few key elements I wanted to include here, the house I grew up in, and the family station wagon, which was a blue Plymouth Reliant. And of course, I figured I should show someone shoveling the driveway. I spent some time looking for images to draw from while I was doing the old moat sketches, and then I tried my best to build up a scene from what I could remember when I came to doing these roughs here. It was definitely interesting thinking in both tall and wide formats, the obvious approach would be to do a landscape view, showing the house yard and driveway as seen from the road, but iterating through some of my tall format ones. I found some interesting ways to show this scene in less expected ways. The long format seemed like a natural place to show the long driveway focusing just on that slice of our property instead of the whole thing. Choosing how much of a scene to include is always part of this stage and we're not thinking about details, but just what is enough of the overall scene necessary to tell our story. When I filled up my thumbnails page for this, 13 ideas stood out to me. There was one in tall format with the tree in front as the dominant object, which would allow me to frame and point to other smaller moments in the scene in an interesting way. And then there were two in wide format, one with my house in the background and with me sitting on the bank of snow left over by the plow. And this is me at the end of our driveway right there in the foreground. And another was more of a classic scene with more activity happening on the property with two figures shoveling and then me making a snow angel on the front lawn under the tree with my little shovel there beside me. I liked how this actually created a little reference, or call back to the snow angel illustration. I also considered showing two neighboring driveways with a tree in the middle and then a figure on one driveway considering helping the neighbor. But overall, it was too much of a concept for such a tiny little scene, so I didn't go with that. Now, out of all the refined sketches, I spent the longest refining my scene. And that's pretty natural given that there's just more detail here. Ultimately, I was intrigued by the taller format sketch with the dominant tree in the front, so I started to refine that one. First, I dropped that into my refined sketch template and drew in the tree shape first. Then I started to add the figure, shoveling the driveway to get a sense of how I would treat the scale of the tree versus the figure, there was a possibility that the figure would look super tiny in a distracting way. Like it just would look very disproportionate and not in a way that looked intentional. When I started drawing the house in more detail, I felt like I got too literal about what I was drawing, or as we now know it, I was competing with my camera too much. I spent a lot of time just drawing and redrawing the scene, the tree, the figure, the house, the driveway, until something felt right. I'm using the Wheel of thirds to place the main axis of the tree trunk, placing it along the right vertical line. I'm using the harmonic armature to place the figure at one of the main intersections of all these points. Down in the lower left area. I'm framing the figure in what is the shoveled area, driveway, where it's black. I'm also thinking about how the branches of the tree point back down to the figure and the figure looks back into the scene to create a circular visual flow. Even though we're still only in the sketch here, I'm also starting to think about how to add white snow on the dark tree and playing with figure ground and closure. Because this piece was probably going to be mostly white to give the sense of freshly fallen snow. I knew there would be some opportunities to play with light and dark areas in this way. As I went along, I added back some perspective by making the garage opening smaller and leading the left side of the driveway toward it. You can see how I was using the harmonic armature grid as a guide for this new edge of the driveway. But because I made this change, I suddenly had to add in the neighbor's house on that side as well. In some pieces, in this set of illustrations, I opted for a more universal and less specific representation of objects. For example, the house in the flat lay was very symbolic and not at all specific to my own experience. But the house style in this illustration, or at least the sketch, is very close to what my childhood house looked like. So I just imagine that this must give you watching this, a more obscure feeling. Since not all houses look exactly like this. It's very specific to my personal experience. So it brings a lot of feelings that don't always come out in my work. I don't always expect to find or bring such nostalgic feelings to my commercial work, for instance. So at this point, I have most of the details worked out in the sketch. I go over one more time to see how I can further simplify and abstract the scene and make it work in my flatter style. Everything else I know I can work out in the final illustration. Now I should say, while I did do a refined version of one of my wide format concepts, I ultimately ended up going with this one. Overall. I spent over an hour on my scene sketch refinements for my final scene illustration. You can see that my sketch is actually a bit different. I ended up redrawing it so the figure was larger at the end of the driveway. To me, this felt like a more believable scale given its position between the tree in the foreground and the house in the background. To be honest, I think the scale of the previous sketch was more interesting and made a more dynamic image. In this one, I find the scene became somehow flatter, possibly because the tree seems a lot smaller now as well. Whereas my original hierarchy was more pronounced in this one, it's hard to fully say which is the most dominant element in the picture. That being said, I think we have a serviceable scene illustration and I did end up reducing the size of the figure a little bit, and then once I drew that tree in its final darker form, it regained its indisputable dominance in the hierarchy. I did have my reasons for decreasing its overall presence at the bottom there, and that was so I could fit the typographic elements which ended up having to go down there because of all the stuff happening along the other three edges. Now during the final illustration stage, I had the idea to bring a figure in the window of the house looking out to the shoveling figure. She's inside with a nice warm cup of coffee as the man outside labors away in the cold. This creates a conceptual contrast between inside and outside, working and relaxing. There's a bit of similarity at play here, with the red of her sweater echoing the red of the shovel and the checkered jacket of the outside figure. This is the use of similarity or repetition in terms of framing. Both the window and the branches of the tree frame the woman in the window. And they create that little moment there. The blue station wagon just popping out of the dark garage and placed in the vertical center of the image creates a sense of purpose for the shoveling figure. He needs to drive somewhere, but he can't until the driveway is cleared where he's actually going, we don't know. And that's part of the mystery of the story. The car is also framed in the branches of the tree as well as the opening of the garage. As I described my thought process here, you can see that the scene presents certain complexities that I didn't have to think about in most of the other illustrations. Particularly this relationship of the various objects in an imagined space. How am I representing this scene in a graphic way that is unique to illustration, rather than a more straightforward photographic approach? At the same time, I'm asking how does this work as a small stamp? In the end, I decided to change the figure altogether, just going with another variation I had in one of my sketches. This one had a gesture in proportions that sat better with me. And because we're going to notice the figure almost before we notice anything else, even though it's really small in the composition, I really think that it needed some extra attention to the details. Now for a plot twist, as I wrote this very analysis that I'm saying right now, about a week or so after I made these illustrations, there was still something bugging me and I needed to fix it. There was this visual traffic jam happening where the type elements in the bottom of the tree all led the eyes into the lower right corner without anywhere else. To put the type, I had to take some extreme measures. I removed most things in the background, I enlarged the figure, and I covered the lower third of the image in white or in snow. The story here is now more simple, and I think it's even more funny. Somehow by removing over half of the details, I ended up with a much more powerful statement that I believe would work much better as a stamp. So here you can see the rule of thirds at work with a lower third completely white aside from the lettering elements. And the top two thirds are much darker, and that's where all the details are as well. Now I stayed true to my original idea by using that tree as my main framing and flow device. So the tree is kind of up front and center, but just not quite so much as it was originally. 18. DEMO: The Montage: Okay, now we are at the final illustration, the montage for this one. My concept was suburban winter. This is very much a part of my memories of being a kid in the winter time. The idea of suburban winter is very open to interpretation. It's not concrete like boots on a Mad or backyard hockey here, I'm just trying to assemble various symbols or objects that together suggest my idea. As an experience, in my brainstorm, I wrote down things like at night, empty, street lights, boring and quiet. In my reference photos and omo drawings for this one, nothing really inspired me too much, if I'm honest. But I knew that after having gone through the whole set of illustrations before this one, I'd have a lot of content to draw from by the time it came to it as a montage, as part of a set, one option is to just use various elements from the other illustrations and collaging them together. So this was one direction that I took in my rough sketches. I have various clusters of elements, almost like a flat lay illustration, but instead of all floating separately, they're overlapping in some way or another. Another direction I took was to create an abstract scene by having a pattern of horizontal stripes for roads, and then repeating various house motifs to create another sort of pattern over top. Out of my iterations, I chose one abstract scene variation and two more sprawling montages with decontextualized objects from my other illustrations. In the end, I went with the vertical scene based montage. I liked it because it had the strongest story, as it was clearly a town of some kind in the winter at night, and it had a large central moon to help hold all the things together. The moon was a nice unifying device. As usual, I brought my rough sketch into the refined sketch template, and with my grid and sketch visible, I moved on to my refinements. To start, I drew my dominant object, the moon, and then I drew my larger tree. From there, I focused on making my pattern of abstracted houses more clear. Deciding on what details I'd include in each, in terms of windows, doors, and chimneys. I wanted to repeat proportions, numbers, and sizes of all these things as much as possible. Smaller details I couldn't work out in the rough started to bear more importance, including the trees and street lights among the houses, the car, and the skating rink. I also needed to draw in the background of the trees or city buildings in the distance. The trees and lights added even more repetition and pattern to the composition. And in the final, the street lights would echo the moon, bringing smaller moments of white or light to the lower half of the composition. I experimented with dividing the scene into two halves. The moon and tree above and the neighborhood below. I was going away from the rule of thirds here and being more 50, 50 with the proportions of the page. As a storytelling element, the car adds the only suggestion of a human presence and gives a sense of movement in the image, which is otherwise very still and sleepy. The empty ice rink would allow me to add just a tiny pop of red in the frame of the net. And it would also give the image a quiet, lonely feeling for the lack of kids skating on it. For the last time, I placed my sketch in a final art template and got going with the final illustration. I started with the tree and then moved on to the houses. I wanted to have variety within the repetition. So even though I cut and pasted many of the elements, I also drew many repeating elements separately by hand. When it came to the white elements, like the rooftops, I had to fill in the background so I could actually see them. So I started with this royal blue color, but eventually I go to something even darker. For the simple houses, which are kind of three D, because they show three sides, but in a flat way, I'm trying to use a consistent logic here. Each similar aspect of the house or each face or side gets the same color. For all roof, Aspects that face up toward the moon are going to be white. The one roof that faces away gets the dark color. Same with the fronts and sides. I tried to apply a consistent logic here. It just so happens that the roofs facing the moon appear to be reflecting the light or they can be snow covered. Both of these interpretations work. Same with the windows and the doors. I just repeat the same color logic across the whole grouping of houses. All the houses have directionality in them. They all point back up to the sky. So do the little triangular dormer windows on the rooftops. This creates unity between the homes on the ground below and the moon and sky above. The circular windows on the homes provide a bit of reprieve from the boxy, angular shapes and also echo the shape of the moon, thus creating even more unity through repetition. The chimneys also seem to reach into the sky, and the smoke that I'll draw coming out of them later will further enhance this effect. When I added the moon, I was careful to make it symmetrical and as perfect as circle as I could drawing with my free hand. I used the Symmetry tool in Photoshop just to assist me in this way. So I used my heavy green brush to add in the glow around the moon, which really adds to the mood. I played around with a few different sizes to get the right amount of chunkiness. I don't want it to be too chunky and I don't want it to be too fine. Now for the satisfying part, once I made the background the same dark color as the tree and parts of the houses, suddenly the magic of figure and ground enclosure came into play. Meanwhile, I still needed to see the sketch I was illustrating over. So I faded that background layer down to about 50% temporarily. To help the typographic elements to pop over. The otherwise subdued stamp design, I set them in yellow, although it would have looked equally good in white if I wanted to stick with a stricter four color palette here. As I finished up this piece, I had to work out how to layer the street lights and trees overtop the rest of the composition so that there was enough separation between the figure and ground in this sense. Always, it's a balancing act between clarity and simplicity. What's the simplest way to get the lights to show over other areas of white, like the fronts of some of the houses. Taking one final look at the composition before wrapping up, I realized the smoke on top of the chimney was connected to the moon. I needed to feather that up a bit to create a separation. The smoke was way too heavy, so I reduced it just to a subtle wisp, just enough to catch the light of the moon towards the end. I realized the houses were sort of leading the eye down to the lower right corner. This isn't good, so I worked a bit to move the trees around and help lead the eye back into the image as best as I could. 19. Putting it All Together: We're done, our illustrations. I just have this one extra step that I'd like to walk you through, which is where I look at all the stamps as a set. And that just gives me a chance to see if they relate nicely, stylistically speaking. And it gives us a chance to make any changes. If we'd like to do that, I'm going to put them all together in a single image and a single Photoshop file. And arrange them nicely so that I can share them as a set on the Projects page and of course on Instagram, I have Adobe Bridge Open. This is a visual file browser that comes with Adobe Creative Cloud. And it's just a nice place to see all my final illustrations. In one place, I'm going to just zoom in on all of these, right, as big as they can go, so I can just see them all nice and big. Whenever you're working on a set of illustrations, it's good to do this where you see them all as a set just to make sure that they're stylistically consistent and there's nothing standing out too much in one or the other that makes it feel out of place. Now, mind you, this set of stamps is varied on purpose because we have a very different approach to the composition. In each one we will have a little bit of inconsistency in that sense, but stylistically, you want to make sure that everything holds up. And you're using the same illustrative approach in each one. For starters, as much as possible, we're using solid backgrounds in all of them. The exception being the scene because a scene has just a more complex foreground and background situation going on. And as you saw in my process, I had an even more complex background than where I ended up with this one here. One thing I tried to do is make sure the background of each stamp had its own unique color as well, Just to further enhance each stamps individuality, if that makes sense. Another thing that I wanted to do is make sure that I'm only using three or four colors max per stamp so they don't get too busy. And I think I mostly stuck to that. I think this one with the boots, I did add an extra color. We have the dark blue, the yellow, the pink, the green, and the red. That's five colors. I think in everything else, I more or less stuck to four colors, maximum. Now, one thing that I noticed in the font is that the C is a little bit smaller, proportionate to the other letters. And that's just because it's a crappy font. I made it from my hand lettering, and if I was being super picky, I'd go in and fix that. What I'd like to do now is get each one of these into a stamp mock up. And then bring all of those mocked up stamps into one place so that I can share all of them as a set. So I have the stamp mockup file that came the class. You can download that from the projects page. And I have a whole tutorial in this class on how to do this. Now the one thing that I didn't go through in the mock up tutorial was this extra step here that we need to do, and you'll see why in a moment. I want to actually disable the background color so that there's no background at all. And then I want to just take off the drop shadow effect that I had going in there. I'm going to now say this as stamp mock up, still life. I'm going to bring this in with all the other mocked up stamp files as a set. I've created a new file in Photoshop. It's 3,000 by 3,000 pixels, and this is a square format because I intend on sharing this on Instagram. I've gone ahead and placed all the mock up stamp files here, except for the still life. I'm just going to go and do that now. Now, one of the nice things about the stamp mock up that I made here is that they're perfectly proportioned so you can align them. I'm going to just make sure snapping is on in Photoshot. I'll show you what I mean. If you move them close together, they magnetically snap together. That's why I turned snap on. This is just one way of showcasing your illustrated stamps is by showing them all attached together like that. Now the way my particular stamps worked out, there's no way to get a perfect grid of all of my stamps. I need to design just one more stamp here to make a nice little rectangular set. So what I'm going to do instead is just arrange them in a more loose way and this is how I'll do it. I'm going to turn snapping off, I'm just going to use my eye here to arrange them nicely. Now this could take a little bit of fussing around to get right. We can use some of the principles of composition here, even just to see if this arrangement here is looking good. Everyone's going to have a little bit of a different sense of what good looks like here. What I want is something where they're spaced apart, even they don't feel too rigid, I don't want these to align too much on a grid. I don't want them to snap together, anything like that. I think these look nice if they're arranged a little bit more loose like this. And I'm just looking for even space in between here so that the eye flows around. I'm leaving more space around the edges than within the set, and that makes sure that they appear nicely as a group. This is grouping. I don't want these two vertical stamps to align too much, because if they do that, then you start to see these as more related than these. This is also a good chance to see what colors are standing out the most. So this red stands out quite a lot. And maybe I can balance the set out a bit by moving it somewhere else, or maybe even putting it in the middle, since your eye goes to it right away. Anyway, it looks pretty good to me. Now I have everything on a dark blue background which does look nice. I might just want to change it to something else. Let's try yellow. I think that looks really cheerful. Makes me happy because it's the exact same yellow I've used in the set, It really coordinates well. Now the reason that I wanted to disable the drop shadow in the mockup file itself is that I want to apply a consistent drop shadow to all of these as a set. I've grouped all of my stamp mock ups in one layer group and then I can apply a drop shadow effect to that whole group. I want it to be a little bit of a flatter drop shadow effect. I'm going to do a distance of around ten and maybe a size of five. Then for the background, I'm going to see what it looks like to have just more of that paper texture that's going on in the stamps as well. I think it will help make a nicer, more unified image to share. Here's how I'm going to do that. I'm going to select the background color, that's the yellow background there. And I want to create a layer mask on there. Then with the layer mask square or thumbnail here selected, I'm going to hit command Y that effectively masks out all of the background that none of it is showing through. And we're going to use this brush from Retrosupply company to bring that paper texture in. I'm using the Hizo wet 100% brush that comes in retrosupply company's hizo graph brush set. I'm going to select that brush in my brushes panel. I need to make sure that the blending mode of this brush is set to normal. Otherwise it won't work. It's quite small for filling in all of this space. I'm just going to crank that real big. That's a bit too big. I'm just going to start painting in that texture using my stylus and being careful not to lift the pencil as I'm doing this. Otherwise I'll double up on the texture. I'll show you what I mean. It starts to double up, you can't really tell because it's such a light color anyway. But you don't want that to happen I'll, without lifting my brush paint in all that texture. And I think that looks pretty good. We show this texture compared to no texture. No texture is very flat. That works, but I like this a little more. Now, one thing that I might like to do is just make that texture a little bit more pronounced with that Blair mask that we created for that background color. Just have that selected. And I'm going to hit command L. This brings up the levels adjustment tool. By bringing in these sliders toward the middle, we get a much more pronounced effect. You don't want it to be too crazy and distracting from the stamps themselves, but I want there to be a visible texture in there and just to be a little bit more intense of a color. I think that works. It's just subtle enough that you barely notice it, but there with the texture and there's without it just gives a subtle papery texture to it. Now here you can make any final adjustments that you need to make. I'm just going to save this as stamp set mock up. I'll save it out as a peg and share that to the class projects folder and of course on Instagram. 20. Conclusion and Next Steps: All right, that's it, you did it. Thank you for taking composition for illustrators. By taking this class and doing the project, you learned what composition is and how it works specifically in a flat graphic style. You learned about aspirational principles, which are not exactly easy to visualize, but they're important ideals to aim for in your work. You learned about ten actionable principles that are easy to see and to start using right away. You learned about the structural principles, including the rule of thirds and the harmonic armatures, and of course, the self structured compositions. And finally, just before getting into the final project, you learned six types of compositions which give you different ways of telling stories and arranging ideas on the page. And of course, we put all these principles into action using the six composition types to tell our own stories in our six illustrated stamps. I know this was a challenging class, but I'm proud of you for getting through it. I need to tell you this class took me a long time to figure out, but as I put it together, I really learned a ton of their composition. And just by teaching it, I feel like I've gotten much better at using it myself. All this to say, learning the principles of design for this class that I had to teach you was a game changer for me. And I hope what you learned in this class will be a game changer for you. The biggest thing that I learned, which I hope you can take away from this class, is that you can only get better at composition by spending a lot of time studying and experimenting with or otherwise using the different principles of art and design. And not just those that I teach in this class, but as many as you can find out outside of this class. I encourage you to keep your eyes open to how composition works in the art that you see in the wider world from now on. And I hope because of this class, you can appreciate it all on a deeper level. All right, that's it. Please don't forget to share your exercises and projects on the class projects page and share your work on social media using the hashtag composition for Illustrators. Thanks again for taking my class. I can't wait to see what you make in your project. I'll see you in the next class. 21. Go Deeper with a 1-on-1 Session: Hey, just one last thing. If you enjoyed this class and you'd like to get to the next level in your creative journey. I'm pleased to announce that I offer one on one coaching sessions in collaboration with Skillshare. These are 1 hour direct video calls with me where you can get more customized personal support in the areas you need most, including portfolio reviews and illustration critiques, industry and career advice, personalized tutorials and of course, direct personal support with any of my classes, including this one, sessions cost $130 or $105 if you're a Patrin supporter and only $80 if you're a student at a qualifying college or university. Now I know that this is no small investment, so I'd like to give you a sense of the value I bring to those who give these one on one sessions a chance. The number one thing that my clients say about their sessions is that I come prepared, I give you my full attention and that my questions and insights are very personalized to your unique situation. In one review, Daniel S. Wrote, Tom prepared very well for our session. He asked very good questions, he was very curious, and I felt it was a very personalized session. Of course, at the end of your session, I work with you to create concrete, actionable next steps to take in your journey to book your session. Find the booking link in my skillshare profile page or you can visit Tom slash coaching. I open up just eight coaching spots per month, so please don't delay book yours today. I look forward to meeting you soon.