Draw a Memory Milestone Map | A Fun Illustration Project for Any Level | Mimi Chao | Skillshare

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Draw a Memory Milestone Map | A Fun Illustration Project for Any Level

teacher avatar Mimi Chao, Owner & Illustrator | Mimochai

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.

      Class Intro! Create a Special 'Map'


    • 2.

      What We'll Be Making


    • 3.

      Tools You’ll Need


    • 4.

      Project Ideas!


    • 5.

      My Process Flushing Out the Sketches


    • 6.

      My Process: Refining the Design


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts + Other Class


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About This Class

Create an illustrated milestone map that is special to you! 

This is a fun, meaningful creative exercise that anyone can do. A sweet way to commemorate relationship anniversaries, baby's firsts, and a effective way to share processes or journeys. Also works as a great illoging entry ;) 

This is Part One of a two-part series.

I'll be using this design to show you my digital painting process in my next class, coming in a few weeks. I wanted the example to be something you'd be excited to learn how to digital color—it's easier to learn that way :)

Free Download: Class Map!

Just for fun, I created an additional sample map that follows the process of the class. A meta map! Hope it gives a little spark of inspiration :)

Click Here to Get the Free Download 

A zip file should automatically download with JPGs and PNGs you can use, including The Plan and the example below!

Bonus Material

As mentioned in the Tools class, here are the blog links where I share my favorite digital and analog tools, along with another helpful post on getting started:

If you enjoy this class, you are welcome to check out my three other Skillshare classes: Illustrated JournalingMaking Chat Stickers and Drawing on Photography :) They're all digital illustration-based creative exercises that are accessible to any skill level.

Happy learning!


Follow: @mimizchao 

Visit Mimochai: www.mimochai.com 

Meet Your Teacher

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Mimi Chao

Owner & Illustrator | Mimochai

Top Teacher

Hello I am the owner-illustrator of Mimochai, an independent creative studio based in LA. I'm here to share skills in drawing and mindful creativity. If you'd like to be updated on my new classes, just hit the +Follow button

My guided community is at mimochai.studio My shop is at mimochai.com and my portfolio site is at mimizchao.com Follow me on IG @mimochai and @mimizchao

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Level: Beginner

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1. Class Intro! Create a Special 'Map': Hi, everyone. I have a fun project to share that I hope you'll really enjoy. Together, we'll be creating an illustrated milestone map that is special and personal to you. For those of you who are new to my classes, my name is Mimi and I am a freelance illustrator and also create for my story studio, Mimi Chao. One of my more popular illustrated prints is called The Plan, which is really about not having a plan and being okay with it. As people started to tell me how they relate to it and also as I started to receive more requests to meet custom versions for others, I realized it might be something that many people would like to create for themselves. It could be a really sweet idea for everything, from graduations, to weddings, to personal life milestones. So, I wanted to show you my process and how I create it, so that you can make it work for you. In this class, I'll be using my original, The Plan illustration as the example to talk through my thought process from brainstorm to final design, and along the way, I'll share lots of other ideas so that you can come up with what might be the right personal story for you. I think it can work with anything from personal life milestones to more like how-to step process guide. So, it's really accessible and versatile, and you can make it really fun. As with all my classes, this project design for any level, and since you can make the illustrations as simple or complicated as you want, it's really more of a creative exercise. So, don't be intimidated if you feel like you can't draw. I'll show you how you can use a very simple concept, and then take you through a more advanced metaphorical and abstract thinking if you want to create something a little bit different. So, I hope you're excited. I will see you in class. 2. What We'll Be Making: What exactly are you going to be making? Together, we're going to create an illustrated milestone map like the one shown. You notice that it's not just any map, it's more like a visual representation of life events. So, I really recommend making this personal and special to you. If you're not sure what to make, I'll walk you through my brainstorming process to give you some ideas. In my last Skillshare class on Illustrated Journaling, I realized that lots of people like to draw their daily life events, or what's going on in their day to day. So, I can totally imagine this being a great illustrative or bullet journaling entry as well. By the end this class, you will have the finished design at the illustrated map journey of your choice. You can totally stop there or join me in my next Skillshare class. We'll walk through my full digital painting process using this as the example. I'll show you how I would personally color and render it, and it's a great starting place if you are new to digital painting. For now, let's just focus on the design. I'll meet you in the next class. We'll go over what we'll need to get started. 3. Tools You’ll Need: So, for this class, all you really need is a pencil and paper to get started. You can also, of course, work on a tablet using a stylus, if you prefer to work digitally. It's really whatever you're most comfortable with. For me, personally, I tend to like to brainstorm and do all the initial thinking on pencil and paper. I feel like my thoughts flow better that way and then, everything else from refining the designs, to working on the illustrations and color, I do all digitally, so that's what I'll be doing here. For pencil and paper, I have a notebook that make that I like to use and then, a Col-Erase blue pencil by Prismacolor. For whatever reason, I find that I think better in blue. So, that's why I use that and it's very smooth, and it feels like it's just easy to get the ideas out. So, I would encourage experimenting on your end on what works best for you because I do find that it makes a difference. From there, I'll be working mostly on the iPad Pro using the Apple pencil with my favorite drawing app, which is called Procreate. You can totally follow the entire class using just one method the whole way. But, if you're curious about what my favorite digital and analogue tools are, I've a couple blog entry sharing just that. I'll include links to those in the class About Page you can find below the videos. So, now that we have our tools. Let's get started into the next class where we'll be sharing our project ideas and brainstorming together. I'll see you there. 4. Project Ideas!: So, people are always saying how much they relate to the plan and looking back, that makes sense, because it was based on personal experience. So, my advice here is start with what you know. Tell a story that is personal to you, or share a process that you're experiencing, and want to internalize or tell others about. The more excited you are about the content, the more fun this project will be for you. So, I'm going to walk through some more straightforward milestone examples and concept ideas, just so we can start getting the hang of it. Then, I'll jump into my process behind the plan which is a little bit more abstract or metaphorical. The first thing that I think that makes sense is graduation. It's great to make for yourself, or a loved one, or even as a group activity between friends. You can see it through your own personal experience, or also through a friend's experience. The process would be, maybe thinking through in a chronological order, starting with freshman year. Thinking about your first day of school, maybe your outfit, the first classes that you had, your favorite teacher, friends that you made that year, first dances. I think awkward moments are great ideas for showing a growth trajectory, or story narrative in this map environment. Then, moving on to sophomore year, you can think about maybe some growing pains, or maybe a big game that you're a part of or watched, something at the assembly, and a performance, here's a lot of options. So, whatever speaks to you, like a memory that you're fond of, and want to commemorate, write it down. Then junior year, we're starting to think about preparing for the big tests, and what college you want to apply to, or if you're in college, what job you want to get into and then, so you can start thinking about maybe drawing some proud achievements that you were in, or awards. Then moving into senior year, figuring out some key moments that really ended this storylines, such as prom, or graduation, or a big dissertation that you did, applying for the job and getting in, or a college and getting accepted. Thinking along those lines, and then, ending with a big congrats. So, I think, that could be a really great graduation present, or something to commemorate your time in school. Another great idea could be for relationship maps. So, this would be ideal for couples, even a wedding gift, or an anniversary gift and it's basically what it sounds like. So, similar to the graduation process, thinking out what the milestones would be, and ideas for the various steps. And so, the obvious ones would be, of course, like when you met, the first date, first kiss, trips that were taken together, getting a pet, and I would even not be afraid to throwing things like your first big argument, and making up from that, or your first very serious discussion, thinking about moving in together, engagements or weddings, depending on where you are at in the relationship. Another good idea is baby milestones, which would be great for parents to create for their kids, or to make as a gift for your relatives. So, think about con milestones, and how you might represent them through an illustration, in a fun way. Of course, there is, when the baby was born, and maybe first outfits, first words, when teeth start coming in, and their first steps, and when they're crawling. But also, again, this little fun moments, such as a big tantrum that they had, or their favorite stuffed animal, or that time that that somebody that they drew on their face, or something that really pulls out unique moments in your own baby's life, or the baby that you're trying for, is something that would make this more personal to you. Of course, if you don't feel like doing milestones, you can totally do something else, there are so many ideas. So, for example, over the past weekend, I was at a coffee roasting place, and they did a tour of how they process, and roast, and then brew their coffee, and I thought that this would be a great way to do an illustrative map, to really internalize that process, and share something that I've learned. So, in this example, instead of thinking about milestones, it's almost like an infographic, but done in a more fun, process way. So, you can think about, for example, like for them, it was started with how coffee grows, where are the best places on the equator that they tend to grow in, testing those farms, tasting the coffee, and doing the cuppings, and then picking the coffee itself, bringing it back over here, and then the actual final roasting and brewing process. So, I think that would make a great visualization of this process, and make it a simple way to share it with others. So, I hope that was helpful to see that there are so many possibilities of what you can do with this concept. From milestones to processes, I would really just go and brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Whatever excites you, or you would like to see in an illustrative map format. You can go through photos, obviously social media, talk to friends and family about things that they think would be interesting, and then, write it all down, think it through, and pick your favorites, and meet me in the next class. There, I'll show you my example, and the process that I went through to turn it from just concept to illustrated design print. So, hopefully, that will help you think through how you want to represent yours. So, I'll see you there. 5. My Process Flushing Out the Sketches: So, now I want to go through my process when coming up with the plan so that it can help shed some light on how I came up with the sketches and the design. This one is a little bit different than the milestones and process examples that I went through earlier because it's a little bit more of a metaphor story than a narrative timeline. I came up with this during a time in my life when I was going through a big career change, and I wanted to express some of the sentiments that I was feeling, and realized that I could also incorporate some other things that I had expressed in relationships that I think are really relatable. That's why I came up with this journey of starting out from home, and then going through the feelings of like we're lost, and then now we're going through a place where nobody knows our names. I was coming from a very stressful job, and that was something that was very fast-paced and very time-consuming and demanding, and realizing that I really valued something that was more of a work life balance. In those sentiments, thinking about taking the long route, or the scenic route, and how to incorporate that, and even just a simple no in this plan design. Thinking through all the little moments that I show here, I was trying to express something that was a feeling that I was going through, and the different emotions that came out, or evolved along the way. I didn't start and just come up with this design right away. It was actually more that I had these little moments that I knew I wanted to share, and then I started to fill in the blanks along the way. For example, that place we'd always say we go, that trip or that place that seems so aspirational or you're saying that you're going to go, but there is always something that comes up, whether it's work or another personal commitment, and you just keep pushing it off, and realizing many years later, that place we always said we'd go, we never actually ended up going to. So, instead, making that the priority and treating that just as much of the important stuff as the really important work event or a really personal commitment. Then where nobody knows our names, it came out from a moment where we were talking about how it'd be nice to just escape once in a while and just go somewhere where you can start all over, or even just take a break where you don't owe anyone anything. No one's expecting anything from you. You can just start fresh. Once I had those key pieces there, the rest of it really came and fit itself in. So, somewhere far away, it's taking those two moments and pushing it even further. So first, I start out with where nobody knows our names. It could just be the next town over and then that place we'd always said we'd go, it's somewhere that we know of and is familiar, and then as we keep going, somewhere far away now just becomes this abstract. We're just getting further and taking bigger risks and bigger adventures, and finally, when you reach the bottom, cross that bridge when we get there is a very common saying that just means let's deal with that when it comes up. So, instead of worrying about or planning for all these future events, and with all the what ifs, let's see where life takes us, and then when we need to cross that bridge, let's plan for that. So, I thought that that was a fitting metaphor for ending this design, and then finding little opportunities along the way to add some interest is where we came up with the detours and the best discovery ever, and then adding in secret spots. So, something like the secret spot is a good example where I didn't think of that when I was first coming up with this idea, but as I was looking at it from a visual perspective, I realized there this empty spot in the middle that could be great. So, I had other ideas such as camping trip or vacation time, or something, but secret spot really spoke to the adventure and the abstract metaphor of this type of sentiment. So, that place that you and either your friend or your loved one have carved out for yourselves and nobody else knows is a good secret spot. I also want to point out what could make this more straightforward design a lot more interesting, or dimension, or fun, which is taking a common feeling and turning it on its head. So, the second piece I have here, it says, "We're lost," and it's crossed out and says, "This is awesome." So, I think a common sentiment in this type of adventure is feeling like I don't know what I'm doing and I don't know where I'm going, and it's freaking me out. Instead, just accepting and embracing that journey, and saying that, "This is awesome and this is part of the story that I'm taking on." So, I can see examples of that where if you're thinking through a different type of story line, finding those opportunities of inserting a joke or inserting a lighthearted moment in situations where maybe you used to be scared, or it might seem intimidating at that time. It's a good way to just add some dimension to this design. So, I tend to brainstorm and sketch at the same time, so I already had an idea of the illustrations that I wanted to do, but there were definitely decisions that I made after knowing how all of them looked together. Obviously, each of these could have been represented in so many different ways, from the very first one, like start. Did I want to show two people walking or did I just want to show a little house? I felt that those very simple home was the best representation of how I felt where you're just starting from square one. It's like a game, home-base, and then moving forward from there. Then, on we're lost, and this is awesome, I could have shown a little car maybe, and it's in the middle of nowhere, but I live in California, and when we're driving on these long stretches of open road, we pass a lot of either desert or big cow farms. So, to me, a cow and a cactus really represented that feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere and not being very sure about where you are, and then deciding that this is awesome, and this is a great opportunity to just embrace that. So, we're lost and this is awesome, might mean something totally different for you. So, I would just pick the thing that really speaks to you. On the other hand, if you feel like you're designing this to share with others, think about what are some common iconic representations of things. So, we're lost to be like tumbleweeds, or a car being stranded, or someone staring at a map and being confused. I went through that with each of these little moments and thinking through what speaks to me, and also what would be easy for other people to understand if they were to read this. So, that's my general process for thinking through the illustrations and how I want to depict the little moments. For this step, you can make the illustrations as simple or complex as you would like. You can really just do stick figures and you'll see that a lot of the drawings that I've done are super simple line drawings, and then in my other example I did for the client, I did a lot more painterly and a little bit more complex in the designs itself. So, it's really up to you on how you want to draw it. Once you have your drawings and general outline of the content you want figured out, let's meet in the next class where I'll talk through a little bit more about the design of the actual layout itself and really refine how the look and the balance might be. So, I'll see you there. 6. My Process: Refining the Design: Now that we have all the pieces of the illustrations, let's talk about actually refining the layout of the design. I knew that I wanted it to be a map style, but even within that framework, there's so many different routes to go. For me, I wanted to do the winding vertical portrait layout map because I felt that it best represented the message that I was trying to get across, but also visually felt right in terms of the flow. I can also imagine a lot of other great alternatives such as you can imagine a path going up a mountain and that would be great for what you're trying to represent. Perhaps a goal you're trying to reach, or some progress that's more going up rather than a traveling down. Then another great option would be a landscape version where the map route is going from left to right. I think that that would be great for showing more of a linear timeline such as a graduation or a journey that you're going on. I think also another option is ging design. I think that's always a great source of inspiration. So, if you've played Mario growing up, I'm talking about with the little world maps and he goes to the little stages, and then there's a mushroom hut, and then there is some hammer brows that he might run into, and, of course, the bows or boss castle stage at the end. So, you can imagine replacing those stages with milestones and moments in your own story and having that final culmination be the final boss stage. So, there's lots of different options to think through. Be as creative as you want or if you just want to go into the design, you're welcome to start with this winding vertical map path that I have shown here. Once you decide on which route you want to go, I would spend some time thinking about how the path should flow. Here is where I think about what the right balance is. So, I like that this is a very simple drawing next to a little bit more of a detailed drawing of some buildings. Then, as we follow along the path and come over here, I went with a much more simpler and iconic representation of that place we'd always said we'd go because one, it's something people can get right away, and two, it fits well within this curving circular path that I wanted to incorporate and fits in that circle. Also, it doesn't overwhelm the site with too much detail. So, I also thought about, I like that there's a a landscape feeling here, more of a city buildings here, and then an animal character is introduced here, which is a nice balance of interest as well. As I was designing it, I would say that I knew that I had these little pieces and I started to lay it along this route. Then saw that there were opportunities to add and details such as these trees. Along the path, there were the birds and trees and those weren't things that I thought of when I first started working on this. It was only after I had laid down the design and saw where there were the opportunities to add more visual interest that I incorporated those. Same thing with these pads. So, here it says, a scenic route and, the long way, which are things that we are familiar with in terms of thinking about taking life slow and appreciating the moment. I can also see if you're say, working on the baby milestone version, that you could put lots of tears, sleepless nights, or happy giggles, or something like that in which case they're not exactly milestones, but they're very relatable moments that you're feeling along the way of this journey path. So, I would think about opportunities like that. Then also coming down here, this is a way to think about balance too and there's a circular shape here, a triangular shape here, rectangular shapes here, and more organic shapes here, and then balancing that out with a rectangular shape here, something more curving here. So, it ultimately all feels cohesive, and a lot of that is trial and error which is why I love using digital apps to do that because, for example, I would just take this selection tool if this didn't feel like it was in the right place, and I can move that around. So, that's really great for setting up composition. Then same thing with size. Say this cow felt a little bit too big or too small and I wanted to make him smaller or bigger. It's really easy to do that digitally and just get a sense of how I want things to feel altogether. So, now, let's talk a little bit about color. So, here I have a very rough color layout to show you. This is how I currently like to think about color, in really simple color palettes. I'm just going to pull them out here so you can see it a little bit more clearly. I'm using the shell brush that comes with Procreate in case you're curious. Then, to use the Eyedropper tool, for me, I just hit this and then and Eyedropper tool comes up. So, right now I'm using this peachy, coral color and I don't want to get too much into color theory here, but there's complimentary colors and red tends to go well with blue and so there's a lot of range between them, like what is red and blue? These are basically red and blue, but maybe not the one that you think of as a basic elementary color right away. But those rules still work. Then when it comes to say, this green color, that's more, for me, personal case, I really like the blue-green color family, and I think that complements well. But I can totally imagine it being a different color. So, let me just quickly turn on the layers here to show you how convenient it could be to use Procreate to experiment with color. So, this is my green layer right here and just using the Hue Saturation tool you can try different colors basically, and it's totally personal taste at this point. I think it looks actually really great with this yellow ochre color as well, but it gives a different feeling. This gives a more hipster look to me, and here it's a little bit more playful, and then here a little bit more feminine. So, you can really try whatever color you want. It's a great way to experiment. So, once we're done with picking out our colors and this is honestly something I keep tweaking throughout the process to get to that final balance, but one thing I do think about is say, for example, here I've decided to color the cow the peach pink color and then you have the cactus incorporate the blue and the green. Then keep all of the colors here and then on the flipside here, I've had the mountains be the red color and then the lake be the ocean blue color which makes sense, but you could also totally flip those around, or I could have chosen to have the mountains be green and the water blue and have a little red sun in the back. I really play with it and just keep working on it until you feel the colors right. But since I ended up with two more pink heavy items here, when I came to the house, I wanted to balance that out and so that's why I used the blue there and then I added this little green dot to add a little bit more interest. Same thing with all these little decorations. There is a lot of opportunity there to play with whether you want to have a single color, use more the pair of the colors, or all three together. Then the birds, of course, also a nice way to set that compliment. I do think about what is appearing next to, so this pink bird is closer to this blue house and this blue tree and then these two blue green-birds are closer to these red elements here. Slowly it will start to balance out. Again, the great thing about digital is you can always create two different layers of the same thing. So, for example, I'm not sure if I like this green color, I can just duplicate it, I swiped to the left, and then hit duplicate, turn this one off, and then adjust this one. So, I'm like, "Do I like this yellow ochre color?" Sometimes, I'll literally just keep going like this and see which ones I like more. So, there's a lot of opportunity to experiment there as well. So, this is the final design. You saw that I incorporate a lot of those little detail moments that came after the fact wrapped around the main pieces that I knew I wanted to incorporate. A really quick side note is that if this design stuff, or telling a story is challenging to you and you really want to find that right metaphor to tell something really compelling, don't let that part stress you out. I would totally recommend starting with the more straightforward concepts and working through that. For me, I find that great ideas aren't just something that comes to you in a light bulb moment, even though it could seem that way when you're seeing other people come up with great ideas. It's really often more of something that you start off with and let it marinate in your mind, and you sleep on it, and you come back to it and one day after having that idea sit in your mind, it will really come to you. That's where I think great ideas happen. So, you can even see that in itself as being a great map idea. So, you start with an idea, and then you think it's bad, and then you struggle with it, and then you come back to it, and you go take a walk, and then you crumple up your papers, and you're frustrated, and then suddenly you have a hallelujah movement, and that's the end of the map journey there. So again, I would say make this fun for you, don't stress about having the best idea right upfront. There are so many ways you can utilize this concept that there's no worry about running out of ideas. Just keep working at it until you get to the point that you feel really happy with. So, this is my final design. I'm super excited to see what you're going to come up with and all the different styles that people will share. So, I hope you upload not just your final design, but also the sketches and the ideas that you had along the way. I'll see you the final class where I'll share my final thoughts. I'll see you there. 7. Final Thoughts + Other Class: I hope you enjoyed this class. I would love to see your sketches and design, so please be sure to upload them when you're done into the Class Project section. I'm also working on my next Skillshare class, where I'll be taking the design that we've been creating here and showing you my full digital coloring process. Since these map illustrations tend to be relatively simple, the hard work is all in the design. It's a really great opportunity to introduce yourself to how to digitally paint. So, if you'd like to be notified of when that class is available, just be sure to follow me through my teacher profile. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed this class and I'll see you next time. Bye.