Foodie Illustration: Drawing Your Favorite Holiday Recipe | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare

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Foodie Illustration: Drawing Your Favorite Holiday Recipe

teacher avatar Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

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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.

      Plan Your Composition


    • 3.

      Sketch Your Recipe


    • 4.

      Ink Your Sketches


    • 5.

      Refine Your Illustration


    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

In this class, we’ll getting in the holiday spirit and drawing our favorite holiday recipes! One of the questions I hear most from my students is some form of: 

So in this class, not only will we dive into our memories and holiday nostalgia, but I’m also going be focusing on the DECISIONS I make in my process. To do that, I’m going to take you through my step-by-step process of illustrating a text-based recipe, stream of consciousness style.

This class was basically made as a live stream, with me designing, drawing, and working while talking though each step. 

We’ll go from a text box full of words and a blank Photoshop file, to organizing the text, planning the composition, sketching the recipe, inking the sketches, and making final refinements. You’ll see what I did, and hear why I did it at every step.

I’ll be using Photoshop and Procreate on my iPad Pro, but these basic concepts and steps are the same no matter what tools you use, so feel free to use whatever you like best!

Ok! So let’s get into that holiday spirit and start drawing some food!



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Meet Your Teacher

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Christine Nishiyama

Artist at Might Could Studios

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Hallo! I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist + founder of Might Could Studios.

I make books and comics, and I draw a whoooole lot. I teach aspiring and established artists, helping them explore their art, gain more confidence, and discover their unique artistic styles.

My core belief is that art is good and we should all make more of it. 

Instagram: Yeewhoo, I quit all social media! 

Books: Check out my books here, including a graphic novel series with Scholastic!

Subscribe to my Substack newsletter: Join over 10,000 artists and get my weekly essays on creativity and artmaking, weekly art prompts, and behind-the-scenes process work of my current picture book. Subscribe here!

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Christine Nishiyama, illustrator in Might Could Studios. In this class, we'll be getting into the holiday spirit in drawing our favorite holiday recipes. One of the questions I hear most from my students is some form of, how do you decide where to put what in a composition? How do you decide how to compose an illustration? How do you take a bunch of text and decide how to transform it into a designed illustrated composition? So in this class, not only are we going to dive into our memories and holiday nostalgia, but I'm also going to be focusing on the decisions I make in my process. To do that, I'm going to take you through my step-by-step process of illustrating a text-based recipe, stream of consciousness style. This class was basically made as a live stream, with me designing, drawing, and working while talking through each step. So you get to see each step along the way as I make it, along with me talking through the steps, explaining why I'm making them and how one success or mistake leads to the next in an illustration. We'll go from a text box full of words in a blank Photoshop file to organizing the text, planning the composition, sketching the recipe, inking the sketches, and making final refinements. At every step, you'll see what I did and hear why I did it, and I want you to do the illustrating with me. I'll be using Photoshop and Procreate on my iPad Pro, but these basic concepts and steps are the same no matter what tools you use, so feel free to use whatever you like best. First, choose your favorite holiday recipe. Maybe it's something your grandma brings every thanksgiving or something your dad cooks every Christmas morning. The recipe I'll be illustrating is Czech goulash with dumplings. It makes me remember my time in Prague in the winter and warms me right up, just thinking about it. So let's get into that holiday spirit and start drawing some food. 2. Plan Your Composition: The first step in our process is to type out your recipe in Photoshop. You can make your file size whatever you like, but I'm starting out here at about 8.5 by 11 inches. I've set up some borders here because mine is actually going to be printed in a cookbook later, but you can set yours up to just have about a quarter of an inch border on all sides if you'd like. I've got my recipe all typed out here. The next step is to try and get some hierarchy. Right now, everything is the same size. We want to have some things bigger than others to make a hierarchy and to let your eye know where to go as you're reading the page. You generally start out at things that are bigger and move on to things that are smaller. I'm going to pull out the title of my recipe, and the ingredients, and start working with those. I'll just grab that, make a new text box, take out the ingredients, and put them in their own text box. Then I'm going to make my header standout by increasing the font size. You can also play around with not having everything be on one line. Then I'm going to put the servings and the time a little smaller below it. Now we have a header and a sub-header, and we're already starting to be a little more organized. Now, I'm going to take my ingredients list here and start playing around with it. I think I want to have it up in this corner, but it would probably fit better if I made it into two columns instead of one long column. That way it would fit in this little rectangle up here where my header is. Luckily, I've got 10 things in my ingredients list, so I'm just going to copy and paste five of these and make two columns. Think I'm also going to scoot down this second line in the header because the parentheses is starting to jet into that G little bit. I'll just adjust the letting between these lines here a bit. Then since I've actually got two recipes here in the same spread, I'm going to do the same thing on the other side with my second recipe. Now one of the tricks I like to use for planning out my composition before I start drawing, is to use shapes. I know up here with my ingredients, I'm going to have about a rectangular shape, like what the type is doing right now. I'm just going to go ahead and put a box behind that at a light blue color. Right now I haven't decided if I want to actually have boxes in my recipe or not, because I'm illustrating it as a comic, and sometimes I outline the boxes, and sometimes I don't. I want to give myself the option of having those lines later, so I'm going to go ahead and put this box here, and then as I'm drawing, I'll make that decision based on how the drawing is going. Now I've got my boxes there, and I'm going to start working with the rest of the text and trying to organize it. Sometimes I'll know that I want something to happen at the end. For example in this recipe, I know that I want the last thing in the recipe, like the thing that says, okay. Now serve your food to be in the bottom right-hand corner because that's where you're naturally going to finish reading. I'm going to take the last item in the recipe and go ahead and put it over there, so I know that that's where I need to end up. I also know that I want that last step to be a big showstopper one. I don't want it to be a tiny little weak box at the end that you hardly notice, I want you to know that you're at the end of the recipe and to feel satisfied. I'm going to go ahead and partition off this base for that, so that I don't run out of space as I'm planning. Then I think it might be nice to take that same text box, and repeat it at the beginning of the recipe, because that will give you a little repetition, and a nice balance on the spread. I'm just going to put this box over here, and then I'm going to take out my first item in the recipe, and start working with it a little bit. It's important with this first step in the recipe to try and figure out how you want your type to look. We can always change it later, but I'm going to be putting each thing on a different text box. It's going to be a lot of work to go back and change everything if I decide that I, for example, want everything to have a different boldness or a different font size, I'm going to have to go back into every text box and do that. If I can go ahead and set it up now and have it done as I go through, then I won't have to go back later and change everything. So basically I want to have a header like we talked about before with the hierarchy, so I'm going to put my step one, prep work, on its own line and bold it a little bit, and bold it a little bit and have it be in all caps. The actual instructions will be in sentence case, and I'm going to bump up the letting a little bit so it looks more balanced. I think that looks pretty good for my first box. You can see how that blue box is telling me the space that I'm going to have later to draw in. I'm starting with this, because I come from more of a design background, a design mindset. I don't want to just start drawing the whole thing, I want to plan it out before you start drawing. I know that I've room for everything and I know how much space I have to draw each step. Now I'm basically just going to go through and keep making these shapes and spacing out the steps in the recipe. I've got this done, but I'm not really happy with it. I'm going to save it as a new file, so that I can keep messing around with it, but if I want, I can go back to this later if I don't like where I end up after messing around some more. I think this is messy-looking and also bland. I'm just going to delete all these and start over. What I'm going to do to try to organize it, is I'm going to take this first box up here and repeat it six times, so that I have six levels going across and they're all the same size. I'm going to pull it down, so they're evenly spaced in the composition. Now I have this framework to work in, and I'm going to start breaking up the boxes based on how the recipe flows. There are some steps that go together, like the milk and the yeast need to be grouped together, and then also at the end where I sliced the dumplings, I've broken it up that one step into three sub-steps. I'm using those organizations of the recipe are ready to help me organize my composition. I'm also thinking in the back of my head about how I'm going to draw each step. For example, in step four mix, there's a lot of things in there. I need to add a big bowl, maybe a whisk, two types of flour, adding salt, adding yeast mixture, and stirring. That's a lot to fit in one box even if I don't draw at all. So I'm going to make that box a little longer and bigger than the other boxes around it. Then, for example, with this step 11, like I said, I've broken it down into sub-steps, and I know that this is going to be tricky for people to understand just from the words. You're basically taking a piece of string and putting it underneath the dumpling loaf, and then wrapping the string around, and pulling the string to slice the loaf. When you say that out loud or you read it, it doesn't really make sense, I really need the illustration to communicate what you're supposed to do to people. I want to have plenty of room in that step, to show what you're supposed to do with the illustrations. I'm going to give two whole big illustrations down here for a wrap around the top, whichever misspelled here, and pull it tightly with the cross strings. Then I've still got room for a big step 12 at the end. That's the biggest one on this page and not the whole spread, but the biggest one on this page, and so it's definitely going to stand out and you're going to be satisfied at the end. Now, going back up top, I've also realized that I didn't organize these first few steps in the best way. I've got a huge box for step three, mix the egg when really that's a pretty simple step, I don't need a big box just to show beating the egg. I'm going to go back through in these and refine the text a little bit, to try and have more space for my drawings. I am going to delete any words that I don't need, or try to reword things, so that I have less space for text and more space for drawing. Then I'm going to move the step three egg up here, and I think that I actually might switch it. I'm going to make that step one. Really these steps are interchangeable, it's not going to change the recipe for me to do them in a different order, and it helps the design a lot for me to reorder them. I can have the egg in the first one, I can have the egg and the milk in that two small boxes, and then the yeast in the bigger box, because that's going to need more of an illustration, a bigger illustration than just beating egg is. With this project, I have a lot of creative freedom. I can basically do whatever I want with this client project. This would totally depend on your client. If you were doing an illustrated for a recipe, you would want to check with the client or with the author of the recipe to make sure that you could rearrange the text, because that would be a big deal if you change the recipe and it wasn't okay. But this is my contribution to the cookbook, so I'm allowed to do whatever I want with it. Then I'm just going to go through the rest of the steps and do the same thing. Try to cut out words where I can or simplify wording, so that I can have more room for drawing, and less room for words. I also try to balance where the text is in each box. I don't want to have every single text in the bottom left-hand corner of every box, it would be a little repetitive. I'm going to also go through and readjust where the text is in the box. Which also deals with thinking ahead what I'm going to draw in the future. Now I think I'm pretty happy with that composition. Like I said, we can always change any of this in the future as you're drawing or inking or finding, this is all editable, but I really like to have this plan to move forward with. I feel a lot more confident about my drawing if I know how much space I have to work with as I'm drawing. Now let's move on to the drawing phase. 3. Sketch Your Recipe: Okay. So now the fun part, we're going to start drawing. So I exported my designed composition as a JPEG and imported it into Procreate on my iPad pro. This is where I'm going to draw my recipe, but you can totally use whatever tools you prefer. You could just draw this on pen and paper, on a different kind of tablet, on tracing paper, you can use really whatever you'd like, its all the same process. I'm just going to set my typography and boxes at a low opacity, and then make a new layer on top and start drawing. I really, I'm just sketching at this point, I'm not trying to tell myself that something is stupid. I'm not trying to throw out any ideas. I'm just drawing whatever comes into my head. Sometimes I like an idea and I keep going with it. Sometimes I'll draw something completely and then erase because I hate it. It's really just getting it out of your head and seeing what leads to the next thing. I also like to have a balance of keeping things in the drawing box, in the composition boxes that we made, and letting things break out of the box. Like I said before, I haven't quite decided if I want to outline these boxes in the final illustration or not, but either way it'll be good to have things inside the box and outside the box. It adds a little bit of depth and interest to your composition to me. So just go through and sketch each of your steps, remembering not to tell yourself that something's a bad idea, just go with whatever comes out. You can always change, erase, or redraw whatever you'd like. 4. Ink Your Sketches: Now I've got all my sketches done and I'm ready to move on to inking. Inking is just the next step in my process, you certainly don't have to ink if you don't like to or don't want to, or it's just not part of your style. You could just refine your pencil drawing or you could paint it, you can do whatever you prefer, however you prefer to illustrate. But what I like to do is to sketch and then ink. I like the cleanness and the boldness of the lines. I don't like to have a whole lot of sketchiness in my drawings. I love it in other people's drawings, it just doesn't really feel right to me when I draw that way. I prefer to have clean inked lines at the end. I went there and inked all sketches, and now I'm going to go through and add a little bit of extra stuff. I like the idea, now that I'm going through this, of adding some sound effects and also adding some script hand-drawn typography to be a contrast to all the San Serif and the all caps. I'm just going to go through and draw a bunch of sound effects. I went crazy with the sound effects, it's way too many. I'm definitely going to go through and delete some of them in the refinement phase. But for right now, I'm just going to draw them all so I have them for later and I'm putting them on a new layer so I can delete whatever I don't want later. Then, I also have decided finally, that I do want to outline the boxes. I think that that will help organize the recipe and keep everything clear because that bread dumplings recipe is crazy with all the boxes and so I think they need the outlines to really tell the reader, "This is one step in this box, you are now moving on to the next step in the next box". Otherwise, I think they might all start to run together and it might not be clear where you're supposed to go next even though they're numbered, I think visually it might not be clear. Also in this step, I'm going to paint in some values on my illustration. I don't always do this, but I do with a lot of my illustrations. This particular cookbook is going to be printed in black and white, so I can't paint in any colors, but I can paint in values just with some grays. I'm going to choose the gouache paintbrush and procreate and set it at a low opacity and then paint in some values throughout my composition. I'm going to try and balance the values throughout the whole piece, so then I have a good balance of light, medium, and dark values throughout the entire composition. It's also important to keep certain values the same for certain subjects. For example, my dough in the bread dumplings recipe needs to always be white so that they know like, "Oh yeah, this is the dough that I saw on the last step". If I was changing from white dough to gray dough to black dough, then it would make reading the recipe a lot more complicated. Having the values also brings another type of hierarchy into the composition. If everything is just white and black outlines, it makes it all blend together and it's like one flat value, one flat design, and so having different values and especially working with just a few values, like I've really just got light, medium and dark here, really helps to make things stand out and gives you some hierarchy as you're reading through the recipe. Your eye is led to the next thing by the values. Now, I'm happy with my inking, I'm happy with my painting, I'm happy with my lines, I'm pretty happy with this whole thing, so I'm going to move on to the refinement stage. 5. Refine Your Illustration: After I was done inking, I exported the illustration as a layered Photoshop file and saved it to Dropbox. Then I opened that up in Photoshop on my computer. Then I copied my typography from the original design composition that we made and pasted it onto this new document. Now I've got my illustration that I drew and procreate and I've got my editable live texts that I originally made in Photoshop. Now, if I wanted to change anything, I still can. I'm also going to turn off the typography layers that were in my procreate file because I don't need those now, I've got the actual editable text. Now, I'm going to go through and make any refinements or adjustments that I see as I just look in depth at the recipe. The first thing I see here is that, the time and the servings is looking squished in between the header and the girl's head wearing goggles, so I'm going to adjust and play with the size and the lining of that to make it look a little better. Then I'm going to do the same thing on the other side so that they're matching. I'm also going to bold the time and servings and unbold the actual time and servings, so that's obvious that it's like a little sub-header. Now, here in this step, I purposefully put these on a different layer because I knew I was going to want to move them around. You can see that the paprika, bay leaf, salt, and milk/water are all hitting that panel line and I don't want that. Right now, I'm going to decide, do I want them to break the line and I'll erase part of the line, or do I want to move them inside the box? I'm going to play around with those options to see which I want to do. I think, that looks a lot better. This word, sound effect here is also breaking the panel line and I don't want it to. I'm going to play around and experiment with where I want it to be. Then same here thing with the clink, I'm going to decide if I want it to break the panel line or not. I think that there's enough room right here for it. Yes, there's. Cool. Same with the beep, beep. But I think that beep, beep doesn't really have anywhere else to go, so I'm going to have to erase part of the panel line here, which is not a big deal. Like I said, this is getting crazy with all the stuff in this recipe enzyme. Maybe, I could make the script not stand out as much if I change the value of it, if I made it gray instead of black, but I'm not really sure if I like that, so I'm going to play around with it, but I think that I don't really like it that way. Then the schooka, schooka, I really like the idea of that sound effect. I think, it's cute and it adds some humor, but there's just no room for it and this page is getting crazy. I need to delete whatever I can, so I'm going to get rid of that, even though I do like it. Then yeah, these lines need to go. They're not necessary and they're just in the way complicating things. What do they have to do with raising? I did that hello smiley face as joke to myself, so I'm going to delete that. I'm all big now, I think is cute, but nothing else in this recipe is talking and anthropomorphizing the dough, but only in that one place, so it's weird. If I did it throughout, it could be cool, but it's weird to just do it in one place. I'm going to delete that and I'm going delete the swish and the little knife because there's just not room for it. I like the rolly. I think that that fits there and it also gives a little bit more instructions. Then the 2.5 inches in diameter, I really do need, that's part of the recipe that I just took out and put into the script, but I need that in there. It's really important for the recipe. But I think that I can squish it a little by making it 2.5 inch diameter instead of 2.5 inches in diameter. I'm just removing some words that I don't really need. You still know what that says now and it fits better. The pat, pat, I like, and it fits fine. It fills the empty space a little bit. The schloop, I really like, I think that I can fit it here. I like the schloop. Yeah. I'll just get rid of this line here. Blub, I like, but sorry, blub, there's just no room. Schlink, it does not even make sense, I'm getting rid of that one. Oh, yeah. That doesn't makes sense, I'm getting rid of that. Criss-cross, I like and I think it also gives you some instructions, you know that you're supposed to criss-cross the strings if you can tell by the illustration and it fits, so I'm going to leave that one there. Half-inch thick, same as the diameter, that one's important for me to leave and it fits, so that's okay. I also have just realized that my arrows are all black, when I wonder if they should match the typography of the script. I'm going to copy all those, select all those, and put them in the script layer. Now, it's called script and arrows layer, so that they're all the same. I'll change it back to gray, but I really don't like the gray. I'm going to make it black. Decision made, scripture now black. Then this is also a script, so I'm going to copy that. It basically says, bon appetit in Czech and I do not know how to pronounce it, so I'm sorry that I cannot say it, but I would mess it up extremely badly. I changed my mind. I think, I'm going go back to the gray script. Then I've got my little name down here and I like breaking the panel right there, so I'm going to leave that. Now, I painted over the Type, under the Type instructions in some places. I wasn't sure what I really wanted to do with it. If I wanted to paint the whole thing or through the words or if I wanted to have the words always be on a white background. I wasn't quite sure and I didn't do it the same in each box. Now, I'm going to go back through and erase some of the paint where I don't want paint. I have this on a soft eraser so that you don't get a hard line where I'm erasing, it's like a gradual erase. Then there are some spots in the paint where you can see a little discrepancy. I don't know what you'd call this. There's a line here that I don't like. I'm sure some people wouldn't mind it, but I don't like it. I'm going to use this Merge tool over here, that little hand with a finger and just go through like this is some weird like a hard line here in the paint and so I'm just going to smudge that so you can't see it. Then I'm just going to do a last check through the whole illustration zoomed in. I like sometimes when the paint goes over the lines, but sometimes, it's too much. I'm going to erase things that look weird, but leave some of them because I like a little messiness. I don't want everything to be perfect. I think that I am happy with this now. Let's move on to the last video. 6. Final Thoughts: That's it. Now you've got your illustrated holiday recipe. This was a bit of a different class for me, recording stream of consciousness style while I was working. I really hope you guys enjoyed it. Thanks so much for joining this class and I hope you decide to make your own illustrated holiday recipe. One last thing I wanted to mention, if you enjoy my classes, please consider signing up for my e-mail newsletter. I always announce my new classes, freebies on my website promotions, products, and more on that newsletter. Be sure to join if you're interested in seeing what new big things I've got cooking up at my Cook Studios. I hope to see you in the next class and a happy early holidays.