Graphic Illustration: Boldly Design with Color and Shape | Olimpia Zagnoli | Skillshare

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Graphic Illustration: Boldly Design with Color and Shape

teacher avatar Olimpia Zagnoli, Illustrator

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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.

      The Language of Color


    • 3.

      Inspiration and Resources


    • 4.

      Sketching Ideas


    • 5.

      Sketching your Illustration


    • 6.

      Digitizing your Sketch


    • 7.

      Drawing with Shapes


    • 8.

      Refining your Illustration


    • 9.

      Applying Color


    • 10.

      Experimenting with Color


    • 11.



    • 12.

      What's Next?


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About This Class

Color and shape are powerful communicators in design and illustration — and this class will hone your skills.

Join famed illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli for an insightful class exploring her thoughtful, unexpected use of color. Inspired by her Italian upbringing and artists she admires, her illustrations are the perfect vehicle for exploring the interplay of inspiration and techniques — and ways you can combine them in your own graphic illustration work.

Every lesson brings to life how illustration can be a tool to communicate a message. You’ll explore:

  • Inspiration and resources
  • The power of simple shapes, both in sketching and digital illustration
  • Selecting colors that fit your artistic and editorial story
  • Polishing your illustration with final touches

Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced illustrator, you’ll walk away with a more considered, thoughtful approach to your work as well as techniques to add to your stylistic repertoire. Every student is encouraged to try and share the culminating assignment: creating a self-portrait illustration from start to finish.


What You'll Learn

  • Introduction. In this illustration tutorial, you’ll learn how to translate your personality and identity into an expressive self-portrait.
  • The language of color. You’ll learn how to use color wisely as Olimpia Zagnoli takes you through her personal journey with color exploration. You’ll get a sense of how to use color “responsibly,” which means both confronting political and cultural connotations associated with certain colors used in  specific contexts, and understanding how to avoid going overboard with color use.
  • Inspiration and resources. Before you begin this illustration course in earnest, you’ll need to cultivate your own uniqueness. You’ll learn to do this by asking yourself a series of questions, starting with, “Where do you come from?” Olimpia will share how her background and hometown continue to inspire her work today and impress upon you the importance of quality over quantity.
  • Sketching ideas. You’ll learn how to combine multiple concepts into a single graphic illustration. Finally putting pencil to paper, you’ll define a frame for your illustration and work inside of it to create a sketch of yourself. Remember to think about how action can translate to a still image and communicate a sense of you.
  • Sketching your illustration. Now you can refine the idea you came up with in your initial sketches and create a version you plan to digitize. You’ll learn how to balance your composition in terms of color and see how few colors you can use in your design.
  • Digitizing your sketch. You’ll watch as Olimpia makes a digital painting out of her original sketch, drawing onto a tablet that is connected to her MacBook Pro. You’ll learn which elements to focus on first when starting your drawing in Adobe Illustrator and which parts of the picture you can save for later.
  • Drawing with shapes. You’ll learn how to spot where Illustrator and other computer illustration programs automatically “fix” your work for you and how to avoid this for a more individualized final product. Olimpia will teach you some techniques to help you spot mistakes in your digital painting by playing with its physical orientation.
  • Refining your illustration. You’ll get tips on how to get your own, unique reference images and how to translate photographs into digital illustrations. You’ll learn how to bend reality while maintaining a sense of physical reality in your work, and how to make minor adjustments in Illustrator that let you “keep your voice when using other people’s tools.”
  • Applying color. You’ll practice exploring colors with an otherwise finished composition. Olimpia will take you on a tour of artists who’ve inspired her use of color and show you how to arrive at a color palette that expresses the mood you’re looking to depict in your work.
  • Experimenting with color. You’ll get ideas for color and pattern inspiration, learning to eschew the idea of perfection in favor of creating something interesting. You’ll also learn how to keep images you copy and paste within the same design from becoming repetitive by applying surprising patterns and hues.

Meet Your Teacher

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Olimpia Zagnoli



Olimpia Zagnoli was born on a leap day in a small city in Northern Italy. She moved to Milan at an early age and graduated from the Istituto Europeo di Design in 2006. She has been working as an illustrator ever since. Her client list includes, among others, The New Yorker, Taschen, Google, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Guardian, Fendi. Her work has been exhibited in several galleries worldwide. Her style is characterized by soft shapes and chameleonic colors. She lives in Milan in a house with kaleidoscopic floors.

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1. Introduction: It doesn't really matter what you have around yourself in everything, little thing you could find a source of inspiration. So, we are here to cultivate that and turn it into something fantastic. Hi, my name is Olimpia Zagnoli, and I am an Illustrator based in Milan, Italy. If I had to describe my work, I would probably say it's really colorful, but simple at the same time, as illustration is getting more and more popular, I think it's essential to know where you're coming from, know what your references are in order to become a unique illustrator and be happy and successful. Today, we're going to take a look at my creative process and see how I try to incorporate all these elements into an illustration and we're going to do that by creating self-portraits. I worked really hard to find my own voice. In the beginning, it was really hard because I knew what I liked, but I didn't know how to translate it in my own way on paper, and so it took me a lot of time to just try to incorporate all of these elements that I loved into something that was mine, almost whatever I do speaks my language, so I'm lucky that I'm there now. 2. The Language of Color: Once thing that for me is really important is color. When I started working, I was really shy in the color department of my work. Because I felt that color was so powerful that it could really change the mood of a piece especially if it was paired with another color or with more colors. The more I began exploring this language, because I think it is indeed a language, the more I started using it more responsibly or not, depending on the case. It has taken me years to become braver in the use of color and a lot of colors that I hated ones became my favorite colors. A lot of those colors had a very specific connotation in my memory. For example, the yellow and brown together were something that I hated because they reminded me of my my grandma's pot holders and then over time they changed and I started using them a little bit and incorporate them a little bit in my pieces until now that I love them together because they became something new and more exciting and they now have a total different connotation compared to what they had years ago. In the beginning, I used a lot of gray backgrounds especially and I would use red, blue, and yellow as a safe choice. Primary colors take the pressure off your color choice and they allow you to work on the structure of the illustration, on the concept behind it while still making a very safe and elegant choice. I would suggest students and beginners to use those colors when you don't know what color to pick, like blue, red, and yellow are always a great choice and the more you're going to use them, the more you learn how to add some more other colors to them and change them and make interesting mix starting from them. Color allows you to set the mood for a scene. You can also give one color many interpretation if you know how to use it. For example, black is a color that's usually very dark and gloomy. But if you mix it with other colors, with more vibrant colors, it becomes very joyful and very vibrant. It could be like the background of a graphic composition. It could be an illustration about light in the darkness. It could be a beautiful elegant dress. It really depends on how you use it. For example, pink used to be so girly to me that I couldn't even use it in my works when I started working and then I learned how to use it and how to combine it with other colors and now it doesn't feel girly at all to me. It feels like a very great neutral color that feels so good to mix with other colors, especially colors that are boring in a way like browns and grays and they work so well together. It actually became a color that I use a lot and I love now. The more you are going to use colors, the more you're going to find out new meanings to the colors. I never set a limit in the use of colors that I'm going to use for a piece. But I tend to use three to four colors in every illustration that I make. Especially with students, I find out that it's really important to give them a limit sometimes. Because colors are so exciting and you want to use them. Maybe you have a new pencil set or whatever and you want to use all of them. But again, like as I said, the power of color is so important and so heavy that sometimes when you put too many colors, it becomes too heavy and you lose the concentration and you don't know what is the main focus of the image. Asking yourself, how many colors do I want to use for this piece is always a good question for beginning to work on a piece. Then while you're in it, you can add one more color or you can take off one of the colors and they're going to show you such a big difference in the final piece. Black can have so many meanings. For example, there is a piece by Fortunato Depero, which is an Italian futurist and one of my favorite artists, where he uses black to underline the characters that he has in his piece. He pairs it with white and pink and it becomes very vibrant and very joyous in a way. Well, there's another piece by Dick Bruna. It's a book cover and he uses black in pair with red and that's a very strong contrast. He uses it to describe a mystery scene. Whenever I get a new assignment, I always ask myself what character do I want to represent? Let's say I get an assignment about being the boss of a big corporation. I am very lucky because I can stop for a second and ask myself, do I want to represent a woman? Do I want to represent a man? Do I want to represent a black, blue, white, yellow person to be the boss of this corporation? Most of the time, my choices are accepted by an art director. To stop for a second and ask yourself, what is the story that you want to tell? I think it's very important and it's a responsibility that everybody who works with visual images should have and should make. Because once the work is printed, then your audience is going to recognize the choice that you made and if you don't make a choice, you make a choice anyway. I think it's really important to address your piece according to your needs and your thoughts on the world. When I first came to New York, I took the subway obviously and I realized that there was so much art around me. I immediately tried to find who was in charge of this of this art program. And I found out that MTA actually had an art program and I sent an email, I think it was 2008 and I never heard back from them for years. Two years ago, maybe three years ago, I got this email by one of their directors and they invited me to become part of this project and I was super excited. The assignment was to create a poster about the City of New York. It was super-wide concept. I just had to decide what story I wanted to tell. I started thinking about the idea of this woman from Harlem who would walk all the way to the Statue of Liberty and get there by sunset. And when I started sketching and I started making all these like colors watches around my sketches, I immediately knew that I wanted her to be a woman of color because I thought that was really authentic for my story. I built the color palette around that. I picked the color for her skin, and then around it, I picked the other colors according to that. I knew exactly what I wanted to portray in the beginning and I choose the main colors and then I started playing with them and I thought that it would be interesting to introduce a color or some colors that weren't that expected. For example, she has orange bright hair, which are maybe not that expected. I think it's interesting to change the perspective of what you think it's going to be natural and normal and try to see it from another point of view. The posters that I made were used to be on the platforms of the subway inside the trains and they've been seen by so many people. It was really unexpected for me. It was really exciting because I got the chance to interact with so many people that are not usually my audience. I got pictures, I got emails from people that were commuters, that were riding the train every day with their kids, with their families, for work and that's really like a window on a world that I rarely get to see from my little studio. It was really a very special project for me. 3. Inspiration and Resources: What I found out teaching classes is that, most of the times students feel like they need to get abroad to make it or they need to get inspired by other illustrators that are maybe from the US or they're Asian, and that's great because obviously copying illustrators is a great practice. But I think that they forget that the reason why those illustrators feel so exotic and exciting is because they're unique. So, we need to cultivate these uniqueness that we have inside us. In order to do that, it's always very good to ask yourself some questions before you start working. One of the questions is, where are you coming from? You might think that the place where you come from is the most boring place on earth, and that there's nothing good about it. But I bet that every single place has a potential. For example, I grew up, I mean I was born in Reggio Emilia, which is a very small city in the north of Italy and it's in a plane. So, if you take a train for hours, all you're going to see from the window is two stripes. One is blue stripe for the sky and one stripe for the grass. So, there is nothing really interesting about it, but I think that growing up around it, I sort of like had it in the back of my mind for so long, and that's probably the reason why, for example, when I draw landscapes, I use a very two-dimensional sort of like way of telling about places, and also maybe that could be the reason why I love stripes so much. I always wear stripes, I always put stripes on my character's clothes. Again, you might feel like your life is not as exciting, but if you're just look around, you'll see something that's special and that's yours. For example, when I was growing up, my mom had a lot of art books in the house, which were of course very useful. But when you're a kid, you're not really interested in art per se. So, I would look at the book covers and most of the time, I would open the book and the book was totally boring for me. So, I would just stare at the book covers. I remember that my mom had this book about architecture, it was like fantastic architecture. On the cover, it had this house, that's basically a face and I found out years and years later that it's actually a building by Nikki de Saint Phalle. I found it so interesting because this artist could take something that's a face, with big eyes and a big mouth with a tongue outside and turn it into an architecture. So, I think that from all these things that I would look around, that I would find in the house so I never really thought they were special. I took little bits of that of them and turn them into something that's now my style. One other thing that I had growing up, was music. I used to listen to a lot of music and I think there was a moment where music sort of like saved my life. When I was a teenager, my parents broke up and I felt like I needed some sort of like community around me that could understand me and I couldn't find it in my classroom. So, it was then that I discovered punk and punk was really important for me because it gave me some sort of like a comfort and in punk, I discovered many things that I wasn't expecting. For example, I saw not only the music, but also the style of it, and I saw especially that the role of people in punk where it was very different to what I imagined. Especially the role of women was very interesting for me because women in punk could be free, could be excessive, could be wearing a miniskirt and then have blue hair, and sing in a band, and be the center of the attention without feeling judged. That was something that was so powerful and it stick to me so much that I think now, my characters like the women that I did depict but also the men are not afraid of being different, and not afraid of having crazy hair, or wearing things that are not usually associated with their gender, for example which is another characteristic of punk. Again, it must feel like they're not so important things of your life, but then there's always a way to use them into your art. Nowadays, I see a lot of students and beginners trying to find inspiration on their Instagram, on Pinterest, on Google Images, and that's great because there's a lot of material and that's fantastic. But I think that if you take a step back, it's more interesting to stop for a second and ask yourself some questions before producing. Producing is great and it makes you feel active, and it's great to share what you have done. But I think that it's more important to work on the quality of the piece that you're making, rather than on the quantity and how much it's seen on the Internet. In order to step back for a second and work on the quality of the piece, I think it's really important to ask yourself again like, who are you? Where are you coming from? Rather than having this fear of producing and making, it's really more important to concentrate on what's behind the piece, on who you are as an artist, and only by finding your true way of saying things, I think you're going to be become an artist that's unique. I think I developed my language and lifestyle. But every day is a new challenge. I don't want to keep doing the same things over and over, and whenever I feel like I do, I feel a little bit uncomfortable with it. So, I always try to use new techniques and even if I don't share them on the Internet or if you don't see them in my work, they are there in my studio. They're on the floor. They're in the drawers. So, I think it's really important not to stick to one thing because it's going well because you think it's nice, but it's also very important to keep working on your practice every day and finding new ways. Otherwise, your job is going to become very boring very soon, and the purpose of your job is not just to make a pretty picture, but it's to become a better artist. 4. Sketching Ideas: So, we talked a lot about places where we come from and now that we were going to start sketching, I'm going to think about the place where I'm in right now, I'm in New York. As I said, I would like to make a self-portrait but I also wanted to include the fact that I'm in New York right now and that I love New York and it's a city where I spend a lot of time. So, I'm trying to put together these two concepts and see what comes up. So, we're going to start sketching, I'm going to use my usual sketchbook and just the pencil. Usually, I start by defining a frame around my illustration, a area where my work is going to be. So, I think it's really important to define whether you're going to work in a square, horizontally or vertically and then start sketching inside the box or at least that works for me. So, I'm going to define a area. Let's say I do it vertically, which for some reason is one of my favorite formats, and I'll think about myself when I'm in New York. So, I have a very specific way of depicting myself. So, I usually draw myself with glasses because I wear them all the time, and I'll think about what I do when I'm in New York usually, I walk a lot. So, to meet friends, meet clients, go shopping, go to bookstores and stuff. So, at the end of the day, my legs are completely destroyed and it's a good feeling because I related to the city of New York and I like it. So, one thing could be, for example, to work on this idea and try to underline how my legs feel after a day of walking in New York. So, this could be a way to give that sense of crazy legs, wiggly legs after a day out in the city. I've realized that lately I like to use a lot of the space that my box gives me. So lately, all my figures tend to use the entire space. They all almost go on the borders. So, they almost touch the borders, which I like, and I think it expresses their need to live in this space and they remind me a little bit of Fellini. Federico Fellini is a Director from Italy. He usually drew and represented these women that are very big, very iconic, and they feel so powerful and so important in its movies that I think it's great to refer to them in my works in a way. So, this is my hair pretty much now. Usually, I really like to depict hair that aren't just straight hair for many reasons. First of all, because my hair is usually wavy and I grew up thinking that straight hair were so much more sexy maybe or socially acceptable than wavy hair or curly hair. So, to add curly hair or wavy hair to my illustration is a revenge towards everyone that made me feel that way. So, I always try to include them in my illustrations and also I think they're more interesting in terms of the composition of the piece. There could be maybe a background that tells a little bit about the city where we are but it could be a little boring maybe. Usually, an illustration when you don't know how to show where you are, you use a skyline in the back, which sometimes works and sometimes is a little bit boring. So, let's not just go with this. I'll start over here and I'll change the position of the character. Again, we're almost touching the borders of the frame. Since I'm in New York, it could be myself sitting in a park, having a coffee. That's going be very big because we're in New York. So, that's a big cup. So, when I sketch I always have to remember that I don't use a black outline in my illustration. So, everything that might look like it's working in the sketch, might not work as well when it's digital because I don't have all these lines that tell me where a piece ends and when the other begin. So, I'll just delete all the lines that will help me define where my character begins and ends. In order to define the areas that I want to separate, I'll use something like a color, like a full color or a pattern. One thing I like to do when I'm here is go to thrift stores and find some vintage shirts from the 60's or 70's, the ones that would melt if you smoke around them. But usually, they have beautiful patterns and I'd like to buy them and then almost never wear them but I think they work really good on characters. So, I use the color now just to define the areas. I don't know if I'm going to use yellow or red in the final piece but it's just like to give a sense of all heavy all these parts will be in the final illustration. Here, we can already get a sense on how many colors we want to use in the final illustrations. For example, if you're using only two colors, the shoes are going to be yellow and maybe the color could be red and maybe everything else could be, let's do a blue. Like just the background will be one color. I think it's really good when you work with a few colors to also have white or black, which I know is another color but it will help maybe define some shapes better and maybe I will have some lipstick on that day and some nail polish, and the coffee can make a big cloud behind me or something like this. So, I kind of like the drawing now but I think it could be more interesting in terms of the composition of the image. So, she could either go outside the frame, maybe only some parts over could go outside like the cloud shoe and the arm, or maybe it could be interesting to see her doubled. So, let's try that in the next page. 5. Sketching your Illustration: One thing I can do is I'm going to use the sketchbook here to help me divide the two parts. Let's see. Maybe she could be on this side or in that side. Let's just put her hat here and try to work in symmetry. So, if she was drinking coffee in the other image, maybe we could make her have her American coffee in this picture like with the big cup, and maybe she could have an Italian coffee in this other picture, so with the smaller cup. So, she could have a nice little cup of espresso and here, she could have her big cup. Maybe the smoke could go in this direction and meet with the other one. So this, I think, it's a more interesting composition than the other. It works better and I think it also describes the situation a bit better. Again, as you can see the sketches are quite dirty and rough, and it's great to have this sort of space. Sometimes, when you begin working on a digital file already, it feels like there's less space for making mistakes, and try over and over, and find the right time to concentrate on the composition and on the concept of the piece. So, since this image became symmetric now, I think it could be interesting to use color as well in the same sort of like mirror way. So, she could have, for example, green pants and the other one could have a green t-shirt, and vice versa with the other color. So, start with red. She could have a green nail polish. Then, we can find one more color for the background. She obviously has red shoes and another color for the background here. I think it's a good exercise, if you want to try, you can definitely make this illustration with just two colors. So, let's say you pick up the green and the red, you can definitely arrange the illustration to support just two colors. I think it could be an interesting exercise to see how many colors you can avoid to use. So, here it is. This is pretty much the sketch for our illustration. Then, we're going to see how it works digitally. So, now that the sketch is done, we're going to make it digital. Just there, we're going to see if all these things work and we're probably going to use that space as well for adding more details to the illustration. I might to use a pattern, for example, for the clothes. I might see if this cloud on top of them works or not. So, this is just the first step. Then, from here, we're going to learn many new things in the digital part. 6. Digitizing your Sketch: Now, we're going to recreate the sketch that I've done on my sketch book on these Wacom tablet that's connected to my MacBook Pro. I'm going to start by defining the area. As I did in the sketch, I'm going to divide the screen in two parts, and I'm going to start drawing. I never use a black outline in my drawing, so I just go straight to a flat colored shape. I don't really care about the colors now because I'm going to work with them later, but I'll just pick some random colors so that I have an idea of the weight of the image. I'll go ahead and draw the body, and again, we're going to put a flat shape here. When I went to school, I took Adobe Illustrator class, but I have to say it wasn't the best, and so my way of using it, it's probably going to make some people cry, but I think that it's also in the way you use the tools that you have your own way and make your own personal choices. Sometimes I wish I was faster or know a lot of shortcuts and stuff, but then the more I get to know the tool better, the less my things feel authentic, so maybe it's good to have a balance between what you know and what you don't know, which sounds terrible, but sometimes it's true. As you can see, the body now is going outside the grid, the frame. We're going to expand it later, I'll just leave it like that for a second, so that we know how much of the space she takes. I think that if she's drinking a cup of coffee, she would have to have some space for her arms. These legs are definitely too high, so I'm going to lower them. One thing I really like about the symmetry between the image and the next one, which we can see already just to get an idea, is that it really reminds me of architecture. I really like architecture and some architects. When I'm traveling, I'm always eager to know and to see new architectures. I think there are so many things in common between illustration and architecture because basically you're creating a balance between shapes and there are definitely weights in the picture. For example, the bottom part is very heavy, so we're going to think if we like to keep that or if we want to move the attention somewhere else. One example of architecture that really works with symmetry and with very, I would say clean cuts shapes, but it also has a romantic sides to it. Rationalist may have all this architectures that are really clean, and very squared and stuff, but then it has also beautiful details like round windows, and big columns, and big arches, and sometimes the entrance of a palace would be decorated with a lot of mosaics and beautiful art. Again, I think it's great to refer to it for the composition of work. Let's hope to go in that direction a little bit. Now, that we know that the two figures could stay in a place like this, maybe let's add a little bit more on top. We can get rid of this one and we're going to use it later when this part is done. It's a little static right now, so we're going to try to make it a little bit more soft and natural. All these women, would like long legs and interesting shapes and make them very, again present in the image. I also like to depict them as not the, beautiful photoshopped models that you see on the cover of magazines, because I think that this looks more the way that women feel about themselves, or at least it's more similar to the way I feel about myself. I'm quite a tall person and I've always been a little out of size compared to my classmates and my friends, and I think it's good to give a voice to other body types, and weird body types, I think or not weird, but different body types work really well in the illustration world, so why not depicting different body types when you can. As you can see, I went to art school, but I wasn't trained for many years, like figure drawing and stuff, so everything I know in terms of body shapes and stuff, I learned from what I see around me. The perception that I have on bodies more than the actual shape of it, and it might sound very wrong, but I think it's also a good way to build your own way of making things. Of course it's the limits, oftentimes is it's limit, but I think you can also turn that limit into your own language, so it's not too bad. As you can see, I just put some shapes in and I color them very briefly, and then I start working on the shapes and then I refine them little by little. It feels a little bit like a sculpture where you put all the matter on the table and you start giving it the shape, and then it takes a long time to take the first shape, and then from there you start refining the work over and over. What I'm looking for is a shape that doesn't feel too forced and too fake. By refining and refining, I try to find a good balance between the rest of the image and the single detail, especially in terms of language. Most of the times I start working and I add different lines, different weights, different colors. An image becomes very complex very easily. I think that adding a good level of refining, but not too much, it's very helpful to maintain a good balance in the picture. For example, if I did this hand in a very defined way, like a very, very defined way, it wouldn't feel organic with the rest of the body because the legs are not defined. Especially people who are really good at drawing, which is a great thing obviously, but it also can distract you, and if you can spend 20 minutes on this hand and then have it completely wrong with the rest of the picture. I think you need to find a good balance between what you're refining and what you're not. I'm just going to leave the hand like this for a second. 7. Drawing with Shapes: One thing I think it's really important when drawing on Illustrator or on other digital programs, is that, as you can see, Illustrator helps you a little bit make everything slightly more round and more perfect. That's obviously great. But I think it's really important that the computer is following what you'd want to do and not the opposite, you don't follow what the computer tells you. So, for example, going over and over and trying to refine every little shape is very important because otherwise it will be visible. You can recognize where the computer helps you, and the more you use it as an artist, the more you are able to recognize it in other people's works. So, as much as it's exciting to obviously have someone else help you, I think it's really important that you are in charge and not the opposite. Before I had Illustrator or Photoshop, I think it was really complicated for me to work and be satisfied by my work, because my inspiration was coming from many different sources. But the result that I really liked were the works of graphic designers and Illustrators from the '60s or the '70s and most of them used screen print. But screen print is very expensive especially if you're starting out and it doesn't allow you to use many colors. But I understood that that was the closest way of printing or representing an image to my taste. It was really frustrating because no other technique could allow me to be so flat and make my work look simple but still colorful and vibrant. So, I've done some screen prints before, but again, it's really expensive and you have to have a studio to do that. So, I think that digital tools help me find that effect that I wanted, which was to have good, flat, vibrant colors. If you print, you can also print it as a screen print or you can also print it as a very good digital print and the result is beautiful anyway. So, I think that I'm very happy about this not only because it's easy and fast, but also because it reflects a little bit my ideal way of drawings. Also, I really like to work quite fast and not because I have other things to do, but because I really like to be very instinctive while I work. So, when I worked on books for example, for me it was a nightmare because for a book, you have to be connected to the project for so many hours, so many days. There are so many things that you need to change and at the end you are very satisfied obviously, hopefully. But at the same time I think it's really hard to be on the project for such a long time. I think I'd really like to see the result right away, and I think in a way it works really good with my style and with my personality. So, I just take it as it is, I guess. One thing that's really helpful as well is to print out what you're doing. Which is a little bit old school but it's really true that you are not going to be able to understand exactly how a piece is coming out until you print it. I have to be honest, I hardly do it. But when I have the chance to do it or when I have to do it, I discover so many new things about the piece. Usually, there are mistakes. There are little things that I haven't seen on the screen, that's why I try to zoom as much as I can to see if everything is correct. But also, printing the work out, even if it's with a bad printer, will give you the sense of the heaviness of the piece so, the weight of the piece. I think it's really important to understand if the composition is right or wrong. I also find it very useful to print out a work. When you're lost and you don't know if you like the work or not, print it out and then use the print as you want. Just cut it, glue it, put something else on it, shred it in pieces. I think it's really good because It's kind of the opposite way, you go from digital to manual, basically. But that really helps you to see things in perspective. So, a lot of times when I was lost and I didn't like a piece, I would just print it out and then just put it on the table, cut it and change it, turn it upside down. It gives you a more real relationship too to your piece, which I think it's very useful sometimes. It has saved me so many times, so, I'd definitely recommend that. Let's try to replicate this on the other side and see how it works. I think I'd like them to touch each other just very briefly here. So, that means that this hair don't work really well together. Also, you'll see if you flip an image, it's not necessarily good on the other side. So, for example, I like this face but I don't like this face. Again, maybe you didn't have to flip all of your images but if you do sometimes, you'll see if there are some things that you're not happy about. So, again, use your image, move it, turn it around and you will see new things in perspective. So, what we can do here is, definitely change the hair because now the shape is strange and I don't like it. As you can see, I always zoom in and zoom out because it gives me a little bit of a distance to the piece and so it's easier to understand if something is working or not. One other good thing that you can do is, just leave the illustration there and just stand up and maybe go a little further and see if you like it or not from afar. So, the one on the right is having a cup of American coffee. So, let's make it big. For things like hands and hand positions, it's always great to take a picture and see how it feels and how it looks to have a heavy cup of coffee in your hand. One other thing is that, of course, shapes like squares, rectangles, whatever are really helpful. But look at all the other shapes, they're softer and rounder. If you keep this rectangular here, I think it's going to feel a little bit too computery, I don't know how to use another term to describe that. So, it's always better not to use the shape or at least I never do, and just redraw it. A little bit imperfect, but it's definitely going to be more organic with the rest of the drawing. At least with my drawings because none of them are perfect, perfect. So, to have a little irregularity here and there, I think it's really good. 8. Refining your Illustration: When I don't know how to draw something, like hands and feet are really complicated for me. So, when I don't know how to draw it, I usually take a picture of myself with my iPhone doing the thing that I want to display in the picture. I have a collection of very stupid pictures of me in very different positions in the studio. But I think it's really good and it's also a lot better than taking inspiration from a Google Image that everybody had on their screens. So, it can also give you a little bit of variety and you don't have to go for the same hand over and over and have the same hand that all your colleagues have, if they're using Google Images obviously. Okay. So, we just happened to have an espresso cup here. So, I'm going to take a picture of my hand holding it. Okay. So, I'm going to pick the picture I like most, the one that I know that graphically would work better. I'm going to send it to my e-mail. Doesn't need to be a beautiful picture as you can see. I will go over it with the pencil and I'll see if it works. As you can see things that might look nice in the picture don't really look nice in illustration. So, we are going to need to work on this a little bit. So, just leave it there for a second. I'm going to work on the cup. So, I didn't really like the picture, the silhouette of the pictures that I've taken. So, I'm going to work from there and see if I can recreate a shape that I like. If someone want to get hired in my studio just to make hands, he's welcome. I probably spend more time on the hands than on everything else. Let's see how it looks like in this space otherwise doesn't make much sense. Remember that naturally illustration don't need to be too close to reality, which is obviously a potential of illustration. So, if you can imagine a different position, a different perspective, I think it's great to just go for it and don't be scared about, oh my god it's not going to look like in real life. That's a nice part of the illustration and it's not just an excuse for not being able to draw a hand. I'm just saying that sometimes it's also fun to bend reality a little bit. I want the two cups to be more or less on the same level. So, I'm just going to, I don't need a guide, I'm just going to have the sense that they are on the same level. So, I'm going to try to twist this hand a little bit. So, now we have the main characters. We have the balance. Let's put a background. Sometimes I put a background at the very beginning of the project so that I have a better sense of how it works. This time I just put it at the end. So, there is never a rule in my life. It just happens. So, let's see if we like the cloud coming out of it. I put in the sketch to just get a sense. I'm just going a quickly put it there to see if we like the thing, extend the background a little bit and maybe also extend this a little bit. So obviously, when you get an assignment, you usually get the size of the illustration. So, you're going to work with what you have. But in this case, we're free to go so we can keep expanding the picture as much as we want. So, I think I like it for now. So, I'll just polish it a little bit. As you can see the program itself makes some weird shapes. So, you always have to make sure that all these little things are made in the way you want them to be or at least as closer as you can. I think that's still even though the tools are amazing and super evoluted, I think it's really important to be able to be in charge of what you're doing. So, there's never going to be a thing that's actually exactly as drawing on a piece of paper or maybe there would be, but for now, I think that all the digital tools that we have are fantastic and super up to date and they're just great. But still there's a difference between a pencil on a piece of paper and pencil on a tablet. So, you have to make the most out of it no matter what your tools are. But it's always important to keep your identity very clear and when you work with pencils or a marker on a piece of paper that's more evident than what you do with your tablet sometimes. So, it's important that you keep your voice even if you're using other people's tools. So now, we have the composition. It's almost final, but we have to work on the choice of colors, of course. So, I'm going to keep the cloud white because I think it's a good effect and it creates a hole in the page. So, I'm going to keep that. Let's see if there's too much white or not. Just going to make the glasses different from the mouth. So, let's do this and then these two things will be the same color, probably. So, as you can see, it it's similar to the sketch but in the first sketch, I picked two different backgrounds. So, I'm going to go make sure it fills in the same spot. I'm going to replicate the background. So, this side will be a different color. I'm just leave it like that for a second. Now, let's see if she has black pants, the other one is going to have a green shirt and that's the opposite. So, she has the red cup. She has the green cup. So, this could be a good exercise if you want to try to make an illustration with white black and just four other colors. Of course, you could work like if she was wearing just a red suit and she was wearing just a green suit. You could work and make the background of this area green and the other red. So, this could be a great example on how to make an illustration with just four colors in general. So, white, black, red and green. Of course, you to need to fix the cups and stuff but you can totally make it and it's a great exercise. So, let's do a step back for a second because we might go in that direction, but we don't know yet. Now that the structure of the illustration is done, we're going to work on the color, on the choice of colors, whether if you want to use the pattern or not. We're going to explore more on that and see what are the possibilities that we have with colors. 9. Applying Color: So, now we're almost done. The piece is almost over. We're going to work on the colors now. I think that's going to be a moment where we're going to see some of the references that we were talking before in action, and we're going to see where I take inspiration from in terms of the mood of the piece and the feelings around it and the final look about it. So yes, let's get into it. So, I don't really like how it is now. The colors feel quite sad. So, I'm going to try to find some other combination. Of course, as I said before, the more color you're going to use, the more it's going to complicate it to balance them. So, what I do in this phase is spending a lot of time trying to find a good balance between the colors, and it's a process that could take a lot of time. Hopefully, it will be quite quick now. But, sometimes it's also good to let it sit for a while and maybe take a look at it if you have time the day after and see if you still like the colors. In terms of colors, my references are many. I really like Italian design. So for example, I really believe in the principle of Italian designers like Bruno Munari, which was also a children's books illustrator, the designer. He was able to take some of the principle of design and add imagination to them. So I really like his work. I also like the work of designers from the '80s like Sottsass and Mendini, Alessandro Mendini, because they took Munari's lessons to another level. They became a lot more crazy about the purposes of design. Their designs weren't just made to serve, but they were also made to be funny and excessive. There are a lot of their colors that I find in my work accidentally, so that's definitely a source of inspiration for me. What I would like to convey in this picture is like a happy mood and a very pop, sort of like vibrant effect to it. As you can see, I keep going back and forth for the right combination. Another inspiration for me is futurismo, futurism, and also the avant-gardes from the '20s and the '30s, because I think that the use of color that they do is quite impressive. They use a lot of natural tones compared to bolder colors, and that's really interesting. They use a lot of browns and grays. Artists like Sophie Taeuber-Arp or Sonia Delaunay, they use stunning colours that are a mix of, again, like tones that come from the ground like browns and they pair it with very bright pinks or purples. It's really interesting when you find a color, like a very basic color like this could be, and you pair it with something that's more vibrant, I think that the results are usually very interesting. I think now it's the time to try. It's not over yet, obviously. But, I think it could be nice to see if there's any pattern that we can add to the clothes. So let's see if they work. 10. Experimenting with Color: So, I'm just going to put some flowers on the top. Sometimes I think that even vintage stores are a great source of inspiration. If you go through the shirts that they have, you're going to probably find a lot of patterns that are so interesting and so intricate sometimes. I usually go to the vintage store close to my studio just to take a look at the patterns and take pictures of them, and sometimes buy a few things. Even when you are copying and pasting something, I think you should pay attention that it doesn't look too repetitive. So, if you can turn it and move it around a little bit to make it feel less repetitive and just like copy and pasted, it would look nice. As you can see, the Image is still the same, but the mood changes a lot. Now it's a lot more decorate and has, I think a more interesting life. If we want to make it even more, we can also add some pattern to the pants. Let's see how it is. Let's try with some dots. Let's not make them too similar to the flowers, so we can do smaller ones. Let me try and do a swatch. What you can do is use these swatches or create new ones which is always the best option because everything that's already on the computer will be more recognizable, obviously. So, what I do is usually, I step backward. I keep the pants as they were before, brown. I'm pretty sure there's a better way to do this, but I'll just place a big portion of it. Let's say you want them bigger. So, I'll just prepare this file and then I will extend it as much as I want. So, It's the same pattern, but in this way, it will look less recognizable than what we had before. So, I like the clothes the way they are and I think the background still need some editing. So, I'm probably going to put the pink on the brownest side and something here. I like it without the two backgrounds now that I see it like this, but let's see. This could be nice. It's a little bit too close to the brown and the shoes, so I'm going to try to make it a little different. When I do a work for myself, it's usually more complicated than it is with a client job because I have less limits. So, in the beginning of my career, I was always limitless, so I was really good at dealing with it. Now that I'm more used to have assignments and works to do, it's been getting more and more complicated to keep up with the personal work, personal space. And so, sometimes it's hard to convince myself that I like a thing or I don't like a thing. Since I don't have a deadline most of the time, it's even harder to know when a work is done. So, yes, it's definitely more complicated now to work on a personal piece than it used to be. I think it's nice as well because it means that to do nice stuff, you need to take some time and most masterpieces were not made in two days or just a few hours. So, it's nice sometimes to be remembered that time is needed sometimes. So, with personal stuff, you can do that and take all the time you want to. Also, I'm not a fan of perfection itself. So, I don't look for you know the perfect balance, the perfect shape, the perfect subject. I just try to go with the flow and see what works for me in that moment. If it doesn't work two days after, it's not a problem. I can definitely get rid of everything that I've done so far or start over. I'm not like shocked by the idea also because I work quite fast. So, even if I have to get rid of everything, it's not going to be too complicated for me. My colors are usually quite saturated, so I never hardly go in this area of the color wheel. I usually pick bright colors and they have to be quite saturated. I hardly work with transparency, unless the purpose of the work is to work in a collage and to make some shapes meet like interact between each other. But I hardly go on this side. When I do, it's to find neutral colors that I can pair with brighter colors, especially with skin tones. I would go like around this area to try to find some grays, some brown, some pinks that are in this area of the color wheel. I think that the most limit you have, the better it is. If you just decide to work with three colors, you're going to find a solution that might be more interesting than what you would have if you had all the colors in the world. I think it's important to give yourself some restrain so that you can operate between the limits, and I think limits are a great way to break them. So, it's important I think to, if you don't have an assignment yet, to give yourself some limits so that you can find your own way to overcome them. At some point, I'm going to let you go, because otherwise it could take hours to find a good balance. Because there's so much going on in the clothes that I think a double background adds too much, there's too much going on, I think. So, if you take off this layer, I think it's a lot better because the two characters can breathe so much easier now and they have space to be alive. I think you can read the composition so much better. So, now we have three colors; the brown, the yellow and the pink on the back. And then, of course we also have the black and white. Let's see if we can take off the black just to make it even more consistent, because black was the only element that was outside the palette. So, when you have such a short palette, sometimes when you have just one color in one little place in the Illustration, it could be distracting, and black as white creates a big hole in the Illustration. So, it's really important that you consider the weight of that color. I think that works better with the brown. But now, let me see if I can make these glasses pink and these lipstick pink. It should work better. So, I think this could be it. It is very close to what I had in mind. This color choice reminds me a little bit of the colors that modernists used to use. So, I'm a big fan of Ray and Charles Eames and Alexander Gerard. They were really good at incorporating the landscape around them in their work. So, as soon as I see their work, I think about California and the Borders with Mexico. So, there's mix of sun and tradition and folklore. I really like the way that they synthesized that feeling, that mood into a very clean and colorful design, and illustrations, and objects, and everything. So, that really reminds me of that and it's definitely as a big source of inspiration for me. 11. Closing: So, I think we are done. We worked on the sketches before, we've done a couple of options, and we took it digitally, and we changed it. As you can see, the initial drawing is a bit different compared to the final one, and it always happens, and it's always like a surprise. So, we set a box for illustration. We decided that we were going to use two characters, and not just one. We then worked on the sort of architecture of the piece. So, it's just two figures that are connected by a cloud of smoke. Then we worked a lot on the choice of colors, and we added some patterns to the illustration. So basically, the whole structure changed a little bit because the patterns are so decorative. Then in the end, I picked this color option, which is kind of a springy feeling. So, yeah, I think that is a good balance. Of course, I could be here picking other color options forever. I could sit here and just make changes over and over and over, but I think there's a moment, where you find that the balance between all the colors is kind of right, and you have to trust that instinct, and maybe as I said before, maybe you can let it sit, and then go back, maybe the next day, or two days later to see if you still like it. As students, I think that you can always ask yourself which direction you are going to. If the concept that you picked is clear or if it's just in your mind and only you will be able to understand it. Doing a self-portrait, I think it's a great exercise because it puts you in front of a mirror, and you have to find a way to describe yourself to other people and sometimes even describing yourself to yourself. So, it doesn't have to be a pretty picture of how you look that day, the same exact sweater that you are wearing, the hair that you have that day, but it could be a projection on how you feel about yourself, how you think you look, how you would like to look, what are the things that matter to you and you want to put out there. So, I think a self-portrait is a very good exercise to just make a point, and see where you are with your life and who are you? So, the more you can incorporate about your life without being too literal, the better it is. Looking back in my career, I think I made probably thousands of self-portraits, and the first ones looked a lot more like me in the real life, but then I started trying to synthesize them, and make them always more close to what I had inside rather than what I had outside. So, the self-portrait you're going to do after this class, it's going to be just one of many. So, every year, every month, every week, whenever you want, try to make a quick self-portrait to know where you are. So, have fun with your portraits, and I can't wait to see them on the Project Gallery on Skillshare. 12. What's Next?: [inaudible]