Process: Photo to Illustration

I had the pleasure of doing a very fun Pin Up commission just recently and I thought it might be fun to show the basic process, step by step.

Unlike many of my commissions, I began right off the bat with a very clear idea of what was wanted since I was to be working from a photograph and the direction of “baking”, so the sketch process was much shorter than normal. Usually I’d play around with several poses and ideas before settling on one or two that I like, but this one came together right away.

So, with permission, here is the photo reference I was sent. It’s been modified to protect the client’s identity, but you can see how I got to the pose in the sketch.



The sketch is basically the same as the photo, but with a few liberties taken for the sake of balance and composition. I use photo references often in my work, but it’s always important to remember that photos distort and flatten. If you draw an image directly from a photo, that distortion shows and the drawing will look awkward.

From the sketch I move on to the hard lines, using a simple Hard Round Brush set to pen pressure sensitivity, 10-15px. To make the process easier later on I draw the lines for different pieces of the image on different layers. All lines of skin are on one layer, apron and shoes on another, as well as hair. I knew already that the dress would be transparent, and to create that effect I would need to treat those lines differently, so they are on their own layer as well.


With the lines approved, I move on to the colors. I won’t go too much into detail with that process for this round, since I don’t have any in-between shots. That and I’ve already mentioned the color process in a few other posts. So I’ll keep it simple, here’s the first draft of the colors.


Then come a few last tweaks and revisions, and the final version.


Ta-dah! So like I said, this one was a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll be doing some more of these soon =)

If you’re interested in commissions, you can always contact me for a quote or idea at


Mural 2

I’ve been so busy commuting back and forth from Sayulita every day, I didn’t have time to post anything! I also managed to forget to take photos for a couple of the days… but that’s alright, I got a few in.



Day one and two were just priming and touching up the wall, as well as getting a rough sketch laid out with chalk. I also did the blue/black and white of the sky, moon and stars. Once everything was ready to go I started laying in the base colors for the jelly fish and the turtles. I was picking out colors pretty randomly, to be honest. I had already chosen the paints I wanted to use, so I knew they would all work together for the most part, but I still had no real set plan for what went where.


The next day I gave the turtles and jellies a black outline, filled in the orange and purple swirls on the turtle shells, and started on the jelly tentacles. When I stepped away from it at the end of the day, I realized just how empty my composition was. Keep in mind this is about 100x bigger then anything I’ve worked on before! I’m having to really force myself to use the entire space.


So today I sketched/filled/outlined a few more turtles, plus some little baby ones. The jellies still need their tentacles, but after finishing up the little guy in the picture below, I realized that I was still going to do some background detailing. If I did the tentacles now it would just turn into endless retouching. So for now they’re floating mushrooms.


I also knocked out the octopus today, too. He has an outline now but it’s not in the pic since I wanted to take one while I remembered to and before it got too dark.



So it’s still pretty plain, but it’s getting there now. Tomorrow I’ll knock out the coral, seahorses and little fishes by the octopus, and maybe finish up the sky. There’s going to be a little bit of color around the big stars that are already on it, and then tons of tiny little plain white stars all around them.

My problem now is that I know I want to use dots as details (I’m addicted to dots!! example , example), but I need to find a quick and easy way of doing them on the wall, while keeping them fairly uniform. I’m thinking maybe a piece of cloth tied to the end of a paint brush might work nicely…?

Kokoro Cafe Winter Banner

A few months ago I did a banner set for the Otome gaming forum “Kokoro Cafe” which has been blowing up. Who knew girly games were so popular??



This is one of the reasons I use layers so so so much. Since just about every element of the original image above is on its own layer, it was easy to go in and make small adjustments to create several Special Occasion versions: a 1000th member kiriban, spring time “Hanami” (turning the green trees into pink sakuras) and a winter “Happy Holidays”.




The winter one was a little more involved and actually required quite a bit of re-drawing/adjustments, but it was fun and turned out pretty nice. It went live on the site just a little while ago! I didn’t have enough time to do one for this past season, but I’m also planning on doing an Autumn/Halloween version for next year. Plus, at the rate the site is growing, I’m sure I’ll have to do another kiriban soon!

If you’d like to see the beginning to end process of how I created the original image, I posted a pretty detailed description of the process a couple of months ago. Thought process, scans, digital images, even a bit about the texturing that I used for the setting! Check it out here.

When Sketching Goes Bad…

When I was a kid I was sketching away in my book all the time, which is awesome, but I kept making such a big mistake over and over again: When I drew something I didn’t like, I’d erase it, or scribble over it or tear it out and throw it away. I didn’t realize until much later just how much I was hurting myself by doing that. In fact, it wasn’t really until I started drawing in pen. When I gave up the option of the eraser I forced myself to commit to my lines. It was a little bit of a rough transition at first… I started out by drawing very sloooowly and tiny little lines, but as I became more comfortable and confident I sped up, until I was eventually doing even my gesture sketches with pen. I stopped caring so much about trying to be exact and “correct” with every line, and started to just enjoy the process. When I was tearing those pages out of my sketchbook, I was telling myself that those drawings weren’t good enough. My sketchbook pages became something sacred to me, something I couldn’t mess up. Even though I was still drawing all the time, I was spending a lot less time being creative and most of my time just fixing fixing fixing.

So in the spirit of letting go and not being so up tight about my sketches, here’s one that I didn’t like.


Oh and you see that little black dot on her knee…? A gecko pooped on it. Yah. Everybody’s a critic.

Sketchbook: “Daughter of Mnemosyne”

Every once in a while I’ll find myself about to fall asleep, just letting my mind wander… and I’ll have to jump out of bed and start scribbling away before I loose a random idea that popped into my head. I was doing just that one night when another thought came to me about the source of that inspiration (which always seems to be the best kind!). I got stuck on the idea of Muses and started sketching away.

A brief explanation of the Muses is this: They are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (“Memory” the Titan daughter of Gaia), and they are the goddesses of Inspiration and the Arts and Sciences… Okay, technically there isn’t actually a Muse that represents the visual/fine arts since that type of artist ranked about one step below Janitor on the Ancient Greek totem pole, but we can just ignore that. There are lots of different versions of what exactly the Muses were, but my favorite version is a bit darker than the usual happy dancing Nymph. The Muses are actually slaves to their own arts and the ones to whom they give their gifts. They are sources of unending inspiration and resources, but completely unable to use those gifts for themselves. Pretty messed up, right?


So I finished sketching this, and to be honest I was never really planning on doing anything with it. See those squiggles coming from her arms? That’s my super lazy way of sketching “awesome amazing colors and designs and craziness!!” I’ve never been good at that… It’s supposed to represent the creativity literally flowing out her veins, whether she wants it to or not. Well, it just so happens I may get to do this as a big wall project in collaboration with another artist that specializes in “awesome amazing colors and designs and craziness!!” In fact, Festival Anonymous is looking into sponsoring the project, so if it goes down we’ll be documenting the whole process beginning to end and guest posting on their WordPress!


Awww man, I waited to post anything this morning since I knew I was going to be doing all of my printing today for the convention this weekend. I was going to to pictures of what I had done, but I don’t have a working camera! Oops. So instead, I’ll just describe what I did… which is boring, but it’s all I got.

When I’m at conventions one of my biggest sellers is prints. They’re small, easy and inexpensive, so they’re easy to sell. Before each Con I usually print individuals of the newest images I’ve done, to add to my Print Book (a binder portfolio that customers can flip through), and I also print multiples (3-5) of prints that I expect to sell. It’s always a gamble, guessing what will and won’t be in demand. I have to keep in mind what sold from previous conventions and what images have been especially popular when I upload them online… but even then there’s never a guarantee. Sometimes it’s the popular one that sells, sometimes it’s the 5 year old doodle.

So I managed to print most of the individuals that I needed for my Book, but I had some issues with my printer. I just recently moved this summer, and while I had a great working relationship with the whole crew at my old Office Depot, I don’t have anything like that here. It took about 4 hours just to get 24 prints, and only 18 of them were usable. Some of them were cropped, most of them were far too dark, and the girl at the counter insisted there was no way to lighten them. Oh, and they were about 4 times more expensive then they ought to have been ($1.60 for just one print!). So they were busy and I was asking for a type of printing the girl wasn’t used to… so I took what I could get. Unfortunately for me that means that I have almost no extra stock for this convention, but that just means making up for it in Sketchbook commissions and coms for after-con.

The good news is, I did managed to get most of my new signs printed. All except for the big banner, which is fine since I didn’t really need it for this convention. The rest of the signs were really important, though. I’ve had this bad habit of not making my prices clear enough, and of scribbling down last minute signs at convention… which is really unprofessional! So I finally fixed that. I have a nice new price list, complete with example images, signs for sketchbook commission status, I even made little signs for “sold out” or “unavailable”, and all of them are laminated too. Hopefully they’ll be able to last me for a while!

I leave for Chicago tomorrow at five… I really ought to go pack all of this stuff up =S