Designing a Story Illustration Part 1

I Started a bigger Story illustration a couple of days ago for which I'll provide a in depht look at my process. From the initial idea to designing the characters, elements and a step by step of the final image ( maybe a process video too ). As I'm still working on it, I will split this to a couple of posts.

So let us begin!

At the beginning, there's the idea. In the case for this illustration, it was this little thumbnail:

I tend to do a bunch of thumbnails like this every once in a while, to get ideas down quickly or to generate some ideas in the first place. In the case of this image it was the latter.
The great thing of thumbnailing like this is that you can interpret it in many different ways and even generate several images out of it.

The basic idea I got in this case was a little person sitting on a rock with a fishing rod in hand, fishing in a pond. I played around with this idea, developing it further and settled on the following:
A character, humanlike, fishing some strange creatures out of his own shadow. That will be the story featured in the illustration. Now what colour scheme and environment it is set in, is one decission to make. I'll get to that point later.

First, I focused on developing the featured character. I don't do this for every illustration, but when I think that the character has some promise to be featured in future images, I like to give it the extra mile.

Developing the character starts out with a thumbnail phase of its own. With a rough idea allready in mind, I started out with line-thumbnails instead of shapes.

Here I work iterative, starting with a couple of directions, loosely related, in the top row. From there, I mix, make little adjustments in detail and weight and try different directions. Since these are fairly loose sketches, I can bring down many ideas in a short period of time. In cases where I don't have a rough idea of where I want to go, I do many more fo these. Starting out with just shapes, slowly working towards more detailed drawings.

At this point, it is time to decide which direction I want to go. I took four thumbs to inspire the final design.

These four served as base for the final iterations. After four more passes, it was time to choose the the design I'm going to settle on. Don't be afraid to produce more iterations in this phase. Those drawings are still very loose and quickly done. Putting more time in this phase will save you alot more timer later on and it will greatly improve your design.

Now, after I'm settled with a design, its time to make a fine drawing with more detail!

At this point you can and should do some smaller changes to the design if you run into problems like shape and anatomy problems.

When the linework is done and depending on what you need for your illustration, colouring the character is the next step.

I usually start with flat, local colours which can be changed quickly if needed. That follows some rendering and detailling. At this point, I'm considering to try out different colour schemes. The bright cloak gives a good contast to the dark body, but takes the focus away from his bright eye. But we'll do that in the next post.

After the colouring, we will tend to the creatures he will be fishing!