Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Children's Illustration - Step by Step tutorial

Unfortunately, you cannot show most illustrations that you are working on due to contracts and all so I try to create some art just for promotion. Here is a step by step of an illustration I made of two small cats baking cookies in a kitchen. Yum, I could go for some cookie dough right now. Hope you enjoy!

This is a sketch with pencil or pen on paper. I then scan it into the computer and don't worry too much about the quality of the scan because it is just so I can get an idea what I want to paint.

Next I open the art in a program called Painter. There I use the oil and or real bristle brush to paint the basic colors and shapes of the art. Painter is a fabulous program. I am able to achieve the look (paint strokes, blending texture, etc.) of real paints. In this step I try to capture the expressions on the cats faces keeping them as lively as they are in the sketch. I also make choices about what colors I want to use. I decide to paint bold colors with the understanding that the green table top will be used as an underpainting.
Then I like to save my art as a flat file and bring it into Photoshop. For me, this is where the real 'magic' happens. Here I like to add lots of texture and patterns to my art. Photoshop is the perfect program for this. For example, In this step I added a scan of some wood I have, to create a wooden table top.
Next, I refine my wooden table top texture and trim around the art to create a soft irregular border. I add more art, like the cookie sheets, cookies etc.
Here I refine the art even more. Adding more elements but more importantly I start to bring depth to the art by adding shadows and highlights. As you may notice, the cats look more rounded. I added blush to their cheeks too as well as some white lines to the wood table pattern. I continue to add lots of details too, like the recipe card, bag of flour and broken eggs and a subtle dot pattern to the background.
Now I added a white line shelf in the background . I continue to add more shadows and highlights and textures.
Finally, I adjust the white line shelf more, changing the scrolls at the top to a clock. I think this looks more refined and gives an element that I am looking for. It's nice working digitally because changing something like that is easy but would be much more complicated if I was working reflectively. I add the stripes to the cats and continue to bring out the shadows and highlights until I am happy. Then wha-la! I am done.

©Lesley Breen Withrow


  1. Great!! Thanks for sharing... love to see other people's methods :)

  2. Thanks Laura! I just checked out your website. Your work is beautiful.

  3. Wow- Love it- So lively! Always great to see others' processes- I am always reminded that the final work didn't just "happen," starts out rough and gets defined & refined. What great vision you must have in your mind!

  4. Lesley, this is so cute! I didn't even know you used painter. love the way you combined the line art book case with the kitties.