This page is a walkthrough of my process for anyone who wants to try out some of these techniques, or is just curious about how my pieces get made. Please keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to use any material, and this is just how I enjoy working. I hope something in here can be of help to you, but I also recommend trying lots of other techniques until you find the unique combination that feels right to you!
tools & materials
My work is painted by hand with gouache & watercolor, and occasionally metallic gold accents in gouache or acrylic. Most of my freelance projects get colored digitally, but I first paint the lineart by hand with black gouache. Once in a while I work with ink or pencil instead.
Holbein Acryla gouache | Winsor & Newton watercolors
Turner Acryl metallic gouache | Golden iridescent acrylic
Raphael 8404 fine pointed round brush | Winsor Newton Series 7 brush
Porcelain mixing palette for watercolor | Masterson Sta-Wet palette for gouache
Fabriano Artistico 300lb hot press watercolor paper
Adobe Photoshop CC | Wacom Intuos Pro tablet
research & sketching
For me, sketching is the hardest and most important part of making a piece. Since watercolor isn’t a very forgiving medium and I can’t easily correct mistakes as I paint, I need to get things like anatomy, placement, and color exactly right in the early stages. I often spend as much time on sketches as I do painting the final art.
I start every piece with a silly bad scribble in a notebook, and once I have a vague idea of what posture might work for each animal, I begin researching and collecting reference images to help me understand everything from basic anatomy to tiny details of feet or eyes to the patterning of its fur or feathers. I sketch digitally because this allows me to quickly warp or resize things until I get placement and proportions just right. After sketching the most important animal(s) in place, I sketch in other details like plant life, and then try out color palettes until I find one I’m happy with.
watercolor & gouache process
Next I trace my sketch onto paper and begin painting. I generally block in the lightest, washiest, and warmest colors first in watercolor. After that I work mainly in gouache, painting the vibrant and midtone colors next, and saving the darkest colors for last. At the very end I add tiny details and highlights if needed.
linework + digital coloring process
Most of my client work, like posters and book covers, aren’t created as full color paintings. Instead I draw or paint them by hand in black and white, and add color digitally. This allows me to easily make changes to the artwork after it’s completed, and to provide the final art with color separations if necessary for screen printing or other reproduction processes.
My sketch process for this type of work is the same as described for gallery work above. But after I trace my sketch onto the final paper, I go straight to working in black, using gouache, pencil, or ink, depending on the quality I want the art to have. After the linework is done I sometimes use watercolor to create loose washes on a separate sheet of paper, and then I can combine the two layers in Photoshop. After some digital touch ups, I have a final design which can be screenprinted in just 3 colors but still has a washy watercolor effect.
If I want the work to look more realistic and don't have to worry about color separations, I usually use a combination of grey watercolor washes and pencil, and create all the texture and value on the same sheet of paper. Once the greyscale drawing is finished, I scan it into Photoshop to add color and highlights.
thanks for reading!
If you'd like to follow along with my process on future pieces, please check out my Instagram, where I occasionally post works in progress: