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Illustrating in Illustrator :: not for the faint hearted

Book jacket design for Uni project

This is a book jacket cover for a project I did at Uni last year that I have been wanting to share this with you for a while now. The brief was to design a piece for a fictitious media franchise, which could have been a TV show, movie, animation or graphic novel. I thought it would be fun to tackle the graphic novel. My inspiration came about as my boys’ are obsessed with manga and was watching ‘Reign’, so my graphic novel was titled ‘Queen Bee’. I set out to see what it would take to illustrate in Illustrator. Oh my! I did not know what I had set myself up for and many many times I almost gave up but I am very glad I persisted.

There were two tutorials I used to get me started. The first one was Creating a Photo Inspired Vector Artwork in Illustrator from Digital Tutors. The tutorial was great but the detail in the illustration was way more than the style I was aiming for and that’s when I found Vector Portraits for Beginners on Tuts Plus. Sharon Milne, who leads this tutorial is so good at explaining the process and I learned many great tricks along the way. I did this tutorial from beginning to end before attempting my own illustration.

queen-bee1

STEP 1 – I started with the image on the left which is a photo of Adelaide Kane from the TV series ‘Reign’, she had a nice intense gaze that I wanted to try and reproduce but also her hand position made it look like she had something to hide and I felt I could make use of that.

STEP 2 – at first I just drew the basic shapes of my figure. The torso, hands face, head, hair and the basic outline for the eyes and mouth. This was a good way to work as these outlines are used repeatedly as you progress with the illustration, especially the eyes and mouth.

STEP 3 – I created solid shapes for the eyes and mouth. I also drew in the nose and the creases on the hands. It was also the point at which I created the line art, which entailed drawing the same shapes as the basic shapes but slightly smaller and then using the Pathfinder Minus Front tool to create a single shape. Doing it this way meant the lines are more realistic than if I had just applied a paintbrush stroke. Once this was done I use the Shape Builder tool to remove any extraneous areas and join some shapes together.

queen-bee2

STEP 4 – I then set to work on the eyes, this included extending the shape to make them more feminine, adding the eyeball and pupil, the reflection in the eye. It also meant creating the waterline and the crease of the eyelid as well the shadow that appears over the eyeball. These were drawn using the pen tool and applying a brush stroke that I created before I began. I also added the lines and details to the lips as well as the shadow at the bottom of the lips.

STEP 5 - The final detail for the face was the eyelashes and the eyebrows. These were done with the brush tool using the brushes I had created at the beginning of the process.

queen-bee3

STEP 6 – The next step was the hair and this was done using the brush tool of varying stroke weights. The biggest challenge here was the fact that she had some hair behind her and some over her shoulder. My solution was a very strange clipping mask that somehow seemed to work. The highlights and shadows in the hair were achieved by adjusting the opacity and blending modes over using different colours.

STEP 7 – with most of the detail there I began to block in the base colour of the skin, dress and lips. For the neck used a slightly darker shade since it was already in shadow. Having already created outlines of the lips made this easier and only a few adjustment were necessary.

STEP 8 – then I used the pen tool to trace around the dark areas of the original image and filled this will a darker skin tone. Again the neck shadows are darker than the rest.

queen-bee4

STEP 9 – next was adding the highlights and this was also done by tracing around the original image with the pen tool. There is a slight opacity applied here as my initial attempt made the light contrast too much and it became distracting. The highlights of the neck are the same colour as the base colour of the rest of the face.

STEP 10 – I then started adding the final refinement details to the face, which included highlights and shadows on the lips as well as two shades of eyeshadow that was achieved using the feather effect. I added some pink on her cheeks to give her some colour.

STEP 11 – the last step was adding the details, bringing in the bee, creating the crown and the jewels on it as well as the subtle details in her dress.

I estimate the whole process took about 35 hours – I’m not sure I’ll do it again but I did love the final outcome.

P.S. And you know what, I’ve just realised I left her fingernails off the final image – I guess I better go and fix that.

March 7, 2015 \ design \ 0 comments - be the first

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Any eye for :: neon

neon

Ever since half the players at the Australian Open burst onto the court sporting energetic neon (thanks Nike), I have not been able to get neon out of my head. To be honest I thought it was something that I had safely left behind in the 80’s and until recently I remained convinced that this is where it belonged. The modern use of neon are wonderful pops of colour that literally brighten your day. My neon research did not disappoint as you can see, but tell me, are you a fan or were you like me and hoped it was a trend that would never see the light of day once we ticked over to 1990?

I’ve been collecting all my favourites on my Colour Combos Pinterest board.

My neon finds are:

  1. Wooden Salad Bowl, 7″ Set of 2, Neon Pink, Neon Yellow from Willow & Willow Home Etsy store
  2. Black cross cushion with single pink cross – source unknown, let me know if you know where it is from.
  3. Diablo wall hooks from Lightly
  4. Triple Pack Neon Dip Dye Pillar Candles — Orange, Pink & Yellow from NEONLDN Etsy Store
  5. Neon print via Total Inspiration blog
  6. Cushion cover Messy Posey design. Fluro pink design on white Linen/Cotton with yellow piping 40cmx30cm from from Aqua Door Designs Etsy Store
  7. Neon Ombre Air Plant Planter Trio with Air Plants – Neon pink, neon orange and neon yellow from Thrifted & Made Etsy Store
  8. Ampersand Screen Print – Neon Yellow from Ampersand Shop Etsy Store

  9. Unique hand made bead necklace – Fluro Pink, Orange and Yellow by ViolentKittenShop – could not find the item or the shop again!
  10. Purse / Pouch – Original Design ‘Flame Forrest’ – Neon Yellow and Neon Pink from Paravent Etsy Store

February 12, 2015 \ design \ 0 comments - be the first

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Can’t get away from: skinny fonts

Can you believe it’s been 4 months since my last real post? When you blog again after a big absence it makes me wonder what the protocol is, do I just dive back in or do I explain myself? I might just dive back in if that’s OK? I’ll save the explanation for another post.

I’m not going to call skinny fonts my current obsession but I am seeing them everywhere and I mean everywhere. Is it just me or have you noticed too? I had originally thought they were reserved for travel sites and quotes but when they started turning up on girls pyjamas at Target, the bus shelter advertising company’s van and inside the lift at Hotel Hotel then I think the reach is greater than I thought. To be honest I like the look of skinny fonts but I have never successfully made use of them.

I’ve put together this selection and hope it inspires me.

48-skinnyfont

All my skinny font treasures can be found on my Typography Board over at Pinterest, and they are:

  1. Skinny Marker a free typeface by Daniel Samama via Behance
  2. Mountain Retreat a free typeface by Andrew Clark via VectorHQ
  3. I want to travel the world – inspiration poster (the link is broken)
  4. The Skinny free font from dafont.com
  5. DHD Cool Skinny a paid from by Konrad Bednarski via Behance
  6. Skinny Walrus a paid font mur via My Fonts
  7. Nice use of a skinny font on the Fit Fabulous Foodie eBook via ajd creative
  8. Skinny Vanilla Latte free font by Food on the Wall via dafont.com
  9. Skinny Chips handmade paid font by ankepanke via Creative Market
  10. Adventure Awaits inspiration poster – the original link doesn’t seem to go anywhere!

 

January 5, 2015 \ design, fonts \ 0 comments - be the first

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Working on :: new patterns

Initial drawing for a pattern design

Wow I’ve been busy – which explains why it’s taken so long between posts on this blog. I’m sure my blog was starting to feel neglected. Work and Uni have both been particularly demanding but I have had one win. I convinced my subject lecturer to let me create a surface pattern design collection for an upcoming assignment. How cool is that?

So remember a really long time ago, I said I wanted to create a pattern collection inspired by trampolines? No? That’s OK it was a while ago. Well here is the beginning sketches for this collection. My aim was to create patterns that would appeal to boys aged between 8 and 13. Since I have boys in that age range I know how hard it is to find nice patterns for bedding and my quilt making that didn’t contain a superhero or a Disney character. Both my boys do trampolining for sport and it really lent itself to a lot of movement and texture.

3 patterns from the Bounce collection

This is what I have so far, with 3 more in the works. The top print was done during The Sellable Sketch class I did with Michelle Fifis over at Pattern Observer. Michelle is an amazing fountain of knowledge and really helped me find a pattern making method that works for me. I’m still trying to figure out a scale for each print that works well across the collection as my main print is a large 33cm (W) x 64cm (H) repeat. It’s been a wonderful learning curve. I’ll let you know when it’s all done.

So what have you been working on lately?

April 17, 2014 \ design \ 2 comments

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Working on :: trend research

Evernote screenshot

For those that know me well, you will understandably be surprised to hear I’ve been engaged lately in trend research. I have never been a dedicated follower of fashion and I oscillate between one of two camps; 1 – that the item I love and cannot live without is also so far out of my budget to be rational or 2 – it simply does not exist. This is why I’ve spent most of my life either making it myself or doing without. This is the girl that made everything for her own wedding!

Having said all that though – I’ve been having a ball with trend research. I’ve been taking a class called the The Sellable Sketch with the gorgeous Michelle (my latest girl crush) over at Pattern Observer. I won’t go into too much detail as I have another post in the works to tell you about it – suffice to say Michelle had us doing trend research. I am not one to shy away from research, after all it is a very large part of my day job. The course came with a 3 month subscription to Stylesight a trend and forecasting website that is an amazing resource for colour, graphic and textiles trends for apparel and furnishings. They publish Megatrends for seasons in the area you might be interested in – I was researching youth for a fabric collection aimed at boys 8 – 14. If you are ever in need of a little shot of inspiration and direction, this is the place to go. To keep all my ideas in one place I could not have done it without Evernote – my most favourite go to app. Have you used it?

Color Collective samples

The other site that I came to love in the process was the Color Collective. There are quite a few sites out there that create inspiring colour palettes but I just loved her wonderful mix of gorgeous imagery of food, prints and current trends. For me I sometimes struggle to find the perfect colour palette for my patterns and these provide a really good jumping off point.

There was one person in the class who didn’t like this process and thought it was a giant waste of time. I would really love to know what you think. Have you ever done trend research? Do you think it’s important for designers to be aware of forecasting?

March 14, 2014 \ design \ 5 comments

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Working with :: style tiles

Lifestyle Fitness Training website style tile

I was introduced to Style Tiles a few months ago by a colleague. As it says on their website, they’re good when ‘a moodboard is too vague and a comp is too literal’. He was proposing their use as a way to cut down the time it takes to produce full designs, when sometimes in a design we just want to know things like; link colours and behaviour, body font style and colour, heading levels or submit button styling. This introduction coincided with a redesign project for a client and I decided to use a style tile for this project.

Since it was a redesign, my client was happy with this approach and not only because it saved her money. It saved me time because I didn’t mock up every template in her site design. I know I relied on her (quite a lot) to use her imagination and I had to explain how I would use some elements but I would say she didn’t at all struggle with the concept. She supplied the adjectives after I posed the question, if your business were a person how would you describe them? I put them in different fonts just to give them some personality and having them there was a great way to stay focused.

Lifestyle Fitness Training screen shot

This is the final site – Lifestyle Fitness Training - a personal training business here in Canberra.

My Eloise theme style tile

So based on my first experience with style tiles I thought I would employ this method for a new theme design. This is the style tile for my latest theme called Eloise that is for sale on my Etsy store and my Web shop. I think they work really well in this situation because there is no-one else that has to interpret the design. I normally do full page designs before cutting them up (coding) into a working theme, but this allowed me to create the look and feel and key visual elements without getting too entrenched in minor details. I kept the adjectives and imagined Eloise was a friend and these were ways I would describe her. Knowing her personality helped me refine the design. As is normal for me I often start a design with an image and use it to craft a palette and it all just flows from there.

A screen shot of my Eloise WordPress theme

And this is the final theme. I’m a little hooked on the process to be honest. Like many creatives, I have a lot of ideas buzzing around my head and this method just lets me get things out quickly.

Have you every used style tiles before?

January 23, 2014 \ design \ 2 comments

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It’s a triangle thing

Triangle design with flower from Crimson Pear

I have gone completely mad for geometrics of late, and to be more specific triangles. I’m sure this isn’t the first time I have expressed this obsession here but I really can’t get them out of my head. Is there a word for that?

41-triangle-cp

So in celebration, or just to fuel the geometric fire a little more I did this design for my Crimson Pear Society6 store. Actually, you know how necessity is the mother of invention? Well, what I really needed was a new case for my new iPhone 5 so I decided it would be really cool to have a case of my own design, good idea right? So this was an afternoon of work and I’ve ordered my case and this design is available for sale in a whole range of products. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

What I love about geometrics is they are so orderly, which fits with the way I tend to work. With my design though, it is anything but orderly and things don’t quite line up, my flower is very irregular (that’s me drawing on my tablet) and you know what, I kind of liked working that way.

What about you? Do you love geometrics or is it just me?

The triangle goodness featured at top are:

  1. Triangles necklace from Birdsnest
  2. Blue is Bleu Triangle Quilt
  3. Neon Triangles Geometric Silk and Linen Pillow – 18 Inches from Kissen Studio Etsy Store
  4. Spotlight Painted Glass Tabletop post from Nine Red blog

October 8, 2013 \ design \ 1 comment

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Thinking about :: flat design

Flat design from Designmodo

Part of the free flat UI set from Designmodo

Flat design is a trend that has become increasingly prevalent in web design since Apple announced their changes to the soon to be released IOS 7. In case you’ve not heard of it, flat design is just as it sounds; design that is simple with no use of gradients or drop shadows or the skeuomorphic features that came with previous versions of IOS. Even that trend had many designers using gloss, bevels, stitching (Apple calendar anyone), coffee stains, ripped paper… you get the idea.

I’m enjoying the flat designs that are now appearing in web design. There are also an incredible number of free and paid resources to get you inspired and assist with your own designs like the free Flat UI kit from Designmodo.

Flat UI Colours

Flat UI Colors from Designmodo

This Flat UI Color picker also comes courtesy of Designmodo. It gives you a great idea of the colours that are being used in many flat designs and it also lets you to view and quickly copy any of the colours in Hex, RGB and RGBA. I’m really loving the Sun Flower. Do you have a favourite?

Where I really love flat design though is when it’s combined with retro colours.

84 retro flat design social media icons

My retro coloured flat design icons

So I thought I would try my hand at designing some social media icons that were flat designs. These are now for sale on my web shop and on my Etsy store. I took a little inspiration from the Designmodo UI colour picker but I really wanted colours that were a little more subtle with a retro feel. I do like how they turned out and I’m thinking I might like to try my hand at a flat design WordPress theme. What do think of this trend?

August 27, 2013 \ design \ 1 comment

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Pattern in progress :: rain

Rain cloud motif

I’ve been doing lots of doodling on my iPad and experimenting with transferring those doodles into Illustrator. Once in Illustrator I use the Image Trace and Expand to turn it into a vector. This seems to work well and I’m sure over time I will work out how to reduce the number of anchor points as I have to work at a large zoom level to adjust my shapes, which is often. If you do this often and have any tips to share I would love your help.

I do love drawing on the iPad with a stylus and as much as love my Wacom tablet, I find it is quite an unnatural way to work because you can’t follow your hand as you draw. Does that even make sense?

So I took my little rain cloud and started thinking about how I could turn it into a pattern. I haven’t got it repeating yet but this is what I’ve done so far. What do you think?

19-rain2

It was raining yesterday (it’s been a while) and you already know my weather obsession so I thought rain clouds might be fun. When I’ve got a final pattern I’ll definitely share it with you.

May 14, 2013 \ design \ 1 comment

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Working on :: a treasure hunt

Mixed media art piece

The instruction from our lecturer was this – ‘Find/glean/imagine/gather/scavenge/ locate/borrow/steal/ download these images as you wish from ANY source’. The images had to number 30 and we were given a list 50 things/objects to choose from e.g. a dog. Then we had to assemble it into a book made from 6 large sheets of glasseine paper and make use of the transparent nature of the paper to create a whole image on each page, keeping in mind that what appears on other pages can also affect the whole. What you’re looking at above is my front cover done with collage, charcoal, pen and ink, sharpie and aquarelles.

Mixed media work page 2

For those that know me well, you’ll know that I’m organised and a little bit structured in my approach to most things, there’s a word for people like me. I’m not super fond of random except out of my iPod and so placing and changing seemingly unrelated items was quite a terrifying prospect that I dealt with by undertaking a serious amount of procrastination.

Mixed media work page 3

But once I started… oh my! This is such a wonderfully liberating thing to do and was designed to teach us the gestalt principle – that we approach the whole before seeing the details. So our task was to try and create some balance and unity for the unrelated. We were also encouraged to use different media and out of everything the pen and ink and my trusty Pilot G7 became my favoured tools.

Mixed media page 4

My final work is by no means a thing of greatness but I suspect the idea was more about the process than the product and I’m glad I got over my procrastination to lesson learned.

Your turn, have you ever had to do something you thought would be a waste of time and turned into a wonderful experience? I would love to know.

March 19, 2013 \ design \ 10 comments

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