Our WorkAbout UsOur ApproachThe Journal
Contact »
« Back to the journal
Graphic Design

Poster Illustration Process

By:

Mitch Wiesen
Mitch Wiesen

on 4/7/2020

Materials:

I keep it pretty simple. Tracing paper, Sketchbook paper, pencils, Sakura Pigma Micron pens in sizes 005, 01, 03, and 05, and two Sakura Pigma Brush pens.

Research:

Before I begin an illustration, I almost always find a ton of reference photos. I start by poking around Pinterest and Flickr looking for vintage copyright-free photos and illustrations in the theme I’m looking for. My latest Illustration a Valentine’s Day-themed poster for the Great VIA Speling Bee. I knew I was going to deep dive into some really cute vintage valentines cards, like these:

collage1.png

I loved the cute animal cards, but I was especially drawn to the cowboy valentines so I found a few more.

collage2.png

At this point, I had a clear image in my head of two cowboy kiddos riding on a heart-spotted horse with some kewpie babies dancing around them. I dug a little deeper and ended up with some vintage illustrations that were so perfect I used them as direct references.

collage3.png

Art Phase I:

The first art phase is all done completely by hand. I collage together my sketches and my direct references, draw on top of them with pencil, and then pen, and then I have a piece of crinkled up tracing paper ready to scan.

collage4.png

Art Phase II:

The second phase is all digital. I make slight alterations to the drawing (Cleaning up ink smudges, moving elements around to slightly alter the composition, etc.), I color it, and then I add texture. Let’s start with the scan:

Screen-Shot-2020-02-10-at-11.12.21-AM.png

Here is my artwork after I cleaned it up and played with the curves and levels to get it nice and crisp.

Screen-Shot-2020-02-10-at-11.12.36-AM.png

Next, I isolated the black using Select > Color Range and deleted the white background.

collage5.png

Then I pasted the black artwork in a new file, colorized it, and started playing with different background colors. I went with the first one so I could build more pink tones on top of it.

Vday_spelingbeeart4_6-scaled.jpg

I selectively colored the illustration with two more colors. I always try to use one “paper color” and no more than three “print colors” to mimic the vintage printing processes I’m being inspired by.

Vday_spelingbeeart4_7-scaled.jpg

The last step is texture. I always use something like this, either one that I made myself or something I find for free online, and I select > color range and choose either white or black, and with that selected, I delete the selection from the color layers I just painted, so it looks like this:

Vday_spelingbeeart4_8-scaled.jpg

I’ll also take this time to make the color layers slightly off register, and I’ll play with their hue/saturation a bit too. I felt like this poster needed a little differentiation between foreground and background, so I added in another layer of color:

Vday_spelingbeeart4_9-scaled.jpg

And that’s it! Illustration complete. All in all, it took about 10 hours. Here are a few close-ups to really see that texture:

Screen-Shot-2020-02-10-at-11.36.52-AM.pngScreen-Shot-2020-02-10-at-11.37.46-AM.png
Share to

Related Posts

Design
How to Make Your New Photos Look Vintage

By:Mitch Wiesen on 9/1/2020

I’ve always been drawn to the warm, friendly way film captures reality. I found my first analog camera, a Canon AE-1, sitting on a blanket at a flea market at age 14, and I was enamored.

Read More »
Design Templates

By:Ashley Trommler on 9/15/2020

Associate Creative Director Ashley Trommler provides you a structured look at how you can design templates that work for your clients, but keep the brand intact.

Read More »