Work in Progress

I just realized that in all the time I’ve been blogging that I’ve never posted a step-by-step guide to my artwork. Recently, I’ve been working on a commission for a young adult novel cover. Although I have many different methods of creating artwork, I still thought it might be of interest to show the creative process at work.

Step One: Line Work

Once I’ve gone through the process of perfecting my design through small thumbnail sketches, I draw my final line work. I almost always do this by hand with a non-photo blue pencil. After I’ve hashed out my blue lines, I refine them with a regular #2 mechanical pencil. The whole image is uploaded into Photoshop, and the blue lines are removed digitally.









Step Two: Flat Values

In Photoshop, I then block in my flat values. During this step, I’m not really concerned about lighting. Basically, I’m just insuring that my focal point stands out. In this image, the middle boy is the main character, and therefore, my focal point. His overall value is much lighter than the value on the two girls beside him. This contrast should draw the eye of the viewer. Also, I used the foliage and the large dog as framing devices. I allowed them to be dark so they would frame the characters in the middle.









Step Three: Rendering

Now it’s time to worry about lighting. During this step, I select a light source and shade everything accordingly. Again, in order to draw attention to the middle boy, I placed a bright spotlight near his head. It’s during this stage that I can have fun with textures. You’ll notice that the leftmost girl’s hair went from being a flat mass to a curly monster. This step is the most tedious and time-consuming.









Step Four: Adding Color

Once the image is rendered, adding color is relatively simple. Since I’ve already established my lights and shadows, I can use Photoshop to lay colors over the black and white values. In this image, I applied yellow-green lighting and blueish shadows to enhance the woodsy atmosphere. I also added more foliage as per the publisher’s request. Although I could also add typography at this stage, the publisher had a separate designer that opted to take care of it instead.



    • Hey, Shara! Getting started has been a bit slow, but I’ve found some success using freelance websites like

      Guru is actually my favorite freelance website that I’ve used. Potential employers can post projects on Guru, and freelances can bid on them. As a freelancer, you can create a profile that showcases samples from your portfolio. When projects are posted that interest you, you can write a proposal for those projects. The proposal lets the employer know how much you’d be willing to do that job for, and the amount of time you estimate that it will take.

      At first, it may take awhile to win jobs because Guru “ranks” you based on the number of jobs that you’ve previously won and the amount of money you’ve made. If you’re new, they rank you at the very bottom of the heap. However, by having a decent portfolio and bidding reasonably, I’ve still managed to win a couple of jobs.

      A lot of the jobs posted on Guru come from private individuals. Some of these individuals have big visions and very small budgets, so they might not be worth your time to bid on. However, companies often post projects too, and they are usually willing to pay a little better. For example, the cover I posted above was for a publishing company in Australia. They were really nice to work with.

      I hope this helps a little. It’s hard to get started in the field, and I’m just barely getting started myself. I hope you’re doing well and that you’re finding some success too! 🙂


  1. Hi, I’m stopping by from the campaign trail.
    Your work is gorgeous. I love seeing the step-by-step way an artist works. It’s so interesting to see where it begins and then how it ends up. 🙂


  2. Why thank you! I’m so glad that you like it. It’s always fun to look back at where a project started and see how far it’s come!


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