Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Evolution of a simple BLM illustration

I've done a lot of illustrations for Blackline Master books in educational publishing. Here's a look at the process behind a simple BLM illustration:

My brief for this illustration was for the upper body of an traditional Australian Aboriginal mother holding a baby, for a section on totems in the First Contacts Year 4 curriculum. 

My first move was to browse google for a pose that would work. As I was drawing traditional Aboriginal peoples, I had to draw the mother and baby so that no 'naughty bits' were visible - this is for a year 4 curriculum, after all! 

I chose this image:

Image from

I wasn't planning on using the reference exactly, really I was just after a pose that hid boobs and bottoms. Looking at the reference I sketched a really rough outline in purple, and then got rid of my reference, as I no longer needed it.  Previously I would do this stage on paper with a coloured lead, but I find it easier to draw directly onto my cintiq companion and it saves scanning. It was a little tricker using my Intuos, I found my sketching was much more stilted. 

Still using a purple brush, my next step was to refine that rough outline on a new layer. 

I then created another new layer, and started to digitally ink over my rough with a black brush. I got partway through before I decided that the baby was too old, so I did some rearranging to get the baby closer to a newborn. 

At this point I was mostly finished, but I didn't like the mother's hair, so I gave her a revamped hairstyle. 

My final step was to add some darker outlines, which is my standard practice for BLM illustrations. I feel the thicker lines give some definition to the main shapes, leaving the thinner lines to show the details, and it's less likely for everything to get lost in a sea of linework. I like things to be clear, and it's important that kids can see what's what at a glance. 

Here's the final:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

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