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Artist’s Process: Copic Marker Illustration (Embracing the colors!)

One characteristic of Copic Marker Illustrations is the flat, blended and layered look which closely mimics digital art. I find that Copic Markers achieve the digital look much better than most other traditional mediums. During this illustration, I decided to embrace the digital look and see how far I can push the bright colors of Copic Markers. This meant that I decided not to use skin tones. The inner character-design artist screamed quite loudly at this concept, especially since ‘alien’ and ‘Smurf’ weren’t on my list of accomplishments for this piece. However, being booted out of your comfort zone is part of the artist’s process, and is beneficial in learning and growing as an artist.

I started out by sketching my general concept in my sketchbook. I wanted the finished result to look like a sticker, so my first few concepts focused on a more ‘distant’ view of the character, who in this case is Atlas. I found that many of the details would be lost with a “far off” view, so my next sketch was a more zoomed in version. This one lost most of the emotion I wanted to achieve, which I felt I had captured much better in the first sketch. My final concept sketch included both the emotion of the first sketch, but with the layout of the second. I ended the planning phase by typing the words that would accompany the illustration into Word. I selected a font that complemented the illustration, and then mimicked the font in my sketchbook. Using Word fonts is a fun way to learn hand-lettering styles and techniques.

Here is the line-art of my final illustration on the sketchbook page dedicated to planning the concept.

I then redrew my final sketch into my Copic Marker booklet, and lined it with Copic Multi Liners. Multi Liners are alcohol proof, and are used alongside the Markers for line art that the alcohol ink won’t smudge. I did the lettering and lining, then left the ink to dry for an hour or so. The ink doesn’t need that long to dry however, and can usually be left for only five to ten minutes. Then I rummaged around my Copic collection for the right colors. For better results in blending, and for a more cohesive color selection, I decided to use Violets, Blue- Violets and Blues. After picking out my markers and testing them together on a separate piece of paper, I was ready to start coloring.

The fully colored illustration!

I knew that inevitably; the characters’ skin would end up being blue… Not being able to bring myself to do it I started on the hair, the clothes, anything to avoid doing the skin. But soon the time had come. The character himself was almost complete, but his skin was still paper white. I just swallowed my nerves, and got started on the skin. To conform my fears, on the first pass, he did look remarkably like a Smurf. Luckily, when I started to add shading with a very light Blue-Violet, it helped the illustration move away from the unwanted ‘alien’ appearance. I then finished the background.

The last step (and also the most fun), was to add white highlights and stars. After I had done this, I decided to add a white outline to the character and the planet. This will cause them to stand out from the dark colors of the background, and keep all the colors more separated.

The process from start to finish, from the messy sketchbook, to the color key, to the final, completed illustration.

The lesson learnt during this illustration was:

Never be afraid to try. Even if you are nervous you may end up with an accidental Smurf, it’s better to try and learn something, than to never try at all and live with the regret.

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