My Colored Pencil Illustration Process

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

After many, many hours of work, my illustration study from "Coraline" is finally finished! Today I wanted to share what the process for a piece like this looks like. My main reason for this is to highlight the importance of working through the ugly stages of a piece as well as to demonstrate that art should not be rushed. If you have a specific result you're going for, you shouldn't compromise the amount of time needed to achieve that result for any reason (which tends to be social media nowadays). I've done that before - it's not worth it. So with all that said, I hope you enjoy seeing the evolution of this piece. For reference, this was made with Prismacolor colored pencils on Arches cold press watercolor paper.

This is what my colored pencil pieces start out looking like. I lay down tones in various places so I can get an idea of value and the overall color palette. It doesn't look good, and it's easy to quit because of that. This is where you have to really push through and keep working the piece until it gets to the more polished version.

I tend to work small areas until they're completed. It's easy to get sucked into everything and try to work it all at the same time, but I find that to be very difficult and confusing. So I hyper-focus on smaller areas and get them to the polished stages before moving on to another section. Every artist is different; this is just what works for me.

At this point, I started putting tone down for the background so I could get a feel for the values of Other Father's clothing. While I tend to work individual sections, this was one instance where I broke that rule. I needed to understand how dark the black trim of the robe needed to be in relation to Other Mother's hair and the wall behind them. To do that, I put down tone for the surrounding area. Color and value work in relationships, so I made sure to pull in other areas to understand them.

You can see that I finished up that panel of wallpaper on the left, but the primary focus for me right here was the candlelight. It doesn't show up as well in photos, but I'm so pleased with how I rendered the candlelight on the clothing, hair, and background.

I then moved on to the rest of the background including the wallpaper and the French doors. I decided to eliminate some of the wallpaper details, because they were detracting from this piece. Don't be afraid to remove information that isn't necessary to your final piece! I also rendered out the candlelight on the cake and finished up the chair.

This is the final version! I'm so pleased with the variety of textures, the lighting, and the level of detail I was able to achieve in this piece. I'm hoping to take what I learned here into my own illustrations in the future!


I hope this was interesting and informative for you! I love seeing the process of a piece coming together, and I look forward to sharing more of these process posts as I continue to develop my portfolio. Disclaimer: This piece is not for sale and all rights to this image belong to Laika Studios. This was made as a study and will remain in my personal collection.

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Thanks for reading and happy creating!