Illustration Process: Ink Wash

As the illustrator, I thought I’d throw in some pictures here to show my process for creating an illustration. This is the illustration for the Cleric character class, and I’ve done it in an ink wash. I’ll be doing some line art for the book as well, but I wanted to start off by developing a great greyscale technique for some of the illustration. I’ll do another post later about creating the painting on the cover - that was a big long crazy and awesome project!

The first step is always coming up with a good composition. If I skip this step, I end up with silly poses and settings/backgrounds that look uninspired and not so believable. With multiple figures in the image this is even more essential, as the storytelling aspect of the illustration needs better design to gain traction in the viewers mind and convey the right message/action. I work best when I start by doodling and coming up with ideas without worrying too much about the final image.

Next I have to put the sketch together. I liked the viewpoint and pose of the lower figure in that last sketchbook page, so I reworked it and added a bunch of details that I can use to help me figure out the final drawing. I use a light table and translucent vellum to speed the process of transferring each drawing to the next step.

Next I lightly draw in the outlines of everything on the paper I’ll paint the ink into. I use graphite, then fix it to the page with fixative or skim milk so it doesn’t bleed and smear around the page. I didn’t document the stages of this part of the drawing - I’ll do that with a subsequent illustration and post it here if people are interested. I begin with thinned down watery ink to do the lightest areas, and build up to darker and darker layers of wash, saving black and outlines for last.

And — sometimes I’m so frantic trying to get it all together that I make a poor design choice - ack… I thought a snake would be a really cool holy symbol for a cleric, but I’m thinking of a more amorphous, non-setting variant on the cleric - Alex reminded me that the holy symbol for a typical ‘good’ cleric in the ACKs prewritten setting would be a Winged Sun symbol, and a snake would be more appropriate for some ‘evil’ variants’ holy symbol. I had to fix that in Photoshop since ink is permanent, so I drew this little amulet object in ink, scanned it, and inserted it into the picture after editing the snake out. Phew.

Finally - I think I really want to emphasize the character here, given purpose of the illustration, so I’ve dimmed the contrast and lightened the background slightly - now the figure stands out a little more. I really like this one! On to the next.