Updated: Feb 7, 2019
In this is short walkthrough I'll be breaking down the main steps I went through when creating one of our latest illustrations: The Dancing Alligator, using Affinity Designer for iPad.
Step 1: Idea
First thing I do, is to switch to Pixel Persona and start doodling using any of our sketch brushes. At this point the brush itself don't matter that much, as long as it has some pressure control for Flow and Size (just a little). I use this first-generation sketch only to shape the idea I got in my head.
I try to lay down this idea within the first 10 minutes, to keep the energy flowing and not waste time on details yet.
Step 2: Refining Sketch
Then, I lower the opacity of that first doodle and refine it adding a Pixel Layer on top, to work on the details; just like working on a tracing paper! I don't zoom in at all when sketching, to keep checking my entire composition all the time, which is what matters the most on this step.
Once I'm happy with my refined sketch, I lock up the layer and switch to Draw Persona. Then, I create a new Vector Layer and, using either the Vector Brush Tool or the Pencil Tool, I start tracing over my final line work.
I use bolder strokes to define contours and the main shapes of my characters. I try to keep certain rhythm on my figures just by balancing the weight and tapper of my lines.
Once I've laid down the outer strokes, I use a thinner Vector Brush to create inner details. If you want to learn more about this vector inking process, our Advanced Illustration Vol.1 eBook expands upon this subject.
Step 4: Colors
Once the line work is done, I create as many Paths as needed to define the main colors. I use this stage to test different combinations before I got into more details.
Step 5: Texture Shading
A quick way to add volume to your flat shapes is by using Raster Brushes. For this illustration I used some of our Texturizer Pro ones. But, any raster brush would do the job, depending on the kind of finish you need.
In this step, I focus exclusively on defining volumes, trying to imagine my characters in a tridimensional space. This one in particular has a very basic lighting, just one light source coming from the top left and that's it.
If you want to learn more about clipping paths and how to use raster brushes in Affinity Designer, we have created some free tutorials for you:
Step 6: Hard Shading
These type of hard shadows help to pop things up without spending too much time working on unnecessary details.
This is where I define shapes. Using again the Pencil Tool with Fill activated, I trace the contours of the main shapes to tell how deep, bumpy or smooth they are. You can also use the Pen Tool to work on shapes that would be hard to tackle freehand. These type of hard shadows help to pop things up without spending too much time working on unnecessary details.
On top of all layers, I add one or two extra Vector Layers for painting some highlights using either the Vector Brush or the Pencil Tool. I try not to get too carried away with highlights; despite they can add an extra tridimensional feel to your illustration, they can also ruin it all by making it look too 'plastic'. Just a couple of tiny spots here and there, should be enough.
Step 7: Post-Production
Adding Adjustment Layers is one of the steps I rarely skip.
Once I've finished the whole thing, I walk away for a little while and, then I go back to see what else can I bring in to make my illustration stand out. Adding Adjustment Layers is one of the steps I rarely skip. I usually re-visit my color scheme by warming the shadows up using Color Balance, adding some tint to the highlights using the Selective Color Adjustment. One of my favorites is the Lens Filter which works amazing for even out the general lighting of your scenes.
I hope this little walkthrough may help you understand how many steps can be playing together just to create a simple illustration. Sometimes, our work just need a couple extra steps to make it look awesome; so don't be afraid to go back again and again, until you make it look the way you see it in your head.