How do you go from an idea of a few sentences to a finished artwork? If you're interested, in this post I'll show you how I created a BB-8 card illustration for the Fly Better Podcast last year. I will explain and show how we went from the first email exchange to the printable artwork.
Ryan, a staple of the podcast, wrote in to see if we could fit a new artwork in over the next two weeks. The idea is BB-8 in an X-Wing, with pursuers coming up behind him. Shots, smoke, spark, bang, bang! In a Star Wars kind of way.
The first step in any illustration is to collect references. Since the character and the scene were a given here, I collected some pictures from the movies and some play models where BB-8's pattern was clearly visible.
Based on these, two similar sketches were made, showing the events from a different angle. I didn't spend much time on these, there is hardly any detail, and one of the drawings is very, very similar to one of the references from the movie. Here, the aim was just to figure out which setting would look better. A lot of details will change in the next steps. Don't bother with the colours either: it's easier to talk about sketches when you have some sort of colour code, in this case purple and orange.
The first one came out on top, so we went with that. We had an idea that BB-8 should do something interesting: he could try to keep the ship together. Two modified sketches were made for this:
We had the final drawing, it was time to fill in the picture! The lion's share of the work was to create the greyscale image. This is where the finer details, contrast, major highlights and texture are added. I also created the droid, the ship, and the background separately for possible adjustments later. I proceeded with them like this:
Not much modification was needed, Ryan liked this version. I focused mostly on the droid, the rear of the X-Wing and the TIE Fighters are low-res, but that's not a problem at all. The focus should have been on the droid!
I concentrated on the colouring and extra effects. All the colours and lights were done in separate layers. It was a bit more work, but it made it easy to change every little detail later. Was there too much green? Too little sparks? Is space too blue? Everything can be changed independently with a few clicks!
After a few adjustments, the final result looked like this:
The final step was to place the icons and text on the card. Once I had these in place, I just had to export them to the printer in the right quality.
This was pretty much how the workflow for the BB-8 illustration looked like, leaving out a few email exchanges between the different phases.
May the Force be with you!