Thursday, February 7, 2013

Process: Brian Won

Welcome to a new installment of the KidLit Artists series on Process. This month, Brian Won will share his steps to creating an illustration.

Step 01: Reference
Before I begin an illustration, I like to gather reference. Its an excellent way to waste time and feel good about working. The final illustration was inspired by a photo of me awkwardly carrying my son.

Step 02: Illustrator
I work primarily on the computer. The constant battle is to create a digital illustration that looks hand done. One thing that helps "soften" vector illustrations is to use the roughen effect in Adobe Illustrator. It creates an uneven wobble to the edges. 

Step 03: Pen
For this cat illustration, I felt it would be nice to add pen lines as fur. I print the vector illustration and use a light box to trace. Next, I scan the pen lines and import the image into photoshop.

Step 04: Photoshop Texture
This is my favorite step. Once I bring all the elements into photoshop, I move the textures around until it feels right. It's less of a commitment than painting and I enjoy the controlled chaos. One thing to remember is when using different blend modes also adjust the opacity of the layer. For example, using overlay at 100% opacity vs 20% opacity yields different results. You can google textures or purchase them here.

Step 05: Finishing Touches
At this point, I will flatten the layer and do some color tweaks. I fill a layer with one solid color and apply the blend mode, soft light, to the whole illustration with 20% opacity (This unifies the colors). Enjoy!

Brian Won is an illustrator and 2012 Kid Lit artist. You can see his work at On twitter @bwon1


  1. Loved seeing the creation process. Your work is superb!

  2. Thanks futuredoll for the kind words!

  3. Awesome Brian, thanks for sharing this. I'm curious, is your final file a photoshop one, or an illustrator file? I illustrate in photoshop. I love the clean vector look of illustrator, but I always find myself staying in photoshop. I seem to feel more comfortable with the organic feeling of drawing on a tablet. What I love about your image above, is that it has a vintage print feel to it, like the golden books and the cat is cute!

    1. Hello Noël the Third! My final file is always in photoshop. I have more flexibility with textures in it than in illustrator. Funny enough, I just can't get comfortable with a wacom and so most of my stuff is done with a mouse. Check out this site for some amazing vintage kids books.

    2. Cool, thanks for the link! That's an awesome blog. Oh and my last name is iLL haha! It's ok, I know it's a unique last name and looks like the Third in type. Lucky me :-P

  4. Thanks to all of you for doing this! I've only been able to work in Illustrator, and an old version at that, so in reading this I am getting a good idea of what it will be like when I can finally get into PS. I like the energy in your sketches too, Brian!

    1. Thanks Julie. Every month there should be a new process post. I sketch best on loose papers. Brand spanking new sketchbooks scare the bejeezus out of me.