Illustrating the Lotus

lotus1I digitally illustrate using a tablet and a stylus. It’s like an electronic canvas and pen. This allows me to use the same drawing technique I use with regular pencils and paper. I start the same way ─ with a sketch. The difference is that I create my sketch on one layer and my art on another. Often I’ll sketch on several layers. When I’m done, I can delete my sketch layers.

lotus2Next, I paint with strokes of my stylus. On canvas, I would slowly build up the colors using one color at a time on each petal. On my digital canvas, I can save my color palette. This allows me to work on each petal individually. I start with a medium pink, then add light and dark pinks for contrast and to develop folds in the petal.
Next, I smooth it out, add shadows and highlights until it’s close to done. I don’t worry about finishing it until the rest of the petals are done to this point.
Each petal is on a separate layer. This allows me to move, shrink, or enlarge a petal if I need to. I am also able change the order of the layers if I decide one petal would look better below its adjacent petal.

Finally, I’m ready to detail my work. I add shadows falling from one petal onto another. I add highlights, sharpen areas that got too fuzzy and blur areas that became too focused.There you have it. Are you ready to go out and create your own lotus?Click here to see the completed lotus.

images/illustrations by me!

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  1. That is so cool to see the steps of progression. I still highly doubt I have the skill to perfect it.

  2. Thanks for sharing your process with us. I wouldn't know where to start. Don't you have a special program for it?

  3. If I were half the artist you were, I would almost be tempted to start, but I know I would not be able to create art the way I do- on paper or on screen.

    But excellent instructions, and a beautiful painting of an exquisite flower (the national flower of my country)

  4. This was so cool. I don't have the steady hand for the lines or the training to know what colors (and where) shade what, but I love seeing how you work this. Makes total sense that the layers add somthing to your toolbox that makes this process easier in a way.

  5. I can spend hours on end editing my manuscript word by word and I love it. Time flies. Doing what you do? I'd run screaming into the night it would make me so crazy. Plus I can't draw. I love how we're different. And I love your drawings!

  6. Wow, that is so neat. You do wonderful work.

    Thoughts in Progress

  7. Wow — what a talent you have! I can, uh, draw stick figures. 🙂

  8. Beautiful! You've really captured the color and texture with this drawing.

  9. Ready to create my own? Oh, that's funny!
    Literally! I am so NOT good at this kind of thing!

    How wonderful to see the process step-by-step!

  10. I had no idea how it was done. Great lesson!

    My question–how long did it take you to master this on the computer?

  11. Wow, this is very impressive!!!

    One thing that always baffled me in any kind of digital illustration thingies is this – how do you keep a straight hand? I mean, if I draw with a pen/pencil, I can draw a reasonable straight line. Or a circle. Or, you know, a giraffe.

    If I try the same on a computer, however, I stand no chance. And it doesn't matter what I draw with. Mouse/touchpad – equally bad. All my lines go wiggly and/or pixelated. With one of those pen-touchpad thingies – well I haven't tried to draw, per se, but I have given my signature on any number of them, and it NEVER looks anything like my signature.

    So, how do you even draw the basic line that makes up the first petal of the lotus?

    (Can you tell I am way impressed?)

  12. Myrna there are several expensive software programs out there but I recommend the GIMP. It is free and quite powerful.
    Go to

  13. Hilary Melton-Butcher said…
    Hi – love the way you've described how you drew the illustration .. and for letting us know about as the free programme .. I'll have a look sometime – can't draw for toffee!

    Thanks – Hilary

  14. Myrna Foster said…

  15. I interned at a gaming software company my last year in college. I illustrated about four hours a day five days a week and watched other work as often as I could. It took about two months before I felt proficient. I have yet to master it. It seems there always some new little trick or filter or something to learn.

    The hardest part about switching over to the computer is getting caught up in the technology and forgetting the fundamental techniques.

  16. notesfromnadir said…
    Thanks so much for sharing this info. I had a feeling there was a bit of a learning curve. You obviously have mastered it quite well! 🙂
    August 19, 2010 9:51 PM

  17. Cruella, thank you!
    Those touchpad thingies made for signing are neat and all but nothing like a tablet and stylus. You get more pixel power and antialiasing. It’s more refined.
    August 28, 20

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