Understanding the Digital Illustration Process – Part 3 – Line Art and Flats

In the previous article, I provided you with the basics of the sketching process. In this post I will explain the general concept of how to take a finished sketch and transform it into the basic lines and colours that will be used to create the final piece of art.

To begin, the sketch is first used as the basis to create the finished line art. This is done by drawing over the sketch using illustration software such as, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or any other software catered towards illustration or digital painting. Line art can vary greatly from drawing to drawing based on the artist’s preference and style. In the case of mascot design, lines tend to be thick and exaggerated to emphasize a more ‘cartoon-like’ style, whereas other styles may have thinner lines used to simply define the shapes of the subject and rely more on the next step, adding colour, to provide visual separation.

Once the line work has been completed, coloured ‘flats’ are used determine an appropriate colour palette for the final piece of art. Flats are simply unshaded blocks of colour placed roughly beneath the line art to determine the best colour scheme for the character. It’s at this point during the illustration process that the artist can experiment with different colours quickly and easily before moving on to the final step, ‘Highlights and Shading’.

-Kyle Dawney, Graphic + Web Designer / Illustrator