I hope you all had a wonderful bank holiday weekend and were able to grab a chance to enjoy the sunshine. I’m back at Frog & Pencil HQ after some time away and I’m feeling refreshed and ready to hop to it.
I’ve had this post stored in the depths of my brain for a while now and I finally have some current work to use to help illustrate my points and generally pretty the page up a bit. Occasionally I meet and speak with people who don’t quite realise how much time and effort goes into creating a new design and exactly what that entails. So, I’d like to share with you how I work, from initial idea through to final product; my Froggy process.
For the purpose of this post I’m going to use my new Mr & Mrs Piggy Design.
Inspiration can strike at any point and I’m influenced by nature and the gorgeous colour combinations you can find all around us. I love hearing people’s stories and more often than not these turn on my creative lightbulb. If I’m working with a client, I listen to what they are envisaging, include personal touches and then sketch up some potential ideas for them to look through.
Lovely Kate contacted me via Facebook as she was looking for a wedding card for her brother-in-law and she desperately wanted something featuring pigs but couldn’t find one anywhere. I don’t usually create one-off cards however after talking with her for a while I started to picture what it could look like and I was getting quite excited about the prospect of it. I concluded that it would be a brilliant design for my next Ready-to-Write wedding invitation which I could then transform into a card for Kate (and others); a win win situation.
Now, my sketches are really not the most beautiful drawings in the world but they do enable me to have what I like to call, a ‘brain dump’. I can splurge all my thoughts onto paper and tweak certain ideas before refining the good ones. It’s all about working up the right composition (including a garland with bespoke detailing), and some days are easier and quicker than others. It can either take me an hour or up to a day to get this right.
Thankfully with the pigs I already had quite a clear vision and it only required a few scribbles. With a final composition completed, I use my light box to reproduce this design onto good quality watercolour paper.
PAINTING WITH WATERCOLOUR
I love this bit…it is where I see my illustrations come to life! This is also usually the part where within a few brush strokes I decide I hate it! In almost every case I get this overwhelming feeling that it’s now utter rubbish. However, I have learnt to trust in my ability and believe that it will all come together.
When I begin to paint I already have in mind a rough sense of the colours I’ll be using for the main characters. Throughout my creative years and experimentation with style, I’ve had one constant, I’m a colourist. I love playing with different tones and making them pop.
Working with watercolour I find that you have to be patient and allow time for the paint to dry. I’m quite precise with my colours and I don’t want any unnecessary bleeds. So, with that in mind and depending on the level of detail within the design, painting my illustrations take at least six hours.
At this point, if I’m making something for a client, I will e-mail over a scanned image of the final piece so they can see how it’s progressing.
Ahh, my good friend Photoshop, how I have sworn at thee a million times. If we were a Facebook item our relationship status would read ‘it’s complicated’. I think it’s pretty amazing what you can do with this programme however my skills are limited but I manage fine and can navigate it with what I need to know…and youtube helps A LOT!
Additionally, I never ever want to lose the handmade touch in my work as that’s me, so I really only use Photoshop for a few things. Mainly, as a tool to tidy up my work once it’s scanned in. I always create a ‘clean’ file where I erase any pesky pixels and make sure the illustration edges are smooth; then the image can be transferred to any project with ease. Once I’ve created a Ready-to-Write wedding invitation for example, I can experiment with background colours, introduce text and brighten the illustration a smidge so that it’s print ready. This can be a bloomin’ lengthy process. To clean the image so it looks excellent digitally can take me around three hours…even more if there are lots of fiddly elements which makes me super cross-eyed. I’m sure there is a simpler option, drop me a line if you know one.
And let’s not forget my other pal InDesign, oh we do have fun! This is more of a publishing programme which is ideal for aligning and producing more text heavy design, such as the reverse of my Ready-to-Write wedding invitations. This can take me a while to work with, but I currently have a nice template in place where I can simply edit the typography; hurrah! As you can probably tell, I much prefer making the work over the digital delights.
This final design would then be sent over to my client to get their approval before it heads to my printer.
Once I’ve had the nod from my lovely client, we are ready to print. I’ve been quite lucky and have found a local printer who’s reliable, quick and his prices are reasonable too…oh and of course the final result looks glorious! I always ask for a proof so that I can review the colours. If they’re a bit off, it’s back to my favourite friend Photoshop for a bit of tweaking. I will never send anything to a client or sell a product that I’m not 100% happy with, so this is a crucial part of the process. This too takes time. Thankfully we have a nice relationship and usually I can see a proof by the end of the day. After that, it’s around a 24 to 48 hour wait for the final prints depending on their work load.
PACKAGING & POSTAGE
With the invites hot off the press, it’s time to package and post. I like to include a handwritten thank you note and it’s finished off with a Frog & Pencil sticker before making a trip to the post office.
BUT IT DOESN’T END THERE…
Nope, the process continues on after a client has received their goodies. As a small business I need to keep up with my social media accounts and promote myself. Showing off recent work is key to drumming up new commissions. This includes taking good photographs of my illustrations and the final pieces in eye-catching and interesting compositions. We then revisit Photoshop for some more editing, cropping, resizing and brightening so they’re primed for the web. Be it for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, my Frog & Pencil Website or this blog, it’s all important work that takes up more of your time then you’d think.
And there you have it, my Froggy process. I regularly need to remind myself of this structure for when it comes to pricing up quotes as all of these fundamental parts need to be considered so that I don’t undersell myself. It’s tricky, but I love it and I’m getting there.
On a final note, if you’re interested in purchasing my new Mr & Mrs Piggy Ready-to-Write Wedding Invitations or Congratulations Wedding Card, get in touch and say hello, I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,