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Norm’s Promo Process – June Mailer

When we first started our gang of 4 we set the goal of sending out a promo mailer every quarter. We decided that our first was going to be mythological creatures. I can’t remember how I settled on my creature, mermaids, but I’m sure one of my friends here at OUAS can help me remember. I wish I had known that we would be doing these write-ups about our process from the start, because I would have saved more of the images it took to make this illustration. Here is my step by step process sans a few sketches.

1. Format – In this case the format was established by the group early on, so that part was easy. I always do my work larger than the final size just in case. My final size ended up being one quarter larger then needed.

2. Character design – When I first started sketching my mermaid, everything was looking very disneyesque. You know, long flowing hair that’s fun to draw under water, sea shells placed just right as to keep the parents happy, stuff like that. All that is good, but it wasn’t what I wanted this piece to look like. To get away from this I made her features longer and skinnier (bonier) in attempt to get away from the perceived perfect female shape. I enlarged her eyes, fin shaped ears, added webbed fingers and more fins and braided her hair. Man its hard to get away from something that disney has all ready established.

3. Sketches – After 3 or 4 pages of quick thumbnail sketches (boy, I wish I had saved those) I settled on having a fishing boat on the surface of the water and the mermaid and her fish friends just looking at the fisherman’s hook. Of course the mermaid needed to be in a playful pose, is she going to take the bate or won’t she.

4. Flats and background – The next thing I did was go out to the internet to find some reference images to help me set the tone and make sure that I got the under water feel right. Using the reference images I laid down flat color and played with the Hue/Saturation in Photoshop making sure that I was happy with the background color before I start because to me this will set the feel of the whole piece.

5. Texture and lighting – Next, I stared playing with the light sources and defining my shadows and forms, which is hard with an under water piece. In this image the primary light source was coming from the top, but in an underwater illustration there would be a lot of reflective light.

6. Finishing touches –  Then I added the shining light from the surface of the water and highlights on the mermaid’s scales. Once I had the image the way I liked it I started playing with photo textures. It just gives the image a bit more, well texture. It’s just a quick way to give the image a little more life. One last time I messed with the Hue/Saturation layer and played with the colors. Then finally, I flatten the whole image while still keeping the layers intact. Then I took the flattened image layer and applied a blur to it. This is where I add an image mask and paint in the areas that I want to keep in focus. This keeps the viewers eye on the areas I want them to focus on.

Wow, that last part was a little technical even for me. Once I had the final illustration completed I passed it on to Edrian who put together all our images in the final layout. Thanks Edrian! If you have any question about my process leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Click the image below to see a larger image of the final illustration.


To see more of Norm’s work visit his website or his blog.

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