Donald Wu-Building an Illustration from the characters up! In Color!

We wanted to feature a series of posts from Donald Wu’s Blog that show his development process for an illustration.

The previous stage is linked here, where Donald walks through his character sketches, image roughs and tight sketch. In this post he goes into full color and delivers his final image.

It’s always great to see someone’s process!Enjoy!

…And here’s how it turned out.


Overall, I’m pretty happy with how everything came together. There is a lot of fun stuff going on, but for me, I especially enjoyed rendering the robo-dino. It’s not too often I get to embrace my inner geek, so whenever the opportunity presents itself, I try to make the most of it.

And here’s the process I took to get there…



First, I always start with the most general, I blocked in all my major shapes with color. Here I am simply establishing the basic color scheme of the illustration. In the past, when I was still working with acrylics, this step would be a lot more difficult. I’d always have to worry about losing my drawing underneath layers of paint or simply having it washed away from the water in my brush. However, with Photoshop, this problem is no longer an issue. By keeping the colors in a separate multiply layer(Photoshop speak btw.), the lines would not be effected whatsoever, which gave me the freedom to throw color around with abandon. This freed me up to play and explore different palettes without worrying about getting my colors muddy since I could always edit if needed. Definitely a true plus in working digitally. Once I settled on something I liked, I could move onto the next phase.



This meant a quick pass on the main characters and elements of the illustration. I established a bit more of the form and detail to each of the characters, but my main priority was the boy’s face. With any illustration I work on, the face is the most important thing, and a major hurdle, so I try to nail those down as quickly as I can. In many ways, this can be the most crucial stage in my working process, cause it can very well set the table on how the rest of the illustration will go. Usually, if I can’t get a face to look right,  it meant I’d be fighting the piece the whole time, cause I’d have to go back over and over again trying to rework it. Luckily, in this case, the boy’s face didn’t give me too much trouble, and I was able to get him looking pretty decent at this stage. And having cleared this major obstacle, I was able to relax a bit moving forward.




Next I gave the background and ground a pass. At this point, my brain is on auto-pilot. There’s not much thinking involved here, I simply wanted to fill the back area with “junk”. This part took a bit of time, and was a bit tedious, but I felt it was necessary. Obviously, the quickest and easiest solution would have been to put in a blank wall there, but it also wouldn’t have added anything to the illustration either. All the stuff back there helped to establish more of the story, mood and interest to the piece, so it was time well spent.




After that, I went back to the main elements in the foreground and gave them a second pass. I focused on the smaller details this time. I cleaned up all the edges and gave it a more polished look. At this point, all my major elements were in place and I had pretty much worked everything out. This is probably my favorite part working on an illustration, once I can visualize the final illustration, I can just zone out and make things look pretty.



And finally, here’s the finished illustration again. After taking a step back, I realized I needed to rework the boy’s face and expression. Along with that. I added a couple finishing touches. The lighting effects here and there, as well the the random materials on the floor. All these helped to tie everything together.


1 Comment

  1. Elaine M Phillips

    Love your illustration, just starting my journey into the world of character design. Your development process for your illustration was very helpful:)

    Thanks Elaine M Phillips


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