You Ask, I Answer: My Process

Hi guys!

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about my design and illustration process, so I thought I’d take a quick break from holiday insanity to answer.

I also wanted to touch on a related topic that’s been on my mind a lot: I’ve been getting several emails a week from people who want to talk on Skype, over the phone, or in person about the stationery biz, my design process, my manufacturing sources, what to do when XYZ happens, etc., and I’ve struggled a bit with how to respond. I would LOVE to be able to give individual attention to all of these requests, but to be completely honest, running this business is pretty much taking everything I’ve got right now. If only there were 32 hours in a day — I would get SO much more done! In the future, I may take a cue from the brilliant Jessica Hische¬†and set aside a half-day a week for consulting “office hours,” but right now it’s not part of my immediate plan. I’m hoping that as I cover more of your questions on this blog, it’ll be a resource I can point people to.

So, if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t responded, please know that it’s not you! I’m trying to get back to everyone, but the holidays are in full effect and I’m prioritizing my time according to “most in my face” –> “least in my face.”

SO! On to my illustration process. Fun fact: I don’t use Illustrator. I’m self-taught in design programs, and I just never tackled the Illustrator learning curve when I was an art director. I can do basic things and fake my way through some of it, but unless I’m working on a rare client project where they need something vectorized, Illustrator doesn’t enter into my process at all.

When I started illustrating, I was doing most of it by hand, scanning it, and cleaning up and finishing it in Photoshop. If you’ve ever done this, you know that it can be kind of a pain in the ass. So, last year, I changed it up. After trying out a Wacom Cintiq tablet owned by a friend of mine, I took the plunge. I hadn’t made much money drawing anything yet, so it was a REALLY big deal to spend $1,000 on a tablet, but I have to say it changed my life — or at least the way I make work. It rules.

Behold the Cintiq! (This is the smallest one. They also come way bigger, but those cost as much as my car.)

The Cintiq is a flat monitor that plugs into your computer, and you can draw directly on its screen. I hold the Cintiq in my lap and draw on it with a digital pen, just like I’m drawing or painting in a sketchbook. I draw everything in Photoshop, and I use different brushes to get the effects I want. The pen is pressure-sensitive, so (after a pretty steep learning curve) it really does feel quite similar to drawing on paper.

I still sketch everything on paper by hand first, just so I can get the placement of various elements down. I have a million sketchbooks going at once and I’d love to say there’s a system, but I really usually just write in the one closest to me at any given time. See, here’s what I was working on last night:

This system has effectively replaced the draw-and-scan method for me, and I find that it works really well. I do miss painting with actual, non-digital paint, and I try to get in at least a couple of hours a week with my old-school materials just for my own sanity. But as someone who’s generating a lot of work, having the freedom to work mostly in Photoshop has helped streamline my process immensely.

I hope this helped — if there’s something you’re curious about that I didn’t cover, please feel free to ask in the comments!





13 thoughts on “You Ask, I Answer: My Process

  1. Hi Emily,

    Do you have other brands that you recommend using instead of Wacom? I haven’t tried Wacom myself, but I know that I won’t be able to afford this.

    Thank you so much!

  2. Oh, the Cintiq!
    It’s the lifetime dream of my designer friends :)

    Sketch-and-scan is a long process but for now it’s the only one I can actually work with, since doing everything in Photoshop with my Wacom Bamboo is something I can’t do; I hate drawing or writing like that.
    I do not own a good scanner, so I take a photo of my sketches… Definitely something that I should stop doing, it takes a lot of time.
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. HI Emily,
    Just saw your very inspiring (and funny) interview on the Smart Creative Women website and wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience on building your own brand/company.

    Perhaps you could create a humorous card (or tea towel, etc.) as a Petition for a 32-Hour Day for those of us who really need one of those.

    Continued success to you in the future!

  4. I love reading how other artsy folk work, and what media and tools they use. Keep sharing!!! I’m totally loving your blog :)


    P.S. I’m an Illustrator junkie and feel the same way about Photoshop as you do about Illustrator!

  5. Hi Emily!!! Having just recently given myself permission to delve into this wonderful world of graphic art I am always interested in reading and learning about the creative process successful people follow… I am between trying to learn photoshop or illustrator, you’ve tipped the scale in favor of photoshop, thanks for being so open and sharing a bit of your experience…I’ll certainly keep reading for more :) Alexandra

  6. thank you for sharing
    it aids in putting the pieces together for me
    Gods blessings to you and your work
    that it would be all its meant to be

  7. Hi Emily! I just discovered your work through Etsy, and it’s really wonderful! I love that you maintain that handmade look even though you create your work on the computer. I was kind of curious about the painterly and hand drawn look you achieve in a lot of your cards. It almost looks like you actually painted/drew them by hand and then scanned them into the computer, but after reading this post apparently you don’t. Do you get those effects with different techniques in Photoshop?

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Abbey! Yes, when you draw with the Cintiq pen in Photoshop, you can pick different brushes to draw with that approximate the look of different painting mediums.

  8. Hi Emily ~ Wonderful to read your story. I draw and scan into Photoshop too but just haven’t embraced my Wacom Bamboo Tablet. I’ve often been down on myself about being ‘old-school’, equating it with ‘not knowing enough’/'I’m so out of touch’/'I can’t succeed this way’. Reading about your experience allowed me a sigh of relief. Wonderful of you to share. Thank You ~ Maxine

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