Mella the Elf: Process and Thoughts

Hey y’all

This is the first entry in the series of drawing process posts I will be creating on my blog. Essentially, I will go through my thoughts and decisions during the painting/drawing process. In addition there will be a conclusion where I give my reflection and afterthoughts. I do not intend for all of the postings to get into the nitty and gritty but I will try to give as much insight as possible.

The quotes I use are pinned to capture my key thoughts for each blog blurt. I’m using this almost as a diary for my thoughts and how they evolve.


Now a days I typically start my drawings with a rough sketch in light blue. Really I’m just imitating what you can do in traditional, with a “non-photo” color blue pencil. I honestly only have done this 2-3 times in traditional practice. I thought it was an interesting look so I incorporated it into my workflow.

The light blue has just the right amount of contrast such that I’m not overly committing to any design intentions.


Figure 1: Example of a rough sketch, typically the first step in most of my drawings.

After I create the preliminary sketch, I will do a more detailed line drawing with a new layer above. In the past, I would just do one sketch, and then work to finish the drawing (a bad habit, in my opinion). However from what I have observed from artists such as Claire Wendling; multiple drafts are sometimes necessary. Now I work from 2-3 drafts before moving on to color.

Use as many drafts as necessary to create the intended artwork. Take the time necessary to think and strategize before doing. Preparation is key.








Figure 2: Draft of basic value separation (left) and lighting ideas (right)

I decided on the white background basic scheme not because of it being easier to render (which is a false statement), but because it represents the character better. I felt that the other thumbs were better used for a storyboard or story based illustration. I merely wanted to best represent the character in my head.

The painting process for me is pretty simple. Pick colors based on a value scheme that I had already devised in the preliminary draft (see Figure 2, left). Typically I will work with a 3 color scheme. In this painting, Mella (my elf character) is wearing a burgandy shawl which contrasts with the green of her dress. The third color is gold/bronze, which will be the colour of her jewlery. The third color supports the burgundy as they are neighbors on the color wheel.

I try not to add too many colours because I feel it can make the character difficult to read. Instead, I add greys which are mixed from the colors which I have already chosen for my schema. 

Typically for a white or light background character painting, I like to make the overall value of the character a few steps darker than the background. This makes the silhouette of the character stand out and allows for easy readability. In this case I’m doing a top lit lighting setup, which allows for me to take advantage of rim lighting.

I have come accustomed to starting with either the lightest shadow value, or the darkest light value. Whichever one dominates the drawing.

I have found that starting too far down the value scale in the shadows can make it difficult to have the correct intended range. The same with starting too light. Starting from the middle allows for me to easily decide how many steps up/down I paint value.

Figure 3: Blocking in basic colors, from the mid light.

Following the block-in of color, the test of patience comes. From here, I tighten the drawing where it needs to be tightened. Ideally areas where I would like for the viewer to focus (face, chest, etc). I also loosen details in areas where I want to avoid eyes wandering immediately (feet, hem of dress, etc). From there, patience is really my best friend.


Figure 4: Finished!!


After thoughts to myself:

  • Use color more often!
  • Exercise patience in rendering so it becomes second nature, and an after thought.
  • More interesting poses
  • Draw more!


No Comments
Leave a Reply

Recent Posts
Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3 other subscribers

Recent Comments
%d bloggers like this: