Meet Montsouris, an illustrator and animator living in Paris, France. When she’s not working on client projects, Montsouris loves taking the time to create for herself. We’re big fans of her playful and colorful illustration style, and not to mention her subtle animations that bring it all to life. Today she’ll be walking us through a high-level overview of her creative process as she tackles this new vector illustration in her series Playful House.
I love creating small, colorful illustrations and assembling them as if they were puzzles. It feels playful and nostalgic and I love juggling several ideas at once. Today I’m sharing my creative process for a personal illustration I did in my free time. I’ll focus mainly on the illustration process and touch briefly on animation at the very end. Keep in mind, my commissioned work would usually consist of a lot more steps, though the illustration process for this piece is quite similar.
Step 1: Ideation
I really enjoy drawing for myself because it’s the perfect opportunity to try new things out, juggle different concepts, and bring them to life. With any illustration work, I start out using what I call my idea incubator. Whenever I see something fresh and inspirational in my daily life that I want to remember, I write the word down and keep the list of words safe with me as inventory for ideas.
I’ll usually pick words out from this list and combine several ideas when I first start an illustration. Below is the list of words that inspired my “Playful House” series, depicting houses as playgrounds:
Step 2: Research + exploration
I always start off a project with a visual research stage. It’s my way of identifying very specific and familiar details that most people will recognize. Here’s a small point of reference I’ve created for the interior design of a bathroom, which will be the setting in this particular illustration.
Step 3: Tiny sketch
Once I’m done with the research stage, I quickly start the sketching process–this one is on the back of a small envelope! I dive in and draw a rough sketch of the composition and position all of the elements. This way, I have a good initial visualization of the drawing.
It’s important that I start sketching right away because otherwise, I may get carried away with too many ideas that seem awesome in my head, prepare to use them, and in the end realize they may not work with the illustration as a whole.
Step 4: Digital composition
After the sketch is complete, I use it as a reference to re-draw it with even more detail and precision on my Wacom Cintiq Pro creative pen display. I can draw directly on the tablet screen which helps me work a lot faster.
At this stage, I stay focused on the composition and balance between the elements. I pay attention to the distribution of masses, the framework, and finally, the main character—ballpool boy!
Step 5: Adding details and color
For my color palette, I start with 3 colors. I use one or two colors from my previous illustrations (I have a few favorites) and I try to combine them with new colors to expand the look of my work while also keeping in harmony with the rest. I add several colors progressively that I find from inspiration doing research on Dribbble for example (making sure to keep good contrast in mind)! Keep in mind when it comes to color, I don’t have a set process—It’s very subjective.
At this stage, I let myself get into the details and the coloring. When I have enough time, I like to color in objects by hand using the paintbrush tool. It gives my illustrations a more natural effect that you might usually see in doodles in a notebook.
Step 6: Organizing layers + clean-up
Now I take a break from illustrating and prepare my file for animation. I check on the positioning of elements within every layer, I clean them all up and rename the layers clearly. I had already done this beforehand, but it’s always helpful to double-check before moving into animation software like After Effects.
Step 7: Animation
Here, I start the fun process of animating ballpool boy. I keep my focus in the center of the composition where the animation will happen. I make a simple but effective animation loop paying close attention to adjusting the Bézier curves nicely and smoothing out the movement. Then I export video which brings me to my last step: Opening the video in Photoshop and saving it as a GIF.
- Take time to draw for yourself and let your imagination run wild.
- Have fun (even if it’s commissioned work) and be as free as possible while also respecting constraints. It’s an exercise worth trying.
- Try not to get overwhelmed with ideas. Just choose something to stick with and start sketching.
- Organizing and naming your layers is key and will save you a lot of time—especially if you are moving into animation afterward.
Finally, I encourage you to support your peers, remember to take care of yourself, and enjoy your work. You wanna play puzzle? I’m here!
Interested in connecting with Montsouris? Find her on Dribbble, Instagram and maisonmontsouris.com.
Did you enjoy this tutorial? Make sure to check out the other illustration processes in the series from Terry Edward Elkins and Ranganath Krishnamani.
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