Illustration Process: Finding Baby Butterflies

Hello! Happy Summer! 

I’m going to be honest - I’ve attempted making an art blog multiple times in my time as a freelancer. Whether it be to make note of my progress for personal reference, or to ramble on about a creative process, the thoughts have come and gone. 

I’m hoping that this time, with a little bit of forethought and planning, I can write a little something once a month. 

This time, I’m starting with something easy that I’ve become more organized with - my illustration process! 


My work is mostly done on an iPad Pro with Procreate these days, but work always starts in a sketchbook. In this case, this is a thumbnail from almost 2 years ago! I’m a big believer in keeping old sketches, reminding myself that they’re there, and coming back to them when I feel more ready. 

I always need to have a rough thumbnail done on paper to see the general energy and composition that I’m envisioning. 

illustration thumbnail sketch process


So, two years later, I try to translate this sketch onto Procreate. 

I mainly use Procreate’s 6B Pencil brush and a light color to let the sketch feel loose, less permanent. 


I’ve found it’s important to be open to changes and edits in this stage, especially if something just doesn’t feel right. In this case, the previous horizontal composition was just a bit flat for me, and I wanted to add more.

I switch over to a vertical composition, flesh out the background and build the world more for my three characters. Again, I try to stay loose with this sketch, focusing more on the gestures and positioning of the characters and composition’s main elements. 

Lately, I’ve been working on different facial expressions and character interactions. Anything to add more to the storytelling. 


On top of the previous sketch is a sketch layer where I try to get more detailed. 

I add in more details, especially details that are important when working in the final colors - I start to think ahead. 


The color sketch! I will admit, this is still not my strongest stage. Often times, I go for colors that I’m quite comfortable with, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t some problem solving involved.  

In this step, I try to think about: 

- Keeping a color palette. I use similar yellows, greens, reds and blues throughout the illustration. 

- Foreground and background. The greens of the bushes closer to the viewer will be darker than the greens of the trees farther away. 

- Contrast and balance. Do these colors make my eyes move around the composition? Are two colors too similar to each other and need to be moved around? Where is the focal point?


Color. This is where the process kind of gets away from me and I just go for it. 

At this stage, I prefer to block out the base colors on different layers, keeping note of which elements should go on top of others. Going forward, I mainly use the Maxpack Gouache Grainy Glaze brush with a color jitter. 

A little into this process (00:16s), I realize I don’t love how the girl on left is posed. There just isn’t enough energy and personality in the way I drew her, which doesn’t make for strong storytelling. 

But there’s an easy fix - redraw her! Thankfully, because I had only just blocked in colors, I didn’t have too many details to fix. 

After blocking in colors, I tackle any part of the illustration that needs attention. Once I draw in the character’s faces and details, I feel a bit more confident about where the illustration is going. 

I add in more texture details to the foreground and background to add to the depth and the contrast. I’ll use Procreate’s Bonobo Chalk brush or a Maxpack 9B Pencil brush for this. 

I had a lot of fun adding in different shapes and colors for the foliage! It takes a bit of trial-and-error to see which elements fit best, but the experimenting is one of the best parts! 

As I near the end of drawing in all the details, I take some time away. I want to come back to the image with fresh eyes, especially after staring at the iPad for hours. I either wait til the next day or a couple hours. We all need a break! 

When I come back, a few things need rearranging, but hopefully nothing too big. 


We’re in the final stretch - color adjustments. Over the years, this part used to take a lot of time. I would finish an illustration, only to be dissatisfied with the colors, and used a LOT of adjustments in Photoshop to make it better. This was either because I was still learning more about colors, or I hadn’t planned out my colors well enough at the beginning. 

Thankfully, these days, this part goes by more quickly. I transfer the Procreate file into Photoshop and can better see what needs adjusting - usually a contrast fix. I also cropped off the empty space at the top. It was negative space that distracted my eye away from the main characters. 

So there you have it, my first real blog post! I hope this was helpful to you, or at the very least, interesting. 

Happy June! 



The past couple months have had such a wealth of absolutely beautiful new books! I always have picture books on my desk for inspiration, and was so happy to add these to my collection - especially for AAPI Heritage Month!

SARI-SARI SUMMERS by Lynnor Bontigao 

MARIBEL’S YEAR by Michelle Sterling, illustrated by Sarah Gonzalez


ONE DAY by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Faith Pray


This blog! LOLO’S SARI-SARI STORE freebies! My own author-illustrator picture book dummy?!


Pre-order LOLO’S SARI-SARI STORE, written by Sophia N. Lee, illustrated by me!

Publishes on August 1st, less than two months away! 

Bel Canto Books | | Simon & Schuster

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