How can an illustrator use references and stay safe?

Are you ready illustrators? Who-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, who lives at the bottom of the dribbble buhans? An illustrator who doesn’t use references! Who writes in the comments —kul job, pliz like mi tu? An illustrator who doesn’t use references! Who draws at the Shutterstock level? An illustrator who doesn’t use references!

Guys, I’ll be honest: I’m not gloating. I just sincerely do not understand how a person, being in his right mind, strong memory and sober state (although this item is not necessary – I checked it myself), ignores such an important phenomenon in the life of any specialist in the creative profession as a reference? Especially if he is an illustrator or, God forbid, a designer. Especially if he read about medals on the already mentioned Behanse only in my posts. Does he want to know what I ate for breakfast?

One very cool comic book artist, I don’t remember the name, at least kill me (but better not, otherwise I will not add a guide on flat graphics), wrote that for the first 15 years of his practice he actively used references and advised beginners not to hesitate to practice this. What then does the person who downloaded the Adobe software package a month ago expect? Probably a miracle, because nothing else can help him.

But you also need to use references wisely – the Königsberg Commission for the Protection of Illustrators’ Copyright is not asleep, and it will not be too lazy to accuse you of plagiarism at the first opportunity. Therefore, I decided to share my experience a little and tell my fellow illustrators how to use references and not get burned. Remember: stealing is not bad, bad is when you burned.

Let’s consider an example

1 * NsMeUsMbdjPLGZVhCpLCZAA little self-PR

Someone Agent Fill decided to put an illustration with a flying drone on the cover of his social profile. Of course, I had to draw it.

Below is the algorithm of actions that I used.

I. Search for a photograph of a real object. This step is the simplest – I drive in what I need into Google, I find the photo in a good angle (a good one is for full face, and the form is adequately read). I save the found photos in a separate layer ref_photo

II. Search for a reference to stylize the shape of an object. First, I need to know what queries can be used to find the form I’m interested in. Google translate translated flying drone as flying dron… I go to Dribble and enter these two words in the search form. Dribble clearly disagrees with this translation.

1 * TmjGqx1KuL10BmPq06Ejvw

Well, okay. I type a request into the search engine flying drone buy and find offers from online stores. I open the product card and find the name of a foreign drone company. Let’s say this Syma… I visit their website.

1 * rvid-p19ZmpX8HIHSyzmTwIn the meantime, you can throw an idea for the site owners to order a redesign

Excellent. Now, in addition to replenishing the vocabulary of English-language words, I found out what other queries can be used to find references of interest to me. They are: Drones, Quadcopters, Multirotors, and Helicopters… All but the first turned out to be unsuitable for the test.

Of course, deep down, I guessed that in the query “Flying Dron” I could try to get rid of the first word, just enter “Drone” and find the references I was interested in, but such a life hack would only work in this case. When I paint something more exotic, this method does not work. And in this article, I would like to highlight the problems of searching for references in full.

Besides Dribble, I use Shutterstock for this step. The level of graphic execution of work on this resource, of course, leaves much to be desired, but on the other hand, you can find a huge number of examples of “how to do it not necessary” and get the foundation for further work.

1 * IR6YPpwQtn9loz0Q7Gm52QThese guys clearly didn’t use references.

I save the selected pictures in a separate layer of the illustrator file, to which I assign the name ref_stylization… The most important rule is to collect at least 10 references and take a little from each. Otherwise you will sleep.

III. Search for style reference. When the shape is ready, it’s time to add flavor to the depicted object: details, shadows, highlights and, most importantly, gloss. An object whose parts have both a matte and glossy surface will always look better than an object with only a matte surface.

My illustrative experience is already enough to imagine in my mind in what style the graphic element I need should be executed. However, I cannot deny myself the pleasure of watching my colleagues solve similar problems. The layer with these pictures is proudly named ref_detail

1 * t7iRCA4QobtVBRKH4cGsjwMostly some kind of bullshit, but you can live

The result is a flying drone like this.

1 * 12wQTjFELKNgyydEF7bmjwIn this case, I proceeded from the concept that the flying drone on the cover should have less visual weight than the agent’s avatar, so as not to interrupt the accent. Therefore, as a style, I chose line art with falling shadows in the color of the object’s outline.

I summarize

From one set of reference files, I take the form (ref_photo), from another stylization and simplified constructive structure of the form (ref_stylization), from the latter – stylistic features (ref_detail). Then I pass the resulting mix through the funnel of my personal graphic work and at the end I get a unique image. The work process is clearly illustrated in the picture below.

1 * riF0tSA5hTmmQ-5iWTQl8wDid you think otherwise? Then please accept my condolences

Of course, this does not always save you from comments like: “You did this with User_Name“, But in such cases the good old side to the jaw will work.

On this I say goodbye to you and wish you, my dear friend, success in your work.

And if you want more success, but faster, I advise you to pay attention to my guide on flat graphics “In FLAT”. Details can be found in the post with the terms of participation. Also in my public you can watch a couple of free vidos, see the progress of the current group of students and read student reviews. Or just say hello to me.


Author: Clark Douglas

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