Last December my paws got to work on my first-ever paper illustration freelance gig. Up to this point I created paper illustrations for my employer, Focus Lab, where I could make up the process and change it at will. But with an official money-paying client (woot!) I had to develop some sort of path to get us from project scope to final delivery. Intercom was a great (super chill) first client (Thanks, Stewart!); while I'm sure my process will evolve, I share our process below.
First up, I gotsa know what idea I need to communicate. Generally my paper illustrations are used as hero images for blog headers. I can work from an article already authored, or from a thesis. Intercom had complete blogs I could read and ideate upon.
Next up, it's sketching time! The amount I sketch is in relation to the size of the project. Blog headers generally get three sketches after a mini brainstorm sesh. The sketches are black and white, hand-drawn, with scrawled notes describing ideas I can't draw well. (Damnit, Jim! I'm a paper illustrator, not a magician.) I generally steer clear of full on scenes, because I like the bold statement of a singular subject. From there, I pitch the ideas to see where they land.
I include the three sketches, though highlight the one I'm most excited about. To help explain the direction, I provide previous paper illustrations I've done alongside with notes to expound upon the direction I'm suggesting.
My favorite part....creation: where I both curse my limitations and question my life and stand in amazement when it actually comes together. I start with picking colors, moving onto paper crafting, then lighting, photography, and retouching. Intercom requested that I would move straight to final delivery, which I think is a rarity with clients - but totally dug the trust Stewart, director of the brand team, had in me.
I probably should have mentioned this in the sketch phase, but Intercom gave me a Photoshop file that had both the dimensions and also showed where there an overlay would occur (though I didn't see it in the final usage). Using that as a framework, I composed the image accordingly. Then sent over the image in the specified size. Wa-lah! Done (queue celebratory cocktail).