The Illustration Process and Meet My Family! [Guest Post by Stephanie Fizer Coleman]

Meet My Family! Animal Babies and Their Families illustrator Stephanie Fizer Coleman shares her process for creating the art for this adorable picture book. 

Meet My Family!

Stephanie Fizer Coleman on her illustration process


For me, most nonfiction projects start out with research, so for Meet My Family! that meant making a list of all the animals in the manuscript and starting the process of browsing reference photos and videos as well as reading up on habits and environments.

Sketch it out

As I browse photos and watch videos, I’ll start doing rough sketch studies on a stack of copy paper, to get a feel of the animals’ anatomy and to start thinking of how I’ll illustrate each animal, which details are important, etc.

Normally, after I’ve done some rough sketch studies, I’ll move onto thumbnails sketches for each spread. For this book, I worked a little differently. The art direction was fairly specific about the layout for each page, so I wound up scribbling out thumbnails while I was working on rough sketch studies.

Here, you’ll see some studies of tundra swans, with a scribbled thumbnail sketch on the same page:



Next, I’ll bring my thumbnail sketches into Photoshop and start working on a refined sketch, using my sketch studies and thumbnail sketch as reference.

Here’s my initial sketch of the tundra swans page, one of my favorite pages from the book:


After comments from the art director, I rework the sketch, in this case changing the position of the swans and adding a sly fox into the background. The revised sketch looked like this:

image 3

It’s a little messy at this point, more like visual notes than a cohesive sketch. Sketching digitally, in Photoshop, makes editing my sketches a fairly easy process, especially when it involves just moving bits and pieces around.

Adding color

Finally, it’s time for my favorite part: color!

I find it helpful to have some idea of the colors I’d like to use before I get started on a piece, so sometimes I’ll create a quick color palette to work from and other times I’ll messily rough in color for each page. Each project is a little different. For this one, I just created a little color palette in Photoshop and worked from it, drawing inspiration from the reference photos of tundra swans in their habitats that I’d looked at earlier in my process.

Here’s where I ended up:

image 4


And then last of all, after a few more comments from the art director, here’s the finished piece that made it into the book:

image 5

Where to find Meet My Family!

Meet My Family!, written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, will be published March 1, 2018. It’s available for preorder through lernerbooks.comBarnes & NobleAmazonIndieBound, and all major distributors.

To learn more about finding inspiration for nonfiction titles, read editor Carol Hinz’s creative process posts–click here for part one and here for part two.

2 thoughts on “The Illustration Process and Meet My Family! [Guest Post by Stephanie Fizer Coleman]

  1. Pingback: Meet My Family Inspires Writing | Schoolhouse Stories

  2. Pingback: We Are All Family!

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