A few people asked me about the process to go from a sketch to a final digital painting. For me the process is constantly changing as I keep exploring different techniques, I keep learning.

Every artist has a slightly different approach, for some it would be sketching straight with the Wacom using the software of their choice (Photoshop and Painter are quite popular). Others would prefer to start using traditional medium such as: ink, pencil, pastel, acrylic, watercolour, etc; to then scan the artwork and finish the piece digitally. Some will paint everything using greyscale first before placing any colours; others will kill the white on the canvas as quick as possible and set the mood of the piece right at the beginning. Some artists will have a specific set of customised brushes for every occasion; others will use just a couple of basic ones. Some people love to work using a hundred layers, but others will use just a few. Whatever. It really doesn’t matter, you’ll get there at the end, you’ll find your way.


I love drawing. I love the feel of the pen on the paper when I’m shading – it relaxes me. I like to doodle using pencils, playing with different compositions or perspectives. Many times I like the originally loose sketch more than I do the final piece. For that reason I tend to start my illustrations with pen and/or pencil, like I did for Kensei.




Once I’m happy with the sketch, I scan the artwork into the computer and I get rid of the white background. In this case I wanted to start this illustration using only grayscale. I started blocking the drawing, placing lights and shadows.




I absolutely love this stage, I start blending the blocks of colour together creating a sense of volume, it gets the impression as if the scene is trying to jump out of the screen. It is a good time for amendments. On this piece I corrected mistakes I made with the perspective and the anatomy. I changed a few things here and there. Also on this stage I get rid of the original line (though sometimes I let some of the original sketch to show through, as an extra layer of texture – but that would be later on).



Final Touches

It is on this stage where I start playing with textures, adding details, adjusting colours, tuning the contrast; it is the final line and I enjoy every minute of it. On this specific piece I started this stage by colouring the artwork. I wanted a very cold, metallic feel with just a touch of colour.



I hope this short explanation give you an idea of my process when creating a digital piece. It is not by any means a tutorial but it may be useful to some people. Any questions please feel free to ask 🙂

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Manuel Mesones is a Peruvian graphic designer and illustrator. Running away from the sun, he moved to Yorkshire, England, over a decade ago. His weapon of choice is a ballpoint pen but he is also very keen on digital illustration.


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