Step 1 – Make a quick sketch
I always start an illustration with a brief sketch. The goal is primarily to position the key elements, you don’t need to detail for now. Choose paper or Photoshop according to your preference. If you choose the computer, open Photoshop>Create a New Document (Cmd/Ctrl+N)>CMYK>400mm x 530mm, then take the Brush tool.
Step 2 – Refine the sketch
Now we can go into the real details. Start by populating your hills as you want, or use the drawing provided with this issue’s resources. If you’re using the provided sketch, just go to Step 4. If you’re not, then have fun and get creative. My bias is to give a strong identity to each hill. Each of mine is like a little world, but you can decide what you want to do.
Step 3 – Ink in the lines
Once the sketch is complete, I ink my drawing to have a clean and clear basis for all my vectorisation. This step also helps to know what is going to keep or remove, even if nothing is ever really final. No need several sizes felt pens here, one is enough.
Step 4 – Import into Illustrator
When the drawing is finished, scan it at 300 dpi, save it in JPEG format and name it basically ‘drawing’. You can do this with Photoshop by going to File>Import>Images of Device. Once that is done, open Illustrator, create a New Document>400mm x 530mm. Click Advanced>CMYK, 300 dpi and name your file ‘half_worlds’. Name the first drawing and drop it in by simply sliding your file on the work plan. Finally proportionally adjust the design to the size of your document (keep Shift pressed in to maintain the proportions).
Step 5 – Choose the main colours
Create a new layer above the drawing layer and name it ‘base colours’; this will be your base colour. Don’t try to draw the elements precisely, use the Pencil tool (N) and represent roughly every hill to identify its colour. The goal is that each element is both original, as well as being part of a whole. You can create your own color palette or use mine: plants # 654677; green hill #bfd007; waves #379e93; snowy mountain #008177; red forest #b03e3a; castles #f7a83f; ice cream mountain #ee7e65; desert #ffd777; sky #a3d4c2; curtain #b41828.
Step 6 – Use complementary colours
Now we will add two colours that will set each other off. For example, for the red forest I started from a red brown (# 9a332e) and I added a pale orange (# ef7b4b) and bright red (#d41616). These groups of three colours will not be the only ones used, but they represent the visual identity of each small world. Here is my selection: plants # 271d29 # d3599c; green hill fff6d1 # # eb8300; waves # 94d0ca #6eafa6; snowy mountain #8cb2ae #30afc1; castles #d1487e #981844; ice cream mountain #d44943 #f5a48b; desert #ee7900 #f6be4a; sky #a3d4c2 #c7e3d3; curtain #781525 #e4961c.
Step 7 – Define the forms
Now you can start the composition with the Pen tool (P). I strongly advise you to create at least one layer per plan, so per paper cut. Start by creating the largest forms ending with the details. I personally created each shape on the drawing layer and then dragged its corresponding layer. If a form isn’t quite at the place you want, you can pass it behind another (Cmd/Ctrl+“) or pass in front (Cmd/Ctrl+”) at your convenience.
Step 8 – Make paper cut edges
Now go around each of your shapes with the Pen (P) or the Pencil tool (N) according to your preference, leaving about 3mm space to create a new closed form that will serve as the edge of the paper. Next, drag the shape in the Background layer with the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+“ (or Ctrl/right-click>Arrange>Send to back). Don’t be too precise with this, so as to increase the handmade aspect and fill these shapes with the colour #f4f4e1.
Step 9 – Mid-Term report
Now we have almost finished everything about the illustrator section of this process. Up until now the whole image is a composed and processed vector, but before moving on to Photoshop and discovering the wonderful world of pixels, we can put in some final dash lines. After this we can start importing and finally working with various filters and depth effects. Be warned, what follows in the next steps will certainly appear repetitive, but the results will make it all seem worth it.