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Inside Air: Tutorial By Toby Lay


As an illustrator who works mainly in airbrush, I occasionally find I need a different look for a project. When I was given the opportunity to do a poster illustration for the Fine Arts Fund, I immediately felt that a colored pencil-and-airbrush approach was best. I knew that the art director wanted a detailed illustration, but he expressed concern that it not look too slick and polished. We both felt that combining pencil and airbrush would give the piece a more hands-on feel.

Step 1:

step 1

First, I was furnished with the layout and also some puppets.

Step 2:


I photographed each puppet positioned as in the lay-out and used the photos as the basis for my pencil sketch. I then transferred the sketch down onto Crescent 110 illustration board, selected especially so that I could achieve the texture I wanted when I did the pencil work.

Step 3:


It was a lot quicker to have a base color down and work over that in pencil than to do the entire illustration with pencil alone. When the pencil work was completed, I airbrushed in my shadow areas and sprayed a slight gradation over the background.

Step 4:


After the background was complete I began working on other areas of the illustration. I choose to use acetate for masks because the tackiness of frisket would pick up some of the pencil work already done in the background. I spray the base color down and then rework the area with pencil, adding contrast and detail.

Step 5:


The next four steps show how the illustration was completed. It was basically a repeat process of using acetate masks, spraying a base color down, and finishing up the detail with the pencil work.

Step 6:


The illustration was masked off with Frisk film, and the background area was cut out and peeled off. I wanted to have the background look like it was an old stucco wall. I felt that the best way to do this was by using watercolor washes. The watercolors would give me texture in the stucco that I couldn’t get through airbrushing.

Step 7:


After the base colors were down, I began to work the area with pencil.

Step 8:


At this point the art director came in to look at the project. He thought that there was too much contrast in the detail of the stucco and that the overall color was too green.

Step 9:

step 9

So I used a kneaded eraser to pick up the pencil work that had been done and also lightened some of the areas that were too green. The next step was to spray the background with raw sienna to shiji it toward a more tan color.

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