Creative character process: from ideas to execution


As part of any creative project ideas and inspiration are an initial part when planning our image. Part of our creative process is represented by the things that attract our attention outside of art. In this tutorial I’ll explore the given subject, coming up with ideas, planning an illustration and the different steps that convey the final creation using Procreate and digital techniques.

2d drawing woman in armour

Money, power, glory

Exploring ideas: creating a board

Find subjects that inspire you. In the case of this tutorial I’m working with the idea of power as a statement, using both fashion and chivalry.  Fashion is often seen as a shallow subject, but learning from it I’ve found it as an inspirational source to my work, especially if combined with other themes when building a story or emotion.

fashion and power moodboard

Combine elements you find interesting in the subjects you like to work with.

Sketching out

Here we can start exploring based on our board. Rather than going with the first idea you have try to create various settings for the illustration, use elements from your board! These can be certain objects, colors, accessories etc. Merge the subject (or subjects) you’re working with.

I like to keep it to a minimum of three to four rough sketches and chose one or combine them if given the case.

rough sketches woman design

Keep it rough and messy! These are just initial thumbnails.

Rough and composition

In this case, I’m working with the “C” thumbnail, laying out the rough on Procreate; with 50% opacity I add some composition lines using informal subdivision. I like this method personally because it allows me to work freely on the illustration and allows me to see errors, such as perspective and anatomy.

In this case, I work out the composition to attract attention to her face, but you can play around and work out the lines and grid as much as you want to get a different result. Explore!

composition woman drawing

After laying out the lines and doing corrections, I get my final “sketch.”

Line work

At this point, in a new set of layers, I work on both my “final” line-works, one rough to block shadows and details, mainly to test if everything is working out nicely. In the second layer in this set I do the final refinement of the line.

I do my final lines with a dark red color, using a pencil brush (Procreate 6B pencil, for example) as I like the crisp texture of the pencil on the lines, the red color helps with the overlay later on in the painting process.

final line work woman sketch

Color Layout

Now that we have a solid base to work with, we jump to color. Going back to our board I take color inspiration from two images in particular. In this case, I’m using some earthy, warm tones for the armor and accessories and add an extra shimmer to the metal material. I also keep the color base pretty rough, mainly to test out and play with the color values of the elements.

colour design drawing 2d

Find color balance inside your board, often the color value of the images gives the right feeling to a painting.


Once I’ve decided on the main color palette, I work the under tones of the elements inside the painting. I use saturated colors for skin tones as this builds up nicely in shadows and highlights. I keep a color palette of three tones: mid, shade and highlight as this helps me maintain the value of the illustration.

Working with this technique allows you to set up your lights and shadows on the face as a map. Once I feel happy with the main render, in a clipping mask, I add the color light on top using a brush with low opacity and a color shadow.

colour tones 2d drawing woman

Materials and accessories

For metal and the other elements I keep one main tone (the mid-brown value) and add undertones of complementary elements to the piece. Working with hard edges and the contrast of color can also be part of our style, I want to achieve an editorial” feel to the illustration, and these kinds of elements also come with finding inspiration. For the bag I follow up the pattern design adding some medieval elements on the motif.

materials and accessories 2d drawing

Finishing touches

Once the main color process of our illustration is done, adding certain elements help us to push the idea further. In this case in particular I add the gold detail to the armor and patterns to the bag and pauldrons in order to add up some detail. For the robe I create a leaf pattern using an orange color, which complements the blue, allowing the garment “pop” a bit more.

2d design detailing

Using color theory, line art or such can help you to tie up the whole concept of your work.

Adjustment layers and effects

The illustration is done at this stage, but we can add a series of effects to the illustration. Here I use a group of layers to add shimmer and light to my knight. Using Procreate’s Special Effect brush for the sparks, and an “Overlay” and “Add” layers with a yellow tone, brings light into the illustration.

You can skip this step entirely or experiment with adjustment and effect layers.

2d illustration adjustments

Final details

All that’s left to do is add small details; here I simply make the background a neutral tone and a final noise filter to give it a little bit of texture.

female knight armour illustration

Research and explore

Learn more from the subjects that inspire you and find a way to add these elements in your art; draw, experiment and explore. Don’t be afraid of tackling different subjects! Enjoy the process!

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