Laura Knopp

Behind-the-Scenes: My Portrait Illustration Process

Family portraits, Behind-the-scenesLaura KnoppComment

If you’ve seen seen any of my fun timelapse videos on Instagram or read this post, you may already have a general idea of how I illustrate portraits.

The short version: I take out my iPad and open a blank page, then I draw my heart out - there’s a lot of coffee and 90’s music involved while this happens.

The long(er) version: I have a process that’s been honed over time (AKA many late nights spent leaning over my desk until my drawing hand says “omggg stahppp it!”).

You may be thinking “A process? Sounds fancy!” and to that I would say yes, it’s very fancy - partly because it’s a somewhat methodical approach, but mostly because I wear a ball gown and elbow-length gloves while I draw. Doesn’t everyone? ;)

Here are my steps:


I create a rough sketch.

I like to keep my portraits fairly anatomically accurate, so this is the part where I figure out all of the correct proportions and body positions as I see them in the original photo(s) that I'm using as my reference. The more people in the portrait, the more planning and coordination is involved. It’s kind of like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. Looks like this shoulder should be a touch lower. Is that hand slightly tilted? Let me move that arm down a bit.



I outline the sketch.

By this point, I’ve sorted out the logistics of what goes where, so I outline my sketch with intentional strokes of color.

(try to ignore the fact that they look like ghosts at this point - that's temporary 😂)



I fill the remaining white areas of the portrait with swatches of color.

Now I’m doing a little happy dance because I loooove using color - in this step I use lighter shades of color than what I used for the outlines so that there’s some contrast.



I add highlights/shadows and finishing details.

At this point the portrait kinda looks done, but the colors look a little flat in some areas. So, I create some visual interest by adding light and dark areas and finalize the portrait!



That's all, folks!

Do you have any questions about my portrait illustration process? I’m happy to chat! Just pop your questions in the comments below.