Thursday, June 20, 2013

What's Involved in Creating my Adult Coloring Pages

Several people have asked me, "How do you do these?" I'm sure they are referring to the design but the question prompts me to discuss the process, in case you are interested.

FIRST:  The Idea
I am constantly trolling websites, Pinterest, art books, embroidery books, antique fabric, and of course, my own garden for ideas.  My aim is not to copy but to be inspired.  Almost all of my flowers are fantasy flowers based on something real.

SECOND:  The Sketch
Of course, I must first be comfortably settled in my Night Studio (a beat-up couch in the den with a table full of art equipment) in front of the TV with a good movie ready to roll.  Normally the sketch can be done in one movie but not always. In any case, it is one evening's work.
I use a regular mechanical pencil on an 11x14 page of smooth bristol paper on which I've marked a border of 7.5 x 9.5 inches.  This is so the design will fit in a standard 8x10 frame.
I usually don't have a complete idea in mind, only a few floral motifs I want to work with. I start by marking the basic flow lines and placing three or four circles around that line where the main flowers will go.  It is important to balance the elements well so the composition will be pleasant in the end.
Then I sketch very lightly my design.  I avoid erasing as much as possible in order to keep the paper smooth for the pen. (Heavier erasing comes later.) Below is the evolution of a sketch: (Sorry for the darkness. I did this late at night and couldn't go back to correct it.)

THIRD:  The Line Drawing
This is usually a whole session in itself - one or two movies.  I use a Staedler pen 3.5m and trace over the lines of my sketch, paying close attention to the beginnings and endings of my strokes.  The cleaner my lines in this stage, the less clean-up work I will have to do later.
In this stage there is no erasing or correcting with white.  That would ruin the drawing.  I go very slowly and carefully.  If I happen to make a mistake, I draw over it and hope I can correct it on the computer later. If it's a huge mistake, I will have to start over completely with a new sketch. Fortunately, that rarely happens.
When I am finished with the pen, I completely erase all my pencil sketch lines with a kneaded eraser.

FOURTH:  The Scan
Next I place the finished drawing in my scanner and reproduce the image in color mode at 300dpi in order to make corrections and format it for whatever use I am intending.

FIFTH: Corrections & Formatting
I normally work this stage in Photoshop, sometimes in Illustrator.  I desaturate all color, adjust the contrast, and place the design in the center of the page.  Then, working in very large view, I painstakingly go over every line I've drawn, erasing any small overstrikes and completing any small gaps in the original.  I call this "cleaning up."  I'm not really changing anything about the design, just tidying up the lines because professional printing presses are very accurate and will print every little flaw, including any pencil lines that aren't erased, etc.

Notice on the image above how I accidentally drew lines over the ribbon.  This is the kind of thing that gets fixed on the computer. See the adjusted ribbon below.

If I intend to have this design printed, I will need to format it to whatever size is appropriate.  If I intend to display it on the web, I will now create a watermark or place a banner over the design so it can't be easily reproduced.
All this computer work generally takes me about two hours. This means that a design like this generally takes me about 6-8 hours if all goes well. Now do you wonder why I don't give away my coloring pages for free?

And that's it.  Whatever comes next depends on how I intend to use the design.
Stay tuned friends.  More designs to come.


  1. Thanks for sharing your process Cynthia...I recently found you online after a friend bought me one of your colouring books for Christmas. Love flowers so your flower mandalas are wonderful to colour. I used to draw and colour my own mandala's before I moved into Mixed Media collage, I'm feeling the pull to do some of my thank you for your gorgeous work and inspiration. Best Wishes.

    1. I'm delighted that you find this interesting. Thank you for your kind words.