If you have never worked with an illustrator before, you may be wondering how and what kind of information and feedback you will be providing as a client. Here, I describe the major steps of an illustration workflow, using one of my portfolio pieces as an example.

“The Parenting Behaviors of Oophaga histrionica was a poster illustration developed for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. I worked closely with Kerry King-Rahn, the herpetologist who cared for the Aquarium’s Oophaga histronica frogs and played a key part in developing their breeding protocol.  She and the Rainforest department wanted an illustration that explained how these unique frogs reproduce in nature and how the Aquarium provided an artificial environment for their frogs to reproduce.

This project was also a great example of a basic illustration workflow, which includes 4 main steps:

1. Initial project discussion

2. Thumbnails

3. Transfer Sketch

4. Final illustration

1. Initial project discussion: At this stage, the client describes the kind of illustration that they need. Details such as format (poster, slide, website image, etc.), audience, what information to include, and deadlines are discussed.

2. Thumbnails: After speaking with Kerry and determining that the Rainforest department needed a poster illustration for their aquarium visitors about the unique breeding behavior of one of their frog species, I sketched some thumbnails:

hand sketches showing the beginning of the illustration process

Thumbnails are quick outlines of an illustration. They’re not intended to be pretty. They just show how the page is going to be laid out. The client can also ensure that all the information they want is included.

3. Transfer Sketch: After presenting and discussing the above thumbnails with Kerry, she chose her preferred thumbnail and a transfer sketch was developed:


The transfer sketch allows the client to check the word story and illustrations for accuracy. This stage is very important for the client to review thoroughly, since changes after this can take a lot of time.

4. Final illustration: After incorporating Kerry’s feedback into the sketch, I developed it into the final illustration.

Parenting Behaviors of Oophaga Histrionica

As you can see above, the 4 main steps of the illustration workflow allow the client and illustrator to work together to create a product that fits the client’s exact visual needs. The end result — a satisfied client!:

“It was an absolute pleasure partnering with Veronica on this project. She was professional, timely, and I was very happy with the finished product.”

-Kerry King-Rahn, Herpetologist, National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD

Got an idea for a visual? Let’s start a project discussion! Contact Falconieri Visuals.

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