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Graphic Illustration: Boldly Design with Color and Shape

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24,064 people completed this program


Color and shape are powerful communicators in design and illustration — and this class will hone your skills.

Join famed illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli for an insightful class exploring her thoughtful, unexpected use of color. Inspired by her Italian upbringing and artists she admires, her illustrations are the perfect vehicle for exploring the interplay of inspiration and techniques — and ways you can combine them in your own graphic illustration work.

Every lesson brings to life how illustration can be a tool to communicate a message. You’ll explore:

  • Inspiration and resources
  • The power of simple shapes, both in sketching and digital illustration
  • Selecting colors that fit your artistic and editorial story
  • Polishing your illustration with final touches

Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced illustrator, you’ll walk away with a more considered, thoughtful approach to your work as well as techniques to add to your stylistic repertoire. Every student is encouraged to try and share the culminating assignment: creating a self-portrait illustration from start to finish.


What You'll Learn

  • Introduction. In this illustration tutorial, you’ll learn how to translate your personality and identity into an expressive self-portrait.
  • The language of color. You’ll learn how to use color wisely as Olimpia Zagnoli takes you through her personal journey with color exploration. You’ll get a sense of how to use color “responsibly,” which means both confronting political and cultural connotations associated with certain colors used in  specific contexts, and understanding how to avoid going overboard with color use.
  • Inspiration and resources. Before you begin this illustration course in earnest, you’ll need to cultivate your own uniqueness. You’ll learn to do this by asking yourself a series of questions, starting with, “Where do you come from?” Olimpia will share how her background and hometown continue to inspire her work today and impress upon you the importance of quality over quantity.
  • Sketching ideas. You’ll learn how to combine multiple concepts into a single graphic illustration. Finally putting pencil to paper, you’ll define a frame for your illustration and work inside of it to create a sketch of yourself. Remember to think about how action can translate to a still image and communicate a sense of you.
  • Sketching your illustration. Now you can refine the idea you came up with in your initial sketches and create a version you plan to digitize. You’ll learn how to balance your composition in terms of color and see how few colors you can use in your design.
  • Digitizing your sketch. You’ll watch as Olimpia makes a digital painting out of her original sketch, drawing onto a tablet that is connected to her MacBook Pro. You’ll learn which elements to focus on first when starting your drawing in Adobe Illustrator and which parts of the picture you can save for later.
  • Drawing with shapes. You’ll learn how to spot where Illustrator and other computer illustration programs automatically “fix” your work for you and how to avoid this for a more individualized final product. Olimpia will teach you some techniques to help you spot mistakes in your digital painting by playing with its physical orientation.
  • Refining your illustration. You’ll get tips on how to get your own, unique reference images and how to translate photographs into digital illustrations. You’ll learn how to bend reality while maintaining a sense of physical reality in your work, and how to make minor adjustments in Illustrator that let you “keep your voice when using other people’s tools.”
  • Applying color. You’ll practice exploring colors with an otherwise finished composition. Olimpia will take you on a tour of artists who’ve inspired her use of color and show you how to arrive at a color palette that expresses the mood you’re looking to depict in your work.
  • Experimenting with color. You’ll get ideas for color and pattern inspiration, learning to eschew the idea of perfection in favor of creating something interesting. You’ll also learn how to keep images you copy and paste within the same design from becoming repetitive by applying surprising patterns and hues.

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Graphic Illustration: Boldly Design with Color and Shape
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