Assignment: Magazine illustration


“A magazine wants an illustration on one of the following topics:”

  • Lost
  • Disaster
  • Discovery
  • Guilty Secret

“They want an illustration based on a still life. You have the freedom to select the items for the still life and are given creative free rein. The rest of the content, the method you use to produce it and the colours you use are all for you to decide.”

To start this assignment, I created some thumbnail ideas for my chosen topic “Discovery”.

I was playing with the idea of a location being uncovered or a still life image lying undiscovered. I settled on the idea of an underwater diver, swimming down to discover the depths.

I think that along with space travel, the oceans are full of new discovery. I thought this to be a great visual to work with. Bellow is the illustration that I progressed with.

Working from my quick sketch, I created a sketch to layout the final artwork.

I then inked out the sketch of the rock so that I could start to add texture and shading

At this stage, I was ready to add the texture and shading to the rock profile. I have become drawn to creating all of my shading and texture through first using ink, and then digitally painting on a fresh layer below.

Once I was happy with the rock detail, I drew a silhouette of a scuba diver to use as my subject/character. I re-imagined this silhouette by taking reference from some internet search images. Later I was forced to add a slight blur to the driver as he seemed to crisp in the water. The blur allowed me to make him look more natural in his environment.

From here I started to colour my work. I began to block out the rocks with a base colour and then gradually, working up to where the light would be more prominent, painted lighter shadings to give a sense of depth.

After I was happy with the lighting and the shading of the rocks and background, I started to add the finer details such as bubbles from the diver, light leaks from the surface water/sun rays and surrounding wildlife.

As per my original sketch, I needed the diver to have a torch to show that he was descending into unknown territory. I was able to add some gradient filters for the next process to subtly light the surrounding rocks

Once I was happy with the lighting of the torch, I used the spatter brush again to create more atmospheric bubbles/ debris and also added wildlife to enhance the surroundings. For the sun rays, I used a directional brush tool in photoshop so that they all look as if there are coming from a single light source.

Below is my final artwork for the assignment. By adding textured brush effects for details, the rocks started to look too clean. To solve this, I added some noise to the overall image, this gave some added texture to the stones without overshading them. I also added some blur to the ink outlines as, like the diver, they looked too sharp as they are underwater, I needed a smoother edge.

I was pleased with how my final render came out. I think the lighting works well to show the diver heading down to discover another world. I feel that I have created a noticeable illustration for “Discovery”, with an image that gives the audience a sense of wonder as to where this person is going, and what lies beneath.

I created some tonal variations and experimented with different hue’s.

Once my image was finished, I decided to create a title with the word “Discovery”. I thought this would look quite good if it was somehow married to the final image. I was happy with the way I was able to embed the letters into the picture and overlay aspects of the narrative.

Afterwards, I created a render for a client visual using a photoshop template. This is a great way to see what your image will look like when published. I also cropped elements of the image to add to other pages in the spread.

Bellow was my second variation for the title. This was a little more simplistic for the character to shine, but I do prefer the first design as it feels more complete.


I’m hoping this illustration meets the standard for an assignment. I tend to grab an idea and run with it, maybe not spending enough time looking at alternatives. If I was to repeat the assignment, I might have looked at different characters to add, such as a submarine with multiple lights or more than one diver. Looking back from my initial sketch to the finished artwork, I am happy with the result and feel that the image fits the narrative quite well and gives the audience an enjoyable visual.

Reflective Evaluation:

Looking back at this assignment, I feel several things had let the final image down. Although I think the idea itself is quite well presented and it depicts the title of the illustration well, the fact I strayed from the brief has led to me creating a confusing assignment.

This all happened simply because I confused a still life with something I could picture in nature. This, coupled with the lack of visual research and sketchbook work, put simply is not what was asked of the brief. I believe had I concentrated more and not got ahead of myself, I could have produced a similar image but with supporting ideas on how I had arrived at the final artwork.

Its a shame, as feel my work is starting to take shape into an artistic style. I just need to put more time into developing ideas, brainstorming, sketchbook work and visual research. A long list I know, but a lack in any of these categories will lead to undeveloped artwork, and I must train myself to fulfil all of these factors when starting a new project.