Illustration Step By Step with Maria Luisa Di Gravio

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Every artist overtime develops their own process for creating Illustrations.

But it’s always a great idea to get inspired by processes of other artists, especially at the beginning of your art path.

Therefore, I present you with the talented Maria Luisa Di Gravio who was so kind to share her process with you.

Maria Luisa is an Illustrator based in Rome. If you would like to learn more about her, look through some of her favourite Illustrations and pick up a few tricks along the way – check out my interview with her “Maria Luisa Di Gravio Freelance Illustrator from Rome (Interview # 25)

Without further ado, I’ll let Maria take the lead.


Process1: Vietnamese Boy – first illustration

This was one of the proposals I made for a book cover. The story was about a boy living in an island in the middle of the ocean. I wanted to show his relationship with the ocean and its wildlife. It was a sudden idea I had: I immediately thought of Caravaggio’s Narcissus.


Narcissus’ pose was perfect for the composition, so I redrew it. I had a great fun drawing this illustration, it was the first time I quoted an Artist’s work and I loved it. It was actually a long time I wanted to create an illustration using the pose or the composition of a painting from the masters of art history and finally, I had the chance to do it.


The first sketch I made had room for the title of the book and for all the other info that needs to be written on the cover. Unfortunately, the project didn’t go on so when I managed to color it I adjusted the composition a little bit.

Then I tried the color key, using flat colors. Once I decided on the mood – I colored every object.

The last step is to add the details and the textures (for the textures I both use brushes and painted textures.

For example: on the sky, I put a watercolor texture, on the raft I added the texture using various brushes).

step by step illustration digital art


Process2: Vietnamese Boy – second illustration

This was another proposal for the same project I talked about a few lines above. The composition of this illustration was initially partly suggested by the publisher.

Once the project stopped I decided to change the composition a little bit, in order to have a fully personal illustration.

The idea of this illustration was to show a feel of peace.

I wanted to communicate that feel you have when everyone is sleeping and you awake, in the middle of the summer, when the night’s just ended and the sun is raising.

So I already knew the mood I wanted this illustration to have. The perfect key color was blue.

The process is the same of the previous one: sketch, flat colors, textures, details and, in this case, lighting.

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Process3: A dragon in Amsterdam – first version

I made this illustration for a competition but each participant could decide their own theme. So I decided to develop a story I had in my mind for several months.

I wanted to show an unusual friendship between a girl and a dragon. I love dragons!

I wanted to create a contrast between the girl & the dragon and the rest of the city: while everyone is going out with dogs she’s taking a walk with her dragon.

This idea makes me smile 🙂

The first steps are the rough sketches of the composition: I was trying the best composition in order to emphasize the contrast.

Once I decided on the final composition I made a clean sketch.

Then I continued using my usual process: flat colors, textures, details.

step by step illustration digital art


Process4: A dragon in Amsterdam – second version

Even though I was happy with the characters and the idea of the first version of the first illustration, I was quite unhappy with the view of the city.

It was, in my opinion, a banal view.

So I searched online several pictures of the city, in order to find something interesting.

Once I find a new view I studied a few compositions.

I decided on the final composition and colored the new elements using my usual process: flat colors, textures, details.

Once I finished the illustration I noticed the colors of the girl weren’t matching the rest of the illustration so I changed them.

step by step illustration digital art


Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed the Illustration Step By Step with Maria Luisa Di Gravio. I know I did!

Now it’s time for YOU to take lead and create some stunning artwork!

For that, I suggest checking out Illustration Courses on Skillshare (free for 2 months with this link).

Also, check out our related articles:


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