Say, what? Step-by-step!

So I recently posted a step-by-step, mini-tutorial I suppose, on my Instagram (@courtneytrowbridgeart) walking through how I completed my latest illustration in a series I’ve dubbed my LA alter egos. BUT, I had no idea that IG’s character limit was 2,200 and ya’ll know I like to talk. I had to massively edit down what I wrote to get it on there, so I figured it was a good time for a new blog post.

Cover image

Let’s get started! Maybe one day I’ll actually have some time lapses, but I need to focus on work and finding work right now (also, I might be alone here, but I really love to learn from reading vs. video…video is great too, but it makes me get sleepy after about an hour). Anyway, this is a tried-and-true method that’s great for comics because you can really assembly line it and work in stages and it’s really fun.

0 Block in

1. Block in – Using reference, I block in the figure. I’ve erased parts of it while I was working (In attempts to use my sketch layers with my line art…it didn’t work) so it’s a little patchy now. But it’s this sloppy. (She looks like Busy Philipps to me here!)

1 Sketch

2. Sketch – Then I do a second pass over the first to get some actual detail in. Everything is pretty worked out now.

2 Lines

3. Lines – Then it’s all about lines for a bit. The Rotate tool is my friend and I sometimes will use the Pen tool on particularly smooth long lines, making sure it doesn’t look weird and noticeable next to the ones I did by hand and that the stroke weight matches. You kind of have to muck those up a bit, though, and I would use it sparingly if you’re not just going to do the whole thing in vector. Also, get in there with the Liquify tool if you draw a line that’s almost perfect except for one little part – insta-fix!

3 Flats

4. Flat color – Next, I add flat color under my lines. I generally just use a hard brush so it still feels like painting. I like to do the entire figure to separate it from the background like a mask on one layer, and then I do each different color/area on a separate layer on top clipped down to it (ie clipping mask), so I don’t have to worry about the exterior outline anymore. I pretty much always have to come back and adjust these layers as I continue on and see I’ve bled a bit past the edges, etc.

4 Recolor lines

5. Recolor lines – Then I recolor the lines to match the flat colors and soften the overall look using a new layer clipped to my line work with either a Normal or Color layer (here it’s just Normal). This is an easy step, but I left it all on it’s lonesome because I think the change it has on the image is really a big one!

5 Face contour

6. Face contour – This step seemed necessary for a close-up like this one to really carve in our features in a graphic way. Thinking about lighting a little, but not doing anything dramatic. Also added a hair shine with a hard brush and erased into it first with a hard brush to shape it, and then with a soft brush to push it back (some of the erasing was done later with other layers on which is why it looks a little weird in parts until you see the other layers back on below).

6 Gradient Blush

7. Gradients and blushing – Here I pushed the tattoo color back a bit to fade into the skin, then I start adding some blush and makeup colors, and add gradients to the hair, sunglasses and body using a couple layers for each section. These are typically Multiply layers and sometimes I screw around with the opacity. I use all the flat color layers as masks to speed stuff up and I really like using CTRL + H to hide the marquee selection lines so I can see what I’m doing.

7 Gradient Shadow

8. Gradients and shadows – Then I just keep pushing the shadows a bit more, especially by adding that big one under her neck. I also like to use the Gradient tool to add one large swath of gradient down her entire figure, but for her I knocked it back a lot since I wanted her complexion to stay pale.

8 Highlights

9. Highlights, details and paint over – Now I add a bunch of highlights and do some paint over on messy parts. I stroked the sunglasses frame and lenses to make them pop a little more and I decided I needed some background interest, so I added these polka dots in from a black and white image and recolored them and then added a stroke around them to keep up the graphic feels. I think I actually added in elements of the background at some point earlier on….but you get the idea.


10. Color balance – I always do some degree of re-balancing the colors in my image and I also do it as I work along, not all at the end. Experiments! So like, when I darkened the background I needed to lighten the hair (which also required that I paint over my now too dark line work on the hair). The change in background from the is just a circular royal blue gradient on a Multiply layer that’s stretched with the Transform tool. There’s a little vignette added to push the eyes in, and then…my favorite…I often will fill my canvas with a warm pink or orange on an Overlay or Soft Light layer and will just screw around with the hue and opacity (this one is a pink Overlay at 15%) until I get something I like. It usually adds that extra oomph and is basically the same thing as added one of those photo filters.

And suddenly jewelry has jumped onto the image (which are two things I own)! I added them afterward because it needed it and I kind of always meant to add it in but got lazy and then did it at the end. :D These were both done using the exact same methods as I used above for the rest of the image.

And I thought my heart logo looked cute on this one. Thanks for checking this out and hope you found it useful! <3 <3 <3


LA alter egos


So, I created a drawing that inspired the start of a series of illustrations I’m dubbing my LA alter egos. There really is something amazing about the creative fashion in this city; it’s not just about the colors and the bare skin, but also how fashion isn’t ageist here. Sure, everyone’s judging everyone in the end, whatever, but I don’t feel old and weird here if I want to have my stomach out or wear short shorts. It’s nice. But, seeing as I don’t have any tattoos, I thought it would be fun to get all my fashion fantasies out.


Yes, I’ve always wanted that snake tattoo secretly, but I don’t really know about the permanence so for now I prefer to encourage my dude to get more tattoos.

Stay tuned for another blog post coming up, so I can post the looooooong version of my step-by-step on the second image, so expect progress shots and lots of helpful long-windedness. <3

patternmaking 101

Recently my friend Santhosh and I both attended a webinar on Marvelous Designer with John Gotch via CGSociety and listened to him discuss his workflow and answer questions. I have messed around some in MD, and knowing a bit about patterns might be a help, though from the sound of it, most CG artists who’ve been using it just reference patterns using Google searches.

Santhosh asked me if I had any recommendations for patternmaking books to get him going, and I kick myself for not having my slopers OR my patternmaking book from my undergrad days (I am sensing I never cleaned out my locker?). BUT I did remember having a series of 1/4 scale patterns, showing how you can pivot darts around into various areas of a basic bodice pattern.

This is probably more than you ever wanted to see, Santhosh. But let’s pattern!

So just in case, the primary point of this lesson involves darts, which if you don’t know are used when sewing woven fabrics (like your basic jeans, or a man’s collared shirt…something that doesn’t stretch) to accommodate areas like the bust or hips so the garment still hugs the body. Darts are not necessary for knits and some stretch fabrics….because they stretch! Basically, you sew the two lines of the dart together lining up its notches at the bottom. Let me show you.

Bodice002Explanation copy.jpg

This is half a bodice front pattern. In essence you’d just stick that nice straight line on the right of the pattern (your Center Front, or CF) on a fold of fabric so when you cut the front bodice out you have both sides symmetrically. I’m not going to get into fabric grains because this really it just to show some basic shapes for the purposes of using Marvelous Designer. So just keep that straight up and down for now.

This is a very basic bodice pattern with a hem that would end up right on the natural waist. If you match the notch on the bottom to the other notch on the bottom, those two solid lines would be sewn together, and the dotted line I drew in red is where it would fold on the inside. The apex, where the dart ends, is the full point of the bust, ie. that’s where the nip goes. You know I couldn’t keep the convo so clean. Let me give you the image without the writing, and in this example you can see how I pivoted the pattern around from having a waist dart (marked plot 3+4), to have a shoulder dart instead (#4). You can also use #3  and have both darts if you wanted.


Another spot to pivot a dart into is the armhole. Make sure you follow anything my instructor corrected in red, because she knows best….and I am the queen of missing notches (which can also be marked by that delightful little ‘T’ shape). Note these patterns below have seam allowance unlike my plots above. This is so you have room to sew all your pieces together without making the pattern too small.


Here’s how we pivoted the waist dart into an armhole dart.


Here’s another classic courtesy of…princess seams.


This pattern is showing you a two-piece front bodice on the left, and a two-piece back bodice on the right. Note the difference in your basic neckline shape from front to back. Much higher in back, but even in the front this is going to sit right on the collarbone. If you want a scoop neck or a square neck or a v-neck, just draw that in, and of course in MD, you can quickly simulate what it’ll look like.

Hopefully that give you a decent idea of your very basic bodice front shape. You can now feel free in MD to lengthen it, or use a stretch fabric, in which case you don’t need a dart for fit. But you might want to use these ideas to create design lines, i.e., seams simply for aesthetic purposes. A classic for sic-fi bodysuits is using the princess seam, but instead of following the line all the way up into the shoulder as above, it curves into the armhole like this:


Image above courtesy of The Cutting Class. You can continue that line down the body if you lengthened the shape into a dress, with or without a waist seam. Making shapes in MD is much easier once MD5 added a cutting feature, something you’re really going to want when flat patterning.

So what if you’re drafting a pattern for a dude? Menswear patterns don’t really need the darts since men don’t have boobs. You can take these basic shapes (look back at the one marked Plot 3+4) and just draw it without the dart – and then you’ll want to straighten that hem perpendicular to your center front. Voila!

Moving on…let’s look at skirts a bit.



Note on the left of each picture we have a basic straight skirt shape with two waist darts. Again, this is half a skirt front and back, and would be cut on the fold, unless you wanted the seam down the center front and back. Here I’m slashing up those lines and closing the darts to create what is known as an A-line skirt (because it’s shaped like an A…real clever). Here’s what the A-line pattern would look like:




Skirts and bodices are typically what you learn to draft first in a patternmaking class, but to be honest (and this is coming from someone who kind of sucks at patternmaking) pants are NOT really hard. Let me look around for some good pant resources and I’ll create another post on that and sleeves next. Sleeves are not hard to pattern either, but they can be a bit of a pain to set into an armhole. Happily, MD will do all that work for us! Phew!



character design

I’ve been working on a bunch of new character designs lately, all in various stages of completion. I had a lovely experience recently doing a few illustrations for a toy client, DEFINITELY a dream client, and I had a great time, got to work on some great properties and learned a lot from a terrific art director. Nothing quite inspires one like getting a good opportunity, so I’ve been trying to keep up lots of personal work.

First off, I found this again today:

face studies14SM

Three faces, three ways – pseudo-realistic, comic, Disneyish…I’d like to think I’ve come a long way even since this, but it was a fun exercise and I still like ’em. Plus REDHEADS.

Recently, I’ve been adding work to the galleries, more often than I’ve been updating this. I have to say, I also have been enjoying ArtStation way more than my own website….eep, it’s true! Anyway, I’ve been having a ton of fun practicing a toonier approach to character design (though rest assured, I also have a painting or two in the works).

When I designed this Maid Marian character, I was thinking about what it would be like if there actually WAS a Robin Hood done in the style of The Last Unicorn. As you may remember, there’s a part in the beautifully animated tale (and of course, the phenomenal book) when Schmendrick creates more of his zany, one-day-I-will-be-a-genius-sorceror-I-swear magic (which is true) and summons a vision of Robin Hood, Marian, and the Merry Men, to Captain Cully’s dismay (resulting in the amazing boob tree scene, I KNOW). I mean, his outlaws were doing so well what with that 4-day rat soup and the mention of tacos. I loved the look of those Rankin/Bass films with all their amaze-balls Japanese animators doing a slightly more western style, so here is MY Lady Marian.




I have a Bachelors in Fashion Design, which maybe I don’t talk about enough. Drawing flats was one of my favorite things when an assistant designer, so when I was creating Marian’s looks it was important to me that each piece still be a complete object. Also, I have several of these ALMOST paper doll projects, so I really need to turn one into an actual working doll with the tabs and slits.

So I’ll leave you with one more design here, but again will remind you that there’s more updates in the galleries. I can’t always be trusted to post about them all, though I will try!

This little lady is from an animation class. Honestly, I hadn’t quite considered when I wanted to draw a deer girl, that I was, in fact, designing a furry. So, apparently that happened, but you know, we could just forget the whole furry phenomenon and remember that the Greeks invented things like satyrs, and that was perfectly respectable material for artists prior to the internet and poorly drawn anime, okay?


Costume drawing final

costume final design

Here is a very Sky Doll-inspired costume design I did for my final project in Costume Figure Drawing with Charles Hu (at Gnomon – wheeee! very fun class!).  It’s a mash-up of evil queens, Renaissance/Elizabethan, Chinese wedding headdresses, sci-fi and such and was a preeeeeetty awesome open final project.

If you’re not familiar with Sky Doll, it’s a fantastic Franco-Belgian comic by the amazing team Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa BUT Marvel also translated it into English.  If you like comics with amazing art and colors, then I think you might like it.

mermaid time again



They never get old.

Sketch from my sketchbook was cleaned up and recolored in Photoshop, then colored away!  Honestly, the anatomy positioning of the mermaid is total crap (sooooo wooden), but it was fun to color and I still like how it came out.

Romanesque orgy socialite

I can just see this as a Roman fashion advertisement…”This summer the Egyptian looks is all the RAGE among the hippest orgy circuits…”

More coloring practice…heh, the title is ridiculous, sorry.

I drew this with a black ballpoint pen. It’s colored in Photoshop with some added textures…