Link Illustration Process

Link from The Legend of Zelda


An exploration of my process

I recently did in illustration of the character Link from The Legend of Zelda, a video game character created by Nintendo. I decided to photograph the process to see what exactly happens when I turn a blank page into a picture. You can read through this post to see the journey and you can see the final illustration in the portfolio above or on my DeviantArt page

In a general sense I found that the illustration goes through a relatively (I think) short evolution phase where ideas become shapes but for the most part all the real decisions are made rather soon, and from there on I just sort of “fill in” for lack of a better word. In the future I would like to extend this evolution phase as I think it will make the work feel more fluid. Jump past the break to see the drawing come to life step by step.


The Sketchbook. This is where it all starts (sometimes)


First I write down a few ideas. I find that my drawings often begin with writing, and when I write a a story I often begin with a drawing. In this case I had a vague idea that since the character Link uses lots of tools in the games maybe I would draw a picture of him with all his tools. The image may be a little difficult to see but trust me its a list of items from The Legend of Zelda Videogame.


I then start actually making shapes on the page I chose a slightly raised angle because I’m going to put lots of objects around him. The image is vague but the shapes and angles are pushing the composition in the direction I want. At this point it’s all ideas and not decisions about the look of the piece.


Here I add more ideas about the amount of things I want in the image and the general shape and placement. There’s lots of overlapping and a bit of refinement of earlier shapes or “ideas” as I come closer to what I want but at this point I am still deciding what it is I want to draw.


At this point I make some decisions about how the face should look and I look to some of my reference to clarify the shield. I have decided that the tunic should be shorter and have generally gotten more specific about what my main focal point will look like so that I can craft the rest of the illustration around that.


Up to this point I have just placed things in a vague way. Now I decide exactly what the sword will look like how it is interacting with the ground, I get rid of an ocarina that you may or may not have noticed by the foot and I “refine” some “ellipses” in the mallet. links look, at this point, is largely complete.


Now I “fill in” the objects around the figure. The shape and placement of some objects, like the quiver of arrows, change slightly while others largely follow what I have previously decided. You may also notice that I placed a bag of rupees near the foot where I removed the ocarina. I certainly could have refined the shape and placement of more of the objects but I only noticed this after I reviewed the process.


All “filled in” if you look at the previous images you can see that the shapes of most of the objects around link have not changed I have just added details and made the contours more specific. For example look at the slingshot in the lower right, it has stayed in the same place and shape since very near to the start of the process.


Finished pencil drawing. There will be all scans from here on out so you can see the image much better. I added a few more small details like the hair and I did a little work on line weight in preparation for inking.


Inked. I don’t add much if anything new when I ink. I go over the image and bump up the line weights in places to make sure objects and figures are at their correct depth and that everything doesn’t just run together. When I ink I typically try to make sure that I don’t “mess up” the pencil drawing. Since ink has only one value as opposed to pencil where you can use various shades (even when you aren’t trying to) the different line weights give the image back some of the depth and variety that I lose going from pencil to ink.


I start the color process by laying one flat color over the whole image.


I color in a very simple manner. I only want the color to support, and be a platform of sorts for the drawing so I really just use the color to separate the objects and figures.


Everything is colored the colors are flat and simple. The pallet is somewhat limited.


I add a bit of lighting just to the figure to highlight him.


Finally I change the color of the line to a warmer dark brown color, do some spot highlights to accentuate the ground texture and I add a texture over the image. It’s all done.

Overall I think that the phase of evolving and refining the shapes and placement of objects should have been prolonged, but I am happy with the final image.

It’s amazing to see how many decisions actually stick from when you start sketching until the project is complete. It seems that when you write out the initial ideas or story it allows you to visualize the images clearly and everything falls into place.
Great work,

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