Maria Nicklin Process Illustrations

From Information Gathering and Pencil Sketches, to the Final Product

My Process

The designs and illustrations that I make all start with rough concept sketches to find the direction. From there, the drawings and layouts are created for presentation. Following the first presentation, there are revisions to make it just right for the customer. Although each project is unique and requires its own customized process, the following steps are generally involved:

Information Gathering & Contract

After the initial conversation with a potential client, I send them a customized information-gathering questionnaire. Once I’ve reviewed their responses and have a follow-up conversation, I prepare a work agreement that includes the creative objective of the project, a price estimate, targeted delivery date, production schedule, description of process and project terms. Once the contract is approved, signed, I receive the down-payment and get to work.

Research & Concept Sketches

After thoroughly studying the customer’s business, their competition and project objectives, I produce a few rough concept sketches for their review.


After nailing and getting approval on the concept (for logos and illustrations), which may take a few rounds of concept sketches, I make a polished pencil drawing of the artwork for the client to approve. If there are any minor tweaks to the image, it happens at this stage. Sometimes I make an actual woodcut of the artwork as an alternate illustration technique.


Even though I colorize many of my illustrations in Photoshop using many layers over the pencil drawing, most of my identity projects require vector art. So begins the next step where I cut out the background of the pencil art or wood-block print (any unwanted lines, gray areas, etc) to create blocks of solid black. This is much like the process in wood-cut relief printing where you carve out the areas that you do not want to print.


Once I have created the crisp B&W artwork (and it has been 100% approved by the client), then the colorizing begins. One process for colorizing is placing the B&W artwork from Photoshop into an Adobe Illustrator document which can transform the raster artwork into a crisp vector graphic. In Illustrator, I will add blocks of color (experimenting with lots of color combinations) before choosing a couple of versions to present to the client for review. This stage may require a few revisions, but generally within a couple tries, we have the finished product.

File Delivery

Once the project has been approved, I send you the final files electronically. In some cases, you’ll receive the actual drawings! You will also receive the rights to all artwork created under the contract.