Lake Garda - Gift Illustration

This was a commission I received just before the measures for staying home & social distancing were introduced, which has enabled me to document the process in detail..

The illustration was initially intended to be a gift from the Groom to the Bride on their wedding day, but unfortunately due to the Coronavirus outbreak their wedding had to be postponed. However, to cheer his Bride to be up the Groom presented her with the illustration on the day they were due to be wed.

See below the process used to create this gift illustration.

Reference image: Lake Garda, Italy

This was the reference image of Lake Garda that was provided for the commission. It is a beautiful scene with the mountains outlined against the clear blue sky, the boats on the water & the angled lamppost perfectly breaking up the view.

Step one: Sketch of the scene and initial colour wash

The first stage of the process was to sketch out the layout of the scene using pencil. I decided to crop in more on the lamppost and the boats in the water & reduce the amount of sky included within the scene. Once I was happy with the scale and positioning of the lamppost and mountains, I added a very light colour wash to the sky using one of my thicker brushes.

Step two: Inking in detail and building up washes

After applying a second wash of colour to the sky, I began to fill in the details of the boats before working backwards and filling in the details of the mountains and shore line in the background. I was mindful to include as much detail as possible at this point, so I could add more colour and tones to break up the surrounding blues of the lake and the sky.

Step three: Layering colour washes and removing the pencil sketch

Once I'd completed all the detailing with ink, I added in the first colour wash of the water. Due to the level of detail and rough sketch marks in the mid-ground, I wanted to clear away the marks before tackling that area with colour & providing a base to start building in the colour of the flower beds in the foreground.

Step four: Building up colour

Next, I began to add in the green of the mountains & trees in the mid-ground

and flowerbeds in the foreground, whilst also adding an additional wash to the sky and lake.

Step five: Adding in detail using colour

With every wash I applied to each area, I gradually decreased the size of the brush I was using to allow the colours to build.

Step six: Close up detail and foreground

As the size of this commission was A4, it meant that most of the ink detail was applied using the smallest fine liner that I have. This meant to add depth and perspective to the scene, I was relying on the use of colour and tone. Therefore, it was essential to paint the objects in the foreground last to ensure the colours were fresh, bold and popped against their background.

Step seven: Adding in the final detail and shades using coloured pencils

Once I’ve finished building up colour with watercolour paints, I add in some final detail using my Faber-Castell coloured pencils. These are great for adding an additional pop of colour on top of the watercolours to enhance the main details of the scene, such as the boats, flowerbeds and lamppost.

Step eight: Finishing touches

The final stage of the process, was to add the wording.These include the date and location of the proposal and of course, my signature.

And there you have it - the final illustration done and dusted, ready to pack up and post.

To find out more or to commission your own gift illustration, visit my Etsy shop: ChrisMillardCreative today or email

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Phone: +44 7882 018 068

Brighton | United Kingdom

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