Home       My Shops      Terms of Use      Fun Freebies

Monday, May 27, 2013

Guest Blogger: Whimsy Workshop Graphics

I would like to welcome Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Graphics. 

Whimsy Workshop

She is sharing how she creates her graphics!

Creating Clip Art From Scratch

I am quite often asked about the process of making clip art. Although it is a lot of work, for me there's nothing quite as fun and rewarding as seeing a little drawing I've made pop up in another teacher's fantastic educational product. It must be similar to how musicians feel when they hear their song on the radio for the first time!  

I began making clip art for my own classroom activities. As a teacher who makes my own lessons, it was so frustrating to be unable to find images that helped convey the idea I was trying to put across to students. Since my background was in visual arts before I began teaching, I naturally began to just use my own drawings. Back in the old days before the internet, that meant drawing pictures right on the page and then photocopying! Now the process is so much more professional looking and so much more gratifying.  

Since this is a clip art blog, I thought I'd share with you the basic process I use for creating my clip art for my own products, and for requests from other teachers.

Step 1

I start with a basic sketch. It is very rough and messy since I don't want to spend too much time on details. I know very well I'll be obsessed with fine details later! Sketching can be done on an ipad using a drawing app (such as Brushes, Art Studio or ProCreate), or it can be done the old fashioned way in my sketchbook before scanning it. Either way it has to be exported to my computer or scanned. In this example, however, I started sketching right into photoshop using a wacom tablet. 

Step 2

I create a document that is 8.5x11 inches and set the dpi at 300. This gives me a large blank document that can be enlarged without losing resolution once the image is drawn. Next, I start my sketch, or drag my sketch into the page if it's being imported. Either way the sketch remains a separate layer and is only there for reference. In the example below, I was using an owl to represent the different holidays in a school year.

Step 3

I choose just one image to work on at a time, since whoever purchases this set will want to use just one  image at a time in their product. Essentially I am tracing over my sketch with clean black lines. 

Step 4

Because my drawings are quite stylized, I go over the lines many times to smooth them out. When I zoom in I can see that lines seeming fine are actually quite jagged! I spend a lot of time going over them to smooth them out. Although it might not be noticeable in a worksheet, if someone purchases my clip art and wants to enlarge it for a bulletin board decoration, those messy lines won't look good if I don't fix them.  This takes a very long time for a perfectionist!  
Below you can see the enlargement before and after I've cleaned it up. If I am looking for something that is completely clean, then I can use a different tool in photoshop, or even a different program such as Illustrator. However, my style looks clean, but still hand-drawn. That is all personal preference.

Step 5

Once I am happy with the drawing, I delete the sketch layer and compress all layers together. With the magic wand tool, I highlight the background and delete it. 
I save the file as a png, and it's ready to use as a black and white image. Now that the background is gone, there will be no white box around the image when it's used in a document.

Step 6

To add color, I use either the paintbrush tool or the paint bucket tool. I usually spend a lot of time choosing colors until I have it the way I like it. When I'm satisfied, I save it with the name indicating that it's the color version. 

Step 7

In the case of the Holiday Owls, I used the same original image repeatedly for consistency, but changed the outer details as needed for each holiday. Once they were all completed, I compressed them together in a zip file for uploading to TPT. 
This cover shows all of the owls; the cover page was made by dragging all the images into Powerpoint and adding text.

If you'd like to know more about how I create clip art, you can contact me over at Whimsy Workshop, where I talk about clip art and other daily happenings in my class and my life. You can also find me on Facebook and at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I look forward to hearing from you!

I'd also like to say a big thank you to Tammy for inviting me as a guest on her fantastic blog! 


  1. Susanna is such a dolly!! Thank you so much to BOTH of you for your awesome clipart!! :)

    Laura Love to Teach

    1. Laura, I don't know what a dolly is but I'm hoping it's good! lol... Hope you're doing well!

  2. I loved reading about your process Susanna! How do you use the paint bucket tool? Do you have to click on something first to indicate where the color will be poured into? Love your art! & Tammy's too!

    Science for Kids Blog

    1. Hi Susan!

      First I click the paint bucket tool in photoshop and load the color. I then I click inside any clearly defined area of the picture to fill it. I also add various different effects, or light layers of color, and I usually then zoom in and clean it up even more just because I'm like that! Thanks so much for commenting - it makes my day!


  3. Two amazing clip artists in the same place, watch out!

    Love that you guest blogged for Tammy! And great advice Susanna!
    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

    1. Hello Miss T!
      I just used one of your products in my class today and they loved it! I'm more than thrilled to be teaming up with Tammy here. She's an amazing artist and a lovely person!

  4. I LOVE Susanna!! What a perfect step by step! Hubby and the teens in the house each have a Wacom tablet. Can't wait to share this with them! And, yes, I WILL try this as soon as school lets out! LOL

    Tiny Toes

    1. Hi JoAn! I'm sure hubby and the teens would be more than happy to walk you through the steps this summer!

  5. This is a great tutorial. Now, I just need to learn how to draw! My students think I am great, but my kids and husband, all of whom are very artistic, have a different opinion. I guess I will go with creativity and make some attempts for myself. With time, who knows. Thanks Susanna for the information.

    Charlene/Diamond Mom

    1. You're welcome, Charlene - thanks so much for the comment! Give me a shout if you need any help.

  6. I love this tutorial and I have gained a huge respect for graphic artist. I follow both you and Tammy on your Blogs and TpT stores. You are both in my "wish list" and waiting for payday!!! Thank you for this wonderful post because we don't usually get to see the other side of artistic talents and gifts and the time it takes to create something like you both do.
    Deb at Fabulously First

    1. Thank you, Deb! I appreciate your kind comments!


Leave me a little note!