The Book of POP Creation - Learn about My Process

Urszula Sas brand story oh so pop sketch

Every artist has their own creative process. In this blog post, let me walk you through mine.

Most of my graphics start out as Oh! So Personal merch, so they first become custom made designs, and then I redraw them adding the original head. Sometimes I have to change more than that: my first Hermione design was taller than the original character and last year’s Han Solo had a slightly protruding tummy. After all, adding the individual features makes my graphics so apt for the end-user 🙂

When someone orders a POP design from me, I usually ask for three things: a chosen pop-culture character, a desired quote and a photo of the person you want me to draw. With these I can sit down and make a sketch.

Sketch mockup

I’m rather impatient and not big on redrawing or rewriting anything. Back in school, I rarely used scratchpads, and I’m in hell when I need to rewrite something from the start. That’s why my sketches are very rough and not at all detailed. I just need a general idea of the posture, arms, legs and head shape, plus some distinguishing elements. Then I move on to drawing an even less detailed sketch of a quote - I just have to know how it fits inside the space I have left. There is one thing that I actually picked up from the school-educated artists: my sketches are blue 💙

When I have my sketch ready - it’s the colour-picking time! I’m not very gifted when it comes to developing colour palettes on my own. I normally use a photo as a reference or, I try to find a fitting set on the internet. I can also find something suitable in my dedicated email folder - three great artists share their curated palettes with their subscribers: Peggy Dean, Addie Hanson and Teela Cunningham.

Finally, it’s time to draw. I focus on the main parts of the design, leaving stuff like hands and feet towards the end. This is the moment when I can see if my sketch was right or if there’s a whole bunch of things I need to change - head size and tilting, arms position etc. Sometimes, I even revisit the sketch and adjust it if I want to make some bigger changes. This gives me the idea of how the alteration fits in the design, and it saves me some time in case it doesn’t. I usually add color to the background, so I can see the possible colour clashes.

At this point, I look at the quote again and check if the location of words fits the rule of importance. I also need to make sure nothing looks weird - I had a huge problem with positioning the "I" on Han Solo’s T-shirt design, and after testing a lot of different approaches, I ended up fitting it all in one line.

There are literally thousands of ways I can letter the text, but I always make sure that the style of the quote fits the avatar standing next to it. I would feel uncomfortable looking at Rambo surrounded by some whimsical, ornamental writing, or bold, stencil-like letters would seem weird on Audrey Hepburn design. I try to follow the rule of Decorum.

Three Stages of Creation

At this stage, I have an almost ready quote design and a character drawing that lacks all the details and shading. That’s usually the longest part of the process, as sometimes shading can be really complex…

This is the moment when I consult the graphic with a person who ordered it, and if they have comments, I change the parts that seem inadequate. After that, I add some final touches, check if all of the colours are right and if everything looks natural (well, as natural as possible with such an enormous head on such a fragile-looking neck 😄) and the design is ready. If it’s a digital portrait, I make PNG, JPG and PDF files and send them directly to the client. And if it's one of the Oh! So Personal physical products, I place the graphic on the chosen merchandise and order it to the customer’s home address.

From sketch to finish

I hope you enjoyed reading about my creative process. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments. Remember to sign up for my newsletter to get a chance to win a free POP portrait (the rules are here). My subscribers are also getting free printables every month, so don’t miss that!

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