As a tool that regularly reminds clients that you’re alive and available for work, creative postcards are a great solution. Cheap to produce, these mini canvases provide a snapshot of your latest work in miniature. And if the style appeals, you’ll find many creative directors pinning promo cards to their studio walls, ready to pick up and commission when that style is needed.
The secret is to keep them coming. Don’t just produce one, and fire it off now because it's December along with the rest of the design fraternity – send them monthly, or when you scoop a creative award and use it to showcase the winning work. Or, tell a story that shows evolving characters that the recipients can emote with, played out over several cards. Whatever you do, have fun with this fusion of miniature canvas and self-promo tool.
First, do some sketches of your character before you turn on your computer. Getting things down on paper will stop you from staring at a blank screen in Illustrator.
Once you’ve sketched out some ideas, make a new document the size of the postcard (148-x-105mm) and create two layers, one called 'Background' and one called 'Artwork'.
Using your original sketches for reference, start drawing the main character on the Artwork layer. Using the Pen tool, set the fill colour to a suitably beastly tone and turn off the stroke. Start to draw a rough shape of the outline of your creature.
As the character is going to be symmetrical, and looking straight ahead, draw half of the shape with the pen tool, then copy-&-paste it. Next, reflect the copied shape by choosing Object > Transform > Reflect. With the smart guides on (Ctrl/Cmd + U), drag the copied shape by the top anchor point using the Direct Selection tool to meet the same point on the original shape.
Select both points by dragging over them and press Ctrl/Cmd + J. Select Smooth and click OK.
Now for the bumps. Using the Ellipse tool, hold down Shift, and drag, making a circle the size you want each bumpy bit to be. Copy-&-paste the circle, and position them around one half of the character from the top down, creating the bumpy effect. When you reach the last circle, select the bottom half of it and press Delete. This will get rid of half of the circle and just tidies things up a bit.
Open the Pathfinder panel and, while holding down the Alt key, click Add To Shape Area. This closes the shape.
Select all the circles and copy, paste and reflect, as in step 3. Move your copied circles, so the top circle lies exactly on top of the original set. Delete the very top circle so you don’t have any overlapping.
While one circle is selected, choose Select > Same > Fill Color – this will select all the circles and the rough shape underneath. Hold down Alt and click Add To Shape Area in the Pathfinder panel. This will create one solid shape.
Next you need to add detail and features to the character. To make its mouth, use the ellipse tool to draw the size and shape you want.
You can adjust the shape by clicking on individual anchor points, and use the cursor keys to move. Once you’re happy with the shape, make some teeth.
Lay a square over a circle and use the use the Add To Shape Area function to make a single shape. Arrange the teeth around the mouth, copying-&-pasting as you go.
You can change the shape and size of each tooth as you go round, as well as rotating them to fit the curve of the mouth. Copy-&-paste the top row of teeth, and flip them 180-degrees for the bottom row.
Select the mouth shape and teeth, and copy-&-paste it. Click the Divide tool in the Pathfinder palette; this splits everything into separate pieces.
Delete everything from the mouth apart from the teeth. Delete the teeth from the original mouth and replace with the cut-out ones.
To make the mouth more detailed add different shades of ellipses to create depth in the mouth. To make a lighter shade, reduce the amount of black in the colour, and for a darker shade, increase it.
Draw some drip shapes using the pen tool in a lighter colour to create monster saliva. Once you’re happy with the mouth, drag it onto the monster shape, and position it.
Next, add some more detail to the monster. Draw veins by making curvy lines with the Pen tool. Use a lighter colour and various stroke weights. Try to make the lines as smooth as you can by manipulating the anchor points and pulling the handles on each point.
This will take practice, but once you get a feel for how the handles affect the curve of the lines, it will become easy. Remember to turn Smart Guides off when drawing with the Pen tool.
Try not to use the copy-&-paste function too much with the smaller details, or your character will become too static. Use as much variety of lines and shapes as you can. Use darker shades to make extra furry, bumpy bits on your monster and a lighter colour to make bubbles with tiny
circles to give his skin some texture.
Now your beast is finished – you just need to make him look a bit more alive and magical. To do this, select the main black shape, and copy-&-paste it. Lay it over the top of the character and select Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. In the pixel box, type in 5, the click OK.
Next, open the Transparency panel and select Multiply from the drop-down menu, and reduce the opacity to 50 per cent. Hold down Shift and drag the shape to make it a bit bigger, then select Object > Arrange > Send to Back.
To add the sparkly bits, make a small white circle. Go to Filter > Distort > Pucker and Bloat. In the value field, type -75, click OK. Copy-&-paste this shape lots of times. Scale to make some bigger, and some smaller. Arrange in little clusters all around your monster. That’s your finished character.
Finally, as this is a self promotional postcard, you will need to add your logo or name to the front and if you like, your contact details (however, these could be on the back to avoid overcrowding the image) you can also add further detail such as clouds and trees to give more depth to your finished piece.
And that’s it, one postcard, complete with beast. Now just get it printed and post hundreds of them to people you want to work for and patiently await the commissions!