Art Studio Confessions: Making Stickers

Art Studio Confessions: Making Stickers

One of my favorite products (and best sellers) are my stickers! Like every Sketchy Notions product, they all start with original watercolor illustrations and hand-lettering. I wanted to show y'all a little behind the scenes peek at my process of making stickers...and which manufacturer is my go-to sticker maker! 

First...every sticker starts as a basic pencil sketch. I keep a sketchbook of sticker ideas and other product ideas. When I pick the design, I sketch it out on Canson 140 lb cold press paper (I buy the giant pads and cut them down into smaller pieces). 

Sketching the design on watercolor paper

After I lightly sketch it out in pencil and I'm happy with the size and details, I start watercoloring. Most of my watercolors are by Winsor & Newton but I have a few Reeves and Van Gogh tubes around the studio too. 

Watercoloring in the pencil sketches


Once the watercolors are fully dry, I go in with a wide pen for the outlines and any details. For these I used the pen tip end of the Tombow Dual Brush pens. Tombow pens are my go-to for lettering! After the ink is FULLY dry, I'll use a hi-polymer eraser to erase any pencil marks. It's not totally necessary but it just makes editing on my computer easier. 

Then it's time for the lettering. For larger lettering pieces, I use the brush end of the Dual Brush Tombows. For smaller or thinner letters, I use Tombow Fudenosuke brushes on tracing paper. They usually come in packs for two and they're so versatile and much easier to control for smaller lettering work. 
Once all the lettering and painting work is done, it's time to scan and edit! At the moment I have an Epson XP-960 for scanning but I'll likely upgrade to the newest model when this one dies on me. They're workhorses but I definitely run them into the ground.
When I have all the pieces scanned at 350 dpi, I then start editing with....GIMP! It's more or less a bootleg version of Photoshop, but also more user friendly. One day I'll learn Illustrator but for now it's just faster (and cheaper) using GIMP. In GIMP I'll clean up the scans, add in any fields of color, and edit the lettering to overlay the watercolor files.
After all the files are ready, it's time to upload them. The only sticker manufacturer I've ever used is Sticker Mule. I tried them on a whim a few years ago and the quality was SO good, I got addicted. They're also very fast with the manufacturing. So fast that many of my orders arrive before the expected arrival date. They often have deals (really good deals) and you can order samples in sets of 10 to test out designs, which I do often when it's a sticker design I'm not sure will sell well.
After I submit the designs, I'll get a confirmation email to confirm the size and edges of my stickers before they're finally sent to print. After confirming the size, the hardest part begins...waiting for my stickers to arrive! 
These two little designs are for stickers that I'll include as "thank yous" in orders. They're the perfect size to order a LOT of at a really good price, especially since Sticker Mule offers discounts when you order more than one design at a time. I've used Sticker Mule for over 4 years now for ALL my stickers in my shop and I've loved their product every time.
And that's it! If you have any questions about my sticker making process, please feel free to leave a comment or message me on Instagram.
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