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Decision, Design and Creation - Journey of my Debut Coloring Book: Ornate Designs

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

Hey there, awesome readers! I'm back with Part 2 of my book-making journey. This time, I would like to take you into a deep dive of turning my vision into a reality. I will share details about the tools, tough choices, and valuable lessons that shaped this creative process.

Transitioning to Professional Art

Doodling comes naturally to me. However, I began to think about what it would mean for me to convert that natural talent into a saleable book out in the market. A quicker way existed - I could always invest in an illustrator, and I might, in the future, collaborate with other artists. I might get the perfect line drawing if I employed a professional. However, I will miss out on the imperfections, so to speak, the experience of climbing the learning curve.

I etched this resolve clearly in my mind - My first coloring book will be a representation of me, of my mind, thoughts, ideas, and designs. It will have to be original, hand-drawn, and be in my striking style.

Choice of Theme

I have always been an ardent fan of coloring books. I love coloring books associated with nature, whether it is beautiful blossoms or underwater scenery teeming with aquatic wildlife. My first instinct was to check what is already out there for these themes. Hey there, awesome readers! I'm back with Part 2 of my book-making journey. This time, I would like to take you into a deep dive of turning my vision into a reality. I will share details about the tools, tough choices, and valuable lessons that shaped this creative process.

Transitioning to Professional Art

Doodling comes naturally to me. However, I began to think about what it would mean for me to convert that natural talent into a saleable book out in the market. A quicker way existed - I could always invest in an illustrator, and I might, in the future, collaborate with other artists. I might get the perfect line drawing if I employed a professional. However, I will miss out on the imperfections, so to speak, the experience of climbing the learning curve.

I etched this resolve clearly in my mind - My first coloring book will be a representation of me, of my mind, thoughts, ideas, and designs. It will have to be original, hand-drawn, and be in my striking style.

Choice of Theme

I have always been an ardent fan of coloring books. I love coloring books associated with nature, whether it is beautiful blossoms or underwater scenery teeming with aquatic wildlife. My first instinct was to check what is already out there for these themes. My organic choice was Amazon because of its widespread reach. The topics that I had colored in the past had very heavy competition and seemed very saturated. Additionally, I found out that by leveraging AI tools, coloring books can be designed in a few hours with the right tools and relevant skill set, adding to the saturation, making it difficult to determine the ones which are professional.

Henna: A Cultural Connection

I had to think of something that is a niche. I went back to my roots. Back in my homeland, during festivals, weddings, and auspicious occasions, I would always apply henna not only on myself, but also be the designated henna artist for my family, neighbors, and friends. I wouldn't mind sitting countless hours as many hands swapped and mine always working with a cone, trying to bring so many designs to life. The designs came to my mind as lyrics to a songwriter.

In the US, every year at Diwali celebrations, I would volunteer to be the henna artist at work-related functions as well. I was confident in the authenticity of my designs. I was confident in my compositions. The only question remained. Henna designs are very intricate. The white space in the design is used to divide complex line art and different patterns. However, the spaces themselves are generally filled up with very delicate patterns.





Composition: Soul of a Design

Coloring books come in various tiers. You've got those super-sized spaces in kids' coloring books, where the shapes are big and easy to color. Then there's the sweet spot for most folks – a mix of simpler yet intricate shapes alongside larger ones. This mix provides room for trying out shading techniques and other coloring tricks.

Given the intricacy of henna, nailing the right composition and pattern mix is the heart of it all. When you check out henna designs, you'll often notice how they start with distinct shapes, which then get decked out with intricate patterns. Some of my initial ideas were nature-inspired – oversized flowers adorned with henna-like patterns or close-ups of animals embellished with those signature henna twists. However, I wanted something that is more spiritual and organically complements henna and its essence.

Mandalas: Circular Symmetry and Focus

While looking at my possible competition, I came across hundreds of mandala coloring books. I scanned the internet and found many applications that generated mandalas. I felt that there was a connection. Henna designs, artistic as they were, needed something symbiotic. The circular symmetric nature of mandalas promotes focus, relaxation, and clarity of thought. I thought together this was a great aesthetic combination.

Exploring Digital Art Creation

I had multiple ideas in mind. At this time, I had never tried digitally creating art. I had an option to first make my design with pencil and paper and then convert it into a digital version or start with a digital version from the beginning.

Choosing the Right Tools

I decided to explore applications that allow the creation of digital art. I started with a few that offered free trial versions to see which one suited me the most. I started my general research from online free resources. There are many online videos and articles which give a wealth of knowledge on creating coloring books, from ones for children, to ones for adults. Based on this initial research, I came to know that digital art applications offered a multitude of features. So, I had to make a list of features I wanted.

  • Create symmetric art effortlessly, without the need to worry about maintaining consistency across all parts.

  • Enjoy the flexibility of more than 4-6 divisions for your symmetric art, allowing for intricate designs.

  • Easily undo and redo your work for a stress-free creative process.

  • Streamline your workflow with reusable templates that speed up your design process.

  • Enhance modularity by organizing your art into separate layers.

  • Tailor your artwork to different formats, catering to both on-screen and professional print needs.

  • Seamlessly export your designs in multiple formats to suit various requirements.

  • Expand your creative horizons beyond drawing and into digital coloring.

  • Explore a trial period for paid applications, followed by an affordable subscription.

  • Edit out minor noise while hand drawing, resulting in flawless, professional-quality art.

Selecting Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint was my first choice due to its standout feature – a generous 3-month free trial, surpassing other applications. It checked most of the boxes mentioned above. From its provision of multiple layers to offering hand-drawn gesture stabilization, Clip Studio Paint delivered a range of options. It also supported industry-standard formats for both on-screen and professional print,

Many of my initial symmetric concentric mandala artworks were crafted using Clip Studio Paint. I experimented with various symmetry levels. Some observations emerged when I printed my pages to assess the final result. At the time, I was using a Windows laptop and stylus pen for designing:

  • Printed Imperfections: In the printed version, the lines looked a bit jagged on close inspection. I noticed several imperfections.

  • Undo Process: Clip Studio Paint’s Undo feature lacked an organic feel. The repetitive action of clicking the Undo button on the top toolbar became tiresome.

  • Stability Concerns: Even with Anti Aliasing in action, the line art's stability wasn't as razor-sharp as I had in mind.

  • User Experience Consideration: While the feature set was comprehensive, the user experience itself was somewhat overwhelming. Identifying which features would best aid in enhancing line art for coloring pages proved a challenge.

My goal was to get a market ready product as soon as possible with a beginner friendly app which gave me a professional look and feel. My observations might be limited here in terms of exploring the application as a whole without a specific short term goal in mind. That said, if any of you have used Clip Studio Paint for line art, please feel free to share your experience as a comment.

Procreate: A Transformative Tool

Continuing my research through online videos to see which other applications are out there, I came upon Procreate. Procreate is a paid app for digital art creation. With the combination of Apple Pencil with Procreate, I saw in many videos that the art was way smoother. It had all the features mentioned above but the stabilization feature in Procreate is beyond words.

In that moment, a new decision presented itself, one requiring a more significant investment than initially anticipated. You see, Procreate had its preferences, only compatible with specific iPad models. Similarly, the Apple Pencil had its own clique, getting along solely with particular iPad models. This choice meant extending beyond my planned resources. It wasn't just a time investment anymore; resources were in the mix too.

I gave Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop a spin, hoping to breathe life into my designs. But the results weren't quite clicking. As a newbie, I grappled with different user interfaces every time I switched apps. If I could rewind, I'd approach these apps more holistically – not as tools for a specific task, but as skills to have in my creative toolbox, ready to be picked up as needed. That kind of knowledge would've been a handy companion for a variety of creative endeavors.

While my thoughts wandered into the future, right now, I couldn't escape the fact that every wonky line and curve on my work was just staring me down. It was kind of frustrating because, even though I had something unique, I struggled to present it the way I wanted.

A Calculated Risk

Anyway, I decided to take a chance. Why? Well, with the designs I had, there was a steep learning curve. If I kept going like that, my book would take ages to see the light of day. I wanted to self-publish soon, since I had good momentum because I knew myself – I tend to overthink things. Waiting around for the "perfect" app, the perfect timing, the perfect everything would mean my book never gets out there. After binge-watching enough online tutorials, I had a feeling that Procreate was the way to go. It fit my skills and the time and resources I had.

Embarking on the Procreate Adventure

Making this investment has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life so far. As soon as I used the Apple Pencil, it was a dream come true. It was almost as if I was holding a real pencil and had the same level of control. On day one, I drew for hours – just doodling at times, admiring the beauty and the flow.

Also, I subscribed to Procreate. My thought was to check out the app for a month, which was not too expensive. Attached is my first sketch using Procreate.



Some of my thoughts and observations were:

  • Stabilization and Motion Filtering: The best part of it was the stabilization feature. It allowed a greater level of control while drawing more extensive, continuous shapes. The motion filtering enabled finer curves for intricate detailing in my coloring work.

  • Intuitive UI: The UI was simple and intuitive.

  • Seamless Undo and Redo: The undo and redo features were so organic that drawing and correcting was a breeze.

  • Challenged by Symmetry Limits: The drawback I saw was that Procreate only has a maximum of 8 divisions of symmetry. This posed a challenge because many of my designs from Clip Studio Paint porting over would be hard.

Nevertheless, I continued with the rest of my designs in Procreate. The ease of use helped me create designs much faster. I had a winner, and I knew I could always export designs from the applications I had used before and use them as references to recreate them in Procreate easily using Layers.

Now, at this point, I had the right tools to start thinking about the different compositions for my designs.

High Level Book Design

In the context of coloring books, you'd typically come across around 30 to 40 designs in a book. Some of the mandala books went for designs that were fully co-centric. There were also those nature-themed books that showcased full-page line drawings.

My idea was to offer colorists a mix of challenges, kind of like a breather between the intricate designs. Certain designs would be versatile enough for adding a personal note or a quote. I had these categories in mind:

  • Mandala Symmetry: Designs that stuck to the mandala's symmetry and were adorned with henna-style patterns.

  • Symmetrical Blend: Taking multiple patterns with symmetric elements and connecting them in non-symmetrical ways.

  • Full-Page Art: Designs that covered entire pages, blending a variety of henna motifs.

  • Non - rotational Symmetry: Some designs played with horizontal or vertical symmetry.

  • Reflecting My Perspective: There were also designs that mirrored my mindset – like a core value around which multiple facets revolve or a heart entwined with floral chains.

Composition

Composition of my designs would be the heart of my coloring book. What did I hope the colorist would feel? Being a mom, I'm in perpetual motion, a never-ending to-do list scrolling through my thoughts. Sometimes, I wish it would just pause and give my mind a break. That's where my first idea came in. I wanted colorists to find focus and clear their minds. Mandala symmetry, by the way, is like a ticket to relaxation.

My aim was to let colorists dive into those detailed pages and then catch a breather with the more open parts.

Check out some common examples of these typical henna design elements below.





While these make stunning hand designs for weddings, imagine coloring hundreds of these spoked wheels and semi-circles. Too much of a good thing, right? So, I had to cherry-pick the ones that were coloring-friendly.

In my designs, you'll spot a medley of these liberal and expressive henna patterns.




Curious to see more compositions? Go ahead and grab your copy on Amazon!


Mistakes, Challenges and More

Even as I thought my book was good to go, I soon realized there were significant errors that needed fixing. I had to redraw most of the designs twice and even replace some with entirely new ones.

I'm grateful to have had you join me on this creative journey filled with growth and learning. Keep an eye out for the upcoming blog where I share how I tackled these challenges and successfully published my book on Amazon.

Last but not the least, bringing a delightful surprise for my readers! Check out this impromptu live mehndi design I made. It's a unique composition, and I've condensed a 4-hour video into just 30 seconds.







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