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May 12

My Work as Colorist on Mattel’s Barbie; A Fashion Fairytale Storybook

Photograph of Barbie A Fashion Fairytale StorybookA design firm in London contacted this freelance cartoonist for hire and asked if I wanted to be a colorist on Barbie; A Fashion Fairytale Storybook. I, of course, jumped at the chance to work on the project. The book had a very tight timeline and a number of artists working on the project. The extremely talented sketch artists were located in London and were employees for the design firm (I think). I believe I was one of two or three colorists on the project. I don’t know where they were located.

An agreement was made at a fixed price per “page”. I thought great, I could probably color two a week. But then I discovered that the “page” was actually a two-page spread in the book and not the single book page I had in mind. That moment was a learning experience as the work took more time than I had originally planned on.

Note to Artists: if you are considering doing commercial work for clients, make sure you clarify your assumptions, such as the size of the “page” as mentioned above.

As with most licensed characters, the project came with specific style information such as the number of eye lashes Barbie had on the upper lids and the lower lids. It also came with specifics on skin color, lip color, eye color, hair colors (3 in all for hair base, highlights and low lights) and the list goes on. Style information is extremely important because when the illustrations are completed, it all has to look like one artist had illustrated the book from beginning to the end. The storybook was a short printed version of a 3D movie Mattel had produced. The only reference material was primarily screen captures of the 3D movie, and a few pieces of art that had been approved.

Mattel turned out to have an incredible eye for detail. With this storybook, they liked a lot of sparkle and glitter, highlights and low lights in the character’s hair. My skills as a colorist grew a lot during this project. Below you will see some of the sketches that came to me from the talented sketch artists in London, and the final coloring I did for the book.

I hope you enjoy looking at the sketches and final illustrations as much as I enjoyed working on Mattel’s Barbie; A Fashion Fairytale Storybook!

sketch page 1 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 1 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookThe next illustration involving the rain scene, I had to illustrate twice because the design firm was uncertain which Mattel would have preferred. Unfortunately, neither illustrations made it into the final book (at least, not the book versions that I have seen). Below are both of the colored versions I illustrated.

Note to Artists: Another lesson learned here – make sure you clarify and negotiate before the start of any project for additional pay if you are asked to illustrate additional versions of the same sketch.

sketch page 2 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 2 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 2 alternate version for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybook


 

sketch page 3 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 2 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybook


 

sketch page 4 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 4 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybook


sketch page 5 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 5 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybook


 

sketch page 6 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 6 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybook

 


sketch page 7 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookfinal cartoonist illustration page 7 for mattels barbie a fashion fairytale storybookAlthough the characters above are surrounded within a cloud, it was requested by Mattel that all characters be fully illustrated if they provided additional sketches of the characters. This was not a problem for me as I got into this habit a long time ago. It allows for reuse of the art for many other purposes should the need arise. And as an artist who shows her work in a variety of ways, I often find a need to reuse characters. This is a great habit to get into early in your career because it saves a large amount of time later on.

When working on a team with other illustrators or with illustrators in different locations, it is important to always check if any part of the sketch you are about to work on, had been previously illustrated by other team members so you can obtain a copy and replicate the parts the same as they did.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at this case study. Should you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below. If you would like an estimate for your project, please contact me.


About Malane Newman
Malane Newman is a professional illustrator and cartoonist for over 25 years. She is a master with color and eye candy. She has illustrated a variety of consumer products such as games, childrens books, board games, food and product packaging, magazines, greeting cards, and other consumer products. She provides new character design for clients and offers the copyrights at affordable rates. She can match most cartooning styles and works with creative directors on licensed character art (Barbie, Popeye, The Swan Princess).

1 ping

  1. Malane Newman for Mattel | PLAY! Artists' Blogs

    […] curious as to her process, Malane has written a detailed blog post about her experience, which you can read here. In the meantime, take a look at a few of the illustrations she colored […]

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