how I work

how I work

from initial sketch to finished watercolor illustration

Current Exhibitions
Illustration Apfel Sketch und fertige Illustration

steps to create a realistic illustration with traditional media

A realistic watercolor illustration is a unique design feature, which is especially suitable for food- and beverage packaging, editorial applications or paper goods. 

Particularly commercial illustrations for packaging have specific requirements, such as presenting the subject in its most perfect form and lightning to make the product as appetizing as possible for the customer. Flaws and imperfections need to be mended, so the use of different reference images is not uncommon to guarantee best results.

Here are my steps to work on a commercial illustration: 

  • initial sketch with paper and pencil

  • choosing a realistic color palette for the subject

  • approval from the client

  • creating the final colored illustration with watercolor

  • rendering the illustration with colored pencils to give it more depths and brilliance

  • scan, optimize color, removing background, getting ready for print


  • illustration

  • print preparation

Illustration Apfel Arbeitsweise

creation process

After I prepared the sketch and got approval from the client, I transfer my sketch on high-quality watercolor paper. To do that I usually use a light table. I put down several layers of watercolor before I go ahead with colored pencils to render my subject. The colored pencil adds depths and brilliance to the illustration. 

Illustration Apfel fertige Illustration plus Scan


I scan the finished illustration with a professional scanner. (Epson Perfection V600) After that I tweak the colors digitally on a calibrated monitor so that they best match the original illustration. 

Usually I will remove the background from my illustration, so that it can be placed on different colored surfaces without the white of the paper show through. 

Depending on the required final use of the illustration I will do requested print preparation as well. 

art supplies

  • Arches BFK Rives 280 gsm cotton paper

  • Princeton Neptune synthetic squirell brushes

  • Dr. PH. Martin Hydrus watercolor

  • Sennelier watercolor

  • Caran D’Ache Luminance 6901

  • Sanford Prismacolor Premier

  • Epson Perfection V600 Scanner 

  • Huion Lighttable A3

  • Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Graphic Monitor

Detailed description of all the art supplies I use including a list of all colors and brush sizes here. 

commission process

commission process

In our first meeting – either a zoom call or a phone call – we will discuss the specific needs and scope of the project. I will answer your questions and ask you about the key data and the intended use of the illustration, so that I can put together an estimate. 

Every project needs a special concept. I usually work with value based fees. That means I don’t work with hourly rates. I will instead price the project – this way you’ll know in advance how much it is going to be.

Throughout the course of the project,  I keep you updated on a regular basis. Usually the project will go through several rounds of revision. Only when you are completely satisfied with the sketch of the illustration, I will proceed with watercolor and colored pencils.

Back to work.

© Sarah Janser

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