Warming Hearts with Festive & Furry Illustrations

MSPCA illustrated holiday cards

From the initial need to our final execution, follow along as I share the process involved in creating the MSPCA-Angell’s 2018 holiday cards.

The process for any illustration project begins with understanding the project goal and its parameters. In this case, the MSPCA-Angell came to us to create some custom-designed holiday cards. They sell these to increase awareness and raise funds for their all-important mission of improving animal health and welfare — all while spreading a little holiday cheer. They’ve done this for a few years now and were looking for a fresh new design.



With our marching orders confirmed, we got to work sketching out some ideas. This is where the project begins to take shape. I’ve written previously on The Power of the Sketch and how sketching allows you to quickly run through ideas and begin visualizing the possibilities. My sketches are usually a combination of potential layouts, various lists of words (in this case, holiday and animal words), and pretty much anything that flutters through my mind. Getting it on paper gives me a chance to hold the idea for a moment and get a better look at it.

My initial sketches are pretty rough and almost indecipherable even to myself as I quickly jot them down and move through them. When I finally get to some ideas that I think will work for a client, I’ll slow down and create a more refined sketch that we can share with them.

Pencil sketches of initial card concepts

Shown above: Rough Concept Sketches

These sketches are still very rough but have just enough detail to help share the intended vision. In this case, we were pitching both the idea of using a playfully-drawn character along with an animal-and-holiday-themed pun.



Once we got the green light to proceed in this direction, we worked back and forth with the MSPCA-Angell to arrive at 4 layouts and concepts that we were all happy with. The addition of color with the next pass of sketches helped everyone further visualize what the end product would look like. Once we received approval on these colored sketches, we moved forward with the more time-consuming portion of creating the actual artwork.

rough color sketches of four holiday cards

Rough Color Sketches



I’m primarily a digital illustrator, painting and creating my work on the computer using a Wacom tablet. This allows me to draw on the tablet while the computer receives the input of my drawing in whichever software I’m using (usually Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator). It also gives me a ton of flexibility as I draw, allowing me to easily change colors, resize shapes, and of course, “undo” anything I’m not happy with. Before beginning the final paintings, I thought it’d be pretty neat to capture a screen recording of my digital painting process, so I did! Here’s a time-lapse recording from the creation of the “Hoppy Holidays” card. Note how I directly reference the layout and colors of the rough sketch as I build up the artwork.



Working digitally also gives us a file that we can immediately use in a design. Exporting a preview to email to a client is as simple as the press of a button. Likewise, once the design is approved, we can send that file to the printer to print. On that note, we worked with the printer on ensuring the colors worked well when printed and were on nicely textured paper that felt like something we’d enjoy receiving in the mail. 

Lastly, we photographed our work to share with people like you!

holiday cards with illustrated bird "squawking in a winter wonderland" cat "meowy & Bright" rabbit "hoppy holidays" and dog "pugly sweater weather"closeup of illustrated holiday card with pug dogbird illustrated holiday card "Squawking in a winter wonderland"illustrated holiday card of rabbit "hoppy holidays" and pug dog "pugly sweater weather"closeup of illustrated cat holiday card

May your holiday nights this year be Meowy & Bright!

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