Reader Tutorial: Wrestlerish Album Artwork by Chris Valentine

This is a short case study on the album artwork I did for the South African band, Wrestlerish. There were at least 8 different illustrations for this album, so I've decided to focus on the portraits which I combined for the poster design and booklet.Apologies for the low res process pics, but I only had access to my phone during the drawing process.

Step 1

My first step when drawing portraits is to make sure all of the elements of the face are accurately positioned. I first block in the rough shape of the head, and then go in and add in rough positional marks for the nose, eyes, ears etc. I always work very closely from my photograph at this point and use my pencil to measure spaces and convert to the page accordingly. I use a Faber Castelle 0.5mm mechanical pencil with corresponding 2B lead and a putty eraser.

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

Step 2

I now begin fleshing out some of the details. Once I am 100% sure that the landmarks of the face are accurate, I can start detailing without worrying too much about likeness. I carefully analyse each element of the photograph & try to reproduce exactly what I see onto my drawing. This takes a lot of practice, but with time you start relating value in the photograph to different pressure levels with the pencil and it becomes easier to get your drawing true to the photograph.

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

Step 3

In this step I started with the beard. This was the most painful part of the drawing as it involved hundreds of tiny little pencil marks with different areas of light and dark. Always remember, the devil is in the details. I try to pick out the dark and light areas of the beard and shade accordingly, using tightly packed strokes for the dark areas and more sparse pencil marks for the light bits.

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

Step 4

Step 4 is essentially the polishing phase where I add in final details and make sure I've got the likeness right. If it doesn't look like the guy by now it's a bit of a problem; so always try and leave your dark shading until you're sure you have the likeness correct! This step is all about adding the finishing details and highlighting the smaller features of a person's face that aren't immediately noticeable.

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

Step 5

As you can see in the image, I like to work on A4 (29.7cm x 21.0cm) paper, normally 200GSM as it's heavy enough to handle acrylic inks without warping. I always use masking tape to attach the page to a hard board working surface to press on. Once I have finished my drawing, I scan it in at 600DPI and bring it into Photoshop.

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

Step 6

This is how a drawing typically ends up looking once it's ready to be integrated into my digital piece. I will normally drag the scan into a new document (with a size relative to the job description), and I'll use the levels adjustment layer to bring the darks out and improve the general contrast. I'll also go around the piece with a soft eraser and remove any marks I may have left on the page. It's also important to note that I set the layer's blending mode to 'Multiply'. This removes the white from the layer and leaves your pencil marks so you can work underneath them. Blending modes can be found in the dropdown menu above your layers palette which will say 'Normal' if you haven't changed it yet.

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine


Once I had done this for each of the band members, I brought them all together into one huge canvas and messed around with various paint splatters and watercolor scans, as well as the cover artwork of the Johannesburg skyline. I would love to answer any questions you may have, so feel free to get in contact.

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

Wrestlerish Album Artwork Case Study by Chris Valentine

For more information about Chris Valentine visit his site at and follow his Twitter at

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Abduzeedo is a blog about design. There are all sorts of articles for those who want to look for inspiration. Also you will find very useful tutorials for the most used applications out there, with a special selection of Photoshop Tutorials and Illustrator Tutorials.

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