It was very exciting for me to be a featured food artist in a quarterly issue for dpi magazine.

Being a commercial illustrator has been a perfect career for me. I have gotten used to crazy deadlines and slow stretches. When I am not working on an assignment, I love creating music. I feel blessed to have the freedom to do what I love.

I enjoyed illustrating many new Tillamook yogurt labels this year. It was interesting to do two different coffee labels for their Stumptown Yogurt flavor. Initially, the client wanted a hot coffee illustration. Later on, I did a second illustration with an iced Stumptown coffee version.

I have gotten satisfaction from experiences in my career where there wasn’t any monetary compensation. This post is an example of that.

I receive a lot of emails regarding participating in publications and contests. There’s usually a hefty printing fee involved. When I was contacted to participate in dpi Magazine’s quarterly journal, I almost deleted the message. But I hesitated and decided to consider it. I’m glad I did! 

Dear Judy Unger,

Hi, this is Pip, editor of dpi Magazine from Taiwan. Nice to contact you.

dpi magazine is preparing a quarterly about illustrative recipe and food illustration, we’re so impressed with your artwork. I’m writing to invite you to do an email-based interview with us. The interview is mainly about your food illustration artwork and your aesthetic concept.

Here is the published quarterly: art quarter

Kindly let me know if you accept the invitation. If you do, I’ll send you the interview questions and instructions for uploading the images.

Our readers will be very excited for your participation! Thank you very much for your time. I’m looking forward to your reply.

Regards, Pip

I wrote back to Pip and asked him to explain what the interview involved and whether there was any monetary compensation if I agreed to it.

Pip explained that I would receive a layout preview before publication. My only compensation would be receiving a single copy of the quarterly once it was published.

I was a little apprehensive because I had to upload 15 high res images. What if this were a scam?

Sometimes, I just go with my gut. I decided this was something I’d go with. I received the interview questions and actually had fun answering them.

This is the publication I was featured in.

I share below my interview.

Q1: Would you share something about yourself with us? Like your educational background, your homeland, your career, or anything you want to say.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in art in 1981 and have been a professional artist ever since. In 2010, I discovered my love for music and currently my passion is to record my original songs. I like to write inspirational stories, too. I have gone through some tragedy in my life, but now I am a happier person because I have followed my dreams. My art career sustains me and I am blessed to have many wonderful clients I enjoy working with.

Q2: What make(s) a great food illustration, depending on you? Is it the color, the composition, or anything else? What are your secrets to cook food illustrations?

I always make sure I have good photographic reference to work from. I shoot my own photos and make the food look as good as possible. With my paintings, I enhance the colors and contrast.

I aim to please my clients by showing them many options before I do final artwork. Sometimes that adds up to dozens of layouts. Designing the composition is much easier since I switched from line drawings to color layouts done on my computer.

Q3: What material, technique, or tools do you use when creating? Name their brands or specify their qualities if you have preferences.

I create my layouts on my computer using Photoshop. I lightly print my layout onto Arches Hot Press 140 lb. watercolor paper. I paint with Dr. Martin’s Dyes and add details with colored pencils, and occasionally acrylics.

My earlier paintings did not have a printed layout to follow. I sketched my line drawing with tracing paper and transferred the sketch to my watercolor paper.

I used a plastic film called Frisket to mask areas I am painting. Frisket helps keep everything sharp and clean.

Q4: What is the food illustration artwork you’ve ever done that makes you most proud? Could you tell us more about it?

My favorite painting is of a Snicker’s candy bar. It won an award at the Illustration West Exhibition through the Society of Illustrators, Los Angeles in 1992. Being presented with that award was very exciting for me.

Q5: Who are your clients, to name some?

I have worked with a lot of food companies in the United States and my work also is sold by several stock agencies worldwide. For the last five years, I’ve done close to 100 illustrations for Tillamook Dairy Company. My illustrations are also on Wallaby Yogurt. Those labels won an award for the 2016 Graphis Design Annual Competition. ( http://www.graphis.com/entry/fda1782c-8bef-421b-a74c-8fabdf3ce823/)

Q6: What are your tastes for foods? Do you have a favorite dish, or follow some special diet for any reason? Are you adventurous or conservative when ordering from a menu? Do you like exotic foods and which are?

I love to eat and recently lost a lot of weight by cutting back on carbs. I eat a lot of protein, fruits, salads and vegetables. Nothing really exotic and I don’t eat bread anymore. I used to love cheese, chocolate and coffee. But I feel so wonderful and healthy now, so I’m not missing them as much.

Q7: What’s the impression you want to give your audience by your food illustration?

I am a passionate musician – I give my heart to my audience because I can share my feelings that way. But in the art realm, it’s different. My focus is to please only the art director and client. Hopefully, people will like my work – but it’s my job and not the same thing for me as composing and recording music.

Q8: Do you taste the foods before illustrating them? Does their taste influence your works? How?

I never taste my foods because I use all kinds of strange ways to make them look better. I will use glue instead of milk and recently used “fake ice cubes” for an iced coffee illustration. I do pick the best looking fruits I can, but always am grateful as an artist that I can fix things up to look as perfect as possible. I do like adding water droplets to make fruit more interesting and appealing. Corn syrup is a good tool to use for that!

Q9: Do you enjoy cooking? Do you think there are some relation between being a good cook and a good food illustrator?

I don’t think they are related – I do think it’s important to be a good food stylist. That’s different than being a good cook. It’s important to know how to compose what is being photographed.

As an illustrator, I am designing the painting to fit on a certain part of the label. Good reference is important, so sometimes I have to look in magazines or on the Internet for inspiration if my photos aren’t good enough. Recently, I bought a raspberry plant just so I could have good leaves to look at.

I cook occasionally. I have two sons that live with me and they love it when I cook for them!

Part 2 Eat with illustrator
Please answer the following questions:
Q1: Where is your hometown? What’s the representative food there?
A1: I grew up in Los Angeles. There are many kinds of foods here – I can’t say what this city represents.
Q2: Where do you live now? Could you recommend your favorite restaurant there for us?
A2: I love Japanese Food. There’s a restaurant named Musashi that is in Northridge, CA. They have wonderful Teppan style cooking.
Q3: What’s your signature dish? Could you introduce it for us?
A3: My signature dish might be an omelet with sautéed mushrooms, onions and cheese.
Q4: What’s the most wonderful food you’ve ever tasted in your memory?
A4: I remember enjoying a wonderful chocolate walnut pie.

This is just one of my favorite illustrations!

When I received the quarterly a few months later, I was so glad I had participated. The printing was phenomenal and I was given a 8-page spread. I remember paying thousands of dollars for printed promotion.

This definitely was a fantastic opportunity to share my artwork.

Even though the interview wasn’t in English, I appreciated the lovely design layout incorporating my images. I share the pages below.

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When I began working as a food illustrator in 1981, my biggest concern was how to prevent major changes to my watercolor illustrations. It was very stressful to meet tight deadlines and having to changes something afterwards was incredibly frustrating (if not almost impossible).

Other than cutting up my paintings, prevention became the key. I learned to create tight marker layouts that would give clients a close example of how the final art might look. I hoped without any surprises that my illustrations would be accepted. Even with a tight layout there were sometimes changes, but with anything major I was paid an additional fee.

I have to admit though, that honing swift marker technique skills was handy because it ended up working as a final technique in some instances.

The digital age has definitely made things easier for me. It is much faster and I’m able to create photo-comp layouts that clearly indicate how the final art will look. I still chuckle remembering when one of my clients said my layout looked like a hostage note! It was because I cut up photos with an exacto knife and glued everything together.

I save about 50% of the hours I used to spend painting my illustrations. Instead of tracing my photo reference and transferring the drawing to my watercolor paper, I print a very light rendition of my photo-comp layout onto Arch’s 140 lb. hot-press watercolor paper.

That becomes my under-painting. I work over my print as much as possible to reduce the chance of seeing any pixilation. Adding colored pencil and acrylic for texture and highlights helps with that, too.

If I don’t like one area on my painting, it’s very easy to begin again. I can also simply paint that area on another print and bring it into my final digital scan later on.

With a lot of experimentation, I’ve learned that the print values are very important. There has to be just enough detail without too much ink. The transparent dye washes look great as an overlay if the print is done correctly.

I own an Epson inkjet printer and printing on watercolor paper can be tricky. Many times, I’ve had my printer serviced because the paper wouldn’t feed into it.

Sometimes I’ve wondered, am I less of an artist because I am relying on the computer? I’ve decided to go back to my motto of “Whatever Works.” In the end, the fact that my clients are happy is my answer. I also appreciate the speed of this digital process. Finishing a project quickly allows me to have time for other things in my life!

Last year I worked on a project that clearly demonstrates this evolved technique of mine. So I’m going to share it here.

A close-up of my final painting.

When I received a seasonal packaging project for Diamond Nuts I had to promise I could meet a ridiculous 5-day deadline. After struggling to agree to that, the creative director congratulated me for being the artist chosen. Ironically, I was then left waiting and wondering when the project would begin. A week later, I checked in with the art director and was told, “The client isn’t sure your work is realistic enough.”

My illustrations for Azar Nuts were done in 2005. They were my first illustrations utilizing my digital print painting technique.

I sent off samples of nut illustrations I had done for Azar Nuts. A few days later, the project began and thankfully, the deadline was no longer five days!

This was my layout to follow.

The client told me to carefully follow the approved a layout above. I would be painting two illustrations: Walnut and Mixed Nuts. The nuts were in a wooden bowl on a table with a window background. The leaves in the bowl looked awkward to me, but the art director said the client wanted them for additional color.

As always, gathering reference was my first step. It seemed simple to go buy the nuts, which were different from the assortment on my approved layout. After I went shopping, I had some questions.

Which pecan?

I discovered that the pecans I purchased in separate bags of raw mixed nuts came in different colors. I sent the photo above to find out which pecan I was supposed to use. The art director responded by sending me an example of another type of pecan with striations. I was able to create them by digitally by altering the color and adding streaks to the pecans I had.

These were the ones the client wanted.

Finding a nutcracker and bowls was my next step. I went shopping and sent photo choices to the art director.

This shows how the nuts in the smaller wooden bowl became fewer and larger than my layout.

I found several wooden bowls, but they were significantly bigger or smaller than the one in my layout. After much searching, I decided I’d have to photograph the nuts in a different bowl of the correct size. I’d digitally insert my photo-reference into a wooden bowl later on.

This plastic bowl was just the right size for the nuts.

I purchased several nutcrackers but it turned out that the one I owned, (which was old and tarnished) was the winner. I thought it was an improvement over the one in the layout, which was also for cracking open seafood.

These were the nutcracker choices.

This is one of my layouts showing a shinier nutcracker. It came a week later because I ordered it from an online catalog. The client still preferred my older one.

There were five rounds of layouts and I also showed many different background choices. The layouts were cropped using a template overlay, but I made sure there was a lot of bleed for the final artwork.

Even though I worked with photo reference, I didn’t follow any one photo and added nuts where they might work better. I also inserted or removed leaves as necessary.

Lighting for my illustration was crucial. On the layout, the nut bowl was strongly lit from the background window on the left. When I shot my photo reference, I used a spotlight to create that same look.

Because the illustrations were to be used on seasonal holiday packaging, the client wasn’t sure what background landscape they wanted. After sending images with snow, pine trees and fall colors – an autumn background was chosen.

These are examples of background choices.

While I was waiting for the window background to be decided upon, I actually began working on the final paintings for the nuts since they were already approved.

Once I had the best print to worth with, I lightly moistened the back and stapled it to a board. I kept a fully saturated reference photo next to me while I worked, as well as the real nuts.

In this example, the bowl had not been painted yet.

For my illustration, I used friskit (removable plastic film) and meticulously cut around each nut. The process of cutting the friskit with an exacto knife scored the paper. When paint reached those cuts, it created a delicate outline that I felt enhanced my illustration.

This example shows me painting one of the last nuts on my illustration.

Below are the final illustrations without the window background.

For the autumn background, my style was far less realistic. I painted and scanned the window frame separately so I could have more flexibility to shift the background in different ways. Below are the final illustrations with the background inserted.

I haven’t posted much for over a year to share technical information. Some of this is because my last two clients required me to sign non-disclosure agreements.

I’m glad I could describe my illustration process with my two Diamond Nut label illustrations. I’m even going to share a copy of my signed estimate (minus the agency information).

It’s been over a year since this job was completed and I never did see it on store shelves. I tried to contact the art director and she was no longer with the agency. Another designer told me it might never be reproduced.

That actually happens quite often in this business!

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Being open are two simple words that have had a huge impact on my life.

In 2010, I created Illustrating My Life during a time that I consider my “rebirth.” After decades of suppressing my feelings, I rediscovered my love for writing and music. Those outlets of expression gave me joy I never expected.

At this time in my life, I freely share my heart but I was not always that way. Sadly, I can recall two instances in my past where I was influenced by competitiveness.

I lost a special friendship with a fellow artist/mentor when I discouraged her from contacting my agent (she asked me if it was okay). I thought she might compete with me for assignments and told her so.

And even though I freely shared my techniques as an art instructor, when one of my students appeared to be a clone of mine, I told him that his work was too similar.

There was nothing about those two examples that benefitted me. I was actually heartsick for years and filled with regret. But I moved on and learned from it.

This is an example of a digital illustration that was created from existing art.

During the time I created this blog, I truly thought my art career was over. Work had been slow for a long time. I really couldn’t work much either, because I was a caregiver for my parents and also had three challenging teenagers. I was overwhelmed.

Whenever I had time, writing for my blog became my therapy. I meticulously scanned almost every one of my original paintings, as well as attachments and marker layouts from past assignments.

In order to clean up those scans, I taught myself how to use Photoshop and gradually became a digital artist. Being open to learning the computer was an important step for me.

Shortly after I began this blog, I remember when my elderly father came into my art studio. I was working on one of my illustration blog posts and he asked me why I was working so hard on something that had no monetary compensation. My former husband repeatedly said the same thing and suggested that my artwork would simply be downloaded and stolen.

At that time, I had no answer for such closed up thinking. I did know that what I was sharing was valuable to me personally. I loved how I felt when I wrote because it gave me such an expansive feeling.

Later on, the answer did come back to me.

My blog went high up in the search engines because it had substantial views. In turn, this enabled many art directors to discover me, which led to new assignments. My career took off again and it wasn’t over after all.

Beyond receiving income as an artist, the connections I made with people who found my blog were so inspiring.

For me, that was priceless!

This is my first post in 18 months and I’ve missed writing for “Illustrating My Life.” I plan to write another new post following this one soon, it will be filled with a lot of information and images.

I would love to share stories about my recent jobs but more and more clients have required me to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Just last week, I was wondering when I would receive another illustration assignment because I hadn’t worked for several months.

I turned my thoughts and energy into being open – that was my alternative to feeling worry or pressure. I took a deep breath and gently told myself I was very open to receiving an illustration assignment.

The next day, I awoke to find a lovely message from an artist in Barcelona. She told me how helpful my blog was to her and then a few hours later, I received a large assignment from Tillamook (one of my favorite clients).

I’m going to share a link to my new artist friend’s website and our exchange. I think it’s very inspiring!

On Mar 20, 2017, at 5:01 AM, Miriam Figueras wrote:

Hello Judy,

My name is Miriam and I am an illustrator from Barcelona, Spain. I have a passion for food and my style is realistic. Somehow, browsing through the Internet looking for new ways to improve and contact clients, I found your website.

I was really impressed by your work and approach. I also found all your explanation about the business at your blog Illustrating My Life so illuminating, especially about your style and approaching clients. I am at the beginning of my journey as an illustrator after 10 years of working as a graphic designer so I really appreciate any tips I read on the subject.

That is why I wanted to thank you and send some appreciation from Barcelona!

All the best,

Miriam Figueras, Graphic Artist & Illustrator

Hi Miriam,

I’ve been thinking about what you wrote to me all morning. I just don’t know how to thank you! I am honored to think that I influenced you all the way in Barcelona. Wow!

When I wrote my blog, I thought like my career was over. It felt so good to share everything I’d learned. And then it was such a nice surprise when work came pouring in. It seemed that sharing brought me a lot of new clients and was helpful for people to find me.

I’m also very passionate about music and songwriting – so that is what I spend most of my time doing.

I wish you much luck! I looked at your website and from what I saw, you are heading in a wonderful direction. 🙂

Have a great day!



On Mar 21, 2017, at 2:58 AM, Miriam Figueras wrote:

Hello again Judy,

I was so happy to read your response! It warms my heart to see such a positive effect of an appreciative message from another continent 🙂 Also, your story and journey with your blog is really inspiring, as I said, and full of hope so it is me who really feels grateful.

I understand the current client situation but I believe there are a lot of great posts for me to read still 🙂 I listened to your music, which I hadn’t yet appreciated and I find it very soulful. That is a great passion! I love music, too.

Thank you also for checking and following my FB page! I still have a lot to work but I will remember and treasure your words of encouragement.

All the best, Miriam

Hi Miriam,

Your message had me smiling all day. Thank you for listening to my music – I am honored. That’s wonderful that you love music, too.

Yesterday was really a special day that brought me back to art. I received your message and then my favorite client that I haven’t worked with for almost a year called me. I am receiving an assignment with 6 illustrations starting next week!

I just had to share that with a fellow artist. It is so nice to get work and perhaps you brought me luck with your lovely message. 

Keep going and you are going to go far, Miriam!



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Yogurt 1 Yogurt 3 Yogurt 4 Yogurt 2

Chai & Nectarine in Progress

My illustrations adorn at least thirty labels of yogurt for Tillamook Dairy Company.

To share my work process, I’m going to go through my steps creating an illustration for one of those labels. I’ve chosen Chai Latte Greek Yogurt (which is delicious, by the way).

I share my “photo shoot” at my dining room table.

This is my “photo shoot” done at my dining room table.

Here were my instructions:

  1. Use a clear mug
  2. Foamy milk, with light sprinkles of cinnamon, should rest on top of the tea.
  3. Cardamom, star anise and cinnamon sticks should surround the mug.

When I send layouts to my clients, I label each batch with the title of “Round 1, 2, 3″ etc. An illustration usually requires at least four rounds before it becomes finalized. A complicated illustration can take even more rounds than that. If changes are drastic after I’ve done a lot of layouts, I ask for an additional fee.

Usually subsequent rounds involve very minor changes as a chosen layout is developed.

For Round 1 of Chai Latte Greek Yogurt, I gave the art director 10 choices of compositions. I didn’t bother to isolate elements on my photos yet; since I wasn’t sure which direction the illustration would go in.

The art director chose two of my photos. I share feedback from the art director with the images that were chosen.

Cup C refCup H refCup C feedback

Cup H feedback

I ended up brewing more chai and taking more pictures because the tea didn’t fill the cup high enough. Although I could have tweaked my reference, my illustrations are always better when my reference is natural and accurate. My photos came out much better because now I was an expert at swirling the whipped topping I used. I was much more careful sprinkling the cinnamon, too!

I created a new layout for Round 2 and the feedback follows that layout below:

Chai Label R2 More Feedback Round 2 Chai

Feedback Round 2 Chai

Once I made the changes requested, the final layout was approved. I was ready to move on to finalizing my illustration.

At this stage, I am ready to create a print that I work over with pencils and watercolor.

Chai in Progress

The process of working with colored pencils and paint over my art print serves a purpose – it makes the final illustration more like art and less like a photo. I can admit that there are times when I prefer my layout to the final version. If that happens, I might digitally copy the areas that I prefer and use them for the final art instead.

This is so ironic because for most of my career I worked very hard to make my watercolor paintings look like photos. They were all done without a computer. I began with a white piece of paper and  transferred a sketch using graphite paper.

Now it was the reverse – I utilize my own photos and turn them into something that looks more like an illustration.

Chai Final Art

Below are close-ups of the final art.

Chai Latte close up 1

I used a crow quill to create tiny lines on the cinnamon stick.

Chai Latte close up

Many of the other yogurt flavors that I illustrated were simpler than Chai Latte because I was able to modify older artwork. But I’d say that the toughest flavor was Marion Berry.

I had many varieties of reference, but none that really matched what my client wanted. Below were some of the many layouts of berries that I sent:Marion Berry Layouts

I wished I had actual berries to look at. Eventually, the art director sent reference to guide me. It was very important that the berries were accurately depicted. Now I was on a better track to pleasing my client!

Untitled Marion Berry

When Tillamook added a line of Greek Yogurt Parfaits, I received a huge box with the many different varieties of granola. It was hard not to snack on it while working – another diet diversion, unfortunately.

I received directions with rough sketches and went to work using digital photos and existing art for the berries.


Yogurt Granola direction Yogurt Granola direction 1

Each flavor of granola had specific characteristics. It was very important for me to indicate the variation of color and textures between flavors. For example, Honey Oat granola was clumped. And the Vanilla Coconut granola had delicate curls of coconut, which had to be very visible.

This time, it was easy to create a version that included Marion berries. Below is an example of one of my layouts.


Below are the final illustrations:
4 Yogurt granola flavorsBlueberry Almond Final ArtCherries Almond Final Art

One of the great things about illustrating a line of labels – is that I receive consistent projects later on as new flavors are added. Two recent yogurt labels that I did were Pear and Plum.

Pear Final Art Plum Final Art


My pear layouts show how the chosen “C” layout” had more consistent shadows on the final illustration. The leaf on the bottom left was also eliminated.

My pear layouts show how the chosen “C” layout” had more consistent shadows on the final illustration. The leaf on the bottom left was also eliminated.

All of these illustrations are tempting me now to go eat lunch. However, there is no comparing that temptation to when I was illustrating Tillamook’s scrumptuous ice cream treats!

© Judy Unger and http://www.foodartist@wordpress.com 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Coconut samplesFive years ago, I named one of my posts “I Started Out Flakey and Then I Went Nuts. It was because I had illustrated an entire line of cereal boxes and mixed nut labels for Publix Supermarkets.

Well, I seriously considered naming this post as Part Two: “I Started Out Flakey and Then I Went “Coco”nuts!”

That’s because I am going to share the process of illustrating a Tillamook ice cream bar with a coconut flake coating.

Both coconut versions

I decided to go with my first title about transformation instead.

trans·form (verb)

trans·formed, trans·form·ing, trans·forms) altering, change something dramatically, convert something to different energy

I have often described my mid-life turning point as my transformation. It felt like a perfect description of how I became a completely different person when I embraced writing and music at the age of fifty.

But I also transformed my artistic skills when I went from being a water-colorist to becoming a digital artist. And transformation in Photoshop is very important for what I do.

I usually take photos of what I’m illustrating. Good reference makes a big difference to my artwork.

I usually take photos of whatever I’m illustrating. Good reference makes a big difference to my artwork.

I’ve illustrated six flavors of Tillabars and four “Tillamookie” ice cream sandwiches for Tillamook.

Of all the ice cream bars I illustrated for Tillamook, the “Coconut Punch” flavor was probably the most difficult. Anything with a white coating is tough; it must be light to be appealing, but have enough tone to be seen. Add to that a textured coconut coating, and I had a challenging assignment.

I was actually paid to create two versions of this ice cream flavor, one with a smooth coating and the other with a coating that had coconut flakes embedded in the white chocolate.

The reason for having me do two illustrations, was that my client wanted to have an illustration ready to print once the formula was chosen. At that time it was still in development.

Because I had already illustrated other flavors of bars, I knew the general layout and design for my artwork. I began my illustration with an ingredient list as follows:

  1. Coconut Punch Ingredients: (orange, pineapple, cherry) sorbet core, coconut ice cream outer, white chocolate coating (possibly with coconut flakes).

For the fruit, I had many decisions to make. The orange and pineapple could be cut into a chunk or a slice. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to show the rind on the pineapple. I wondered whether to pair the cherries or not.

Figuring out how to crack open a fresh coconut was another story!

Then I became a “white chocolate curl master.” I purchased slabs of white chocolate and learned that some white chocolate is more yellow than others.

White Chocolate choices

After gathering the foreground ingredients, I went to buy white-chocolate coated ice cream bars in the supermarket. I also brought home a few boxes of bars with pink centers so I’d have reference for the fruit punch sorbet core that I also needed to illustrate. I would be able to combine my photos.

This is an example of one of my photos used for the “D” layout.

This is an example of one of my photos used for the “D” layout. 

My photo-comp process always begins by picking the best photos and creating a white background. I also isolate separate objects so that I can move things around.

Below are some of my layouts. The bottom three (G, H and I) represent “Round 2” where one layout was selected and further developed.All Layouts Coco punch

My abilities were challenged with the Coconut Punch bar that had the coating with coconut flakes in it.

I couldn’t buy anything because there weren’t any bars at the market that had this kind of coating. But Tillamook was nice enough to send me a dark photo of a prototype bar made in a kitchen at their factory. I was relieved because the light source would work for what I wanted to do.

Bar photo reference

So this is a perfect opportunity to share how digitally “transforming” my reference worked on this illustration.

Selecting the barFirst, I “selected” (Photoshop term) only the bar area. There are many types of selection tools available and I used one called a “magnetic lasso.” It is visible as a black and white broken line and moves around the selected area.The isolated bar

A box appears around the selected area and it allows me to drag it to another place. But that bar coating still needed work and had to be transformed further to fit my layout.

There are many transforming choices available – I chose “warp.” I rotated, flipped and pulled the shape into the dimensions that were closer to the bar I wanted to super-impose it over. I had an outline on another layer to serve as a guide.Transforming the bar

Once I had the shape I wanted, I lightened that layer and adjusted the color.

Now all I had to do was to position that layer over the smooth bar. I temporarily changed the opacity level so that I could “see through” the layer, which made it easier to position. But sometimes I will leave a layer slightly transparent for effect.Adding the layer

I refined my illustration further in Photoshop by using a digital airbrush and eraser. Wallah! I had a bar with a coconut coating!Coco-Punch Revised Back art

There is a “Punch” line to my story about illustrating this Coconut Punch bar for Tillamook.

A month after I completed my illustration, I was contacted by the art director. It turned out that now that the Coconut Punch flavor was formulated, the coconut coating was slightly transparent and the punch sorbet was visible below it. The art director hoped I could find a way to show that.

Well, with my digital process it wasn’t a problem. I created a translucent pink layer and delicately erased it in.

Problem solved!

I end this post about transformation with two words (and not those ones above).

These other two words summarize something I’ve believed and followed throughout my art career and in life. They are:

WHATEVER WORKS!Revised coco punch bar

© Judy Unger and http://www.foodartist@wordpress.com 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Tillabars 3BTillabars 3A

Working with ice cream, chocolate and caramel can challenge any diet.

Working with ice cream, chocolate and caramel can challenge any diet.

I love puns and did raise the bar up to take a bite! For this post, I share what went into creating my illustrations of ice cream bars (Tillabars) for Tillamook Dairy Company. I’ll add to my story with lots of pictures and comments, too.

Sometimes my layout template is for another flavor, but my client still gets the idea. This photo-comp obviously was not Salted Caramel.

Sometimes my layout template is for another flavor, but my client still gets the idea. This photo-comp obviously was not Salted Caramel.

Here is my layout for Salted Caramel!

Here is my layout for Salted Caramel!

On my assignment for the Tillamook Tillabars, I created two illustrations per flavor just as I did for the Tillamookies. The front illustration had ingredients and on the back illustration the bar was upright. And both of them had a bite removed.

This bar already has white frost on it.

This bar already has white frost on it.

I already knew I had to take photos quickly. When the Art Director said the bars were grayish, I didn’t realize the impact frost had upon the chocolate coating. So on my later photos I experimented and discovered that wiping the bar off with a wet paper towel worked well. It took courage, especially because making one with a “good bite” was an art. Sometimes I went through a dozen bars before I made one my “hero.” Wiping it off could destroy everything.Vanilla Tillabar photo and comp

Taking a bite off might seem simple, but it was a little more complicated than that!

This shows how using a knife just wasn’t convincing. But I did wipe off the frost!

This shows how using a knife just wasn’t convincing. But I did wipe off the frost! (It’s even starting to come back)

I had thought that taking a nice bite out of a bar would be easy. But every time I chomped down, the chocolate coating splintered in many directions and the bar wasn’t very attractive that way. And because I was dealing with ice cream, the bite had to be done quickly. A knife didn’t work either because I lost that “teeth mark” feeling. But big teeth marks weren’t attractive either!

This one had nice jagged edges, but those teeth marks on the ice cream are too pronounced.

This one had nice jagged edges, but those teeth marks on the ice cream are too pronounced.

This was a good bite, but the chocolate is too rounded from my sculpting. It does need a few more jagged edges to look like a real bite.

This was a good bite, but the chocolate is too rounded from my sculpting. It does need a few more jagged edges to look like a real bite.

At this point, I have to give my daughter a little credit. She heard me cursing out loud because it wasn’t going too well. I had already gone through a dozen ice cream bars and only had a few more bars left. 

She came into the kitchen and watched me for a moment. (Yes, she did snack on a few of those “extra” pieces, but there weren’t too many left). Her suggestion that I use an exacto knife was brilliant. She suggested I use it not to remove the bite, only to gently “score” where I wanted the chocolate to break off.

I did that and it worked! The chocolate separated nicely and the ice cream showed the bite well.

This bite wasn’t bad; filling in the missing part on the back was easy to do.

This bite wasn’t bad; filling in the missing part on the back with Photoshop was easy to do.

White chocolate posed it’s own challenges. On a side note, I cannot believe how ugly the color is on that lemon slice.

White chocolate posed it’s own challenges. On a side note, I cannot believe how ugly the color is on that lemon slice.

Poof! I can make my milk chocolate reference into dark chocolate with the magic of Photoshop.

Poof! I can make my milk chocolate reference into dark chocolate with the magic of Photoshop.

My first Tillabar illustration was for the Salted Carmel flavor. At that time, the bar was still in development and did not yet exist. I was able to use other ice creams bars as temporary reference until I’d receive specific guidance later on. The Tillamook ice cream bar had a bulge at the top and was more oval. I creatively figured out how to digitally insert the caramel ripples. 

I received this excellent information from the art director to get started.

I received this excellent information from the art director to get started. Clicking on this makes it larger.

I started with the illustration on the front of the package; my art direction listed the ingredients. I wanted to give Tillamook many options for those ingredients with my photo-comp layouts. 

Trying to figure out how to show the chocolate and caramel was kind of fun. With the chocolate (which was actually eliminated later on), it meant breaking chocolate bars, chiseling chocolate chunks and delicately peeling chocolate curls. I also never realized how many shapes caramel came in!

Tillabar Salted Caramel First Layout

When I submit a photo-comp, I like to show two versions: one has a white background and the other is inserted into a label template showing how it fits. I spent a week creating those first layouts, and that included gathering ingredients and taking photos. 

Once again, I learned an important life lesson that less is more. I did all of those versions only to be told that my client wanted a significantly higher perspective. This meant I had to reshoot all of my photos and start again. 

I was happy to satisfy my client and it didn’t take me very long to create the new versions. The art direction was terrific, as always. I share some of the helpful feedback I received.

Tillabar reshoot Salted Caramel front feedback

These are my revised layouts with the higher perspective. I also added salt to the caramel.

These are my revised layouts with the higher perspective. I also added salt to the caramel.

Below is my final layout after the chocolate pieces were taken out.

This is my final photo-comp layout in position, not the final illustration.

This is my final photo-comp layout in position, not the final illustration.

Working digitally has so many advantages. I was able to send a scan of my illustration in progress. The client wanted the caramel to be brighter so I had to print a new version (for my colored pencil process) in order to make that change.

This is the final art.

This is the final art.

Once the Salted Caramel flavor was completed, it cleared the way for later flavors that I illustrated. Now I could follow the same ice cream bar angle and balance of accompanying ingredients.

Soon to follow is another post, which will explain more details about my digital process on another Tillabar flavor. “I raised the bar” and transformed it!

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Gelato Layouts Tillabar Raspberry Front Art Lemonlilla layouts Tillabar Lemonilla front artDirection for Lemonilla Moochalatte layouts Tillabar Mocha front artDirection for Mocha Latte Vanilla Tillabar Layouts Tillabar Vanilla front artDirection for Vanilla

© Judy Unger and http://www.foodartist@wordpress.com 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Now that I am back posting on this blog after four years, I am eager to share some of the recent projects I have done for the Tillamook Dairy Company. 

Layers are a part of my life in so many ways. I love writing, music and art. Currently, all of my creative passions overlap just like layers. 

As a professional illustrator who works with Photoshop, layers are very important when I’m digitally illustrating. 

And for my Tillamookie Ice Cream Sandwich project, ice cream, chocolate and cookie layers were critical for my client, too!

I take this opportunity to really share my “photo-comp” process when I illustrated those unique and crunchy Tillamookies.

This is a partial screenshot from my Purchase Order.

This is a partial screenshot from my Purchase Order.

When I received the project I was asked this question. “Judy, have you ever tasted an ice cream sandwich that was crunchy, not soggy?” 

I had to admit, I hadn’t. That was when I learned a new word: enrobing. 

Enrobing was a coating of chocolate on the waffle cookie that provided a barrier to the ice cream’s moisture. And Tillamook wanted the back package illustrations to clearly explain this.

Waffle cookies diagonal

I’ll begin with those back package illustrations. 

The package design for them wasn’t set. Tillamook wanted layers that were clearly labeled and one idea was to simply show each one in a row. 

I learned right away how different the waffle cookie looked when it was angled, instead of “tic-tac-toe.” The lighting on it was one thing and there were a lot of color variations to consider: golden brown, ochre, tan, beige etc.

Tillamookie back package horiz layouts

The “side-by-side” layout was not chosen and the art director (AD) gave me a new template showing the layers in a diagonal. Below was my next round of layouts. I still wasn’t sure which cookie was going to be chosen.

Tillamookie back package angled layouts

The AD wanted the dark chocolate “enrobing” to look better. It was challenging to imagine how that chocolate actually looked, since my prototype cookies did not come apart cleanly to really show the chocolate. 

The AD sent me a photo to inspire me.

Tillamook's chocolate

That sent me into my kitchen. I melted chocolate and made my first chocolate pancake! My son was eager to know when he could eat my reference.

Chocolate Pancake

With the magic of Photoshop and the “warp transform” function – I made that chocolate pancake photo above rounder and also smoothed out the lumps. I shot off some choices to the art director.

Chocolate Layer choices

The AD chose D; I guess it was better without the pronounced swirl in the center. Now Tillamook requested another layout with chocolate layers included separately, so it would consist of five layers.

Five layers

After seeing the layout above, the client went back to the prior layout of just three layers. There were a few more rounds of “tweaking” and then my layouts were approved.

Below are the final illustrations. I used the same illustrated waffle cookie and chocolate coating for every flavor.

Tillamookie Choc Covered Strawberry Final Back Package Revision 3 Tillamookie Vanilla Bean Final Back Package Tillamookie Choc Chip Mint Final Back Package Tillamookie Choc Hazelnut Gelato Final Back Package Revision 3

There were a lot of revisions for the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato flavor. The gelato was very sticky and didn’t contrast well with the chocolate layer next to it. 

I share one of my reference photos. I guess it would help if I knew more about being a food stylist. I couldn’t figure out how to pull apart/separate that cookie sandwich. I tried every kind of way. When I used a knife, it clearly left a “scraped” imprint upon the gelato. But I figured out a way to illustrate it anyway.

Gelato Photo Cut

That flavor was a challenge when I illustrated it for the front package, too.

Hazelnut Gelato Layouts Round 1

The front package illustrations were more interesting for me to illustrate. I enjoyed composing the ingredients on the left side. 

This becomes another opportunity to mention my “whatever works” motto. In order to help me create my design, I sometimes combine older painted artwork and photos together. It can look strange, but my final art “pencil process” usually pulls everything together. 

After receiving the Round 1 Layouts, the art director said the gelato looked like it was melting. So before moving on to Round 2, I had to fix that. Reshooting the prototype sandwich wasn’t going to work because even with refreezing, the gelato was still very shiny. 

I developed “A” and “B” by using my existing reference and softening the highlights. On “C,” I sculpted new gelato purchased at the market.

Gelato choices

The AD liked “A.”

There was another important change for every Tillamookie flavor that can be seen on subsequent rounds. The client wanted to show the ice cream fuller and rounded, as if the sandwich were pressed on. I experimented with a curve on each side, but more was requested.

The client wanted the enrobing to be visible on the top horizontal cookie layer; a slight dark line is there to show that. The enrobing was also enhanced on the back cookie, as well. This was another benefit to using an illustrator versus a photographer!

Hazelnut Gelato Layouts Round 2

I share Round 2 feedback from the art director below:

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT GELATO ROUND 2 FEEDBACK: The ice cream looks great! Option G is the approved option but they feel the composition is a bit busy – this may be that every element is about the same size. They made comments that we might not need the opened hazelnut – maybe try a composition where the open hazelnut is removed and all the ingredients move over, and try another that plays with the scale of the existing elements.

I followed those directions for Round 3; layout “I” was approved!

Hazelnut Gelato Layouts Round 3

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato Tillamookie

It has been fun sharing my working process. I’ll include a few of the other flavors with layouts to end this post.

Mint Choc Chip - First layout Mint Choc Chip - Later layouts

Chocolate Chip Mint Tillamookie Vanilla Bean Layouts

Vanilla Bean Tillamookie Strawberry Tillamookie Rd. 1 layouts

OREGON STRAWBERRY ROUND 1 FEEDBACK: The ice cream color should be less pink. Also, can we add more strawberry chunks into the ice cream for the final illustration? Could you play with the ingredient composition a bit more? It’s looking a bit empty with the space being open between the strawberry and the right-hand cookie – could you add another piece of chocolate? A smaller strawberry? Move the composition over to the right?

Strawberry Tillamookie Rd. 2 layouts

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Tillamookie

My Tillamookie Prototypes

Above are the reference photos of the Tillamookie “prototypes” (I received two of each flavor), made for me personally  by Tillamook.

My son came by as I was putting this post together. He saw the layouts on my computer screen and eagerly said , “Mom, are you illustrating more Tillamookie flavors? That would be great because I can’t wait to taste them!” 

His mom has such a cool job!

Pulling apart the Tillamookie

By the time I was done photographing those “prototype” Tillamookies, they didn’t look very appetizing. But my son said they were still quite delicious!

© Judy Unger and http://www.foodartist@wordpress.com 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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