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.


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:



About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
This entry was posted in JOB EXAMPLES, TECHNICAL INFORMATION and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s