The Creative Process Behind an Intergalactic Inspired Illustration

The Creative Process Behind an Intergalactic Inspired Illustration

Sarah Arista, an Illustrator and Animator, completed her Digital Animation Major in Malaysia's The One Academy. With a consistent passion for drawing throughout her studies, she's eager to share her workflow, using it to foster self-awareness and artistic connection.

Sarah Arista is a dedicated Illustrator and Animator who recently completed her Digital Animation major at The One Academy of Communication Design in Malaysia. Throughout her academic journey, she consistently made time for drawing, an activity close to her heart.

Sarah is excited to share her workflow on her latest project, acknowledging this as a valuable practice to enhance her self-awareness and deepen her connection with her artistic expressions.

In this article, Sarah presents her artwork that reflects her sources her inspiration and lessons learned along the way.

Idea Ignition

I’ll start with how my brain cells produce an idea. I discover fascinating things, I hyper fixate on those, then many ideas and mental collages start forming. This piece was inspired by outer space, retro-futurism, Roman gladiators, and a song which I took the title of the piece from!

I combined retro scifi artworks with armor designs of roman gladiators for the aesthetics of this project.

The song mentioned is Inexplicable by The Correspondents, which has an upbeat rhythm but existential lyrics. It talks about how one can want many things yet feel lost in life and how a lot of things are out of our control. It resonated with what I felt so much and I’m sure a lot of young people and artists too. Go take a listen, it’s a good song!


From those ideas and emotions, I start sketching. Equipped with references from Pinterest and the rest of the internet, I let my hand follow what my mind is imagining.

I use a red coloured hard brush as a reminder that this is not final yet so it’s alright for it to be imperfect.
Keeping a loose sketch gives the freedom to avoid stiffness when drawing, so the focus is in the bigger picture rather than the smaller details!
I rarely do detailed sketches except for drawing portraits.


After sketching, I move on to inking / line art. By putting the sketch on lower opacity, I use it as a rough guide to proceed furthermore with refinements and details. This stage is my absolute favorite! It’s really satisfying to transform the rough lines into a solid line art drawing.

Discovering comic book art styles from my love for DC Comics characters was a catalytic event; they motivated me to pursue drawing more passionately.

Notice how I use non-pressured lines? Amazing artists such as Kim Hu and Amalas Rosa are the inspirations for this style. I find drawing pressured lines is slower (I kept on redo-ing them because the tapers were not thick or thin enough) and pressing on the drawing tablet hurt my hand! (I even had to wear wrist support bands almost everyday in the past).


Base Colour

The next step is another exciting one! Selecting the colour schemes I wanna go with and lay down the base colours. I choose colours that are harmonious with each other based on basic colour theory, then apply contrasting colours for the main focuses of the drawing.

For this project I want the focus to be on the spaceman.


After laying down the base colours, I proceeded into rendering the rest of the drawing. Digital medium provides artists with so many tools to utilize from and that’s such a blessing!

I use blend modes in Photoshop a lot, they help make the process faster by having less layers to get lost in.

Most of the time this stage would take me the longest to wrap up. I would get curious about what would enhance the visuals better. Perhaps if I switch this colour to another? Or what if I make the whole thing cooler, hmm don’t think so, alright, maybe warmer? So on and so forth. The differences could vary from the very distinguishable to super subtle, such as only 2 pixel differences.

I believe even the smallest change can have a great impact (In some cases it's probably a not so good habit oops! I’m still learning to set a limit so I don’t lose my mind over some pixels.)

I would then upload many different versions to a cloud and open them on my phone, put it against the mirror and swipe between one version onto the next, go take a shower or hang out with friends and come back to do the same thing again to determine which version captures my attention the most.

The End of the Space Adventure

To add more to the atmosphere I created a simple loop using the tween function in Photoshop and add a space-y lo-fi music!

Music by nnaudio

One last thing I’d usually do is to add a little bit of chromatic aberration by applying the VR glitch effect in Premiere Pro (Even for still illustrations!).

With that said we’ve reached the end of the journey! One major lesson from this project is to appreciate your art process more, as it is a part of yourself as the creator. I keep on reminding myself to do so and it’s been helping me to perceive myself better as a person.

I say to myself: The drawing might not be as perfect as you wanted it to be but you have definitely been improving from last year and you know it very well that you will only keep improving!

Many Thanks!

Thank you so much for reading this blog until the very end, hopefully you’ve taken at least one positive meaning from it :) ! Stay creative, trust the process, and always persevere!

Thanks so much again to The Rookies for giving me the opportunity to write a behind the scenes of this project!

You can reach out to Sarah via her Rookies profile here.