'A Story for You': Process of a Custom Illustrated Book

'A Story for You': Process of a Custom Illustrated Book

March 04, 2016 0 Comments

Happy to share this custom project I finished in January for the sweetest couple's engagement :) First, a video of the entire book:



Towards the end of last year, someone contacted me to see if I could help him with a special commission. His name was David and he wanted to propose to his girlfriend Cally :) They had been dating for a few years, went through several cross-country moves together, and he was ready to ask her to marry him :3 (sorry, there may be many girly emojis throughout this post). We discussed various ideas  before deciding to go all out and make a custom illustrated book from scratch. Yay!

You can also find a slideshow of all the pages in the Gallery section here.


We worked on the wording together and I storyboarded it from there. I asked him for photo references as well as any inside jokes or personal touches I could incorporate. They are things no one else will really think twice about but I thought Cally would appreciate. There's everything from places they've traveled  to a Yoda hat to Hello Kitty to very specific funny faces (I especially liked the one of her with her arm over her head, no idea what they're doing but they're cute).

Storyboard sketches are very rough but give a good direction for the end result. 

The words are:

It started with a smile, a little spark of hope,
it's a dream that began the moment we spoke.
Memories of us laughing, and the few times we cried,
are just the beginning of the story in my mind.

I see us with kids and a place to call home,
to know that feeling you'll never be alone;
the places we've been, the places we'll go,
the future pasts we've yet to know.

Throughout it all, with each path we choose,
I'll know I'm lucky to live them with you.
So let's go, set sail, and start this journey.
But first, Cally, will you marry me?

Seeing the first sketch of their story was honestly very moving and dare I say made us emotional haha. Once it was good to go on his part I concentrated on the sailboat page to establish the overall coloring style for the whole book. It was the first page I finished and is one of my favorites. I kept it as a reference throughout the project to keep the color and styling consistent in the other pages.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 5.01.25 PM
I wanted to celebrate not just all the happy moments, but the challenges they'd overcome together too, including the prospect of long distance.

Once all the coloring was done, it was so rewarding to hear David say it exceeded all of his expectations ^^ Now it was time to make this book real. We had decided early on to have me handle the production part too so I could proof it and make sure the digital files were accurately translated into actual prints.


Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetI printed every page myself and proofed the colors at home before sending it in to get made into a book by Blurb. Always fun to see it go from digital to test print to final product...!

I used Blurb.com to create the custom printed book, selecting their wraparound hardcover and their premium Mohawk matte paper. Blurb provides thorough guidelines on their bleed/gutter/trim suggestions, as well as their color profiles. It turned out great on the first print (we had a specific deadline he wanted to propose on, so it was a little stressful!). The print quality is really beautiful.


Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetThis has a bit of a filter on it but the book pages really came out true to the colors my files.

The Proposal

I heard from David in February that he proposed and Cally said yes. yay! He said she actually didn't realize it was a book made just for her (or even that it was a proposal) until a few pages in, and then the tears started flowing as soon as it all sunk in. Aw... making people cry is my favorite ^^ Jk but kind of true. Good cry, of course.


Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetMy favorite part, future pasts.

I'm so happy for both of them, they are such a sweet couple. It was awesome working with David and having a stranger trust me to execute this very important thing for them makes me think: the internets is as awesome as it is scary.

(Also, just want to add as a girl, props to David! Such a sweet guy, and I'm not just saying that because I worked on this, just that any guy would put so much effort into his proposal, and the way he talked about how Cally is funny, down to earth, sweet, and such a good person, etc... not in an overly gushy way, just very genuine. People are always saying romance is dead but I disagree. It's that kind of simple but deep love story that gives you life. +1 for the guys.)


It made me think a lot about what I ultimately want to do too. As I mentioned on Instagram, I've been working on a series of short children's educational storybooks for a few months now. I always thought illustrating children's books would be my dream, and I do really enjoy it, but I realize I love making these very real, very personal grown-up stories come to life in picture book form too.

Cheers :)


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