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Workflow and Favorite Tools of a Digital Artist

Ekaterina Soyuznova, an Illustrator and Visual Development Artist, has shared the working process of a digital artist and talked about the importance of custom brushes in Photoshop.


My name is Ekaterina Soyuznova, I'm an Illustrator and Visual Development Artist working on live-action and animated films. I have worked as a Storyboard Artist on several award-winning productions, including the live-action short Distant, the live-action short Race, and the live-action short Stardust. I have also worked with such professionals as Kelly Clarkson, Joshua Roberts, and Natasha Sequeira.

I have been featured by several media outlets including Promax Awards, Animation World Network, Post Magazine, AnimationXpress, Broadway World, The Connector, Endless Ink Books, and Women and Hollywood.

Art was my truest friend since the day I was given watercolors and a piece of tile to do a drawing by scratching out the paint. I came into the digital world only 4 years ago, prior to that my main tools were ink, pencil, and acrylic and watercolor paint. I was and still am a huge fan of Allesandro Barbucci the creator of a very well-known W.I.T.C.H saga. But he was more of an inspiration for me, еhe style instead was influenced by everything around me, and my “style” keeps changing and evolving as life goes. 

Working Process

My process in work starts with a sketch. This stage offers me to explore crazy ideas and figure out the direction for the character and the background development. I start by opening up a Pinterest board, I dig through every single piece of information about the potential character and the environment, the character's interests, what the character looks like. I also look for features that are relevant and unique only to the character.

In the project done at the Ingenuity Studios, the research that went into developing characters and background aesthetics was tremendous. In order to build and coordinate the team, we used references specifically made for 3D props and created style frames and a ton of color exploration that later on became a base for everything.

Creating environment art is not easy but a lot of fun. When the style is figured out and the color palette is finalized, the real process begins. 

Favorite Tools

I am an advocate for working in Adobe Photoshop. That is my go-to software if I work on Visual development pieces. I love using custom-made brushes. When I start painting, I try to do most of my work with Lasso and Pen tools, trying to define shapes and keep the value structure right. I have adjusted settings in Photoshop to be able to use hotkeys for various tasks that require just a click. One of my favorites is a way to turn the image black and white without disturbing the process or the file. One click, and I'm able to check the values of the artwork and immediately go back to painting with a second click. I love giving my work a bit of texture and custom brushes and brush settings help with that. I also love using old paper textures on a low opacity multiply or overlay layer setting. It gives an art piece a little bit of a natural feel. I also love using the Storyboard Pro program when I need help with perspective, even though this program is built for creating storyboards, it has an amazing feature to automatically create any type of perspective you desire. That saves a lot of time.


When I am working on the painting I love to add a final touch of textures and color adjustments to the whole peace. The most challenging thing to me and the most exciting part of the process is in design. It is vital to be able to explain to the team, what rules should be followed. Because it is teamwork. All of it is very important and requires great visual and communication skills.

Ekaterina Soyuznova, Visual Development Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore Nikitin

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