Lee Family Illustration

Family illustration feature image.

Personal project, Lara Lee.


My work office lost Internet for a week during the DC summer brown-outs. Since my job relies on Internet access, I found myself with a lot of free time and wanted to use it productively. I spent 17 hours over the course of the week creating a family illustration of myself, my twin sister, and our fabulous cockatiels.

  • Translate real-life forms into stylized characters
  • Capture personalities
  • Add interesting texture and color


It’s  hard for me to open a new Illustrator document and starting drawing with a mouse. Instead, I start sketching to determine basic shapes and layout for my family illustration.

Once I digitized the sketch, I filled in details. Since I’m a twin, I copy-paste my sister to make me, then fill in different hair, smiles, and brows. The birds were more challenging. If I oversimplify the birds, viewers wouldn’t be identify species or that they are our birds. Capturing the avian personalities was vital. Ultimately, I started drawing over photos I took, stylizing them as I went. 

Finally, once I finished the flat cel-shading, I added textures and shadows. To create the dusty, stippled texture, I first duplicated the shape, then filled it with a black-to-clear gradient, and applied Illustrator’s Graphic Pen Sketch filter set to Multiply at a low opacity. Then, I made the shadows regular, untextured back-to-clear gradients and slightly offset them from the textures to create additional depth.

Some grouping, some resizing, and some rotating later, I landed on a heart-shaped portrait for my family illustration. One last touch: a warm orange overlay to finish the tropical look.

Before & After


  • 17 hours’ work for a double portrait + 3 birds family illustration
  • 240+ hand-drawn vector shapes
Graphic. From a photo of real-life me to my illustrated character.
Illustrated characters, the birds of the Lee family.
Animation. Step-by-step, from drawing, texturizing, shading, to finishing a rose cluster.

Embedded Symbols

Embedded heart shape.

Embedded heart shape for love.

Yellow rose.

Yellow roses symbolize love and friendship.

Flying Soren.

Soren passed away at only 9 years old. He’s flying “in heaven.”

Finished Lee Family Illustration

Finished Lee family illustration.