Apartment Buildings & Cowboy Boots

Happy New Year!

Back in fall I created spot illustrations to liven up the “Resources and Guides” section for our re-design of Rivard Report. Here is my process for creating them.

The Purpose

I had to create two graphics that:

  • Represented the stories of Where I Live and Apartment Guide, respectively
  • Were visually cohesive
  • Fell in line with Rivard Report’s color scheme

I started by reading stories from both columns to get an idea of what the illustrations needed to convey.

Where I Live is a column of stories written by San Antonio locals about the places they live in. It is about the symbolic power of home. The column celebrates the quirky side of the city, focusing on the special relationship that people have with their houses and neighborhoods.

The Apartment Guide is a compendium to modern apartment buildings around San Antonio. It informs readers of buildings and complexes that reflect a metropolitan lifestyle, so the illustration needed to have an “urban” feel.


I had an idea of what the two sections were about; it was now time to start sketching!

I wanted to illustrate San Antonio’s urban landscape for the Apartment Guide illustration. I played around with drawing the city’s landmarks, but later decided that the idea felt too cliched and obvious.

Instead, I took inspiration from the guide itself.


The various apartment buildings highlighted in the guide all had fabulous architectural elements. I played around with those elements and came up with this starting sketch.

While I was researching the city’s landmarks, I came across San Antonio’s North Star Mall boots; the landmark felt quintessentially Texan and representative of the city. With cowboy boots in mind, I created this starting sketch for Where I Live.


Illustrator Magic

Now that the sketches were finalized, I recreated the images in Adobe Illustrator. This process required time and patience; the building shapes and spacing between objects had to be mathematically precise. Illustrator’s Pathfinder and Align functions were necessary in creating this.

Creating vector shapes is the boring and tedious part, but the results are oh-so worth it.



Color Scheme

The basic shapes were all created; now comes the fun part!


Color brings the illustration to life. I based the color palette on Rivard Report’s branding, which features a blue and orange that would contrast well and play off each other. One illustration would be mostly orange; the other mostly blue.



Additionally, I strategically placed small pops of blue and orange to create visual points of interest. This added to the richness of the illustration.


Texture and Gradients

At this point, the graphics were nearly completed; the only thing that remained was to add textures and shadows to further create depth and complexity.



I relied on this helpful guide to add texture to my illustrations.

All Together Now

Woo hoo! After staring at a computer screen for hours, the illustrations were finally complete. Here are GIFS summarizing the process.



And here are the illustrations in action on the Rivard Report homepage.