Hey! I’m Steph Stilwell, an illustrator and designer based in Brooklyn, NY, and I’m back on the Papergang blog to share with you a little peek at my process! This time around I’m going to share how I came up with my Souped Up Slang sticker pack for iMessage! Keep reading for the chance to win some goodies in my giveaway!


Let’s start with inspiration. Sometimes this is the hardest part of the process for me. It’s tough to fight off artist’s block, but I have a few go-to solutions that help me a lot. Most often I try to draw in my sketchbook as much as possible. Sometimes this means I’ll take a trip to a museum and walk around drawing what the art I see inspired me to draw. Other times I’ll write down conversations I overhear in my sketchbook in speech bubbles and use those for inspiration later. And sometimes I’ll give myself a random theme to draw a whole page of – for example: fruits in bathing suits.

But, the way this sticker pack idea came about was really just from everyday life. I was chatting with my younger brother, who is a chef, and he is always teaching me the latest lingo all the cool kids are using. He is always throwing the word LIT into conversation (often followed by the fire emoji in text form). And the idea struck me, what if I did an illustration of the word lit, but related to food? Then I kept coming across slang words that could be paired with something food-related. And so, I realized I could combine two of my favorite things: puns and food. It wasn’t long after this realization that I started a list that I was adding to from day-to-day as inspiration struck.


Once I felt that I had a solid list I sketched out all of my ideas. This meant practicing over and over until it all looked right, scribbling over a bad drawing and starting all over again, and sometimes even abandoning some of the words on my list all together. This can be the hardest part of the process for me, because it is so tedious, and can take a lot of trial and error, but it is so rewarding when I finally feel like I get it right!


Next is my favorite step in the process – inking the drawing. I use a lightpad to trace over my sketches. And don’t use anything all that fancy - I just use computer paper and a felt tip pen (my favorite to use is a .01 micron). Pro tip: if you don’t have a lightpad you can always tape your sketch to a window and use the light from the window to trace. Anyways, no matter the light source, this process allows me to see my sketch, but correct it in ink, which creates super clean line work that I don’t have to mess with all that much in photoshop. It’s also the part of the process I find most relaxing, because I’ve already worked out most of the problems and done the all the thinking in the sketch phase, inking is something I can do with music playing and my brain turned off.

Last in the process is coloring! Bringing it all to life! I like to color my work in photoshop because it allows me to try different color palettes, experiment with textures, and all that fun stuff. Sometimes I’ll build a palette before I start working (which is what I did for the sticker pack) and sometimes I’ll just wing it. Sometimes I’ll go through half a dozen palettes before I end up with one I like, but it’s always super satisfying to end up with a finished piece of color art (and even more exciting when you try a new palette that works!)


And that’s it! That’s my creative process. And now I am souper excited (hehe) to share my sticker pack with you guys! And keep an eye out for new sticker packs in the future, I’ve got some ideas brewing!


Love Steph's brilliant iMessage stickers?! You can be given the chance to win some for yourself and some other goodies, check out what you can get your mitts on below!

To enter, simply do as follows:

  1. Comment on this blog post about what gives you inspiration!

  2. Follow Steph @stephstilwell & @thepapergang on Instagram

And that's it! The giveaway closes on Saturday the 14th of April, winner will be contacted via Instagram messenger by Steph Stilwell. Open internationally. Good luck guys!

Want to see more of Steph’s work? You can visit her portfolio at and follow her on Instagram @stephstilwell. Check out her pattern workshop on the blog here!

If you’re a creative with something to share, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Check out our ‘contact’ page for more information!

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