Developing Your Creative Process

On social media a few weeks ago, a friend asked about my creative process. She asked,

My daughter wants to be an artist. Can you write about how you create art? Are there steps you follow?

My creative process usually varies with the kind of project I’m working on.  Usually, if I’m doing something for a client, the creative process is a little bit different.

My Client Work Creative Process

Developing Your Creative Process as an Artist or Creative Professional

Doing creative work for a client starts off with me finding out about what a client wants and needs.  Then I have to estimate how long this is going to take me. I also write up a design contract for them based on the time estimate.

The contract helps us to both know exactly what we agreed upon.

I didn’t do this when I first started.

Instead, I would get myself into trouble in that regard. Now, I have contracts for any new client work.

As I gather information from my client on the project they are having me do, I take notes, make sketches, and write down insights. I have many blank journals for this kind of thing.

To be honest, I have a ridiculous number of blank journals at home. They may cost a little more than spiral bound notebooks, but they look nicer and are easier to store. Most of them are the perfect size to fit in my purse too.

My kids know that the best thing to get me on any occasion is some cute journal. :-). bonus points if it’s blank inside or has only dots instead of lines.

The Mood Board

After I know what the client wants, and what they need the design to do, I made a mood board for the project. This helps me have all the ideas in one place. I use Evernote (a free app) for mood boarding. I show them my ideas and basic sketches to make sure we’re on the right page.

Next, I actually create the design, and I send it to them explaining some of my design decisions.

Small Changes

The client usually has small tweaks.

I plan for these changes into my quote in the first place. If anything goes above and beyond, I have to let them know that major changes will be extra money.

The Creative Process for Specific Needs

I follow this process for design work in my own business.

For personal projects for a specific need, I create a notebook in Evernote. Then I think through the specific needs and goals that this project needs to meet. And I gather inspiration and ideas for making that happen.

Once I have all the information gathered, I get to work, sketching and doodling on paper until I have what I want. Then, I create the artwork on the computer, using PhotoShop, InDesign, or Illustrator.

My Personal Projects Creative Process

I have a different creative process when I’m just “messing around” as it were.

Developing Your Creative Process as an Artist or Creative Professional

Learning and Growing

Often my personal projects are based on skills I’m learning. Sometimes they are the result of a new update to software I use.

Particularly in the field of digital design, I find that I have to be learning and growing to keep up. If you stop learning, especially as quickly as technology changes, you will slide backward.

I love the classes on Udemy.com to keep up my skills in most areas, and I try to do at least 3 months of learning a year. I also try to improve in areas where I know I’m weak. I’ve taken many business and copywriting classes this past year.

Udemy often has sales on their courses too. You can find out more here:


I’ve written more about continuing your education in another post.

Passion Projects

For projects of passion, these usually spring up from my daily sketching. I try to start my day writing, even if I don’t publish it. In fact, I like to sit on what I write for at least a week. After I write, I usually will move to my drawing table and sketch for a good hour. I have tried to build the habit over the last few years to sketch daily.

With these projects of passion, I have some inspiration in mind that I’m working from.

For example, I created my menu planner posters that have the art deco motif after I saw that motif in an old book. 

I took some photos of the art in the corner of the book and played with the design over and over again. Finally, I had redrawn it enough times that it became “mine.”

I photographed my sketches with my phone so I could convert them to digital designs.

Finding Your Creative Process

So, that sums up how I work. Those steps are my own creative process.

When you work in a creative field, it’s important to figure out your own creative process. You don’t want to just copy someone else, although that may help at the beginning.

There are no hard and fast rules about these things.

Make your creative process work for you. You’re unique, and your creative process will be too.