portfolio image of Asher

ToteTails Custom Pet Illustration

Image of two Spaniel Puppies
Illustration of dog
Illustration of Great Dane dog

Personalized pet portraits illustrated and heat-transferred onto canvas tote bags.

ToteTails custom pet illustrations are created entirely digitally using a Wacom pen tablet. In illustrating for ToteTails, expediency of production and following style guides takes precedence over artistic expression. Being a perfectionist with a tendency to get lost in details I initially found this to be a challenge, but one I enthusiastically welcomed. I was determined and made each assignment an opportunity to bridge my personal standards with the company's expectations. My target criteria:

  • rapid turnaround; average 30 minutes per illustration
  • meet established style guidelines
  • delight myself and the customer, and make my employer look good with quality results

I'm happy to say I've met and even exceeded these goals. To date I have become the company's strongest illustrator and have been told by them that my work has created a "new standard" for the ToteTails brand.

Project Highlights

Customer supplied photo


An order begins when the customer provides ToteTails with a photo of their pet in jpg format, which is then assigned to the illustrator (me). The photo is evaluated for accurate black/white levels and color-corrected as needed. In cases, such as with the photo above, where the owner's hand is obstructing and/or a large portion of the pet is cropped out, a creative editing of the image is called for to isolate the pet and still have it feel natural.

Line Art


Bold black and white lines are important elements of the ToteTails style. The illustration always starts with a strong line drawing.

Adding Color


Color is sampled from the supplied image and added on a separate layer using a combination of art brushes in Clip Studio Pro, keeping in mind a painterly textured appearance.

Finish with Highlights


On a final, top layer bold highlights are add to make the final illustration pop. A strong white outline, a white eye gleam, and white outlines around the eyes and nose combine to finish the distinctive style establishing the ToteTails brand.



When limbs are cropped out by edges of the photo or by elements in the photo, they are edited in by locating and referring to images of similar breeds in similar poses from an internet search. Usually backgrounds are removed so only the shape of the pet is printed on the tote bag. In images where the surrounding background is integral to the pet's pose, portions of it are included to complete the pose but still achieve a stand-alone feel, circumventing the need for borders imposed by the original photo.

End Product


The finished illustration is then printed out and heat-transferred onto a canvas tote bag and shipped to the customer.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *