Desk with computers and cat

Our Software and Favorite Plugins

Karen Hansen Illustration

Coming Up with Ideas

There’s definitely some debate in the online design world, but my creative thoughts flow much more freely in pencil than in pixels, so I always start every project with really loose pencil sketches (i.e. thumbnails). I didn’t always use this process, and previously I struggled coming up with creative ideas. Since learning the thumbnail > rough sketch > final sketch process in an illustration class, I haven’t looked back! It really allows me to refine my ideas at each stage until landing in Ai or Ps and by that point it’s all polishing work. But Chris loves diving into a blank photoshop canvas, so I think the perfect ideation process is something every creative will develop with enough practice.


My computer illustration work is evenly split between Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I use Illustrator for smooth shapes, and Photoshop to add textures and shading. Often I’ll draw the basic shapes in Illustrator because I’m much more comfortable with the tools, and then export it to Photoshop to add textures. For this step, I have an old hand-me-down Wacom Cintiq A1300 tablet. (I could never get the hang of drawing on a tablet without a visual guide.)

When prepping art for animation, this script is a lifesaver! It splits elements separated by an alpha channel onto their own unique layers.

Boords is awesome for storyboarding.

Animation and Motion Graphics

The day I found After Effects felt like being reconnected with a missing limb. Seriously! Once I discovered the program I’ve been using it professionally ever since. But occasionally a project will need some extra oomph, and when that’s the case, I’ll hop into Cinema 4D to add some 3D rotation or Adobe Animate to frame-by-frame.

Plugins: Motion 2 (for one-click eases) and Rubber Hose 2 for animating characters.