After years of refining my work process, I've figured out a formula which works best for me for typical illustration work. I try to stay flexible in my approach to new projects and love enough artistic freedom to be able to try new ideas or implement style variations to suit a variety of briefs.
I often start with some research and gathering of reference material. This helps to give me an idea of the type of theme I will be working towards or suggest ideas for poses.
A pencil or tablet sketch follows. Sometimes I might produce a few different thumbnail images beforehand to make sure I'm achieving a composition I'm happy with. With character art I often consider pose, outfit design and style- particularly with the facial features as it's easy to go from manga to western comic or cartoon styles with just a few tweaks to the shapes of the eyes, size of the nose and other proportions.
The next stage is inking. This is the process of converting a messy pencil sketch to a smooth, clean outline drawing. Sometimes I will ink by hand with pens but inking digitally is more common.
Next it's time to add colour using Photoshop. I will try to work out colour schemes at the start when laying down the flat tones, but these are often tweaked towards the end. Most of the time I will render in an airbrush style which gives my art a vibrant, smooth, shiny look. Sometimes I use an animation 'cel' flat tone style colouring. Check out the video below to see my speeded up colouring process...
From initial pencil and tablet sketch to neatned pencil lines to digital colour with Photoshop. Includes tutorial notes. This demonstrates my working process in Photoshop. This took several hours to colour and has been condensed into around 4 or 5 minutes.
Every project varies in timescale. Typically a single character artwork can take at least 20 hours to go from initial concept to final rendered piece.