Illustrator Younsik Woo on sticking to a strict color palette


Korean illustrator Younsik Woo’s passion for storytelling led her to major in animation in college, while also working on cartoons in parallel. “I didn’t put too much illustration at the start. But there was a time when I couldn’t move forward with a story I had to publish, ”she tells CR. “I drew illustrations to relieve stress. Ironically, the designs started to have a common motif as my story didn’t progress. I also realized that I enjoyed drawing a lot more after giving up the post.

It was then that Woo also realized that she liked to hint at a story, rather than telling a full drama. “From that point on, I gained recognition as an illustrator by making more images, doing print jobs and winning commissions,” she says. “In that sense, I like illustration because of the simplicity. Having to convey something without having to describe is pure happiness in itself. ”

Above: keep your distance. Above: points and lines. All Images: Younsik Woo

This simplicity can be seen more clearly in the strict color palette that Woo uses in all of his works. “I’m just drawn to the four colors yellow, red, green, and blue, and I can’t think of any more reason to use other colors,” she says.

“I think it’s because my work is more symbolic than a visual representation. To me, these colors seem to capture some primitive aspects of contemporary scenes, as if they had been taken with infrared cameras.


Another reason is Woo’s love for early cartoon printing and screen printing methods, and as a result, she often mimics the textures found in Risograph prints, which traditionally limit the amount of colors that can be used. Many of Woo’s illustrations consist of figures with blank expressions, combined with geometric objects and shapes.

Often starting from photos of things that inspire him, Woo wants to capture a feeling of “nothingness” in his work, which gives him a feeling of freedom and comfort. “I want to focus on the relationship people have and the events that have happened between them instead of expressing each other’s character.”


Although Woo captures scenes in an abstract way, she enjoys drawing moments that she encounters on the street. “I particularly like the image of complicated but beautifully layered buildings. These images seem flat with no depth perception, and I want to capture the moment that seems to make the space flat, ”she explains. “This kind of landscape gives the impression that it goes against what we perceive, and I like that. I want to do more of this work. ”

The early stages of an illustration for Woo tend to take the form of a loose drawing rather than concrete and she often reads a book or walks around when an idea first emerges. “I do most of my sketches on paper and I do my linework by drawing with a pen or scanning it to work digitally,” Woo says. “I just use a liner pen to draw by hand. For digital work I work with Photoshop, ClipStudio and sometimes Illustrator. For a texture like engraving, I use a brush and layer effect. I sometimes buy the texture from the designer or use the ones that I have personally scanned or taken. ”

Walk apart

When Woo first started, she felt there was a disconnect between her client’s work and the images she created in her time, even though it’s something she’s working on. “I had to make money as an illustrator but I was afraid the drawings wouldn’t sell. So at first there was a big gap between my work and my orders, ”says Woo. “Fortunately, I met more and more clients who wanted separate parts of my designs, so I closed the gap.”

As the illustrator doesn’t always give her designs direct meaning, she’s happy if people just like the aesthetic she’s created. But she also finds that the blank faces of her characters provide some comfort to viewers. “Sometimes I get comments from people who see my work and they say they can’t speak the thoughts and feelings because of the blank face so they feel like they’re not being judged or being judged. they can’t sense a hierarchy between people ”Note Woo. “I am always surprised by the sensitivity of others to recognize the feelings in my indifferent drawings, while also recognizing aspects of myself that I had not noticed before. Then I realize that drawing can really become a means of communication. It’s the best way to convey what I want the most. ”

Eye in the sky


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