Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 29, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Mattia Cerato

mattiaMattia Cerato was born in Cuneo, a small town surrounded by the beautiful Italian Alps. At 2-3 years old, besides eating a lot of pasta, his father (an artist in his own right!) introduced and encouraged him to draw. As a result, he spent most of his time creating funny images on every surface he could find. When he grew up, he decided to study illustration at the European Institute of Design (IED) in Turin. Within eight months of graduation, he landed his first Illustration job, a book titled My First Picture Dictionary for Rass Language House, Hong Kong.

He resides in Torino and when he is not illustrating, he enjoys playing basketball, traveling around the world, playing his bass guitar, and skiing the Alps.

Here is Mattia discussing his process:

All my art is created digitally. I usually sketch in a very very rough way on small corners of paper, I don’t do traditional fully detailed sketches. It’s just the way I started working some years ago when I found out about Adobe Illustrator.  I realized that if I wanted to work faster-and therefore be more efficient- !


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Here is a sequence that explains really well my method when I create art for picture books. The first image show the art I created in Adobe Illusrator. It looks quite flat and boring, so what I do after the structure of the design is approved by the client is that I flattend the art and open it in Photoshop, where I will add a first layer of shadows.

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I can then adjust some saturations and add more effects -see the paintbrush effects on the wall.

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Extra layers of things such light effects are added on top of everything at the end usually (see the window light ).

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At the very end I take care of the type and all the rest. It’s not always needed but sometimes the client might ask me to take care of that.

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Here is a sequence of how I plan my work especially when Illustrating Maps, which is something I love to do. I have started working side by side with the developers of ‘Italy for Kids’(, a new publisher from Milan with the aim of creating fun maps for children of all the Italian cities, thought for local and foreign explorers!


What I Usually do is to create a rough layer with the roads, parks and map information in general. It’s the basic structure over which I’ll start adding all the rest. I then add the road names one by one, the compass, the legend and some effects to the streets to make them look better.


I focus on the landmarks afterwards


so that I can move them around easily on a top layer and they don’t interfere with the rest. After all the city’s landmarks are have been created, I start drawing the characters, which are an important part of the map. They are notable people from the area, both recent and old, from Ceasar to Fellini.



Book Covers


Book Covers


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing my whole life, since I was a little kid. My Dad, who is an artist himself, taught me how to draw with drawing lessons on the couch: moments that I’ll never forget. One of the first things I’ve learned how to draw was Mickey Mouse. I loved comics in general, but especially the Disney ones. My life didn’t make sense at the time if I wasn’t able to draw Donald Duck perfectly.


Where do you live?

I currently live in Turin, a beautiful city in the north-west of Italy. It’s a center for the arts, design and creativity in general, and we are not too far tom Milan either. A great place to visit ‘off the beaten track’ if you are in Italy. But I’ve lived in several places very different from each other, such as Berlin and California.


What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

I didn’t paint it, but it was called ‘My First Picture Dictionary’, published by a Hong Kong Publisher who believed in me. I’ll always thank them for that first job.


What made you chose to attend European Institute of Design (IED) in Turin?

You know, there were not many schools of Illustrations ten years ago, and I was impressed by the presentation they held at my High School. I was captured, I needed to enroll and start as soon as possible! It looked very modern at the time compared to the average Italian University institutions.


What did you study there?

A three years post-diploma master on Illustration.


Did they helped develop your style?

Yes, especially certain professors who understood very well our potential helped us trying to focus on what we did best. For instance, I was stunned by the easiness and beauty of Vector art when we attended our first Adobe Illustrator course. The professor gave me the help I needed to develop a style that could look nice in vectors.


What type of work did you do after you got out of school?

It varied a lot: from short stories to Educational, I accepted anything and I believe I did well. I am now able to take on different kinds of work without thinking too much about it. Be versatile I always say.


Did your school help you get work after you graduated?

Not too much to be honest. They organized work-sessions with real clients from different market fields ( publishers, event PR etc.) while we were at school, but were not so helpful afterwards.


Have you seen your work change since you left school?

Oh yes, totally. I try to experiment and keep improving, and I hope people can see a difference from when I started.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

During University. Before starting IED ( the school), I had very confused ideas on what I really wanted to become in the future. All I knew was that I wanted to draw all day and be paid for that. I believe I accomplished this goal. 🙂


Was MY FIRST PICTURE DICTIONARY was your first book? How did you land that job?

I found this job at the Bologna Children’s book Fair. You know, for Illustrators it’s the want-to-be place once a year, where you can meet with tons of Publishers from all over the world and show your portfolio to them. I had almost lost hope but at the very last moment I met these very nice guys from HK, that asked me if I were able to deliver a fully illustrated book in a month or so. They were captured my one of my illustrations showing animals from all over the world. I was lucky enough they needed somebody with my style and so It’s how I started!


How many books have you illustrated?

I wouldn’t know to be honest. I don’t only illustrate books but game boards, apps, posters, sticker books etc. Sometimes the client would need the illustrations for the whole book and other times just a small spot art. It’s hard to tell but I can send you a picture of my bookshelf, it’s quite loaded with them 😀


What was the first book your illustrated with a US publisher?

It was called Brave and it was published by McGraw Hill. A story of a Lion trying to be brave in his own savannah.


How did get that contract?

Thanks to my wonderful agent, Mela Bolinao, who believed in me and gave me a chance.



Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

I’ve done it already. I published three books that were also written by me; it’s been great to experiment in the field of writing too, and I am happy with the results.


What do you think is your biggest success?

If you mean the one that sold the most, absolutely a Christmas book for a French Publisher. You know, Christmas is a good seller!



Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

Yes, and it’s not easy at all. I quit the idea after some illustrations, I might take it back to life in the future but it surely is a challenge.


I see you’re represented at MB Artists. How did you connect with them? How long have you been with them?

I’ve been with them since 2009, and I’m very satisfied by our collaboration so far. They are very reliable and professional, and believed in me when I had no works published yet. I found them through a web search.


Do you illustrate full time?

Yes, luckily. I could never split between drawing and a ‘real’ job 😀


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

Digital, only digital. I start with Illustrator and complete my images in Photoshop.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Absolutely. I love the research part, it’s stimulating and there is always something to learn.


Have you worked with any educational publishers? If yes, is there any difference working with them?

Yes, I work a lot in the educational market. Sometimes those publishers publish other things too, so it’s hard to separate the two things. But i can say in general that the clients I work with are great and very respectful of my work. Especially US and UK clients, they are very professional and take our work seriously.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Yes, in all of them. I seldom create art which is only vector, I usually edit my images in Photoshop after I have created the art base in vectors. It helps give the images more feel to them.


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

I use my Bamboo to create all my art, both Vector and Photoshop. I started using the mouse for a couple of years. At the time, I found it better for vector art. Thinking about it now, I have no idea how that was possible…tablet is just better!


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Thinking about it now, my first illustration ever published appeared in a Medical magazine in New Zealand, ten years ago. I can’t believe how fast time goes by! But besides that one, I sometimes create art for Highlights Magazine USA and other children magazines such as ‘Winnie The Pooh’ edited in France.


Do you studio a studio in your house?

Yes, my wife and I work both as Illustrators from home. It’s great, I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world…no rush hour queues!



Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?

Music. It’s part of creating great illustrations and I have a hard time when the stereo is not on.



Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I just try to listen to my mood day by day. Some days are better for starting a new project, other ones to keep on working with what’s been mostly laid down already. I think this is important to learn and hope everyone does it.


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Maybe working on a graphic novel for adults, but we’ll see. Something different definitely and more personal.


Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

All of them. Being born and raised in a  small Italian town doesn’t help if you want to become a professional illustrator, but nowadays all the clients are easily reachable and agents too. It’s just a matter of good timing and lots of hard work, but results will come if you want them to.


What are your career goals?

Maybe change to a different career in the future. Becoming an agent wouldn’t be that bad I believe, but at the moment my only wish is to keep drawing all day long…

race-trackWhat are you working on now?

Several projects: some educational stuff, a couple of illustrated stories such as Aladdin and Merlin, and the map of Venice which will soon be published by Italy For Kids, an independent little publisher from Milan focused on the maps of Italy for Children.



Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I would definitely recommend a combination of mixed digital programs. Personally, I use a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator, I think they are great together.



Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Don’t give up. There’s room for all of us out there and the fields in which illustrations are required are growing. I believe this profession is taken more seriously by the day. Find a strong style that works ( don’t be shy to show your works to friends) and a publisher will find you, just try to help them anyway you can: be social, send updated portfolios to everyone you believe could give you a job and you’ll see results coming shorter that you think.   !


Thank you Mattia for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Mattia’s work, you can visit him at website at:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Mattia. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thank you for sharing, Mattia!


  2. Mattia, your work as absolutely amazing! How wonderful it must’ve been to study art in Italy 🙂 Your maps are amazing, too! I just love maps—all kinds 🙂 I was happy to see that about 2 dozen books you illustrated (and wrote) were available through our library system. I just ordered a LOT of them! 🙂


  3. Thanks for sharing your work and your process, Mattia. And I love the name of the town you grew up in , for very obvious reasons!!


  4. thank you everybody! I am glad you enjoyed reading about my work! 🙂


  5. Amazingly beautiful art!


  6. mattia me encanta tu trabajo…


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