Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 13, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Katy Wu

With a BFA in Illustration and Entertainment Arts from Pasadena Art Center College of Design, Katy Wu’s clients include Google, Laika, Pixar, CinderBiter, and Simon & Schuster. She worked on such incredible projects as the feature film Coraline and various shorts (La Luna, Cars Toons) as well as CG, 2D, stop motion, online games, and content for social media platforms. Grace Hopper is her first picture book. Katy lives and freelance in New York City. Follow her online at

Here is Katy discussing her process for a double page spread for GRACE HOPPER: Queen of Computer Code.

Above is the finished sketch.

I scan it into my computer and then work on laying down the basic colors.

Then I open other layers to work on the details like shadows, textures, and text.

Here is the book cover. You still have a few days to leave a comment, tweet, blog, or Facebook about it for a chance to win a copy of the book. Here’s the link:

How long have you been illustrating?

Ever since I was a child!

Why did you choose to attend the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA

When I was in middle school I became online friends with a student there whose work I admired. He told me more about the school and classes. I eventually talked to a counselor there and started taking evening classes.

What did you study there?

I studied Illustration and minored in Entertainment Arts.

Do you think art school influenced your style?

Not really, most of the students were either doing editorial illustration or illustrations more suited for realistic video games.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

My first job was as a junior illustrator at Laika for the stop motion animation movie “Coraline.”

What made you move from California to NYC?

I’ve always really liked visiting NYC so I wanted to try living there. When a work opportunity appeared that would allow me to move to NYC, I took it!

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

In college I found I didn’t have much interest designing video games geared towards young men. Illustrating and designing for children was much more interesting to me, whether that was through film, TV, or books for children.

Is GRACE HOPPER: Queen of Computer Code your first picture book?

It is my first published children’s book. I worked on another one before that and it’s coming out this fall.

How did that contract come your way?

Sterling Publishing contacted my agent, Jennifer Mattson about the project. I think some publishers noticed the work I did for Google Doodles, especially the last one about Nellie Bly, so I’ve been doing a lot of children’s books biographies about women in history.

What type of illustrating did you do before doing the book?

I designed characters and environments for animated films at Laika, Pixar, and Cinderbiter. I also worked at Google making Doodles. When I moved to NYC I art directed a commercial and now freelance.

How did you become an art director?

I received the opportunity from an old co-worker from Pixar who was directing a commercial in NYC. Before that I was an assistant art direct at Cinderbiter, a stop motion animation studio.

Do you work on children’s books in the art director position?

I don’t, I’m the illustrator but there’s still a lot of autonomy when it comes to deciding the look of the book.Publishers have their own internal art directors that oversee the project and decide how to format the text and fonts.

Can you tell us what you do with set design for animation?

Set design is creating an environment for the characters in a story. The environment can be their room, a city, or another world all together. A lot of research can go into it to get the time period and ambiance right. It’s one of my favorite things to do, an environment is like a character – every detail can mean something and have a lot to do with the story and mood you want to communicate.

Did you do any book covers while getting started doing freelance illustrating?

I haven’t done any book covers yet.

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

I’d like to do that someday but the right story hasn’t come to me yet!

Would you be open to illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

I would probably talk to my agent about this.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

I’ve illustrated wordless comics before when I was in college, I imagine a wordless picture book wouldn’t be too much different!

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? 

I haven’t.

Do you have an artist rep.?

I don’t.

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I’ll email people that I know at studios, or ask friends who might know someone who might know someone who is looking for an artist.

What is your favorite medium to use? 

I use Photoshop for all of my commercial work, but I really like using gouache for fun.

Has that changed over time?

It hasn’t, it isn’t practical to do commercial work with real medium.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

I have a computer desk.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to spend however much time is needed to get it to look the way I want.

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I do a lot of research online and will also ask the author if they have any references or research to share with me.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

It really has, it’s the best way to reach a broader audience.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Adobe Photoshop.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I started drawing with a Wacom tablet when I was in high school. I eventually got a Cintiq when I graduated.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to art direct an animated film or TV show. I’d also like to write and illustrate a comic or my own picture book.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing some freelance work designing some characters for a cartoon.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

I’ve started playing around with Pentel Japan Aquash water and ink brush pens. I really like the water soluble ink brush pens paired with the water ink brush for quick sketching and painting.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator? 

Practice often and work smart!  Also help others when you can, it’s a small industry.

Thank you Kate 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 Katy’s work, you can visit her at her website:

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I’m looking forward to buying GRACE HOPPER at the upcoming NJ SCBWI! Your work is beautiful, Kate. Good luck with your upcoming projects.


  2. I really enjoyed this presentation. I learned a lot! Katy, your work is wonderful! I can’t wait to buy your book. As a teacher and woman, it is so important to show all children that girls and boys can love math! Thank you both for a really great interview!!


  3. Great interview and fab work, Katy!! I went to Art Center too for Illustration. 😉 I bet we have mutual friends there and in NYC!


  4. Very nice work! Congratulations!


  5. Katy, your work is SO distinctive and beautiful! I’m hoping I make it to the book signing this week to have the pleasure of meeting you 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this.


    • And I forgot to thank you for mentioning the Pentel Aquabrush! What a cool tool! 🙂

      P.S. I’d LOVE to see your green “dot” with the girl and dog as a Celebri-dot, or ANY of your work cropped into a circle for that purpose. I’m SUCH a Celebri-dot fan 😀


  6. Such a treat…Thank you for sharing your lovely artwork Katy. Thank you Kathy for all you do! The inspiration is endless!


  7. I love the Grace Hopper book from what I’ve seen of it on this blog so far. And I’ve actually seen that commercial several times. It’s so cute! I really love it and my whole family knows it from when we go to the movie theater.


  8. Katy is so super talented! Love her work.


  9. […] Wallmark has a new picture book titled, HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE, illustrated by Katy Wu (featured on Illustrator Saturday). It is available in bookstores on February 5th. If you live near NYC, Laurie is having a book […]


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