this was a commission drawing (yes- i’m taking commissions now) for jean grey. i decided to draw her as phoenix because i think that has to be one of the best superhero costume designs ever.


i saved a bunch of the stages of this as i was working on it. you can see some of my process behind the cut.

this is going to be more of a simple visual process of this drawing, rather than a more extensive tutorial like i did for my songbird drawing. please take a look at that if you want to see more about the tools and methods i use to color.


i start off with just an initial line drawing in my usual blue pencil.


then i give jean some some shading.


after scanning, i choose a background color to pick my colors out from. in this case the usual cream tone i use for most of my superheroine drawings lately. i then colorize my linework to blend in better with my bg and multiply the layer.


then i simply color on a layer underneath my linework, blocking in my shapes…


…so i have something that looks like the image above underneath my linework.


then i go into shading and and adding the details by selecting each of my blocking colors…


…so i have something that looks like the image above underneath my linework.


for the phoenix force behind her, i tried a few things that weren’t working before deciding on just making it more of an essence of her rather then a physical form. so i needed to color in the shape on a new layer, erase that part of the linework, and go back and smooth out the edges.


then i added some shading and gradients to it to keep the focus on jean and give the phoenix force more of that “essence” i mentioned.


i added some shading around the canvas edge with burn tool to frame the image and i’m done!


  1. Keath’s avatar

    *gasp* it’s beautiful!

    I’ve never been a huge Jean Gray fan but I’d totally dig having this hanging on my wall – whatever he might have paid, your commissionee got a good deal :)

    Thanks for posting the images from the various stages – it’s very useful for us less Photoshop savvy users!

  2. Josh’s avatar

    Very very cool. And seeing the process makes it all that sweeter…

  3. frank’s avatar

    I like the line drawing with no tone the best and the flat graphic shape without any tone the best. Maybe because they look the most like tattoos. Anyway, it’s a kick-ass piece!


  4. Aintshakespeare’s avatar

    I think it is excellent. And thank you again for showing us how you do it. One of these days I’m gonna get around to practicing one of your tutorials.

  5. mike’s avatar

    keath- phew- good! i’m glad these are useful. as you can see, there’s not really too much to what i’m doing…

    josh- thanks, dude!

    frank- ha! that flat toned one is part of the reasons i put all those up. i liked how that looked too and just needed a reason to show everyone. maybe one day i’ll try to do something reminiscent of that. and yeah- this would make a neat tattoo (for a hardcore jean grey fan). thanks!

    aintshakes- great! can’t wait to see what you create when that day comes around. :)

  6. Sabrina Eras’s avatar

    I love this one
    even more with the process here :D

  7. Shell Harris’s avatar

    I am the lucky recipient of this phoenix piece and I can honestly say out of all the Phoenix illustrations I currently own (don’t ask), this is one of my favorites. It was one hundred percent worth the cost and I can’t recommend Mike enough if you want to have him commission a illustration. He was responsive, quick, pleasurable and very professional. Thanks again!

  8. bruna’s avatar

    Sooo veryy reallllyyyy prettyyyyyy! X)

  9. Marcelo’s avatar

    Hi Mike,

    I´ll join the chorus: Beautifull Illustration!!! I love the way you draw women, they´re all so cute.

  10. Bryan B.’s avatar

    Really great Mike, and I love the tutorial too. This is one of my favorite super hero designs of yours. Fabooness abounds.

  11. mike’s avatar

    sabrina- thanks so much!

    shell- aw, shucks. you’re very welcome. expect the original in the mail soon! :)

    bruna- :D

    marcelo- thanks, dude! but i really should start drawing more men. men just aren’t as cute…

    bryan- FABOO!!

  12. Sarah!’s avatar

    Hey Mike!

    This is really fantastic. Thanks for posting your process too, it’s always so interesting to see how you work.

    Oh and I think I didn’t let you know, but I’d be very happy to get you a signed Flight. I can’t believe it’s almost Comic-Con time already!

    -Sarah :)

  13. mike’s avatar

    awesome, sarah! thanks so much! i hope you have a great time and say hi to everyone for me. i really wish i could be there. :(

  14. ali’s avatar

    wow. wooooow. jean is my favorite x-men & phoenix, however consuming, is my all time favorite power! if i was able to pick, that’s what i’d be [do i sound like a power crazy lunatic or what??? hahahahahaha ~ oops, sorry! ;)] ~ this illo is spectacular! i looooooooove it! :)

  15. mark’s avatar

    Why do people insist on sketching in blue pencil? There’s no need unless you are an animator. Dear lord.

  16. slocum66’s avatar

    Nicely drawn. May many kudos be unto you.

    BTW, I came across your site through

  17. mike’s avatar

    ali- but the power would consume you! haha! thanks. long time!

    mark- well, since you asked so nicely, i’ll tell you:

    first off, at least in my case, the blue lead i use is much softer than regular lead. it’s more like a crayon really- and the softer consistency allows me to be lighter with my strokes, make for some easier shading, and less prone to erase something i don’t really need to be erasing. which brings me to the other reason i love blue lead.

    i don’t need to erase! a lot of the times i ink my work, and by inking over blue i can “blow out” those blue lines after scanning. the result is a richer black line with no sketch marks and less need to destroy my paper with a piece of plastic.

    also, i studied animation and don’t understand why the need to use it for that is any different than outside animation.

    slocum- cool! thanks, dude. :)

  18.’s avatar

    hey. Beautiful, clean and alluring! Love your work. I am new to drawing digitally and looking forward to getting to your standard. Well done!!!

  19. mike’s avatar

    thanks, carl. cool site you have!

  20. PharoahChan’s avatar

    Wow, this is amazing. I am trying to practice my drawing, because I like to draw, and I like to be good… I just wanted to say I really, Really like it.Thank you.

  21. mike’s avatar

    you’re welcome. :)

  22. vanessa’s avatar

    I always love your stuff on project rooftop… Jean Grey has always been one of my faves, and I have to say this is the CUTEST Pheonix ever!


  23. Matt’s avatar

    Hi, Mike.

    I LOVE phoenix, and this is a great drawing. I’d like to see less cute and more beautiful/terrible, if you know what I mean…maybe in homage to John Byrne’s style?

    I’m 20 and draw, but I am nowhere near this good..yet…heh heh

    I agree; you shoudl start drawing men. Hmm…how about Johnny Storm or Northstar for starters?


  24. mike’s avatar

    vanessa- thank you so much! :)

    matt- she’s fun to draw so hopefuly i’ll get a chance to draw her that way someday. and yes- the men… i know….

    i drew monsters recently. does that count?

  25. Matt’s avatar

    Hi, Mike.

    Yah, she’s one of my favorites to draw, too. I think because she can be al pwerful, but still be the girl next door. who knows. I know.she’s a fictional character..LOL…the phoenix force is awesome to draw, too.

    I’ve tried drawing men and am having a really hard time. Their bodies don’t have the curves that seem to naturally flow with my pencil, and I don’t want them to end up looking like squares or rectangles with legs.

  26. Naomi’s avatar

    Hiya, just wondering if you could help me out with something. Im in the process of setting up a dance agency called Phoenix dancers and well I am looking for a really good logo.

    I really like your art work, it is really very good and I was wondering if you could design something for me?

    Something similar to your Phoenix drawing except with a dancer, needs to look hot, sexy and fun :)
    Dont know if you could, but would be very grateful if you could, even willing to pay for a good logo as I need something that will look good on my business cards, website etc :)
    Let me know, many thanks

    Naomi x

  27. jack’s avatar

    this is so cool i wish i could draw that good but that is one good picture great work :)

  28. gadings’s avatar

    So you don’t know me (my name is Tara) but I have to say: for some very obvious and yet personal reasons I am getting a tattoo of Phoenix. I have been searching for one that I like and your drawing- Jean Gray and all is amazing. I keep coming back to it b/c their is such life and strength in her face. I think I want to use your design. How do you feel about that?

    Of course, I am hesitant to include Jean Gray b/c, well… that seems a little real. I mean the movies were cool and her story is super symbolic to me- however… not a rabid fan or anything.

    You are extremely talented. Do you think you would be interested in drawing something a little different on top of the pheonix shadow? Well enough questions for now. I appreciate you getting back to me.

  29. mike’s avatar

    hey, gadings. send me an email of what you’re kind of looking for (mike (at) cowshell (dot) com) and we’ll see what we can do.

  30. mike’s avatar

    naomi- sorry, just saw your comment. see above. :)

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