Posted by Jake Kontou @jakekontou
Concept Artist
Jake Kontou

Hi! Here is a look at my latest illustration of Eleven from the Netflix sensation, Stranger Things. This walkthrough will look into my process in an attempt to help provide some useful insight in my method of construction. If you are interested in purchasing a print I will be very grateful and appreciate the support.

Click here to view my shop and purchase prints.

  • Tools of the Trade: Adobe Photoshop
  • Time to Completion: 18hrs
  • Artist: Jake Kontou
Complete illustration
Complete illustration

All my illustrations are produced entirely on Adobe Photoshop CS6 using a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet.

Inspiration And Research

I start every illustration after I allow the source material to appear naturally in my life. After watching Stranger Things, I fell in love with the universe and was captivated to make art for it. I believe this is the best way to achieve the superior results, as I am passionate about the material. I am not forcing myself to produce work on a subject I am not interested in, as it will become evident in the final outcome. Art shouldn't be regimental, but form organically. Once that passion is born I continue to extensively research my material.

Credit to Kyle Lambert for producing the incredible key art for Stranger Things
Credit to Kyle Lambert for producing the incredible key art for Stranger Things

The Mock-Up

From here I tend to combine my research together to produce a mock-up. This is basically visualizing the ideas in my head. It is a useful way to see what concepts you have and dictate if they are suitable to the style of the piece. Similar to an initial sketch-up or thumbnail.


Production Process

My main design was to produce a visually striking portrait of Eleven, a simple yet captivating look at the Stranger Things main protagonist. I knew I wanted the piece to be dark and brooding, emulating the tone of the demogorgon and The Upside-Down. Creating the mock-up gave me reference for my design, and I began the creation process.

Using my mock-up as reference, I produced the initial sketch of the portrait. I drew loose lines to help navigate my shading process, providing enough information for where shadows and light start and end.

Early in the production process I decided to add a solid silhouette of Eleven below her portrait. At the time I was unsure if it was going to remain as a silhouette. Its inclusion was to simulate her travels into The Upside Down and emulate her total isolation.

I felt the solid white contrasted the dark nature of the piece a little too much, therefore to help balance the effect I decided to shade the smaller Eleven.

From here I moved onto the basic dark tones of the main portrait. Highlighting shadows and solid blacks in the piece, this is easiest to do first as it establishes depth and the foundation of the piece. Using a soft brush and medium opacity, I paint black strokes to fill in the face.

I try to remain rough and loose during this initial process just to establish my flow and keep the piece looking like it has been hand painted. Once I laid down my initial shadows, I proceed to add white to the piece, highlighting the features of her face.

I continue the same process, alternating between black and white to paint the portrait. Slowly, my initial vision is coming to life as I build upon the painting bit by bit.

I decided to add the iconic nosebleed in a muted red hue, serving as the only color in the piece.


At every stage I am constantly editing and refining the entire piece to ensure the final product is of the highest standards I am capable of. My perfectionist nature prevents me from leaving any inferior part of my work unattended. I take pride and love my work; I hope this is reflected in the detail and quality of my art.

Portraits are particular challenging but are my favorite thing to draw. Trying to capture the person's character in a painting is riveting. The refinement process in portraits is constant — there are always small inconsistencies I notice after a long painting session that need to be tended to when I get back to work in the next session. Therefore, I am always editing and fixing parts of the portrait, and it was no different with this piece.

Originally I stuck close to my mock-up, painting Eleven's hair. After deliberation however, I wanted to add more touchstones to the piece and decided to experiment with my concept.

I felt adding the lightbulb indicated strong connections to imagery from the show and particular characters. Having Eleven's portrait evaporate around the bulb presents the character's fate and link to The Upside Down.

Complete illustration
Complete illustration

In full I wanted the painting to act as a homage to the entire show and Eleven's character. Therefore there are many deeper meanings to elements in my painting. The bulb, the portrait and the full Eleven figure all have specific reasons for their inclusion and placement. I like including these somewhat hidden elements that would go unnoticed by the untrained eye that glances over my work.

I hope this walkthrough provided a useful look into my process. Thanks for taking the time to view my work.

If you are interested in purchasing a print I will be very grateful and appreciate the support.

Click here to view my shop and purchase prints.

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For more of the awesome visuals that went into creating Stranger Things, check out the VFX breakdown video below: