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From Sketch to Finish: Cassie McDaniel on illustrating Beto's Burrito

An illustrator on the process of getting art and words in sync

Beto's Burrito Details

Coming up with an illustration is often an intuitive process, but there are moments in a story that are crucial for the art and words to be in sync. Sometimes the words are fast and playful and the artwork can mirror that feeling with bright colors and busy-ness. Other times, you want your reader to pause and think about what's being said and felt.

Beto's Burrito, which is a story about a young boy waking up to delicious smells in the kitchen, has one such moment of pause when Beto's father is trying to leave for work.

"His father calls from the kitchen. “I have to go to work now, m’ijo. Your mother made burritos.” Burritos! Now Beto remembers how wonderful his mother’s burritos taste. He jumps out of bed and gets dressed. He runs to the kitchen and hugs his father tight. His father laughs, and then he pushes Beto back gently by his shoulders so he can see his eyes."

The love theme is integral to this story. As the illustrator, I wanted the reader to feel Beto's excitement and energy, but I also wanted them to stop and feel the way Beto's father feels about his son. It is important that the reader pauses to look into Beto's eyes, just as his father does.

This illustration was so important to get right that I actually ended up scrapping my first painting and starting over from scratch because the original version didn't have the perspective just right. Here is the scene's new and improved illustration as it progressed from sketch to final artwork.



I drew the outline and features of the face, hands and shirt. Layout and proportions were most important. I used a light pencil line that could be erased once watercolour was applied.




Beto's Burrito Process 2


I filled in some of the base color of the skin and background. After this step, once the features were mostly in place, I waited for the paint to dry then erased any remaining pencil lines.




Beto's Burrito Process 3


Next I layered up the skin and features. Here I began using darker and more saturated colors to build greater contrast and depth.




Beto's Burrito Sketch 4


I then added finer lines to the subject and addressed any unfinished areas. At this point I always go back and make sure I didn't forget the shadows, especially on the eyes, lips and hands.




Beto's Burrito Process 5


After any remaining details were fleshed out, I added the final texture (instant coffee wrapped in paper towel and slightly dampened) and black line drawings. It is always important to stay conscious of when to keep going and when to stop, which is an art in and of itself!


Here are a few more scenes paired with their original sketches.

Beto's Burrito Sketch 1
Beto's Burrito Sketch 2
Beto's Burrito Sketch 3












If you'd like to buy a copy of Beto's Burrito, a collaboration between my father and I, it is available on 50% of proceeds benefit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation. You can also buy prints of the artwork at

Cassie McDaniel is a designer, writer and illustrator living in Toronto. She and her father Tom, the author of Beto's Burrito, were not always close, and it took collaborating on this book to help them have a relationship again after many years of estrangement. They hope other families will find as much joy in Beto's world as they have and that it will inspire them to dream big. Watch the book trailer.

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