The following is a brief demonstration of my most commonly used illustration method. The piece was a Chron X card illustration I did back in 1998*. The
Subject matter seemed appropriate for the site.

  Stage 1 - Setup STEP 1:
For a lot of my illustrations, I start out in a 3D modeling program. It lets me build the machines and buildings and set up the viewpoint, kind of like constructing a set and props and positioning the camera for a movie. For figures, I've got some custom built manikins complete with Inverse Kinematic skeletons that I can use to pose characters in the setting and have them be in perspective. The program I generally use is Strata 3d Pro, but I've also used TrueSpace and Poser to set up pieces. I've also frequently skipped this rigamarole and just started from a scanned in sketch, but to get a real sense of setting, I prefer to start in 3D.
  Step 2 - Initial Drawing STEP 2:
Once I've got a good shot from the 3D program's renderer, I import it into Adobe Illustrator and go to work. The rendering serves as the setup for my drawing. I generally rough out the linework in some basid colors so I can tell stuff apart. As you can probably tell from most of the material on this site, Illustrator is a good friend of mine. I've got a lot of tricks for making the shapes I want. Vector art in general is a favorite of mine, both for it's cleanness, but also because you can output it in any size and have it look pretty good.
  Step 3 - More Detail STEP 3:
As the illustration moves along, I start assigning colors and roughing in the background. If the background isn't set up in the 3D application, sometimes I just set up a vanishing point and perspective lines in Illustrator and draw it out (Although that's not 100% accurate). When I originally did this piece, I was working primarily with a mouse, but nowadays I've got a nifty Wacom Tablet that works just as well, and is a lot better for doing the loose stuff like the smoke in the background.
  Step 4 - Surface Effects STEP 4:
By this point I've begun to add in surface effects to the forms, like the rust on this metal monster. I generally use the heck out of the Pathfinder tools for this sort of thing (Unite, Intersect, Minus Front, etc.) You'll notice I've started putting in some gradients too, and some preliminary lighting effects, like the reflection of the flames on the smoke. I've also begun to add some transparency to the dust clouds, also using the Pathfinder tools and some color and shading changes.
   STEP 5:
The final phase for is adding lighting effects to the piece. My usual method is a combination of gradients and drawing shapes on top of the solid forms to represent light hitting the objects. I do a lot of playing with color mixing to get the light effects to work, but usually I just average the CMYK values of the object and the light source to get the color of the light as it hits a particular form. For pieces I don't want to put as much effort into, like a lot of the stuff on this site I just did for fun, I'll often skip this step, or just settle for what playing with gradients can get me. Once the lighting effects are done, all that remains is to slap a signature on it and send it out the door.

*This image Copyright © 2003 BLUE SKY RED, LLC. "Chron X" and all characters and places therein, are trademark properties of BLUE SKY RED, LLC. All rights reserved.