I just realized that in all the time I’ve been blogging that I’ve never posted a step-by-step guide to my artwork. Recently, I’ve been working on a commission for a young adult novel cover. Although I have many different methods of creating artwork, I still thought it might be of interest to show the creative process at work.
Step One: Line Work
Once I’ve gone through the process of perfecting my design through small thumbnail sketches, I draw my final line work. I almost always do this by hand with a non-photo blue pencil. After I’ve hashed out my blue lines, I refine them with a regular #2 mechanical pencil. The whole image is uploaded into Photoshop, and the blue lines are removed digitally.
Step Two: Flat Values
In Photoshop, I then block in my flat values. During this step, I’m not really concerned about lighting. Basically, I’m just insuring that my focal point stands out. In this image, the middle boy is the main character, and therefore, my focal point. His overall value is much lighter than the value on the two girls beside him. This contrast should draw the eye of the viewer. Also, I used the foliage and the large dog as framing devices. I allowed them to be dark so they would frame the characters in the middle.
Step Three: Rendering
Now it’s time to worry about lighting. During this step, I select a light source and shade everything accordingly. Again, in order to draw attention to the middle boy, I placed a bright spotlight near his head. It’s during this stage that I can have fun with textures. You’ll notice that the leftmost girl’s hair went from being a flat mass to a curly monster. This step is the most tedious and time-consuming.
Step Four: Adding Color
Once the image is rendered, adding color is relatively simple. Since I’ve already established my lights and shadows, I can use Photoshop to lay colors over the black and white values. In this image, I applied yellow-green lighting and blueish shadows to enhance the woodsy atmosphere. I also added more foliage as per the publisher’s request. Although I could also add typography at this stage, the publisher had a separate designer that opted to take care of it instead.