Making a Book Cover

As promised in my last post, here is a bit of an insight to how I put the cover together for Severed Soul. 

The Final Cover

Okay, to begin with, as I always do with posts of this nature, a heads up. One thing I don't do is a step-by-step this is how I painted this image. It is one of my pet hates with tutorials for art, it kinda sucks all of the fun out of the discovery and creative process for me and you end up with lots of artists turning out identical work. What you'll find is that a post like this from me is more of an insight with some of the things to think about when you are working on your own art or if you may just be curious about how these things work.

That out of the way. On with the post. 

Book covers are a challenge, and I really enjoy working on them for two reasons; one, they're a challenge, and two, you don't see many painted book covers anymore so it's a fantastic opportunity when you get the chance. (If you don't believe me take a look next time you're in the supermarket at the books, nine out of ten will all have photo manipulated cover art, if not more). 

The challenge with a book cover is finding something that looks cool as a full size cover and also as a thumbnail sized image, all modern books go digital, and the cover does not want to look like a dogs dinner once you shrink it down to fit on the web page.

The first idea for this cover was a blend of the first novels cover, Scarred Soul, and several awesome ideas from the author, L J Brown. 

First Cover Sketch
The idea was to use the colour pallet of the first book and add in the concept of the main character on the bank of the river Stixx flanked by two very large hell hounds. 

To start with I did a little research about the river Stixx and the two images that really grabbed me were these two:

These images inspired the 'grabby' hands coming out of the water. 

When I got the first changes back, (heads up number two - NEVER get precious about your work, you will ALWAYS need to scrap it or at the very least re-work it at this stage). I decided to also add in the bodies and faces, this was a request form the author and also something I wanted to add myself. Not only that, Laura drop an awesome bomb on me, '...the hell hounds are too small'.... They need to be big enough to ride!!' How awesome is that! A dude riding hell hounds like a horse in hell!!!   

This is when sketch number two came along:

Re-Worked Sketch
Tip number one: ALWAYS work in layers when you are putting together the sketch, I generally work on one-two layers for all of my work - it much more creative process that way, cos you can't undo your mistakes. However, I always make an exception with the sketching stage. I will generally use a background folder, mid-ground folder and foreground folder and in each of these folders will be several layers of the key elements that make up each part of the image. Why? Well, it makes it nice and quick to make a change, for example making the hell hounds bigger meant I only had to re-draw the hell hounds and the main character as they are all on the same layer - simples ;0)

All approved (there we're a few other changes but this was the main one) work began on the cover, but something didn't feel right with the colour pallet, it didn't feel 'underworld' and 'supernatural' enough. So I took a gamble, ran a concept past the author and changed it:

The almost, but not quite finished cover.

The change was to go for a much darker feel and drop the red and white for black and green, which worked brilliantly! 

You may notice that this isn't the final cover, I also did a few other changes as well, markings on the hell hounds and some of the posing needed updating as the work developed. This leads me to tip number two: ALWAYS communicate with the publisher/agent/author or whoever has commissioned you at regular stages. If you blunder on regardless you are going to set yourself up for problems later with lots of possible changes and re-works that can eat into your time budget and also you'll come across as unprofessional. 

Having said that, the one big mistake I made was all my own fault, I put a shirt on the guy to see what it looked like - no other reason. This meant I had to re-paint the main character and blend the re-work into the original artwork, this can be very tricky to do, luckily I've had some practice and the way I had illustrated the image meant it wasn't to difficult to fix - like I told you, lucky. Remember, this late into the work don't improvise something that impacting without clearing it first with the person who commissioned you. The thing is, I knew how important it was to see the guy with his shirt off - it's to do with the tattoos being a key part of his character. So, god knows why I did it. I must admit, the final looks super-awesome with the shirt off (as it should):

Final Cover
One of the things I really loved about working on this cover, and the last one I did for L J Brown for that matter too, is that I rarely get to paint supernatural or fantasy, I generally end up working a lot on sci-fi, which is why when you look at my commissioned work you'll see a lot of supernatural and fantasy as I'll snap your hand off to work in this area. Not only that, the books are fab and the author (L J Brown) is flippin' amazing to work with.

So, pick up a copy of Severed Soul now on Amazon, it is already getting some great reviews!

Artwork ©Simon Breeze 2016


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