Making a Cover

Celtic Clan cover (© 2012 Nigel Flood & Frank J. Right)
Celtic Clan cover (© 2012 Nigel Flood & Frank J. Right)

This is a continuation of my hybrid analog/digital process. Check out my “Analog vs. Digital” post for the first part of this discussion.

Again, study and understand basic concepts of illustration and design before using the computer. That will make all the difference.

For this tutorial, we’ll use my good friend Nigel Flood’s The Celtic Clan cover as our example…

Now, let’s make a cover!

1. Putting it in Perspective

Step 1: Photoshop Perspective Grid
Step 1: Photoshop Perspective Grid

I cannot stress this enough. Too many beginners try to bypass this stage or try to fudge the perspective later and it never works. Trust, plotting your perspective before you begin drawing and it makes for a better drawing. Besides, perspective lines are great for getting over every artist’s “blank sheet of paper” jitters.

Step 2: The Citizen leads the charge...
Step 2: The Citizen leads the charge…

I lay down my perspective first so that everything will make sense in terms of fore, middle and background. To do this, drag your horizontal guide to where you’d like your horizon line for the piece would be. Then, drag vertical guides to create your points of view. Finally, create a layer called “perspective,” and with the line tool, create your perspective grid.

Step 3: The Celtic Tiger is ready for battle!
Step 3: The Celtic Tiger is ready for battle!

2. Placing the Characters

Place the black and white art on the digital canvas first while designing your cover. Concentrate on where you will be placing the various elements. Consider where you want the viewer to focus on first, second, third, etc. Remember this: if the design works in black & white, it will be successful when you bring color into the mix.

Step 4: Legacy brings the glory...
Step 4: Legacy brings the glory…

All of the characters were drawn and colored individually. Learning from my Outworld working experience, I make sure to draw full character concepts in an action pose. Many comic book companies commission this kind of work often since it can be used for advertising, marketing and ancillary products.

3. Consider the Composition

I use archetypes to help define a character’s base personality. With the Celtic Clan, I decided to use the Marvel Universe as my emotional template.

Step 5: The Athlete brings the speed!
Step 5: The Athlete brings the speed!

The Citizen became Captain America, Legacy was the female Thor. The Celtic Tiger was my golden (and less patient) Beast while The Athlete was a stoner Quicksilver and Nymph, the Wasp (naturally). Druid and Ard Ri were the Scarlet Witch and the Hulk respectively.

In essence, The Celtic Clan became the “Irish Avengers.” That concept influenced the way I drew the characters as I worked to infuse personality into the drawings and the composition of the cover.

Step 6: The Druid provides the mystical might...
Step 6: The Druid provides the mystical might…

4. Finishing the Cover

Once all of the characters have been placed and re-sized. I turn off the grid to check the composition. If it works, I’ll flatten and save a version of the black & white art.

Step 7: The Nymph is Nature's protector!
Step 7: The Nymph is Nature’s protector!

Sometimes (if I hadn’t already painted the elements individually, I’ll start painting. Otherwise, I’ll start placing the colored items in the file to create the final piece.

When it’s all said and done, flatten the final file, preferably in CMYK at 300dpi, and voila! You have created a comic book cover illustration!

Step 8: Ard Ri is the Powerhouse of the team!
Step 8: Ard Ri is the Powerhouse of the team!

Support Indie Comics! You can purchase copies of The Celtic Clan here… Cheers!

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