Cover Development: The Old Ways

The beginning:

The very first step I take in the process of making the book cover is to focus on the story behind the book, whilst also taking key elements from the brief that will make up the composition of the piece. For this particular cover, it included: “silver stag prominent on the front cover on the right-hand side, figure visible in the tree-line, scene continues into autumn on back cover, stone city in the distance, tree line gives way to a darkish sky.”

From this I sketched a rough composition that I sent off to the editor (Sara) to make sure it’s what the author is after. The trickiest part is making a singular image that can be made into two separate images (front and back cover, as well as the spine), while making sure all three make sense to the viewer. So, I decided to follow a very shallow ‘U’ shape for the perspective, making a path that leads from the stag on the right to the city on the left.


Drawing the central image:

Once I got the go-ahead I began to add detail – starting off in greyscale so that I could focus on detail and lighting first, without getting distracted by colour. For inspiration of style, I did research into a large amount of similar books and artistic pieces, making sure I didn’t stray too far from the original three art pieces that the author placed in the brief.

I started with basic shapes and a main direction of light, so when it came to adding detail I didn’t have shadows going in all directions.

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I wanted to leave the archer with less detail so that his appearance would be left more to the reader’s imagination. So, I made the light beams stronger, putting him and other elements of the book in the shadows.


Adding the colour:

The author said in the brief that the image on the front cover starts with a forest scene in summer (so lots of bold, lush colours to contrast with the silver of the stag), which then fades into autumn on the back cover. I decided to stick to deep greens for the grass, contrasting with occasional purple flowers, while being lit with a light but vibrant yellow for the summer sun.


Deciding on a font:

Most commonly the author will give me a font that they want to use, and I will always try to stick with that font. This is because the author would have the best feeling of which font would match the story the best. (Although there are some fonts that are a designer ‘no-no’ unless being used for ironic intent, Comic Sans for example. But as of yet, I haven’t had someone choose this font). In this instance the author chose a font I instantly felt fitted with the rest of the image and the book, so I had a lot of fun playing around with styles.

I made two that mirrored the glowing of the shimmering stag, one using similar colours as the stag, and another that mirrored the glow of the sun and the colours of autumn on the back cover. The third was one that had slight stone texture to match the stone of the castle, but using the same sun and autumn colours.

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Once I had created a selection of styles to the font, I sent it over to see which is preferred and then worked on the final finishing touches of the image – including putting in a further foreground to make it fit in with the framings of a book cover.

On the whole…

It’s hard to say which was my favourite part of this project as the whole thing is at the top with a few other projects that I have enjoyed the most. I would say that if I had to choose a favourite part of the creation process, it would be the transition of the image going from black and white into colour, seeing the small added touches really bring it to life and add feeling. However, my favourite part of every project is the reaction from the author, and this one was particularly nice!


Phew! A huge thanks to Venetia Jackson for giving us a wonderful insight into how much work goes into a cover here at Inspired Quill. What do you think of the cover and process shown here? Do you guys want more posts like this as more books are released? Let us know!


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