Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Locke & Key Small World Variant Cover Process

I've not been quiet about my love of the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez. It's one of my go-to recommendations for anyone who can take some of the spooky stuff. Back in 2013 I did 13 pieces of original art as tip-ins for the Head Games (volume 2) limited edition set. This December a one-shot stand-alone issue of the series comes out and I was asked to do a variant cover for it.

"Three years after wrapping up their award-winning, best-selling Locke & Key saga, the team that built Keyhouse returns to Lovecraft, Massachusetts with a new tale of terror and suspense! An impossible birthday gift for two little girls unexpectedly throws open a door to a monster on eight legs!"

Here you can see the finished cover, but below I run through a step-by-step process of creating the variant cover art.

After reading the synopsis and then the script for this story, I decided to focus on the spider and they doll-house version of Keyhouse. I consulted Gabe for two things, 1) the specific species and pattern markings of the spider (google image search gave to wide a variety to assume) and 2) a Google Sketchup model of Keyhouse that I could turn and rotate for reference. The model is the main geometry of the house, not filled in with the trim, brick, or even many of the windows, so I had to study through my L&K volumes to get all the details presented in my chosen angle of Keyhouse.

After I had a my tight drawings of the spider and Keyhouse, I assembled them in Photoshop. Because they were drawn as separate elements, I could manipulate them individually, changing the scale, rotation, even shifting the spider's legs, without disrupting the house behind them.

The colors I put down were just a way of helping me to see the final image better, what was house and what was spider (and what was background). I drew in a web digitally and it not only helped me decide what to do with the background, but also the web lines drew the eye inward to the spider's head and the core of Keyhouse.

I printed out the above composite (being 10" x 15" I had to print the top half and bottom half separately on two sheets of printer paper and then tape them together.) I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On a lightbox (I'm now using a 17" x 12" Huion light pad) I was able to see the printout through the bristol so that I could ink directly on the bristol surface without having to transfer or re-pencil.

The inking was all done with Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs with a bit of brush for the larger fill-ins on the spider).
Below you can see process shots I took with my phone as I inked to share with a few art buddies:

Inking process:

Color Flats:
Once the inks were done, I scanned in the lineart, cleaned up any flaws and imperfections, and then started everyone's least favorite part of coloring: flatting. It's the part of the job where you isolate different areas as different colors: the spider's main body is a different color than its markings, which is also different from Keyhouse and the background, and the webbing....not to mention all the little house details like roof, stone, and trim. Most of the color selection here was close to what ended up being the final...but that was mostly because the colors were already established either by previous L&K content, sample images of the new key, and nature.

Final Colors:
The final rendering was all done using the Photoshop tools Dodge & Burn (and then a bit of color shifting here and there on the Spider's legs). Dodge is a tool used to lighten an area (there are some other controls for the range and exposure) and Burn is to darken an area in the same way. I use a textured brush as I use either tool, which gives the work that pebbled look.

To the right you can see the final cover art sans-logo.

Locke & Key: Small World will be out in December.

2017 Appearances coming soon...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that incredibly detailed tutorial. Clearly, you are a talented graphic artist. I have compunctions to someday venture near the realm of understanding digital art to that degree, and your article made the process accessible. It was immersive too, sounds like fun. I like the render.
Oh, I'd like to also mention something about Joe Hill. The guy can write. As much as that may sound like damning with faint praise, I hesitate to overinflate his ego for a number of reasons: he knows this, his potential as a writer knows no limits because of his natural knack for gab, he's subculture savvy, sexy as all hell, and he's unabashedly bold about revealing himself as a human being through his virtual and literary presence. I've read some (not all YET!) of his books, but I've also read several of his essays and listened to his advice on writing life via various podcasts, interviews, and any other sample of what Joe has to say that I happen to find. Finally, another favorite! Can't wait to promote Joe more. Guess if better can crackin'- the art is stunning, Joe Hill rocks, thanks for this!

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