Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Power of the Dark Crystal #1 Variant Cover Process

Archaia will be publishing a new Dark Crystal series: "The Power of the Dark Crystal". Adapted from a screenplay by the same name, this is a sequel story to the film The Dark Crystal. As a big fan of Henson and that original movie, Archaia editors Cameron Chittock & Sierra Hahn asked me to do a variant cover for issue 1.

In this blogpost I go through my process for creating the cover art you see to the left.

Pencil sketches:
I was given a packet of reference material for the new series from Henson, which included new characters and a new species. I tried my hand at the two new main characters, but opted to only depict one of them in my cover, using the remaining space for the crystal itself and a menacing Skeksis.

I drew these on copy paper, and with the Skeksis, I got out of control having not planned a composition but just free drawing. I had to tape a few sheets of extra paper together to extend the drawing in the directions I was going. The main Gelfling character was sketched out considerably smaller and is based on some work by Brian Froud included in the reference packet. (I couldn't find my loose sketch of the crystal & surroundings when I was putting this blogpost together).

I scanned the sketches above (and the now missing Crystal sketch) into Photoshop and worked up a composition for the cover. Each drawing was tinted a different color to help define the characters. This layout is a bit different for me because it's less of a scene and more of a montage-collage.

Because this stage had to meet with the approval of both Archaia & Henson, I also painted in the basic color concept and added a Froud celestial design pattern in to fill up some of the background. I sent this .jpg over to my editors to wait for approval before proceeding.

The layout was approved with no changes (and very quickly) so I started inking the piece. First, I printed out my composite layout at the art-size (about 10" x 15") and then taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore bristol. On a light pad, I'm able to see through the bristol to the printout and use it as a guide while I ink. This saves me a later step of erasing pencil or having to digitally edit out blue-line pencil. I used Copic Multiliners to ink with (the 0.2, 0.3, & 0.7 nibs)

Below you can see some in-process photos I took to share with one of my editors as I worked:

Color Flats:
Once the inks were completed, I scanned the art into photoshop and prepared the file for coloring. At first this means adjusting the levels so that the blacks are true black and the whites are true whites while eliminating stray midtone greys. Then I lay in flat color behind the linework layer establishing the areas of color (the Skeksis' skin, the armor, the crystal, the Gelfling's armor & clothes, etc.) I also establish the color-holds. These are areas where I don't want my inked linework to be black, but to be a color. The background pattern is the most obvious one of these, but I also held the linework of the crystal, the Gelfling's freckles, & the glow of the pit below the crystal.

Final Colors:
The last step is to render all the colors adding light, shadow and texture. I mainly use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop to do this while using a stock textured brush. I also make lots of slight color adjustments as I work, using the free-hand lasso tool with a feather on it to make subtle color shifts for rosey noses, glowing light sources that would affect color shifts, etc.

The final cover art sans-logo can be see to the right. And follow @Archaia on Twitter for updates about this new Dark Crystal series.

2017 Appearances: 
C2E2: April 21-23
Heroes Con: Jun. 16-18
San Diego Comic Con: July 19-23
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

1 comment:

Eric Young said...

Awesome post! I love your ink drawings and it's really cool seeing how you add in color. It's something I still struggle with, so thanks for sharing!

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