This is my third variant cover for the new Dark Crystal series from Archaia titled "Beneath the Dark Crystal".
You can view my past two covers here.
This cover features UrIm the healer (mystic) and skekUng the Garthim Master (Skeksis). To the left you can see the finished cover art and below I go step by step to show how I created the piece.
I started with pencil drawings on copy paper. I am fortunate enough to have several folders of reference photos from various angles of the Mystics and Skeksis from Henson. Those are invaluable as I'm drawing the figures and trying to decipher details of their clothing and anatomy.
For the background image as well as the overlayed ghostly design, I am using existing Brian Froud imagery from the Art Of The Dark Crystal book and then recreating it in my linework.
I scan each piece of paper to create the layout to submit for approval. Having the drawings all scanned separately allows me to color tint each figure and then independently move them around until I like the placement of the characters in relationship to the background and the pattern overlay.
The Garthim Master's head needed a little adjustment too. So in this step I was able to cut it and rotate it to where it looked better. Speaking of the Garthim Master, I think not only is most of his armor made of Garthim carapace, but that the 'webbing' on his back is actually a female Gelfling's wing fragment.
Once the above layout was approved I was able to ink the piece. I printed out the layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightpad, I can see through the surface of the bristol and use the printout as a pencil guide to ink from. For pens I prefer to use Copic Multiliners. I mostly use the 0.7 nib, but there were certainly spots on their faces where I used a smaller 0.3 nib.
As the Dark Crystal characters demand, so much of the work is in the inking of textures. Some of their costume fabrics don't literally translate to linework, so I have to create patterns and texture to imply the same feel from the puppets to the drawing.
I also inked the overlay pattern on a separate sheet of Strathmore bristol. While the linework here is black, I used photoshop tricks and techniques to make it lighter and ghostly in the final art.
With the inks completed I scanned in the original and started flatting the color in Photoshop. Flatting is the process of establishing color areas: that the Skeksis skin is a different color than the background or than the armor, or the mystic's hair or sleeves. It's basically digital professional coloring within the lines.
In this step I also established all the color holds, the areas I didn't want the linework to be black, but instead a color: The background design and the Mystic's sleeve pattern
The last step was to render all the color and to add color texture. I do all of that in Photoshop using the Dodge and Burn tools with a stock textured brush.
So, that's 3 down and 9 more to go!!!
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7
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