Here is my sixth variant cover for Archaia's Beneath the Dark Crystal series!
To view my past Dark Crystal covers click here.
This cover features UrAc the Mystic Scribe and skekOk the Skeksis Scroll Keeper. Like my other covers these two are the counterparts of each other and paired together facing opposite directions. To the left you can see the finished artwork for the cover, but below I'll walk through the steps I took to to get there.
On separate sheets of copy paper I drew UrAc the Mystic and skekOk the Skeksis. I was fortunate to have some great reference from Henson for both, though there's always a part you'd like to be able to see or tough on the real puppet that the photo just doesn't provide the information for––so I just interpreted it all as best as I could. I tried to get their props mimicking each other a bit, the staff for the Mystic and the scrolls for the Skeksis. On a third piece of paper I copied an existing Froud pattern found in the art book of the Dark Crystal as the background. Once I had those drawings finished, I scanned them all, and with each part on a different layer, I tinted them different colors. The color tints for the pencils helps me see where a character ends and the next begins or what are the finicky background details.
Once the layout was approved by Archaia and Henson, it was time to move on to inking the cover. I printed the above layout out onto copy paper (two sheets I had to tape together for the full image). That printout was then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol board. On my Huion lightpad I could see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below and use it as a guide as I inked with Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly). As ever with these Dark Crystal covers, texture is so much about how I try to honor the practical costuming and puppet building of the Henson Creature Shop. Little stippling, line weight decisions, and differences in hatching helps me create those fabrics and materials.
With the inks completed, I could move on to the coloring stage. The first step of which is the less-fun part: Flatting. Flatting is essentially a professional version of 'coloring within the lines'. No shading details are done, just flat (hence the name) colors are established. Which parts of the image are which colors.
Some of the color choice decisions are based on the photo reference I have, but I'm also eyeballing those colors and then making alterations that suit the illustration. In this stage I also establish the color holds (the areas that I want the ink to print as a color other than black) for the background Froudian circle pattern.
The final step for this cover was to render the colors adding shading, texture, and highlights. I use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop to do that, with a stock textured brush to help emulate the look of something a little more natural and less airbrush-digital-slick.
Overtop of the whole piece I added in another Froudian design (one that I inked back when I was inking the cover itself) as a ghostly overlay on the entire piece.
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