Saturday, January 7, 2012

cover painting - the monkey king's daughter - book4

I've had the pleasure to work with Todd Debonis on all 4 covers of his fantastic "The Monkey King's Daughter" series.  Book 4 is a "wrap-around" cover so our goal is to have an image that tells a story both as a front cover and a panorama of sorts.  Here's a peek in the process . . .  


Every cover begins with several thumbnails based on our initial discussion.  Book 4 is unique in that our final image composition is a "last minute inspiration" - none of these ideas made the final cut.


Todd then supplies me with a template for the cover copy.  This is very helpful as I'll design elements to work with the text.  The pencil sketch is either scanned into Photoshop or drawn directly into the program on a Wacom Cintiq (which is the case here).  

Throughout the process I'll keep the text on a separate layer and toggle on/off to make sure important elements remain visible.  


I now now what will be in the background - well much of it as new ideas often pop up during the process. I'll hop on Google for related images.  Todd sends a bunch as well.  I use two monitors for painting - the Cintiq and a second to my left where I keep all needed reference.


Everything from here on in is painted in Photoshop.  The first paint pass is a complete version of the final in black and white.  The goal is make sure everything reads well with good separation/depth.  If it doesn't work at this stage color won't save it.  

Color is then applied on top in glazes.  I'll use a lot of Photoshop layers to keep various elements separate and free for later tweaking. 

The focus here is on Meilin - paint right over pencils (which are still visible under this initial layer).

Most of the background elements are in and Meilin's close to finish.  Now it's a matter of smaller details.  We'll also apply the final green cast which is the "color theme" for Book 4.

Quick check on the copy layer - everything seems to be working.  I flip the image horizontally several times during the process as well - if there's an error my tired eyes are missing it becomes evident with the flip

Done!  Green cast has been added in addition to our final lighting details, some smoke and the ruins behind our hero.  I then send it to Todd and cross my fingers . . .

Detail of final image - some of the pencil is still visible!

Thanks for dropping by - questions are always welcomed . . .


  1. Fascinating stuff, John, and the cover looks great too. I love seeing these "how-tos"- More please.

  2. Thanks a bunch, BW - will make more . . .

  3. This is awesome John! I'm blown away with your Photoshop skills. I agree with Bill...more "how-tos" and tutorials. Maybe explain how you made her hair look so good and also the bright light at the top of her staff?

    I just added you to my blog list so that I'll know when you post new stuff.