Making The Legend of Halloween Book Cover Part 1

In this post I’m going to walk you through my process for creating a book cover. A self-publishing author, Thea Berg, approached me to do a cover in her book series The Magical World of Sebella. The first book cover was illustrated by Wilson Williams, Jr. who sadly passed away last year. So I thought it was very nice of the author to think of me to do the second book’s cover. Wilson was a good friend and I was honored that I could continue the work he had started with the first cover.


I’m going to breakdown my entire process for creating the second book cover in the series The Magical World of Sebella book 2: The Legend of Halloween. I’ll show you the character designs, the cover sketches, color comps, my coloring process and finally how I laid the book out in Adobe Indesign. With all that being in this post, it’s going to be a little bit longer than normal so it may end up being broken into two parts. Let’s get started.


My process begins with talking to the client. In this case it was a few emails and a phone conversation. During these conversations we discussed her characters, who her target audience is, and the story. I wasn’t able to read through the entire book’s script so she sent me over chunks of the book that she thought would make the best imagery. In our conversations we kept coming back to this same scene, in which the characters are entering a magical candy garden. This ended up being the area we chose for the illustration to take place in. With all of that out of the way I was able to start drawing. First, I looked at the first book’s cover and the look of the characters that were established in the cover. With this book taking place on Halloween we knew that these characters would need completely new outfits. The first thing I wanted to do was establish the characters’ costumes. We had already discussed what costumes the characters would wear: witch, cowgirl, Princess, and ninja costumes. When I’m designing characters I usually start off with a silhouette of the character but since a majority of that was already established from the first cover I was really able to focus solely on the characters’ outfits. I started with really rough sketches and then continued to refine. By dropping the opacity of the layer of my last rough sketch, creating a new layer and continuing to draw over the top of the last sketch, I refined the image until I came up with an image that I’m happy with. Once I  created a sketch I enjoyed, I darkened the line work and added some color. Then I sent the designs over to the client for approval. The sketches were approved rather easily with one minor change; the witch character looked a little old. I reworked the image and was on to the next step of rough sketches for the cover.


Again, this process went by fairly smoothly which is somewhat unusual. Normally, there are tons of revisions and thumbnail sketches but the author seemed happy with the work I was producing so things went quite smoothly. I presented the client with three thumbnail sketches and as is typical with this process when presenting multiple options to a client. She liked option two, but asked for elements from each of the other sketches to be combined into a final tight sketch.


With option two from my sketch phase as the base for my tight sketch I began reworking and including the requested changes. She asked for a few of the characters to be in different poses from the other options and make the characters a little bit more front and center. She enjoyed a few of the candy elements from option one and so I mashed these ideas altogether and came up with a rough layout. From there I again reduced the opacity of my Frankensteined sketch and continued refining. Tightening up the sketch from the previous sketch, dropping the opacity, creating a new layer, sketching over the old sketch, dropping the opacity, creating a new layer, and continuing this process until I ended up with a tight line drawing.


The final step before I begin adding color is a color comps stage. This is where I take my tight sketch of the cover, shrink it down to a size of about 3 or 4 inches and just rough in some colors. This process is so that I can establish a mood for the cover. The mood I was going for was mysterious and magical, but I also knew that the client wanted the cover to be bright and colorful so I played with three different ideas. The first feels like fall and a little too ordinary with not enough magic. Option 3 felt too ominous, like a volcano had just exploded in the background. In the second option I played with the sky being a teal color which is something that is not normally found in nature. I found that using a out of the ordinary color gave the cover a mysterious and magical feel. Then I proceeded on to coloring with the center option being my color guide.

In part two I’ll post the video of me painting the cover in Adobe Photoshop and I’ll talk about my process for laying the book out in Adobe Indesign. Check back on June 18th, 2014 for the second part of this two-part Post.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

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