Making The Legend of Halloween Book Cover Part 2

Thanks for checking back for the second part of this two part post about how I created the Magical World of Sebella: Legend of Halloween book cover.  In part one we discussed how I started this project learning the clients expectations and how the client suggested scenes from the book that might make good imagery for the cover. Next, based off these discussions how I design characters to fit into this magical world. Finishing up last weeks post with talking about how I created a final Black and white line drawing, got it approved, and ready to be colored. This week I’m going to show you the process I used for coloring the entire image and how I finished the project up by laying the cover out in InDesign. If you’d like to read part one you can find it here.

For my coloring process I screen recorded the entire session of me painting the cover. This process was over several days and the video is sped up quite a bit. I think it took me about 10 hours to paint the cover and the full-length of the video is about nine minutes. I hope you enjoy zooming through 10 hours of my life.

When coloring I normally use five or six different tools: brush, eraser, gradient, smudge,  lasso selection, and the magic wand tool. In this case I took my color rough and snapped it to the right side of my Photoshop layout, just for reference as I’m adding color. In this illustration’s case the first thing I started with was a gradient just to establish a base color. From there I roughed in some of the background elements. Once I was happy with the rough background I began adding a base color for the characters. For me, it’s easiest if I use the brush tool and establish the outline of the area I’m trying to fill and making sure there are no open areas. Using the magic wand tool I select the inside of the area. Once that selection has been established I expanded anywhere from two pixels to six pixels out as to avoid the nasty pixel ring that can be left behind if you don’t expand your selection. To do this quickly I create an action in Photoshop that expands my selection two pixels out. Once the flat colors are laid down for all the characters, I begin establishing some quick shadows on the characters using the gradient tool. I know a lot of artists don’t like to use the gradient tool, they say it makes it feel more computer-generated and for the most part I agree. Since this is just the base and I’ll come back painting over these areas later, I don’t have a problem starting with the gradient tool. It just helps me define shapes. Now I’m going in and adding a few lines to faces and areas so I won’t need to use my sketch layer anymore. I never delete the sketch layer until the end because I will refer back to it several times.

At this point (2:00 minutes in) in the drawing I’m looking at it and not really enjoying the way the characters are turning out. There’s a lot of things that I could nitpick about it but instead of scrapping the entire picture I decide to focus on the background. Hiding the characters layer I find myself enjoying the task of painting the background and it really energizes me for the rest of the image. Sometimes I find myself worrying about silly things like the way layers are organized and making sure I use selections so that I don’t paint outside defined shapes. When I feel this way I normally do the scariest thing I can, which is flatten the image. It helps me let go of all that silly stuff and just paint.

Once again happy with the background, I turn my attention back to the characters. When I find myself unhappy with a part of the painting it’s nice to focus on something else and come back later to the problem areas. Just don’t wait too long. Remembering to flip the canvas horizontally helps me see the problem areas of the image. By flipping the canvas you can see the image in a whole new light. Sometimes I’m staring at a drawing for too long and I start to gloss over the mistakes I’ve made. In this case a characters eye was to low on his face and when I flipped the canvas I was able to correct this mistake (3:30; it goes by really quick). I continued to add details where needed. I added some needed color to the sky and bats flying in the background. Now back to refining the characters. I start adding darker shadows and highlights of the edges of characters to help better define the light sources. Finally, I add details, details, and more details. My last few steps are to add some missing pieces of candy (7:45). A color adjustment layer and a dark blue gradient from the top of the image to help sell the idea of night. It also helps the title pop off the page a bit more.

Once again I send this image to the client and her only change is to make the text “The Legend of Halloween” a different color.


Now that the cover is approved it’s time for me to lay out the artwork in Adobe Indesign. With this cover there was also a design element which was designing the back cover and spine of the book. The author had already sent me the text for the back, so it was really just a matter of defining the colors, coming up with some decorative elements, adding the UPC code area and applying some of the design elements from the back cover to the spine.

I hope you enjoyed my process for creating this cover. It was well worth it and I really enjoyed creating it. I really appreciate Thea Berg allowing me to share all of this with you. If you have any questions about this process please leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer them.

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.

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. Continue reading

What we wish we knew before we started out as artists?

Welcome back Once upon a Sketch and happy 2014! It’s been a long break but now it’s time to start a new chapter in OUaS’s history. We have a lot of great new voices that will be working on the site and I can’t wait to hear what they have to share with you. Since we have a lot of new voices we thought it would be good to ask everyone a common question. Everyone gave great answers so without further adieu here is our teams answer to the question “What we wish we knew before we started out as artists?” Continue reading

The building of an empire brick by brick, the Lego story

Lego is an iconic toy brand but not many know the story behind the company. This year Lego is celebrating its 80th birthday and telling their story with a short animation created by Danish CG studio, Lani Pixel. The tale is an inspirational one of fighting through the trials and tribulations of starting a company in the early 1930s. The film is narrated by founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen‘s grandson Kjeld. If you have an extra 17 minutes I would give this a watch.

SketchBook Pro is back with new features


One of my favorite drawing apps is back with all new features and a streamlined interface. Autodesk SketchBook Pro 6 is a drawing and painting app with familiar tools designed for professional artists. SketchBook Pro 6 is designed to feel and respond just like a sketchpad when used with pen tablets. Updates include 100 brush presets to your library, a smudge tool brush and a color blending brush. Other features are the ability to adjust the brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, color balance, and grayscale. A few of the updates are just bringing it more up to speed with Photoshop, but nevertheless happy to see them included. Here’s a few new features, from the Autodesk website and a few extras I thought were good additions:

• Streamlined interface delivers an unobstructed and discoverable environment, keeping you in the creative zone.
• Multitouch navigation support on the latest Wacom devices.
• Synthetic paintbrushes that behave more like traditional paint mediums.
• Smudge brushes for blending colors.
• New French Curve Guides Continue reading

Sigh, I’m hooked on Pinterest

Hello my name is Norman Grock and I have a problem. My problem is my wife showed me Pinterest. In case you haven’t heard Pinterest is kind of a big deal. It’s the first social network that really speaks my language. Pinterest is the first visual social network, where you share in images, and not just news about your dog. You find and image you like on the interent and ‘pin’ it to a board that you can custom categorize. You can also follow other people and see what they are pinning.  I open my Pinterest page and see all kinds of beautiful and inspiring imagery. It all depends on what kind of people’s boards you follow. For me, I follow all kinds of boards from children’s book art, character design, environment design, whatever my heart desires.

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Mobile Apps for Running a Freelance Illustration Business

With September being a huge month for announcements in mobile technology like Amazon releasing the 2nd version of their tablet Kindle fire and all kinds of smart phones being released from Samsung to Motorola. All of that being topped off by Apple releasing their new iPhone 5 on friday (09.21.12). So, all of this got me thinking about my favorite mobile apps for running my freelance business. Here are a few of the apps I couldn’t live without.

Minimal Folio
This app is for creative professionals who want to let their portfolios do the talking. Minimal Folio is the simplest way to present images and video on your iPad or iPhone. The app is unbranded so all your clients see is your work.
Device: iOS
Price: $2.99
Developer: Simon Heys

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Daniel Lieske’s digital painting process

Do you know what the Wormworld saga is? It’s an amazing free online fantasy comic drawn and created by Daniel Lieske. When Daniel created his comic he made four how-to videos of his process for making a panel. His process goes as follows; step one prelim, step 2 drawing, step 3 painting and  step 4 layout. He can be a little hard to understand at points because he is from Germany, but the information is very good. If you’re interested in digital art you should check out these videos.

Need help with drawing heads?

Recently, I found some wonderful tutorial videos on drawing the human head at a site called The site was made by Stan Prokopenko, a web developer, teacher and artist. Stan so far has made four tutorial videos on drawing the human head at various angles. He does a great job simplifying and breaking down Andrew Loomis‘ approach to drawing heads. It’s a great method for drawing the head from various angles and stan presents the information in an interesting way. In the first video he breaks down the proportions when drawing a head. In his subsequent videos he shows the process for the front, side and three-quarter view. The videos are all done with a good production value and contain great information. Check out the videos at his YouTube channel or at his website