Cover Artwork

When it comes to book cover illustration communication is key to a successful cover. A lesson I learnt in publishing when I worked with freelance artists. Original hand Illustration takes longer to do. That’s obvious. But, keep this in mind if you have a short time frame in which to complete a cover.

Some covers require both photograph and illustration. Either way, you need to plan enough time for everyone: the artist, designer, editor, and the printer if you want to print on time. Communication has to be clear and consistent between everyone. At the publishing house I worked at, it was the designer and editor’s responsibility to ensure the artist was briefed correctly and followed the timeline accordingly. There were strict rules in place. Rules I see value in now. Though, I like to think of them more as guidelines, than rules 😉


Artwork by Vincent Sammy

1st Rough

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but a first rough illustration is exactly that – rough! The artwork below is still very detailed for a first rough. It’s basically to show the client how the concept will look on the cover. To show overall structure – not detail. Once this stage is approved, then we move onto the 2nd rough. slr_21

2nd Rough This stage should show more detail before the artist goes to colour. It should show clothing detail and facial detail. Some artists do one rough and go straight to colour from there. It all depends how you work and what kind of client you have. With hand illustration its always best to keep in frequent communication with your client. This is because if something is not right, its more difficult to remove or redo, than it would be as a digital illustration. Yes, the process of hand illustration may a bit of a lost craft these days, but it certainly has its rewards. A unique piece of artwork on your cover is priceless! (I said priceless – not free).

Artwork by Vincent Sammy

Adding colour

As mentioned before, colour can change everything on your cover. It can lighten, brighten, darken or dampen it. It has the power to transform a flat piece of pencil roughs into something that looks alive. Colour adds life! So as you can see, this is a very important conversation to have with your artist. Another important conversation is freedom. How much creative freedom are you willing to give an artist on your cover? No point in hiring a professional artist and limit their input. If you control a piece of art too much, you’ll destroy it. Give the artist the basic and necessary information. Things like the story, the concept, guidelines of where text will sit on the cover, the colours you roughly thought of (subject to change), a rough idea of the character on the cover, how old they are, what kind of clothes they wearing, your target market, etc. These are things the artist should be made aware of. On the other hand, some artists need more guidance than others, while others prefer working on their own. You’ll only know which one you getting when you work with them. Find out how they work and if they have done cover art before. slr_23

Semi-final Colour

Semi-colour is roughly 80% of the artwork complete. More contrast added and more colour detail. Untitled-8

Final Artwork

Once the illustration is complete, the artist scans in the artwork and takes it into Photoshop. Here he enhances the artwork by adjusting the lighting and contrast, and by adding in extra detail and texture. Basically, post-production work. With digital, there are many ways to make anything look spectacular, but you need to know what you doing, and how to do it. A combination of an original painting with digital effects, can lead to a piece of art no-one else will have on their book cover.slr_devilhunter final-x2
[Artwork copyright of Vincent Sammy]

Vincent Sammy works on many book covers. To get an idea of the kind of illustration work he enjoys, or if you’d like to contact him, visit his Deviant Art page

Hope you found this helpful 🙂

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