I’ve always wanted to make a picture book, but I’ve never quite come up with a story that I liked enough to commit to. Last December a drawing out of my sketchbook that I posted on twitter sparked a back and forth between myself and Treelobsters, and he ended up writing a short story about my little drawing.
After a bit more back and forth we established that A) we both wanted to make a book and B) we didn’t have any idea how to do this, other than being vaguely aware that self-publishing websites exist.
But how hard could it be?
Treelobsters wrote out the script with page breaks and stage direction suggestions, then I went through it and did thumbnail sketches to plan out what each illustration should be. This took about a month, I think, as I have a day job, and it ended up being sixteen illustrations. Here are two examples of these thumbnail sketches:
These initial drawings were digital, using a program by Corel called Painter. I kind of hate to admit this, but if you include the time scanning takes it’s as fast or faster for me to just draw on the computer instead of with a real pencil. Also with these little sketches the point of them was to decide on content and composition, so I wanted to get them done as quickly as possible.
Once we finalized the content of the images it was time to do the final illustrations, and this is the part that took the longest. I sketched them out in pencil first, mostly paying attention to Demon’s head and hands, Bunny, and anything in the background that needed to be precise. Next I would go back in with a black brush pen for the linework. Once I had enough structure down, I added in the layers of colored marker. In areas of heavy linework I’d add color for a while, then go back in with my pen for more line detailing, and repeat as necessary until the area was filled to my satisfaction. I like the effect this gets, but it’s pretty time consuming and this project the main reason why I’ve watched (or at least listened to) almost three seasons of Teen Wolf.
After I finished the drawing part, it was time to scan and edit the illustrations. One thing I had to do is slightly alter the format, as the paper I was drawing on was a longer rectangle than the proportions that the self-publishing website we decided to go through–blurb.com–offered in their formats.
Another thing I needed to do was fix the stuff I’d either screwed up or had decided was too much trouble to do with the markers. While, contrary to what many a TV show would have you believe, there isn’t actually a magical Photoshop button that makes every image perfect, if you’re patient the various graphics software out there CAN do quite a lot.
So ok, for this illustration, the script called for Demon and Bunny to be surveying the park, but they don’t actually pick out where they’re going to sit for a few more pages. I just kind of forgot that, and as I was doing the drawings out of order as the whim took me, didn’t notice until I laid everything out that it was confusing that they were pointing directly at a tree.
To fix this I copied the tree into a new layer, flipped it and warped it using Photoshop’s transform tools, moved things around in the background so that they made sense, and then took the image into Painter to add some additional linework and change up the trees a bit more. I like Painter better for drawing, but Photoshop better for editing, so I switch between the two programs quite a bit.
Another reason that I really like my computer is that it allowed me to not have to re-draw the entire illustration in order to re-arrange the background.
This illustration was fine, but I wasn’t sure how best to draw a cliff face in the style I was using, and honestly the siren song of the easy computer editing lured me. As you can see all the shadows inside the cave and all of the cliff was done digitally, and while some people might call that cheating, I knew the entire time I was working on this project that the drawings I was making were the start, not the end product. The book was going to have to be digitally printed eventually no matter what, so why not take advantage of all the tools that I have available?
When all the art was finished and formatted I handed the files off to Treelobsters for him to do the layout and final round of editing. After a couple of weeks our book was produced! Overall I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
Demon and Bunny Go on a Picnic is available for purchase here: