Posted by Tyler Chin-Tanner on Apr 1, 2011
This week I’m going to go over my process for creating the cover for American Terrorist digital edition #5. I’ve been doing the covers for the digital issues since #2. Andy did the first one, but after that I realized he was a little do busy doing all 200 pages for the interior of the book, not to mention other cool projects like the latest Terminator series for Dark Horse.
I’m not much of a cover artist and I probably wouldn’t be doing these myself if they were actually printed issues going on the stand. But they’re not. They’re only coming out digitally where the cover is shown as a thumbnail, so I figured I could get by doing them with a simple design with just enough to get the theme and style of the book across.
And for this cover, it occurred to me that if there was some way to incorporate Andy’s artwork into it, much like Dave Johnson used Eduardo Risso’s interiors as part of his cover design for their run on 100 Bullets, that would be even better.
The idea I came up with was to draw an oil drum spilling out into a water reservoir (which is sort of connected to the events inside the story). As the oil spills out, it flows down and towards us, forming pools of oil on the surface of the water. Then, inside these pools, I would place scenes from the interior pages.
My first step was to get down the composition. Here are my initial thumbnails:
You can see I started with very basic shapes. I didn’t want to get into too much detail at this point. The idea was to block off areas into positive and negative space and then adjust the placement and relationship of the pieces to each other.
First I moved the angle of the oil drum around. I went from having it facing us, to a ¾ view, to a side view. I liked the ¾ view best so I moved on to the direction of the oil spill. I knew the perspective of this was important as it would have to go from thin to very wide as it moved down the page. Initially I had it right down the middle like opening text in Star Wars, but decided that was too centered.
I started moving the shape of the oil spill off-center until I came up with something I liked on my third try.
Then I all I had to do was draw the full-size version. Not that this was simple, but there’s not much to explain. Here’s what I came up with:
Next it was time to choose which pieces of Andy’s interior artwork I wanted to use. I went through the pages for the interior of this issue and pulled out anything I thought might look good, giving myself a number of options.
I then set to work it together is some sort of design that might look good within the oil spill. This was my first attempt:
It seemed to be a bit too random to me. There wasn’t enough of a unifying theme bringing it all together. After a night’s sleep I looked at it again and realized that I was going in the wrong direction by trying to combine too many images. All I needed was one image, that one with the crowd in front of the statue. It had everything I needed on it’s own.
Next, I set about combining my initial drawing with this image. With my drawing, I used photoshop to select the entire image area except the space within the oil spill. This I left as an empty layer underneath my drawing. This allowed me to place Andy’s artwork in underneath it and move it around without covering up anything outside of the oil spill. I also placed in some lines going to a vanishing point to set up the perspective.
From there it was just a matter of moving the image around and using the transform tool in photoshop to put the image into the right perspective.
Here it is all together.
Next, I sent it to Matt to color, and here’s what I got back:
This cover is further proof that working with great artists like Andy and Matt only makes me look better.
Tyler Chin-Tanner started his own publishing company, A Wave Blue World, where he wrote and drew layouts for Adrenaline, its flagship series, Adrenaline and wrote its latest graphic novel, American Terrorist.
© 2010 Tyler Chin-Tanner. All rights reserved.
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