3. Robo-Kid: The Cover Design
When I was ready to start the final art for The Adventures of Robo-Kid, the editors asked that I do the cover art first so they could present it to the cover committee for approval. But before I could do a final sketch, I had to first design the actual comic book that would appear throughout the 'real' book. And before that, I had to design the actual robot character to be in the comic book!
My agent Liz suggested that the robot look more contemporary than the one I had first sketched, so I switched to a sort of Anime design:
I mocked up the comic’s cover art and added it to the "real" book cover sketch on the dummy to see how it looked. Not bad:
The design for the back of the comic was harder. I wanted to use ads so it would feel like a real comic, but they couldn’t be for actual products or else kids would try to send away for them! No ant farms. No live pet seahorses. I kept it Robo-Kid centered:
I sent the final cover sketch to the publisher for editorial approval before doing any color art:
Unfortunately, The publisher's editor and designer felt that the mock book titles on the back were misleading—if not optimistic! So I took the fictional book covers out and made everything else bigger. I agree that it makes a simpler design and is easier to read. I left the movie ad and the trading cards, which seem to be OK, even if they really don’t exist, but maybe someday they will!
This is the final comic book design that was approved. FYI: I hand lettered all the words so we wouldn't encounter any copyright issues with fonts:
Meanwhile the cover committee was going over the original cover design:
They weren’t fussy about the comic book or the misleading ads on it, but they wanted to see more of the boy on the front cover of the book, not just half a face.
I pulled back from the scene, and moved the face to the front cover:
They wanted even more face showing, so I redrew it again:
They approved this sketch, so now I could start on the final art. I collected my digital reference material. The dog photos were found on the web. The other photos I took myself:
I started the finished art with the charcoal layer:
I scanned it into the computer and added digital color:
Can you see what's missing? Below is the text layer. All the words had to be on a separate layer so that they could be changed in case there were any foreign editions. I wonder what Robo-Kid will be called in Chinese. Or Spanish. Hopefully, I’ll get to find out!
The text had to fit naturally onto the "bent" comic book in the art. It wasn't easy! Hint: Photoshop tools “Warp” and “Distort.” This is the cover they finally approved:
The digital PSD (Photoshop) art is done at 600 dpi and some of my images can have over 40 layers. Just one image can be over 800MB! Fortunately, my computer has a lot of memory. But the advantage of having a lot of separate layers means I can change one small thing without affecting everything else. For instance, if I wanted to make the dog’s fur browner or redder, I could easily adjust it on the “dog” layer, which just has his color. Once all the color layers are finished, each one can be tweaked and balanced to make everything look good together.
These are just some of the layers for the cover art:
The editors were happy with the finished cover, but something bothered me about the boy’s face. He didn’t look enough like the boy that was drawn inside the book. So I redrew a new piece to use as a patch on the charcoal layer.
I removed the old face, patched in the new one, altered the eyes and ears, and added color. Now it’s done! Yay.
And here's the answer to the last post's puzzle question:
Can you identify these characters from my books?
The one on the left is the model for a graphic novel I started. If you don't recognize him, you get a point, because it was never finished or published.
The middle one is Gilbert. Does this help?
If you guessed Gilbert, you get five points, just because we all love Gilbert. If you didn't guess Gilbert, you lose100 points.
The one on the right is Albert the Running Bear. If you guessed right, congratulations! And you are either a librarian, a teacher, or a fan of out-of-print books!