In this article, I will show you the process of illustrating a book cover for a self-published author. I’ll go through the different steps involved in the art-making process, and show you the final product. For this purpose we are going to look at 1 of the 4 book covers I did for Swedish children’s book author Lotta Hylander’s series Isa Och Minigänget.
A little background information: I had the pleasure of being retained by Lotta to illustrate her wonderful pony series about Minigänget (The Mini Gang), her herd of Shetland ponies after Lotta had seen my artwork online. Lotta was a joy to work with and I’m excited to show you our process.
Step 1. Contract and Brief
The first step of any illustration commission is always signing a contract, negotiating the payment and receiving a brief from the client. The contract serves to protect both illustrator and client and to insure both of you understand what is expected for the job. It also outlines the cost, initial deposit and which rights are being transferred and what the author can use the artwork for.
The author will provide the illustrator with a brief that describes what they have in mind for the artwork. They can also submit reference photos to help the illustrator get a visual.
In the case of this cover, Lotta provided me with a lovely document that had a clear description of what she had in mind for the art along with photos that showed me what colors and feel she was looking for. She also sent me (adorable) photos of her ponies to draw from.
Step 2. Thumbnail Drawings and/or Initial Sketch
Depending on the job, the first thing I do is draw a series of thumbnail sketches, or an initial rough sketch.
Because this was the 4th time Lotta and I worked together, and because Lotta had such a clear image of what she needed as outlined in the brief, it wasn’t necessary for me to do thumbnail sketches for this cover. However for some of our earlier covers I did do thumbnail sketches, and I’ll show those to you here so you have an idea of what they look like.
When illustrating book covers, it is important to consider where the text is going to go. You do not want an important or busy part of the artwork under the text as it will make it hard to read.