Evolution of a scene: the final version of ‘Big Trouble’

pg22-23-5-finalLast week I posted the roughs for this scene from The Last Viking Returns. This post will show how I got from my almost-final rough to my final illustration.

The almost-final rough looked like this:

almost-final rough


My next step: print the rough at 100% final print size and do what I call the ‘gestural rough’. This is a more complex rough where I nut out the fine details of facial expressions, body language, page bleed, etc. I also scan this in and plan out how the page border will work, and whether I can fit in all the runes needed to make the phrase legible.

(I really like the line quality in these final roughs; I’ll have to try using this style in a book one day).

‘gestural’ rough (the final rough)


Then I trace the gestural rough with a HB lead pencil. This is the final clean linework, ready to be scanned and coloured digitally.

final pencil linework


I used digital watercolour in Corel Painter for the Viking books. I started by adding the shadows with a brown or purple/grey colour, just as in a normal watercolour painting.
This step allows you to determine the light source in the scene. All colours are laid over this shadow layer, which gives all the shadows a consistent base colour value.

shadows added


I used a photograph of pebbles to provide a dragon scale texture. (I’ll talk about this more in a future post).
I used the digital watercolour brushes in Corel Painter to colour the dragon and Odin.
I also added in the border which I had pre-prepared in the earlier rough stage, using the same texture from The Last Viking.

dragon texture and colour added; border texture and colour added; Odin colour added


I added the background cloud and character colours in Photoshop …

cloud and background character colour added


… then the distant background colours. I also added a parchment texture to the scroll and applied a burnt look using Photoshop’s Burn Tool.

distant background colours added; parchment added and burnt


My final step was to add warm highlighting. The light source is off-page to the right; it’s the setting sun, so it needs to be casting a warm glow over everything. This gives Fafnir a dramatic rim-light.
I also added shadows and highlights to the borders to help sell the illusion that they’re an actual part of the scene.

warm highlights added; levels and saturation adjusted in Photoshop


And there you have it – the final illustration. I was really happy with the way this one turned out; it’s a bit different to how I originally imagined it but it has the feel I wanted.

Thanks for reading!

Author: James Foley

James Foley makes children’s books for children who read books. If you’re a child and you’re eating his books, you’re doing it wrong. His books include Brobot, Dungzilla, Gastronauts, Chickensaurus, Toffle Towers, My Dead Bunny and There's Something Weird About Lena. James lives in Perth with his wife, 2 kids, and a labrador. He is a massive Marvel movie nerd and comes from a long line of queuing enthusiasts. Follow him on FB/twitter/insta/youtube @jamesfoleybooks, or at www.jamesfoley.com.au .

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