Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 4: final cover illustration

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I illustrated the front cover.

Step 1: cover design

Here’s my final rough:

And final colour mock-up:

There were a lot more draft versions of the cover before this one. Check out this previous post to see them all.

Step 2: refined rough

This is me figuring out the correct shape for the SUB, and the correct proportions for Sally and Charli, before I do the final linework.

I haven’t drawn absolutely all the details as I want to get some spontaneity and some happy accidents in the final lines.

Step 3: final linework

This is all digital using Kyle T Webster’s HB Pencil Pro in Photoshop.

Step 4: flat background colour

I coloured the whole background, even the parts behind the SUB, so that I could repurpose the cover for other things like a bookmark design, social media banners, etc. There’s nothing worse than needing to draw extra content down the track, knowing that you could have sorted it out easily when making the original piece. I also did the linework for the full blood cells, even the ones partially obscured by the SUB; this helped me to get the correct shape, but also allowed me to reuse them later if I needed to.

Step 5: flat foreground colour

I kinda love this flat colour version. I almost wished we kept it like this. It’s a very Hergé Tintin style.

Step 6: background shading and highlights

Alas, we added shading. As much as I love Hergé’s flat colour style, I also love me some lighting and shadow. The piece is starting to give a strong sense of depth. I’ve also included drop shadows underneath the blood cells and the SUB, even though they wouldn’t be there in real life – but then again, there probably wouldn’t be any ambient light either, and there definitely wouldn’t be a tiny submarine!

Step 7: foreground shading and highlights

This stage was fun, especially the white outline for the domed windshield, and it’s frosty edges and reflections. It really sells the idea that they’re inside the dome.

Step 8: final cover

Time to add the pre-prepared S.Tinker Inc. logo and hand-drawn title type. The cover is ready to go!

I hope you liked this behind-the-scenes look at the making of Gastronauts. If you’d like to see more behind-the-scenes posts, click here.



Buy local – find your closest bookshop

Or order online:
– Booktopia (Australia and NZ only)
Angus and Robertson (Australia only)
QBD (Australia only)
Book Depository


Author: James Foley

James makes books for courageous kids. He’s the author/illustrator of the S.Tinker Inc graphic novel series for middle primary: Brobot (2016), Dungzilla (2017) and Gastronauts (2018) star Sally Tinker, the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve, and Joe Tinker, her stinky baby brother. The fourth in the series, Chickensaurus, is out in late 2020. He is also the illustrator of the Toffle Towers series written by Tim Harris. James’ earlier books My Dead Bunny (2015), In The Lion (2012), The Last Viking (2011) and The Last Viking Returns (2014) have all scored several honours, including children’s choice awards, shortlistings in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year awards, and selection to the International Youth Library’s White Raven list. The sequel to My dead Bunny - There's Something Weird About Lena - is out in late 2020. James comes from a long line of queuing enthusiasts. Follow him on FB/twitter/insta/youtube @jamesfoleybooks, or at .

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