If you have been up at night tossing and turning wondering, “How did Aaron possibly come up with the cover to Wonder Woman/Conan #3?”, then you will be able to sleep well tonight. I am going to reveal to you, how the whole thing came together.
As previously established on this very blog site, I am only doing the alternative covers for the Wonder Woman/Conan limited series. (With the exception of issue #5, where I am doing the regular cover. Another story for another time!) The thing about alternative covers is they don’t get released anywhere near as early as the regular covers do so I can’t do these blogs as quickly as I would like. But the cover to #3 has finally leaked out, so let’s take a look at it now.
This series is very important to me, so I have really gone overboard with the cover concept sketches. For this particular issue, I merely drew three but I did them all in ink. Just to give a better, hopefully more clear vision of what I was going for with each one.
“A” got chosen. It’s not the most dynamic of the three but it is probably the most interesting composition and probably the least familiar of the ideas.
I knew in advance the one potential road block to this cover was going to be the water. It is a big part of the cover and needed to be done right.
Dark Horse editorial wanted the crows to overlap with the raft so the depth would be more clear. I made that accommodation in the pencils. At this point I had no idea how I was going to handle the water. I knew I was going to do most of the work in the coloring but I just wasn’t sure how. I penciled in some light water ripples here but I wasn’t convinced I was going to use them.
I did tighten up the pencils on Wonder Woman before I went to inks. After finishing the crows, the raft and our two main characters, I decided to go ahead and ink the water waves. I figured even if I didn’t use them in the final color version, they would help the black and white look more like a completed piece. Almost everything on this cover was inked with a #2 Kolinsky Raphael brush. I did do the water lines in pen.
I scanned this at 1200 dpi bitmap. I do this because it requires less clean up than scanning in gray or color. Quite frankly, there is very little difference (if any) in scanning gray or line in terms of line quality. But the amount of clean up with a gray scan is way too much for someone as impatient as I am.
Once I got the line art dropped into a photoshop file, I knew I couldn’t stall any longer. I had to come up with a solution to the water. My first thought was to find an aerial shot of the ocean that matched the angle my cover was drawn at. I thought I would drop the water photo in and I would be done. Here is the water photo I lifted off the internet.
I don’t have a file that I saved with art on this water but I can tell you that the realistic water against the illustrated figures didn’t look right. At this point I knew I had to create the water in photoshop.
At first I colorized the water line work but I didn’t like that either, so I dropped the black and white line work from the art and began the process of creating the water completely from scratch in photoshop. I used a combination of fade filled lasso’s and free hand brushes. Eventually, I came up with this rather stylized ocean representation that I think works well with the figures and raft.
Even as I was creating the water, I had no idea what I was doing. I just kept adding layers and fades of color until it became what I wanted it to. A lot of trial and error. Of course, that’s the great thing about digital coloring, if you don’t like your work you can just delete it and try something else.
All in all, I really like how it turned out. I like the rich colors in what is essentially another Blue/Orange complimentary color scheme.
And that is how I went from white piece of paper to digital color file. Next time we’ll take a look at the cover to Wonder Woman/Conan #5. Until then….