The 12 Sleighs of Christmas Book Cover Process


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    @QuietYell

    Dustflaps - They didn't ask for new art for the flaps, so I didn't do any. I didn't think it needed it really anyway. I like what they ended up doing there. It's a nice visual break from the rest of the book.

    Pushing back - I've pushed back before on stuff I feel strongly about, but usually I'm game for whatever the publisher wants to do, and usually we are on board with each other. They hired me and trust my decisions, and I trust their decisions in regards to marketing and selling books. They've sold way more than I have.

    Basically, I have a "choose your battles" mentality. I can't fight every battle, so I pick the ones that are most important to me.

    Timeline - The publisher usually takes a week to get back with notes. From the day I sent the sketch ideas to the day I delivered final art it was 45 days. So there was a lot of back and forth in the middle there.

    As for how long I took to do the actual art. I'm guessing here, but:

    Sketch ideas: 2 hours
    Final sketch: 4 hours
    Inking: 3-5 hours
    color: 12 hours
    Fixes/revisions: 2-3 hours


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    @Jake-Parker Thanks, Jake! 🙂


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    @Jake-Parker This is incredible! Thanks for sharing your process. The cover looks fantastic, I can't wait to buy the book.

    What do you mean by "color hold some of the linework" in step 7?

    Thanks!!



  • @Jake-Parker I am so stoked to see this here. I created a thread not too long ago about wanting a class on designing book covers, and it still is the part that freaks me out the most. Thank you for sharing this.

    Can you explain the 5/8 bleed thing? I have no clue how to account for that, nor do I really know what a bleed is.


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    @Charlie-Eve-Ryan Color hold means to select the line work and add color to it. You can see an example in the sparkles behind the hot rod sleigh. I also gave all the linework a purpleish tinge instead of straight black.


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    @Eric-Castleman Bleed is a printing term that is used to describe a part of an image which has elements that extend beyond the trim edge, leaving no white margin. When an image has bleed, it must be printed on a larger sheet of paper and then trimmed down.

    So to account for that the editor asked that I add 5/8ths of an inch around the edge of the illustration so that when the book gets trimmed there's no white margin.


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    You are definitely the no-brainer choice for who to illustrate this book. Its awesome to see how this process works too! Thanks so much for sharing. I wonder, have you taken any classes on doing your own hand drawn type or is that something you've just picked up as you've worked?


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    @Sarah-LuAnn Thanks for the kind words!

    When I was in 5th or 6th grade I became obsessed with the design of money. Specifically the way the letters were designed. So I started to copy the letters as best as I could and used them to draw really fancy words. I had a sign on my bedroom door drawn in "Banknote Roman" that said JACOB PARKER ARTIST. SInce then I've always appreciated lettering and fonts, and would often draw my own logos for things, or design titles for my own comics.

    Here's a folder I found from Jr High School:

    alt text

    I can't say enough about "copying." It's a way to deconstruct what another artist already figured out. Call it master studies if that makes you feel better. The point is you must first learn the notes and scales before you can write music. I spent years and years of my youth copying drawings of other artists and learned how to draw that way. When the time came to start creating my own illustrations, I leaned heavily on things I learned from copying.

    That said, a solid art education can cut down on the time it takes learn something. Having the proper instruction, along with healthy critiques can be one of the most effective ways to learn. That's why I prescribe to a lot of learning artists to do copies along with taking the right classes.



  • @Jake-Parker Thanks for sharing! I've been trying to find examples of children's book cover processes for ages! (I have to do a couple for Uni at the moment) and this is super helpful! (and looks amazing!)

    Have you coloured any covers traditionally? and if so, would you recommend using hand generated type for it?


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    @Jake-Parker This insight is wonderful and the art is amazing! Thank you for pulling back the curtain and revealing a bit of the process. When do you normally start the cover design in relation to the rest of the book? Is the cover uually the last piece that gets designed?



  • @Jake-Parker this is amazing, thank you so much for taking the time to share all the steps and the communication with the AD. I personally find this type of content by far the most useful and enlightening. Even at the SCBWI NY conference, the section I learnt most from was the Illustrators Intensive, which was a whole day of case studies, with illustrators and ADs presenting together the steps and progress of different books they worked on. Case studies add so much more depth and detail, gives a sense of what is the range of "normal" in a communication with ADs and what type and amount of work is expected at the various stages. This is mostly a mystery for artists starting out, no matter how many courses they went through.
    So I was wondering whether you would consider building a whole course around "Case Studies" and actual projects of parts of projects, with all the back-and-forth and the evolution around them. I know there are issues in publishing this content (especially if the project did not sail well) - but it would be soooo interesting.
    Thank you in any case for sharing this - it would be awesome to see the whole book process after the book is published!



  • amazing! it's great to see everything explained step by step, thank you @Jake-Parker !

    it might be a silly question but for a "big" change in the design like the banner from steps 6 to 7, do you ink it digitally or do you go back to traditional inking/scanning/editing/incorporating it to your illustration?

    I'm curious, as I can't draw digitally on the intuos and I find it very time consuming to re-draw/scan/edit/incorporate all the changes that I do (certainly a lot more than you, with your skill and experience)



  • Looks gorgeous, I love looking at the in progress images and seeing what the rough timeline was too. Really interesting 😃



  • Your book cover is wonderful!Thank you so much for including the process,especially the emails,it helped me see I am not the only person who gets requests for changes.Loved your inking and painting process, everything looks beautiful.I also really enjoyed your Inking tutorial video,I got my Pentel pocket brush yesterday cant wait to try it out.Thanks again for this amazing information!



  • This is so cool! 😃 How interesting to see this process in detail--thank you for sharing it here. The final cover is awesome! And I love the snowplow sled design lol. Looking forward to reading the whole story.

    @DOTTYP You are going to LOVE it! I started using a kuretake a few months ago, with Jake's tutorial, and it is soooo much fun. Tricky, too, though. 😛 (I'm awful, but getting better. xD) After doing a lot of digital, it feels so smooth and magical inking with a brush. 🙂


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    @smceccarelli I love the idea of a class focused on case studies! Doing personal projects and learning the process is great, but I think it especially helpful to actually see how people work through things.


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    @Sliproot I haven't colored anything entirely traditionally since 2001 (except for a few gallery show pieces). Everything that I've done for print goes through some Photoshop pass, whether I add color to my inkwashes, or add watercolor texture to my digital colors. There's always a mix of traditional and digital.

    As for hand generated type vs digital: whatever looks best is the rule.

    And actually the art director is supposed to handle all the graphic design for the book. I only do the book titles because I'm good and hand lettering and I convince them that I can do it. For most illustration jobs you're just on the line for the art.


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    @Jon-Anderson Yep, it's usually the last part of the job. I typically start thinking about the cover when I've delivered all the sketches for the interior pages.


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    @smceccarelli A case study course is an excellent idea. Maybe I'll do one for this entire book in the fall.


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    @audrey-dowling Good question.

    For that change I redesigned it digitally. I've got a great digital inking brush that I found that's pretty close to the inking I do traditionally. I can't draw digitally on the intuos either, but I draw all the time on my cintiq. It was a huge expense, but it paid for itself after a few projects just in the time it saved me from inking/scanning/editing.


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