The 12 Sleighs of Christmas Book Cover Process


  • Pro SVS OG

    @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.


  • SVS OG

    @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.


  • SVS OG

    @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.


  • SVS OG

    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?


  • SVS OG

    @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?


  • SVS OG

    @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. 🙂


  • SVS OG

    @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.


  • SVS OG

    @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.


  • SVS OG

    @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.


  • SVS OG

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


  • SVS OG

    @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.


  • SVS OG

    @DOTTYP Great! Hope you like the pen!



  • @Jake-Parker WOW! Thank you so much for sharing your process with us. This is fantastic. I'm envious that it's with Chronicle books, they're one of my all-time fav publishers (literally everything they produce I love - and this book of yours looks like it'll be no exception! I can't wait to read it when it's out). It's encouraging to see their email correspondence with you too - how friendly it is but at the same time quite clear in their direction. I also literally had a geek out moment when I read Kristine's email asking if you had thoughts on the finishing touches (like adding foil) - I wasn't sure if that was something they were open to suggestions from the illustrator on. Given that I'm a graphic designer though that makes me so very happy! I absolutely love details like that to really give it that extra polish and to draw the eye.

    The other thing that really stood out to me is your line work and flats in step 6 - holy cow if you left it there and didn't do any further finessing would it ever remind me of Dr. Seuss!

    I checked out the 'Look inside' feature on Amazon - I particularly love your stylization of the elves (their noses, ears and blue hair are awesome!). And from the bits of the story I could read it sounds charming and I like the writing style. I'm definitely buying it when it's out 🙂


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