Digital “pencils” printed onto 11″x17″ vellum bristol. Click on the image to enlarge.

I’ve been inking the cover to the next Long John book and I’ve been trying something brand new with this.

Normally, the creation of the covers has been informal at best and haphazard at worst. The first book’s cover was me taking a drawing I did for a bookmark design that featured half of Long John’s backside. I found the original art, made a copy of it onto printer paper and finished drawing the other half. Volume 2’s cover was a digital drawing of a quick sketch I had made in a sketchbook. Volume 3 was the only one I had actually drawn and inked on full size bristol board (standard comic book paper, in other words). There was some shenanigans, however. The drawing on the 11×17 bristol is just the daguerrotype of the three Johns, including Long John in his old clothes. Then on a separate piece of smaller bristol, I drew the tear with the angry Long John peeking through. I then mixed them together in Photoshop. Volume 4’s cover was just a practice drawing I did one day. Once I finished it I thought, “Heck, that would be a great cover.”

The four covers of Long John so far. Click to enlarge image.

Needless to say, while I tend to be a stickler for how the pages themselves get drawn, I’m much more liberal when it comes to creating the covers.

I’ve been working with the iPad Pro (and the drawing app, Procreate) for about a year, now, and I’m still trying to find the best way to insert it into my process. It has become my preferred method for thumbnailing pages, but it’s such a powerful tool that it seems like it could be much more useful for me.

I have been hearing for years of artists who “pencil” their pages digitally and the print them out in a light blue or red ink and ink over the printed lines. I always doubt the quality of my own equipment, so I figured that would be a good method for someone with really expensive…everything. However, I had been messing with cover ideas digitally, and even considered making the cover completely with digital means. As always, I got frustrated when trying to create a finished piece of art, but I had the worked-out sketch. So, I gave it a try.

I pencilled the cover digitally on the iPad Pro using Procreate. I was able to print them out on some unlined bristol (even if it is vellum bristol, ugh). The results were really impressive.

Inking the pencils. Click on image to enlarge.

I was most interested to see how well the printed lines would take ink (since it had already been printed on), but it hasn’t been an issue at all (aside from the basic issue of it being vellum bristol. Again, ugh)! Honestly, this experiment may have fully changed things for me in terms of process and am excited to do more practice and experimentation with this method. Let’s just hope it scans as well as the blue pencils I use to normally pencil.

Close up on some final inks. Click to enlarge.

As for Chapter 5, I’m deep in the flatting stage right now (as discussed last week) and am trying to get as much done before a lot of work comes in from my day job, work that will keep me occupied for the next few weeks straight. Wish me luck!