This is the first installment in our series of Behind the Scenes features in anticipation for our upcoming Remarkable Guilds Kickstarter. We’ll be sitting down with the various creators to understand the developmental process. This week we will be focusing on the Remarkable Guilds book cover!
The book cover artwork is the most important image of the entire production (and usually the first one made ahead of everything else) as it is used across all marketing materials and features as the key image in Kickstarter campaigns and advertisements. The cover artwork is the first thing a fan sees, and is designed to get their attention in a split-second. It needs to draw them in and get them excited to click and read more. There’s a saying that a book sells by its cover, and its true!
Over the years, Loresmyth book covers have become increasingly dynamic and cool, partially due to experience, but also an increased budget and a knack for finding talented upcoming artists. Lets have a look at what goes into making a cover artwork for a D&D book with Chris!
What is the process like, can you break it down for us?
It all starts with an idea and that gets turned into a briefing document for the artist we hire. The book title informs the subject matter, so you start brainstorming about what kind of character and scene would best depict or underpin the title. Because a cover artwork can quickly get cluttered, we usually gravitate towards streamlined scenes, featuring only one or two characters.
Once we have decided on a budget, created the briefing, the artist is commissioned and starts making sketches. Depending on the artist, these can be just lines, grayscale shaded blocks, or sometimes color sketches. At this stage we are mainly looking to get the composition, action and atmosphere right. Details can be added later when the artist knows they can commit to rendering it to perfection. Usually we include reference artworks in the briefing document, as well as a size template, guides on what areas to avoid for logo placement and so forth.
One important aspect we learned is giving the artist some ideas of what we like to see, but ensure there is room for the artist to make it their own as well. Artists have great instincts and experience from doing art daily. They don’t like being forced into a straight-jacket by detailed requests (we call this the “shopping list syndrome”) that leave no room for creativity. They usually shine when left a little freedom.
What are your initial thoughts about composition? Do you use a particular method to determine what works for your taste and experience?
For the Remarkable Guilds book cover, one of the design rules going in was that it needed to be a “mirror image” of the Remarkable Cults book. Before we even started on the Remarkable Guilds book, about two years ago we already decided that we would do two books at once, with them being like a “light and dark twin”. The composition is symmetrical with the hero figure centered, and the background playing only a minor role. One thing we always keep in mind is to brief the artist what areas to keep free from details, such as the top space where the logo is going to sit. You need to make sure the artwork is done in a way that can accommodate the logo so its nice and readable.
Why this character specifically? Tell us a little about him, and why he got to be the star?
Because the Remarkable Cults book cover shows an effeminate hero, we knew that we wanted something different for Guilds. Some of these design decisions are very functional in a way, looking at various aspects the audience may not instantly realize. Things such as diversity, variety between products, use of color palette are all things we decide early on, before the first sketches are even made.
Especially with a book series like this, it is important each book has its own distinct look that sets it apart from the other installments. The character came about through a number of sketch iterations. In the initial designs the artist Tum had a much younger-looking character, almost anime in expression.
I felt for Guilds we needed to show somebody more “seasoned”, a level of wisdom and experience gained through years of adventuring. That’s how I ended up asking the artist to make the character look like an old dude. These things make me chuckle, cause you don’t see old folks on book covers that often. It’s one of those things where I feel Loresmyth always tries to escape the mold a bit. Sometimes characters are based on the writing in the book, but usually the cover is made many months before the writing team starts, so we kinda just do something that looks cool. Later, we sometimes decide to ask the writers to write something that matches the art so it looks like we all planned it out from the start [Shhh!! Haha]. That is what happened with this cover as well and I believe this character is now written to be part of the “Defenders of the Realm”, one of the 10 pre-made guilds that is featured in the book.
The gold and royal blue color choices remind me of paladins – what made you decide of the regal, heroic image to represent?
The color choices originate back from the first weeks where we plan the briefing, look up reference images and narrow down our choices. We provided the artist with images of paladins indeed, but also other artworks that showed regal, valiant symbols and patterns. Medieval times have no shortage of crests and thematic color combinations, so we chose one that people instantly recognize as being “noble”. My only regret is that the color palette is really close to our Remarkable Shops book, but I realize that with one new book in this series, eventually we will run out of color options. It doesn’t help that I’m color blind, so I routinely have to ask others to check my work, to make sure I got certain colors right. If you’ve watched some of my dev streams, you know what I mean :-)!
What facial expressions did you go through before determining he was the right choice?
The facial expression as a choice from the artist. I don’t remember specifically asked for a certain look (other than an older hero with gray/silver hair). One thing we did discuss is how “wild” his eyes should look, we toned it down a bit, in some versions he really looked quite deranged. Now I imagine he just looks fiery and determined to banish evil from this world.
How many revisions did you go through to get to the final pencils you enjoyed?
We only went through 2 or 3 initial sketches before committing to the final design to get rendered in color. With about 10 kickstarters under our belt we’ve gained a lot of experience in knowing what we want, planning well and creating clear briefings.
That way if you have a talented artist you trust, you don’t have to bother them going through tons of revisions. We usually decide pretty quickly what we like and don’t like, and don’t dwell on these things too much. We trust our instinct and experience in this matter.
There you have it, a breakdown of the process from initial sketch – to a truly heroic illustration. During the interview, I had commented on how much the younger iteration reminded me of supporting characters from later games in the Final Fantasy franchise and Chris wholeheartedly agreed. We look forward to building this series out and are excited to hear what aspects of the process you’re the most interested in learning about.
Get Notified When The ‘Guilds’ Kickstarter Launches
The Remarkable Guilds & Their Heroes kickstarter campaign is scheduled to launch March 2022. While this is still a few months away, you can already follow this link and click the green button to get notified of the launch. Don’t miss our launch day!
Join the Loresmyth Discord
Are you excited about our new upcoming dnd book? Join the Loresmyth Discord community, and come chat. We post weekly roleplaying challenges and have all sorts of fun stuff going on. See you there!
The Final Cover Art
And after months of work with the entire team, the artist has finished the final version of the cover. One of our favorite things added during the process is the flying cape that serves as a color-contrasting background to the logo. Very clever.