So, I then started on a process that surprised me with how long it took to get something solid that I really liked. Oh, I was able to generate a few images that were kind of close to what I wanted, but since this was the first page of the story, I really wanted to make an impression with it. Plus, even though my deadline was rapidly heading toward me (so much so that I was pretty darned sure I was going to miss it), I spent the extra time to figure out what I wanted and how to get it.
Here are a few examples of the early drafts that I was able to create.
|1. My first attempt at page 1|
Note the dark shadows on the distant mountains
and the tick horizon lines.
This first look (and all subsequent designs) include a hand-drawn trail going up the side of the mountain to a small cave opening. I struggled for a long time as to whether there should be a path leading directly up to the mountain, or off to the side. I finally decided to forego logic (why would anyone in their right mind make a road leading to the home of a fire-breathing dragon?) and just focus on the illustration itself. The composition was simply stronger with this path, so it stayed.
|2. This was a very experimental look, with a very|
strong tint of gray sand and a less
dramatic sun effect.
|3. A later attempt. Note the thinner horizon lines|
and the obvious addition of the gray tint to the sand.
This helped make the road "pop" more, but
ultimately I didn't like the effect.
Other experiments included lightening the sand, editing out some of the ground lines, and working to add another layer of shadow the dunes. This one survived for a long time, but I ultimately decided that the ground was still just too dark, so I scapped it and moved on.
|4. Getting much closer to the final version.|
Note the addition of the mountain's shadow,
and toning down the shadows on the
The image above (No. 4) is very close to the final piece. I added the ground shadows to the dunes, leaving the barren sands mostly white. And, of course, the mountain's shadow helps deliver the "pop" that the previous "dark sand" versions did. I also simplified the plants in the foreground, and greatly lightened the distant horizon. As I said, a lot of work, but I'm finally mostly happy with it, and that means I was finally able to move onto the interior of the cave.
Next Time: Building a Better Cave