Sunday, February 17, 2019

Picture Book Process

I thought it was about time I updated my post on the creation of a picture book, so here's a shiny new version for 2019. I'm going to be talking about the creation of Alexander's Day and Other Fun Stuff, by Beverley Knezevic, which was a private publication. It only had a small run, not intended for stores, but I approach all my picture book projects the same way, and give the same attention to private publications as I do to all my other work. 

1. Thumbnails

After reading the manuscript, I started by planning out the whole book in thumbnail form, so I could see how it flowed from page to page. I mucked about with various ideas (I am not fond of thumbnailing) until I had this version, which I sent along to Beverley (in the original copy, there was text under each page, which I have removed for the purposes of this blog post.) I don't always colour my thumbnails, but in this instance I wanted to highlight the bright colours and plain backgrounds. 

Head below the cut to see more!

I also did some character exploration, to decide on how best to draw Alexander. The book is written about a real little boy, and I was provided with photographs, so I started by drawing from them and then simplified until I had something I was happy with. I had previously done another book for Beverley with a much more realistic style, but it didn't suit the text in this book, which was in much simpler rhyming verse. In general, I try to keep things simple for self-publishers, as this costs them less. 

I always do some style tests and explore the characters before I start work on the drafts. 

2. The Book Dummy

Once Beverley had signed off on the thumbnails, (and happily for me she only wanted the most minor of changes) I moved on to the drafts. As I am often working on multiple projects at once, I colour code them so I can remember which is which. This book was blue, so all the draft lifework was done in blue. I just find it helps me keep the different stories and styles straight in my head.

This is the opening spread, which introduces Alexander. The room is based on his room, and every item on the floor is one he owns. Those red lines are there to remind me where the gutter (the middle of the spread) is (I don't want to draw anything important too close to this line, or it will get 'lost in the gutter' and where the edges of the pages are. When printing illustrations that go all the way to the edge of the page, I have to include 'bleed'. This makes sure there are no white edges when the pages are trimmed (sometimes the trimmer will slip a bit, so the illustrations need to be larger than the finished printed page) but I need to make sure nothing important is in that area, as it is intended to be chopped off.

I keep my current projects in Adobe's Creative Cloud, and give clients the link to their project file so they can see my progress without my having to send a lot of emails. Less time emailing means more time working! This means that they are often faced with unfinished images, but has the benefit of meaning we can catch any little things that should be changed as I go. 

Once I had done all the drafts, I roughly typeset the whole book, and sent a pdf to Beverley, that she could print out and staple together like a real book if she wanted. I always print out a dummy copy for myself, once everything is printed and you are actually turning the pages, you can really see issues and take steps to fix them before moving onto the finals. Here is a peek at this dummy:

Beverley sent back a list of things she wanted changed, which I did, and when she was happy with everything in the drafts it was time to move on to

3. Finals! 

Some of my clients are happy for me to share my work in progress on social media. Here are a couple of shots of this piece from my Instagram Story:

4. Typesetting

If I'm working for a publisher, once the finals are signed off on that's me done, but for self-publishers I provide the typesetting as well. Fortunately I have a degree in Graphic Design! (less fortunately, this means I require the whole Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, and this costs a lot!) I typeset using Adobe inDesign, and export the files to whatever specifications are required. This book was printed by Blurb so I used their inDesign Plugin to export the files and upload them. 

So there you have it; the basic process I go through to take a picture book from manuscript to printed product. 

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