Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Cover Design, Part One: The Comp Sketch

A few years ago, I was contracted to provide a book cover design and several interior illustrations for a book about the dyeing and restoration process for fabrics, leather and suede. The author left the design concept up to me, and once I submitted a sketch, he would approve it or suggest changes. I read the manuscript and decided that since the title was very straightforward, I would make a triptych-style illustration (a triptych is composed of three panels that either fit together to make a larger piece, or that coordinate--if two are used, it is called a diptych). One panel would show the science behind the process, as many dyes are mixed according to a specific recipe or chemical process; one would show examples of materials mentioned in the title--I used a satiny fabric, a shiny black leather, and a muted brown suede for maximum contrast among the three. The final panel would show someone carefully redyeing a piece of clothing.

I produced a "comp sketch" for the client. "Comp" is short for "comprehensive". A comprehensive sketch differs greatly from, say, a thumbnail sketch, which is a small, loose rendering designed only to communicate a simple concept and perhaps to figure out compositional elements. A comp sketch is comprehensive--that is to say, it is done full size, with the final composition and colors and rendered fully. The only difference between the comprehensive sketch and the finished art, other than any changes requested by the client, might be the medium. Usually "quicker" graphic media such as ink, marker and colored pencil are used, whereas finished art is more likely to be painted (this is about art done by hand, not on the computer, obviously). I made a line drawing in ink on board, and then I photocopied the line drawing and colored it with colored pencils. This way, if the client wanted color changes, it would be easy enough to make another photocopy of the original drawing and submit the new color scheme.

Above photo is my first comp sketch. Click to enlarge for detail.
Here's Part Two

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