Thursday, July 25, 2013

About the Book

The Great Bear Surprise is written by Carolan Coughlin and illustrated by Megan Hartfelder about a girl's experience with a bear in the Montana Wilderness. 

You can now purchase the book on Amazon here:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Step 1: Storyboarding & Thumbnails

     My cousin, Carolan Coughlin, wrote the story dedicated to her nephew, Colin. I printed a storyboard template page and began the visual development process of drawing in rough sketches to figure out the pacing, compositions, and text placement. Many versions later, I decided to downsize my picture book from the typical 32-page book to 24 pages. During this process I used many reference photos including some of Carolan’s Montana photos, some of my own photos and others found on the Internet to develop my drawings. Sometimes I can collect over 50 images! These inspire me to come up with my own compositions and later I like to use them for color references.

Big River Meadows, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana
Kings Canyon National Park


Step 2: Dummy Book Variations

     Once my thumbnails are completed, I created a dummy book. This is a mini rough draft version of what my picture book will look like. I simply cut and fold 11” (width) x 4.5” (height) white pages and staple them in the middle. Using a pencil and erasure, I sketched out the compositions from my storyboard template and also printed out the text to tape into the book. This gives me lots of flexibility to move things around and make changes. This also gives me an opportunity to see how the story and images flow as I flip through my dummy book. In this project I actually made five dummy books! Although it can be time consuming, I find it is time well spent.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Step 3: Photoshop (Line Work)

     From this moment on I use Photoshop CS4. I create a 20” x 8” blank template at 300 dpi in RGB color mode. That way, every time I start a new page, my dimensions, resolution and color mode are already set. Then I scan in the rough sketches (the line work) from my dummy book and place them into my Photoshop document (File- Place). I also create text boxes on separate layers, which gives me flexibility to move them anytime.

Step 4: Photoshop (Value)

     My next step is to block in the black and white values. I use the Pen tool in Photoshop to draw the shapes. Once the “Path” is created, I find the correct value on the gray scale. A lot of adjusting occurs here, but this process helps me develop a strong black and white composition. 

Post 5: Photoshop (Color)

    Since this was my first time combining traditional and digital media, there was a significant learning curve involved using Photoshop. However, I spent a lot of time studying the artwork of my 3 favorite artists:

     First, I blocked in the basic colors, staying true to the values from the black & white spreads. I then scanned in many different types of textures using watercolor/gouache/acrylic paints (which I will explain in more detail in the next post) and manipulated them using different “Blending Modes”. A lot of experimentation occurred here, including some happy accidents! It was, and still is, an exciting process for me that is continuously evolving.

Step 6: Textures

On watercolor paper, Bristol board, or sketch paper, I used watercolor/gouache/acrylic paints (or a combination of some or all) to create many different types of abstract lines, shapes, and textures. Since I am a traditional painter at heart, this was a wonderful experience for me! I also found various textures on some of my artwork that I found interesting.

Then I scanned these textures into Photoshop and created an “Experimenting.psd” document. This enabled me to work separately from my illustrations to manipulate the colors, if so desired. I imported them into my illustration and experimented with various “Blending Modes” (Multiply, Screen, Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, etc.). I began building the layers until I was happy with the result. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Step 7: Character Development of the Girl

     Another valuable lesson that I learned from this project was to begin the character development process much earlier. I was so occupied with learning the tools in Photoshop and discovering my new style, that I left the difficult part for last. However, it helped to find artists whose characters inspire me. For the girl I was inspired by artists including:

And a photograph of Carolan:

Step 8: Character Development of the Animals

     Here are a few of the artists who inspired me for the character development of the bear:


Below are some of my animal sketches:

Step 9: Final Edits & Color Profile

     After making the final edits, I learned about the “Soft Proofing” process. This means ensuring that your computer screen is properly profiled (always check before you begin working digitally) and printing using accurate profiles. I learned to change the color profile from RGB to CMYK when printing the final artwork.

    I used the Print on Demand self-publishing company called Blurb. I watched some of their tutorials to understand how to create an accurate color profile. In Photoshop you need to go to:

1)“View- Proof Setup- Custom- Device to Stimulate (download blurb_icc_profile.icc)
2) Flatten your image (“Layer- Flatten Image”)
3) “Edit- Convert to Profile (blurbicc.profile.icc)”
4) Check under “Image- mode”… it should be CMYK.
5) Save your final image as a jpeg, export as a PDF, and you are ready to upload your cover and pages to Blurb’s PDF to Book web page.

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