July 22, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Making The Cover – Tinder & Flint

Have you ever wondered what kind of work goes into creating the cover of a fantasy novel? Guest author and artist extraordinaire Billy Garretsen takes you behind the scenes on his creative process for creating the cover to the hot new fantasy novel Tinder & Flint! In addition to this awesome article, if you're in the Austin area and want to meet Billy and the author they will be doing a book reading and signing at Dragon's Lair, Saturday, May 14, 2016, at 7pm. Come and check out all the awesomeness!

Note from Ryan: In addition to this awesome article, if you’re in the Austin area and want to meet Billy and the author they will be doing a book reading and signing at Dragon’s Lair, Saturday, May 14, 2016, at 7pm.

I’m really excited to be a guest writer today for Gabbing Geek! I’m Billy Garretsen and my background is in brand building and illustration, mostly for video games. I recently got a chance to branch out and drive the visual direction of Tinder & Flint, a new book series written by Matthew Hinsley. I wanted to share a quick look behind the scenes at the making of the cover art.

Covers provide a unique set of challenges for artists. The art must be appealing from a distance so as to stand out while also summing up the essence of the story. Covers set the expectation for the narrative and give readers a primer for the characters and world that their minds can expand on as they read. Creating the cover for Tinder & Flint was a collaborative process between Matthew and I, as we worked together to capture the best image to kick off the series.
Tinder & Flint is a story that follows a group of unlikely heroes that are thrust into an adventure full of magic, monsters and ancient evil forces. It’s a bit Dungeons & Dragons and a bit Harry Potter. When I read the manuscript for book one, “Westover”, I was instantly pulled into the world Matthew created through his appealing writing style that reads more like a movie than your average fantasy encyclopedia. This series is written in a way that anyone can enjoy it so it ended up being a good fit for my mainstream graphic novel art style.


After reading the book, I had to figure out which scene or moment summed it up best. Early sketches were very simple and focused on single characters and basic concepts. As the sketches developed I became inspired by the art of Drew Struzan, well known for Indiana Jones, Star Wars and the Harry Potter series posters. He tends to create collages of characters and set pieces that create a very complete depiction of the story. While my style is different, I was still able to take this inspiration and come up with a composition that incorporated the major characters as well as key scenes (such as the battle with the giant worm at the book’s climax) all in one image.


I start by creating the basic line art in Photoshop. It is easy to sketch out ideas and move things around at this stage since there are few details. This is where I eyeball everything and make sure I have a general flow and balance before getting too caught up in the rendering.


Next I draw in all the shading and tonal details with a digital brush that emulates a conte crayon. I focus on creating tonal balance in black and white. This gives the piece a bit more of a traditional handmade feel, and again is inspired by the process of Drew Struzan’s poster art. Once I have the base tones in place, that’s when I can start adding color washes and build up skin tones and background details.


As I work I will often deviate a from the line art and paint new details though the composition stays roughly the same. One example of this is the main character, Boudreux’s, nose. He is brash and fearless and has broken his nose in battles one too many times. My original drawing didn’t incorporate this but I was able to reshape his nose and give it a subtle wrinkle and kink late in the process. The rest is just detail, detail, detail…. All in all, the cover probably took 40 hours to complete, with most of the time being spent in the sketch and shading stages.


Some fun facts – when coming up with a look and feel for each of the four featured character faces, I looked towards some well known actors for reference. Tinder & Flint has the pacing of a movie and could probably translate to screen pretty well. I imagined what actors I would cast in each of the roles and picked The Rock, Amanda Seyfried, Elijah Wood and Christian Bale. These drove certain features of each of the faces while I filled in the rest.


After the cover was nailed down, I created 35 additonal illustrations for the interior of the book in an etched style that complemented the painted look of the cover nicely. All of the art works well together to tell a complete tale, and hopefully leaves readers excited to see where we take it next. Books 2 and 3 are already penned so I will be very busy on new covers and interiors very soon!


I hope this was an interesting quick peek behind the scenes on the making of the Tinder & Flint cover art. For more info on the book please visit www.tinderandflintbooks.com. For more of my illustration work please visit www.artstation.com/artist/billygarretsen.