The Making of Twilight
As I hold this book in my hands, I find it’s already hard to remember why it took 5 months to get to this point.
I find myself falling into the common trap of thinking, oh, I just thought of a story and then drew it.
So I’m writing this blog as a way to show myself just how much work it took to make a 34-page illustrated book. Here’s a peak behind the scenes.
First Stage – Writing (June)
Writing. The easiest part.
I had this story floating in my head for a few months. It formed itself in the background the way creative things do. It would pop in my head while I was talking to friends or washing dishes.
What if there was a girl named Twilight? Wouldn’t she be friends with the Night and the Day? What would it feel like to only be able to see them one at a time?
During this time I was working on writing a short story about a little squirrel that will never EVER see the light of day (if it wasn’t digital, I would have burned it).
In fact, writing Twilight that day was a way for me to avoid working on the squirrel story.
To my pleasant surprise, Twilight came out fully formed as a 400ish-word narrative. It took me 45 minute at the most. I left the squirrels behind.
Second Stage – Rough First Draft (July)
I broke the story into pages with breaks where they felt natural.
Then I gave myself a maximum of 30 minutes to illustrate each blurb of text in pen and ink.
This forced me to only illustrate the feeling. To use intuition. Not to focus on the design of the page. I couldn’t be precious with anything. This was raw.
I ended up with 12 separate rough illustrations. I showed these rough pages to a few friends and was surprised how people reacted positively to them. I knew I had something here.
These 12 initial story boards were vital. I used them to guide me through future phases. They defined the feel of the story.
Third Stage – Visual Development and Character Design (July – August)
Now that I had a serious story to work with, I had to nail down the character designs and the world in which these characters lived.
There were a lot of problems to work out.
I knew I wanted the story to be all black and white for two reasons:
- I just love pen and ink artwork.
- It served the story well — Night and Day, black and white.
I also wanted a 1920’s feel. The black and white worked well with this idea, and I watched a few silent movies for inspiration. I gathered reference material from silent movies, old pictures from the 1920’s, and old pictures of Japan.
In the rough first draft of Stage 2, I had intuitively drawn Day as all white and Night as all black, but this started posing problems in layouts. I abandoned that idea. I wanted Night to be a more female presence, but not necessarily female. I wanted Day to have a male presence, but not necessarily brutish. I wanted them to be different from each other, but not have either one be better than the other. I have pages and pages of discarded designs for both these characters.
For the little girl Twilight, I wanted to keep that checkered dress I drew her wearing in Stage 2. The checkered dress represented the combination of black and white/Night and Day.
Boy did my future-self hate this decision! Drawing checkers in the final illustrations became very tedious. However, the end result was strong — worth it!
Fourth Stage – Thumbnails of Each Page
Each page in the book started as a thumbnail drawing (see image below).
I knew from Stage 2 what each page should feel like —and quite a few pages didn’t change much from this stage — but I had a lot more factors to deal with now. Composition, clarity of story telling, character acting, composition.
Did I mention composition?
I made tiny squares and drew rough versions of the page at a small scale until I got one that felt right and that told the story in the best way possible. Sometimes this stage would take days. Sometimes minutes.
This was the crucial planning that made the next stage work.
Fifth Stage – Illustration (August – October)
This was the fun part.
I had my thumbnail of the page, I had my character designs, I had my world designed, now I could just get lost in the drawing.
I did all the drawing on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. Sometimes I would take reference photos of myself in the same position as the character I was drawing if the pose was tricky (those photos have been burned so don’t even try to find them).
I gave myself a week to do each page.
I would start with a “pencil” drawing on the iPad (drew with a digital pencil tool), and then “inked” on top of that (painted with a digital ink tool on a separate layer) for the final drawing.
After the inking stage, I brought the image into Photoshop where I added some texture and subtle shading.
This was the first all digital project for me. No scanning required. Scans were never as clean as I would like and I would spend hours cleaning them up. The future is great!
Sixth Stage – Layout (October)
The illustrations were finished. Now I had to make a book out of all of these images! Simple right?
Just put it all together…right?
Not so simple. I spent a few days in InDesign (image below) designing the layout, choosing fonts, writing the dedication, writing the About the Author page, and designing the cover.
Decisions like what sort of binding should I use on the book had to be made. Is it best to print in color or black and white? It it worth the cost to offer a hard back version right now?
Seventh Stage – Editing (October – November)
After I saw the book all together, it was time to step back and take an honest look at it.
Some people I had shown early versions had a few comments that needed addressing. I also had an editor go over the text.
I ended up adding quite a few words to the original text which helped flesh out the characters in the beginning.
Five of the pages needed some parts redrawn for better clarity.
In the end, these edits made a much stronger final product.
I will be forever grateful to the people around me who gave me honest feedback.
Eighth Stage – Printing and Promotion (November)
This is the stage I am currently figuring out. Promotion.
I’ve been excited about the initial reaction to the book. Now I have to get it into as many hands as possible so that it can find its way into the larger outside world.
Maybe that journey will be the subject of a future blog.
For now, if you would like to help out, head over to the purchase page and pick up a copy of the Special Author’s Edition!