Monday, October 4, 2010

How I made the bookmarks

Do you love how I’m saying “I” made the bookmarks when Nicole did all the work? Well, I paid for the tacos, anyway. And the Alex Ross artbook she called reference and I called a bribe. That’s almost like work, isn’t it?

Step 1: Take reference photos.

The lovely Carolyn Kabelitz modeled for Rae, in a somewhat ad-hoc version of Rae’s costume. My parents’ backyard provided the backdrop. We took a bunch of photos and cherry-picked the best ones.

Trevor was a more difficult task, mostly because I don’t know any guys with the right build and facial structure to double for him. I knew plenty in high school, of course, which is why he looks and acts the way he does, but most of them did eventually get that last growth spurt and are now much taller than I am. So I dug up a photo of a boy playing what looks like flag football and told Nicole to use her imagination. There were extra tacos involved.

Step 2: Lay out the bookmark design

This is the point where Nicole took over. She flopped the image of Carolyn so that she now appeared to be standing with her left hip toward the camera—you’ll see why in a minute—and turned both photos black-and-white. Then she fiddled with layouts until she arrived with something she liked in the right proportions to fit on the bookmarks, which we knew would be 2x6”.

Step 3: Pencil.

Next Nicole printed out the photos at four times their final size (that’s 4x12”, for those keeping score) and laboriously copied the poses. She added Rae’s logo brooch at her hip (the reason she flopped the photo in Step 2) and lengthened her tunic. She also wants it known that she is now going to draw Rae in Chuck Taylors at every opportunity, because Carolyn made them look so superheroic.

The Trevor image was harder, of course, because she had to take an image of a boy running in a loose T-shirt and shorts and translate it into an image of a boy running in long pants and a jacket, and add his signature mask and goggles. It didn’t come out too badly, though. Nicole also changed the position of the boy’s right arm, because “every time I drew it like it was in the photo, it looked weird.”

Step 4: Watercolor

After Nicole scanned in the sketches to back them up in case something went wrong, she began applying watercolor paint to the images—first the black areas, then the lighter shading. We knew we’d be tinting the Rae image red and the Trevor image blue, so the whole process was very much about values of light and dark—making the shadows stand out sharply, capturing the different grays that would represent the hues of their costumes. The final step was to brush gray paint lightly around the figures to create a textured background and a sense of light. Nicole asks me to inform you that she decided to make the area behind Rae’s shoulder darker because she has such ominous forces around her all the time, and she gathered some shadows near Trevor’s front foot because John Lawrence is always showing up overhead and glowing, which would naturally make the sky around Trevor very light.

Step 5: Production

Once the black-and-white paintings were dry, I stepped in again and scanned them into my laptop. There I used PhotoFiltre to remove the penciled boundary lines marking the edges of the bookmarks (the printer asked me to leave 1/8” clear all the way around the design in case of printing issues) and add the text to each image—the quote, plus the information about the book and the blog address. Finally I used the Colorize option to tint Rae’s bookmark red, then turned up the saturation and contrast to get a really vivid hue. I did the same thing to tint Trevor’s bookmark image blue. Then I emailed the two .jpgs to the wonderful Richard Fieger, printer extraordinaire, and let him do his magic.

The result—my best bookmarks ever, which is good because with this much work for a 2x6” piece of cardstock, I don’t want to have to redesign them anytime soon. Although I’m sure I’ll end up tinkering with the proportions just a bit on the next batch … I really need industrial-strength therapy.

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