Jake Parker Book Cover Process!!!

Hi everyone!

Jake's latest book comes out in about 5 months and his publisher said he could share the cover, so we thought we would show you guys a step-by-step process of designing a cover for a children's book.

Here's Jake explaining his process:


The 12 Sleighs of Christmas is written by Sherri Rinker and when I read the manuscript for it I gave my agent an enthusiastic YES I WANT TO DRAW THIS BOOK.

Briefly, it's about the elves going to fix Santa's trashed sleigh, but instead they decide to break into 12 teams and have a contest to see who can design the best new sleigh. They build a hotrod, locomotive, semi-truck, and snowplow sleighs, and much more. It was such a fun book to do. Probably the most enjoyable book I've done so far.

Alright, lets get down to business. Once the interior illustrations were sketched out my editor asked for some ideas for the cover.

Step 1) Idea Sketches
In this stage it's all blue sky ideas. If I haven't received any specific direction from the editor I usually have an "anything goes" attitude with these sketches, so I try to throw out a bunch of different directions.

The least amount of sketches I'll send is 3, and sometimes I'll send 10 if there's a lot of ideas floating around in my head. Usually 4-5 is a good starting point to get the creative gears moving on both the editorial and the creative sides.

Here's what I sent:


And here's the email I got back from my editor:


Great notes! I definitely had a clear direction I wanted to go now. It wasn't about what was in the book, but capturing the feeling of the book.

Step 2) Final Sketch Idea

I picked the most visually fun and accessable vehicle from the book and decided to make that the hero sleigh for the cover. It was also a sleigh that would prominently show Santa. I designed it in a way that showed motion and energy. And the title was designed in a way that felt very Christmassy. Sketched it up and sent it over to them:


And here's the email I got back from my editor:

It's approved! That's the best news. I've done covers where there's a lot more back and forth at this stage. I should not too that the ultimate authority on the cover design is the marketing team. They know what sells and what doesn't. So the "cover meeting" she talked about in the email is a group of editors, marekting people and art directors who decide what's the best direction to go with the book cover.

Now that I got the approval to go to final art I started to work on designing the back side. I wanted this to be a wraparound.

Step 3) Finish the Sketch

I thought it would be cool to see some of the other fantastic designs the elves made for Santa so I included them on the back:


I sent this in and got a big thumbs up from my editor and art director. Now it's on to final line art. At this point the team has seen my final art from some of the interiors that I've finished, so they don't need to see the cover until it's close to finished.

Step 4) Final Line Art


So far everything has been drawn digitally in Photoshop. It's easier and faster to work digitally at this stage since there's a lot of back and forth, erasing, and resizing things to fix the composition.

I draw in orange because I like how it looks.

An added benefit of drawing in orange is that when you print out the drawing to ink over it there's a stark contrast between the black ink line and the light orange. It makes it easier to clean the ink scan up.

Step 5) Inking

I inked this with THIS BRUSH PEN on THIS PAPER.



Step 6) Scan and Color Flats

I scan the inks at 300 ppi and bring them into photoshop. I won't get into my photoshop specifics here, but the linework gets cleaned up a bit and then I do flat colors. (or my assistant did the flat colors, I can't remember on this image)


Step 7) Color and Finessing

At this stage there's a little bit of back and forth as me and the art director or editor make everything "just right."

I add shadows, and highlights, I color hold some of the linework, I add effects and snow. I make it look cover worthy.


Step 8) Proof Approval

I send in the final file, a 250MB PSD and they prep it for print. Then a month or so later I got this in the mail:


I check it to make sure the colors look fine, and they did. Once they've got my approval, it's sent to the printers!

Step 9) Hold Finished Book In Your Hands



This is my eighth children's book, and it's probably the one I'm most proud of. I put my ALL into this book. I can't wait to share some of the spreads from the interior. Thanks for checking this out, and let me know if you have ANY questions. I'm happy to answer them.