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14th November 2013

Christopher Gibbs: How To Train Your Dragon: Cover Designs

Christopher Gibbs explains in detail how he approached the covers for this popular series:

“I was commissioned by Hodder Children’s Books to illustrate ‘How To Train Your Dragon Series’, in an attempt to merge the author’s vision and sketches, into full colour covers with the help of with art director Alison Still. In the fast changing world of technology and publishing, illustrators can work within the confines of a brief, where the priority is to adapt and achieve a vision that is set by authors narrative, publishers demands and marketing departments needs.  My role was to problem solve and interpret. You could say that I was asked to change my style but I feel that the nature of any artist is to explore and experiment – I wanted to rise to that challenge.  At the time, I thought it would be for one cover only but currently the 11th title resides in the Children’s best seller charts.

The main technical challenge was to turn hand painted, textural imagery into digital files so that the components of the image could be separated  for special finishes. The process begins with a quick sketch from Cressida Cowell, which I then interpret into my own sketch. Once approved, I produce a traditional painting, which is scanned, the elements (such as a dragon) are then digitally ‘cut out’ and turned into layers in Photoshop and retouched with digital painting techniques.
The image is then printed and I repaint over the top with acrylics to accentuate the hand made feel, it is then re-scanned and delivered as a digital file. 

The technical challenge of the series was exciting and made me use software in new and innovative ways. It is an honour to be associated with such well loved titles, and I believe there may well be one Dragonese tale left to tell….”

You can see Chris’s roughs for these covers on our shop and if you are a fan they are for sale, the sketches are in pencil on paper.

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