Last year, I started building a website for my novel (either to fully host it or to just be a hub of information), and I made a header that, in hindsight, I didn’t feel was strong enough to represent the story. So in the past few months, I’ve been working on a brand new header image.
The most challenging part for me was that, just like a book cover, my header image should showcase the concept of my novel in an effective way. I have to be able to convey the feel of the story, what it’s about, and other concepts that the reader can expect when they read my novel. I wasn’t used to thinking this way about art. As a hobbyist, I mostly dabbled in character sketches. Rare is an image I will make that even has a background on it.
But I wanted to make a really good header image. If I do end up hosting my novel on my own site, I can’t be driving away readers on the home page because I have an image that doesn’t capture anyone’s attention.
So last December, I started the ideation process. I went back to paper + pencil and sketched whatever ideas came to my mind. I thought about the most important aspects of my story, and how I can display them through an image.
As you can see, these are little more than little boxes with skeletons of the characters. But quick sketches like these let me play around with different compositions, testing out what elements from the novel would be best to include.
I chose a couple I really liked and moved on to digital. This step allowed me to flesh out the composition even more, figure out the value statement, and try out different color palettes.
From here, I evaluated which image effectively captures the essence of the story, which one goes well with my current branding colours, AND which is not way above my current art skills. The last one is important, because the last thing I want is to spend ages on a piece that I would not be able to execute well in the end after all.
I picked two images to sketch in more detail.
I posted these on Tumblr and asked for feedback. Most people were evenly split between the options, and they liked different things about each of the sketches.
I decided to select the cliff sketch for further development. Although the prospect of painting nature was daunting to me, the energy seems to match the fast pacing of the novel. And I figured, if I didn’t like it, or if it was too difficult for me, then I can always fall back to the river sketch.
I spent weeks developing the cliff sketch. At first, I could not find the right colour palette for it. I had already decided on this palette for my branding:
Let me tell you, these colours do NOT go well with each other in a painting. They’re too garish to be put beside each other. I even tried to find inspiration in autumnal images, which would have the greens, yellows, and reds I’m looking for. But even those failed to give me something that was not an eyesore. Perhaps I’m just really bad at choosing colours.
I decided to discard the branding palette, and introduce blue and purple to my colour scheme, and voila! Worked like a charm. With the shadows in mild purple and the trees pushed a bit towards blue, suddenly my image started to come alive.
I also spent a week and a half painting the cliff and the forest. I looked closely at references and started over again many times, until I got something that was passable for a cliff and a forest. I think the hardest part about painting nature is that there’s really so many ways to go about it. You can be as detailed and as realistic as you want. The trick is to find the style that goes well with the rest of the image.
I was pretty happy with this end result. My friends on Tumblr liked it too, so I felt doubly at ease.
The next step is to add in the title. I have very little design background and I know almost next to nothing about fonts (other than the typical groupings like ‘serif’ or ‘sans-serif’). Last year when I made my old header image, a friend of mine who has design background suggested I use a more stylistic typeface. With that in mind, I hopped on over to Google Fonts, and tried several. I tried each font and design on both the English title and the Tagalog title.
Again, after gathering feedback from Tumblr, I settled on a straight script. I applied some minor modifications to the image to make the title more readable, and I tinted the entire image a little more blue.
Finally, this is the end-product!
For reference, this was the old header image:
Big difference, right? I’m excited to get to work on the website, now that I have the right materials to put on there.