Tattoo art is really popular now, and Laurence King Publishing recognised that. Having produced other colouring books for adults, featuring things like sneakers and graffiti, it wanted to add a tattoo book into the mix.
Originally, it commissioned someone to source art from multiple tattoo artists. There was a great response, but it wasn’t the best way to do it for various reasons. The project was shelved for a while, but the publisher felt the book really needed to be made - and the best way forward was for one person to do the whole thing.
I showed them lots of my existing tattoo designs, then I met with editorial director Jo Lightfoot and senior editor Donald Dinwiddie. They said as long as the quality was as good as the stuff I’d shown them, it was pretty much an open brief in terms of what I drew.
The idea was to have a good selection of artwork, but it was very much my choice. For example, I wouldn’t have done any tribal designs as that’s not really my thing.
The book consists of Japanese-inspired art and Americana, such as Sailor Jerry-esque sailors, anchors and swallows, as that’s the kind of thing that I’m into.
Early on, I recommended my ilovedust colleague Johnny McCulloch as the book designer For this project. He loves tatt oo art, and I knew he’d be into working on it with me. As well as doing all the InDesign work, he collected loads of reference material and categorised it all for me to use as a starting point.
Pencil and ink
I used Pentel mechanical pencils and Uni Pin Fineliner pens, sticking to three widths in order to give all the drawings a consistent feel. I wanted to keep all the originals, so I did them on nice cartridge paper. Because there were so many to produce, I oft en went straight from initial pencil sketch to the final art.
Hand over keys
Everything that went into the book was hand-drawn and scanned in. I did make a few minor alterations to each image in Photoshop, using it to erase, draw in a few li le bits and tidy things up, but I didn’t vectorise any of it or redraw much at all. I’d say around 97 per cent of all of the book’s featured artwork was done by hand.
Within the book, we decided to give people space to get more creative and draw their own stuff . For example, there’s a spread with a Russian nesting doll – it’s fully illustrated on one side, with an empty outline on the other. Those pages occur periodically throughout the book.
I sent the client batches of around 20 designs at a time The only thing they changed was removing the text that I put in some of them The books were going to various diff erent countries, and that would have required extra font files and so on. Currently, there are three print runs: British, French and American.
This project was very collaborative, and Laurence King Publishing really exceeded my expectations with its willingness to use special finishes. We used foil-blocking for the flames coming out of the tiger’s head on the cover, and a few touches of an antique gold Pantone spot-colour on the designs inside the book.
Initially, the client expressed an interest in using an outline pattern on the cover, but I felt this would get missed on the shelf. We needed an iconic image to give the cover impact. They loved the fully-coloured posters that I had created for the centre of the book, and asked for something similar on the cover.
Words: Ollie Munden
Ollie Munden is currently senior designer at ilovedust, a role he previously held at McFaul. He also freelances as Megamunden, taking on commissions to produce illustrations, murals and tattoo designs. His clients have included Nike, Toshiba, Vodafone, Penguin Books and Levi’s.
This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 220.
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