Ever since issue 41 of Computer Arts Special, we've been inundated with emails about how its cover was created by illustrator Derek Lea, and in this tutorial you'll find the process outlined in full.
"This image came about when I received an email from Matthew Harvey, Art Editor for Computer Arts Special," Lea begins. "He had a vague concept for the cover of an upcoming Photoshop special. This time we were going to do something a little different. The subject was to be compelling and not so literal. He was asking for a woman's face on the cover, but not a woman of this world; he wanted something alien or elfish-looking, with some swirling bits of detail around her eyes.
"I don't think either of us really knew what it would end up like for certain. I always applaud an art editor who has faith in an idea that could go in any number of directions - I imagine it's no easy feat to pitch the concept to the administrative folks who have to approve the concept."
He explains the early stages: "I downloaded a supplied photo of the model that was shot by The Walcot Studio (opens in new tab) in Bath. When I saw the image and how good it was, I felt pressure. This was a great shot of a fantastic model - if this cover went wrong it would be all my fault.
"In thinking how to make her alien, we agreed on a desaturated greyish appearance, and I sent a quick test to Matthew of how the horizontal flipping of half her face was going to work. We agreed that this was the direction to go in. The difficulty was in the detail. I had nothing to go on except for a couple of conversations with Matthew. Some ideas tossed around were possibly ornate furniture details or fine ironwork. It was the idea of architectural details that struck me as the way to go. I was thinking of a group of buildings in Toronto's financial district that always captivated me as I walked by them. There are dozens of them - littered with exquisite details."
Lea set out with his camera on a freezing cold day. "Anyone who's been in Toronto in December will know that it's cold. Thankfully, there wasn't any snow around at the time, so at least the buildings I wanted to shoot would be clear. Sure, it would've been nice to wait for warmer weather, but we just didn't have the time. In many instances, I would stand on things to get up higher, so that the perspective of the shots was dead-on; things like bicycle racks, newspaper boxes and parked cars in a couple of instances. There was one point where I was standing on top of a newspaper box and a bus pulled up - I was eye to eye with the passengers! Naturally, they were looking at me like I was insane. And I was insane, outside in December climbing on things in downtown Toronto to get just the right images.
"After taking over 70 shots, I called it a day. My hands were aching from the cold and I hate shooting with gloves on. I narrowed my selections down to 23 shots to show Matthew for the go-ahead. He agreed it was going to work. After carefully looking at all the shots, and places on her face we could blend them in, I chose the five most appropriate for this job and got straight down to it. The result is the image on the facing page, with the process revealed step by step on the following pages. Have fun! I know I did, except for the aching fingers part, of course!