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How to paint a Harry Potter book cover

04. Adding detail

I'm not after a realistic depiction of flames. My characters are stylised and so I can carry that over into the scenes, effects and lighting. I continue to build up colours and texture using Painter and Photoshop, then add blood-orange glows on the edge of the flames, and lighting effects on the characters.

05. Simple strokes

It's easy to become obsessed with detail and over-render while zoomed in. Always remember the output dimensions of the final art, in this case a fairly small book cover.

I might get a bit tighter on important details such as a face, but much of the painting is about mark making, layering textured brushes and colours to build up the desired effect at the printed size.

06. Imagining Harry

Every Harry Potter fan has their own idea of how things look, either based on the films, other covers or their own imagination as they read the books.

As the illustrator hired to produce a new set of covers, I could only show my interpretation. Harry looked how I imagined him when I read the books: of slight build with a thick head of hair.

07. Dead space

One of the balancing acts in book cover illustration is trying to make sure all titles and graphics on the cover are legible, given adequate space and aren't fighting with the artwork.

This cover was easy enough, with a dark space in the roof of the cavern taking up the top third of the image, but some of the others were much more complex.

Words: Jonny Duddle

Jonny Duddle is an illustrator and concept artist working in publishing, games and animation. He's written and illustrated seven children's books and was also a character designer on Aardman's Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 120.

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