Art + Design

An Old School Approach to a New Cover Design

In our digital age, where most things are within our reach by a swipe of a screen, many of us are looking for alternate practices that provide a break from our computers, phones, and digital devices. One of those rediscovered, old school practices is the coloring book, a trend that continues to sweep the nation.

Adding to the success of some of our existing coloring books like Secret Garden and Fantastic Cities, we have a new coloring book line with the artist Molly Hatch this spring: Journey in Color. The first two in the series are Journey in Color: French Baroque and Journey in Color: Moroccan Motifs, so I thought it would be fun to share with you the process behind making the covers.

Knowing that many people have been using coloring books as a fun way to unplug and de-stress, I was really interested in trying to color these covers by hand. I wanted them to have an authentic colored-in look, and I also thought it sounded fun to get to step away from my computer because, truth be told, it’s been far too long since I have actually sat down and colored.

Coloring Book cover in progress

As part of our cover process, we typically present 3-4 cover options to our in-house publishing team and the author, something that I didn’t really think about when I had the idea of hand coloring the cover. I ended up needing to color 6 different covers (3 for each coloring book), and oh my gosh, did my hand hurt! I swear I had cramps in my hand for several days. Luckily, our group and the author really liked the options I presented, and they picked a direction for each coloring book.

The next step was creating the final art. These coloring books have a special feature in them: a second ink color. On the interior coloring pages, French Baroque prints a metallic gold and black, and Moroccan Motifs prints a turquoise blue and black, so we wanted to show these special color features on the covers. We printed four color CMYK and the additional fifth spot color. This meant that I would need to create separate layers for the cover art and the art that I originally presented, so I had to re-color the final cover art one last time. I shook out my hand and dove back in.

I printed out the cover patterns in black and white and laid them down on a light table. I then placed a blank sheet of paper on top, so that I could color in the areas that needed to be colored while keeping the line work areas separate.

Coloring Book cover in progress

And here are the finished coloring books! I’m happy to report that (minus the hand cramping) it really was fun to have an opportunity to step away from my computer and color. I kept thinking to myself, “Is this for real? I can’t believe that I’m coloring at work.”

Finished covers!

In fact, I had so much fun coloring the first two covers of these coloring books that I did it again. Here is a sneak peek of the proof sheets for the next book in the series, coming out in Fall 2016.

Next cover in our Journey in Color series

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a behind the scenes look at the making of a coloring book cover. If you liked this, you’ll probably also like…

Kristen Hewitt

Kristen Hewitt

Design Director at Chronicle Books and an enthusiastic cheerleader for gift and stationery products (and pretty much anything with foil).
Kristen Hewitt


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