Hi, I'm Leng!

Writer of fantasy-adventure web stories.

New Header Image + Process

Last year, I started building a website for my novel. I made a header that, in hindsight, I don't feel is strong enough to represent the story anymore. So I've been working on a brand new header image.

The most challenging part is that, just like a book cover, my header image must showcase the concept of my novel effectively. It must 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. I rarely even made images that have backgrounds in them.

But I want a really good header image. If I do end up hosting my novel on my website, I can't allow my header image to drive away potential readers because it doesn't capture their attention.

Ideation

I started the ideation process last December. I returned 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.

A sketchbook page with little sketches inside rectangles A sketchbook page with little sketches inside rectangles A sketchbook page with little sketches inside rectangles

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. They also allow me to test what elements from the novel I should include.

Experimenting with Colours

I chose a couple ideas I really liked and moved on to digital. This step allowed me to flesh out the compositions even more, figure out the value statements, and try out different color palettes.

Twenty thumbnails with different value statements and color palettes.

Looking through my options, I looked for an image that captures the essence of the story, goes well with my current branding colours, and does not immensely exceed my current art skills. The last one is important, because I don't want to spend ages on a piece that I would not be able to execute well in the end after all.

Detailed Sketch

I picked two images to sketch in more detail.

A black and white sketch of a boy and a girl looking over a cliff with a forest background. There is a shadowed figure in the forest, and a sea-serpent in the sky. A black and white sketch of a boy and a girl riding a raft on a river. The boy's hands glow with magic. There are shrubs in the foreground and a clawed hand sets aside some leaves. There's a sea-serpent in the sky.

I posted these on Tumblr and asked for feedback. 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, its energy seems to better match the 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.

Digital Painting

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:

A rectangle divided into five coloured sections: green, gold, deep red, beige, and brown.

However, 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 that 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. Voila! It 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.

The fully rendered version of the cliff sketch.

I spent a week and a half painting the cliff and the forest. This was the first time I needed to paint lots of trees and rocks in detail. I looked closely at references and started over many times, until I got something that was passable for a cliff and a forest. The hardest part about painting nature is that there are 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 your image.

I was pretty happy with this end result. My friends on Tumblr liked it too, so I felt doubly at ease.

Typography

The next step is to add the title. I have very little design background, and I know almost next to nothing about fonts (other than '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 searched for a few free fonts from Google Fonts to try. I experimented with several fonts and designs for both the English title and the Tagalog title.

Fully rendered version with The Malicious Wind in a script font. Fully rendered version with Ang Masamang Hangin in a script font. Fully rendered version with a curved The Malicious Wind in a script font. Fully rendered version with a curved Ang Masamang Hangin in a script font. Fully rendered version with The Malicious Wind in a sans-serif font. Fully rendered version with Ang Masamang Hangin in a sans-serif font. Fully rendered version with The Malicious Wind in a serif font. Fully rendered version with Ang Masamang Hangin in a serif font. Fully rendered version with The Malicious Wind in a slanted script font. Fully rendered version with Ang Masamang Hangin in a slanted script font.

After gathering feedback from Tumblr, I settled on the first one. I applied some minor modifications to the image to make the title more legible, and I tinted the entire image a little more blue.

Final Header

Finally, this is the end-product!

Fully rendered version of the header with a bluer hue and The Malicious Wind in a script font.

For reference, this was the old header image:

An image of a girl and boy standing to the left of the image. The girl holds a stone figure. The boy stares at the viewer, hand on a knife at his hip. A bright blue feather falls at the top-right corner. The Malicious Wind is written in a serif font below the feather.

Big difference, right? I'm excited to get to work on the website, now that I have the right materials to put on there.

Want to leave a comment on this post? Drop me an email or ask on Tumblr.