The Thief Book
ILLUSTRATION & DESIGN / PERSONAL PROJECT
This was a self-initiated project to create a personal illustrated edition of one of my all-time favorite books. I wanted to challenge myself to finish a project of this scope, and was also keen to continue developing my illustration and book design skills.
Create 1 full page or spread illustration per chapter of the book (12)
Create a similar number of spot illustrations
Use a cohesive style and limited color palette throughout
Design typography and layout for the entire book
When designing layout, pay special attention to myth sections and chapter pages
Get book physically printed
I started my process by re-reading the book and taking notes on the setting, characters, and other key visual elements, as well as the important events in each chapter. I also did some period research – while it is a fantasy world, the setting of The Thief is strongly influenced by Ancient to Byzantine-era Greece and other Mediterranean cultures. I created several moodboards to collect inspiration from landscapes, patterns, historical clothing, and other sources, and began exploratory sketches to start building the visual world.
After completing my research, I began creating character designs and thumbnail sketches of ideas for illustrations. Simultaneously, I tested different media that I was considering for the illustrations, such as fully-digital drawings or printmaking techniques.
Alongside the illustration ideation, I worked on selecting a typeface for the copy of the book by comparing text samples. I also started testing different layouts for the folios and margins, chapter titles, and the myth sections, which I intended to emphasize through some sort of layout or illustration element.
While normally I might present different concepts for client feedback in order to make decisions and move forward with a project, in this case I was my own client and thus made decisions based on my vision for the book. With the guiding principle of trying to merge historical Greece + fantasy, I chose to create the illustrations using block printing techniques rather than digital media, and selected orange and black as the primary color scheme to reference ancient Greek pottery. I also used details such as a border pattern in the myth sections and decorative drop caps at the beginning of each chapter to emphasize the fairytale qualities of the story.
Creating the book had two main tasks, the illustrations and the text design. First up was selecting which of my thumbnails compositions to make into final illustrations, then refining the drawing in order to create two plates for printing. In order to save a bit of money and headache, I carved and printed only the black plates of each illustration, and painted the color plates, then combined the two digitally in Photoshop.
On the text side, I started by setting up my InDesign file and styles, then flowed all the text through it and cleaned it up. Initially I used placeholder shapes to represent the illustrations, but once they were ready those were inserted into the document and the text flow adjusted around them (particularly the spot illustrations). I also added and designed the front matter and back matter of the book, and created two alternate cover designs using my illustrations.
Finally, before sending the book off to print, I spent time adjusting and double-checking for details such as spelling, widows and orphans, incorrect line breaks, etc. I also asked a couple friends for any final feedback and their keen eyes to catch anything I’d missed. Once the printed book arrived, I added in patterned endpapers I found at a local paper shop.
The final product was an illustrated edition of The Thief. I was satisfied with the result as I met my goals of creating a full set of illustrations as well as the text layout for the whole book, with a few additional decorative flourishes to add interest and tie everything together. I love being able to flip through the pages and see the illustrations in each chapter, and it’s particularly fun to lend to friends and family who are interested in reading it.