Commissioned Book Cover – Completed! 
Just completed my first book cover for author Marc Joan and publisher Deixis Press!

First and foremost I would like to thank fellow artist Nirupa Rao for the reference, hope I was able to live upto her standards. I thank Roopashree Kalliganur for her guidance on pricing the front cover art. I thank author Marc Joan for trusting in me and working with me on his first novel book cover. 

I am sharing the step by step process involved in making this book cover! Take a look, let me know what you think? 

Author’s MessageAuthor Marc Joan from the United Kingdom wrote to me on Instagram stating that I was referred to him by a fellow artist to design his book cover. This was on a tight deadline since the previous artist who took up the project had to back out due to ill health. He came to me with the idea of making an ink book cover in black and white. 

However I suggested that he go for a colored one which always works well for a front cover. It was a complex idea with many elements. My first work was to simplify the design and make it worthy of a cover. Cover image has to be simple at the same time grab the attention of the viewer. Free hand sketching is always great for working on drafts and studies. I made quiet a few of them for this cover. 

He had sent similar queries to few more artists asking them for proposal designs and if they could work on tight deadline. After I sent out my first study, he decided to work with me for his first book front cover! Understanding client requirement and working proactively got me this project.

Title: Concept Study

Step one: As you can see the author had a lots of elements which were important to the plot in his novel however not all elements were working in favor to make a good cover design. First step was to understand his requirement and make a simple design. Free hand drawing is of great help when it comes to making drafts like these. Here is my first proposal with a simplified concept and design. 

Title: More Drafts and Contract

Step two: Once the artist was finalized, it was time to sign the contract. The contract contained all the terms and conditions about the project. Like copyrights, deadlines, fees etc. This is the first time I am signing such a contact so it was great to read through all the clauses carefully and then sign it. Contract was signed by both parties.

Once the contract was signed I started working on the drafts. I started this project on 3rd February 2022 and these 4 drafts were done by 16th February 2022.

Title: Key elements in the design

Step three: Key elements from the approved cover design.

1.Moon Cycle, author Marc was very particular in getting the directions and phase of the moon accurately. It took me about 4 drafts to get the phases in the right direction and in symmetry! The key element in the novel “Moon Cycle”
2.Kirtimukha from Hindu temple architecture is the name of a swallowing, fierce monster face with huge fangs and a gaping mouth. Commonly see in India and Southeast Asia, and often also found in Buddhist architecture. “The Face”
3.Rose ringed parakeets(Psittacula krameri) The two Rose Ringed Parakeets facing away from each other.
4.Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) flower and bud and leaves
5.Eucalyptus viminalis
6.Butterfly inspired by Malabar Banded Swallowtail (Papilio Liomedon) “The Butterfly”

Title: Watercolor Study

Step Four: Sharing the color palette for your reference. I maintain a color log for every painting I make and it helps me reproduce the artwork if I need to. It helps me in mixing colors in future projects. Colors are Lemon Yellow, Primary Phthalo Blue, Vermillion, Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue and Gamboge Yellow. 

Title: Moon Cycle, Datura_stramonium, Eucalyptus viminalis and Rose Ringed Parakeets Watercolor study
Species: Datura_stramonium, Eucalyptus viminalis and Psittacula krameri                Medium: Watercolor on Hanemuhle 300 GSM Paper                                                    Size: 8.3 x 11.7 inches( 21.082 x2 9.71),Unframed                                                        Reference: Author’s concept                                                                                            Duration: 12 Hours                                                                                                          Date: 14th February 2022                                                                                                Artist Collection  

Title: Final Painting                                       

Title: Moon Cycle,Datura_stramonium,Eucalyptus viminalis and Rose Ringed Parakeets
Species: Datura_stramonium, Eucalyptus viminalis and Psittacula krameri              Medium: Mixed Media on Arches watercolor paper(Cold press/Medium Grain)               Size: 10×14 inches( 25.4 x35.56),Unframed                                                      Reference: Author’s concept                                                                                          Duration: 156 Hours(Total hours,includes study sketches,composition, research, watercolor study,emails to author, etc)                                                                               Date: Started February 03rd 2022, completed March 27th 2022                                    Private Collector! (UK) 

Materials used

Brustro Gouache                                                                                                          Pebeo Watercolors                                                                                                 Hanemuhle 300 GSM Paper                                                                                    Stationerie brushes                                                                                                     Camel Artists Acrylic Colors                                                                                  Daler rowney watercolor brushes                                                                                           

Step Five: Once the watercolor study was approved by the author and publisher, I received 50% of the payment. Received my payment through Paypal. Market exchange rate was 76.43 INR per dollar. However, Paypal paid only 72.89, minus their commission. This is one of the key points to consider when you are quoting your price. By the way I quoted just for the digital design, later got to know that he wanted the original work too. He agreed to pay the extra cost for the original and shipping. I did mention this to Marc and he later compensated the difference amount too! 

I ordered materials for the commissioned work and waited for them to arrive, by the time I started working on the final work. News came in that my uncle passed away. It was moment of significant loss. It was tough to start work for few days, by the time I was recovering from his loss. Received news that Eric Ramanujam succumbed to jaundice, Eric was the chief editor for the “Owl of India” monologue. We both were working on this book for three years now. It was is still a substantial loss. He was a great mentor, artist himself, researcher, naturalist and good person by heart.

Putting everything aside, I started working on the last design, since its assignment was on contract and I had to meet the deadline. I wrote to the author about the misfortune and he agreed to an extension. After working on the final painting for 13 days straight, I completed it on 27th March 2022.

I worked through all the grieving and pain. It was one of my toughest projects to date. Not about the technical aspects of painting, it was about controlling one’s emotions and mind. Forcing oneself to do an act though one enjoys that act, however not in the frame of mind to enjoy it at that moment. Art is a great healer. For thirteen days, I have been just thinking about working, reworking and completing certain areas of this artwork. One part at a time.

Next we both explored how to ship the artwork to United Kingdom, most the courier providers charges were exuberantly expensive. With little research we decided on Indian post. Sent the artwork through Indian speed post. Cost for sending the artwork was economical, online tracking started immediately after booking the item and item was delivered within 8 days safely.

In the Shipment
6mm plywood
Original artwork
Cover letter with Certificate authenticity 
Thank you note
Thermocol block on all four side inside the box
Bubble trap inside the box                                                                                              12 x 16 inches brown cardboard box

Shipping charges: The cost of shipping is usually calculated differently by different providers. Usually they charge for 1 Kg even if the item weights 800-900 grams. Always don’t forget to mention Fragile on the item even though it is packed well. 

Title: Listing of the Book   

Step Six: Always a great feeling to see one’s creation in print, Marc’s book is open for pre-booking and will be released in United Kingdom in the month of July. Book will be available on all preferred online platform like Amazon after 27 July 2022. Here is the link from Deixis Press for pre-ordering in the UK:

Testimonial from Marc Joan and Deixis Press:

I hope found this information useful? Let me know in the comments!
If you wish to Commission a cover for your upcoming book, please write to me at
If you would like to receive such informative tips on drawing/sketching/painting, please consider subscribing to my newsletter for regular updates.

Prasad Natarajan
Prasad Natarajan

Rediscovering Nature: Wildlife Blogger, Artist and photographer.

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