My second attempt at Chaplin:
Inspired by another cover artist's Criterion custom for Chaplin, I decided to give this one another go. I made a custom for Chaplin last year using the silhouette poster art, but I like this new poster so much better.
It's been a while since I did a full write-up for one of my covers, but here goes:The Front:
As always, the hunt for high-rez images for older movies is hit-and miss. In the end I asked the other artist if he would send me the poster image he had used. It was still fairly small, but it was something I could work with.
First I upscaled it to about twice the final size, then started overlaying some grain to camouflage the low level of detail. I create the grain effect by making a separate layer of 40% grey, then add some uniform noise to it. I use a brush-stroke filter called "Spatter" on that noise to clump it up and make it look like actual filmgrain. Then I set the grain layer to the Overlay blending mode and can dial it in and out using the Opacity slider. For this image I used two layers with different coarseness of grain. The finer grain was over Downey's facial features and the rest of the image has gradually coarser grain out towards the edges.
I also overlaid an image of a blank, sepia-toned photograph, with just a little bit of vignetting along the edges. This gave the low-rez image a patina of age and wear, something which was appropriate for the material.
I opted to recreate the tagline and title treatment from the original image almost exactly. One should usually replace all scanned text with actual type anyway, to ensure it is crisp and clean. First I had to clone-brush out the existing text, which was easy as it was placed in the black of the bowler hat. Phew! When trying to find a matching font for replacement, I find it useful to type up the text in a text layer, then highlight the font selector window and use the arrow keys to cycle through the fonts I have on my computer. The active type layer changes as I flip through the fonts, so that I see the results immediately. I have just about 900 fonts on my system, so it sometimes takes a while to cycle throught them all, but more often than not I can get a 90% match with what I have pre-installed.The Spine:
As always I carry over the title treatment from the front to the spine. I also like to use the "official" logo and layout for the studios to make my customs blend in with the retail covers on the shelf.
I read a comment on one of these forums once, that spine images are always ugly, but I beg to differ. The only fancy thing I did with the Chaplin image on the spine was add a slight drop-shadow to it so his feet would seem tied to the "ground".The Back:
As I said, I had done a Chaplin cover previously, so I had the synopsis and the extras list already typed out. This time I added the credits block and retyped all the legal text as well, which I hadn't bothered to do last time.
I always type up every bit of text before I start to experiment with the images and layout. This way I know almost exactly how many elements I have to incorporate and roughly how much space is available for images. I can always take out an image or two, but leaving out the synopsis or the list of extras to accomodate an image is not an option for me.
I also like to have some texture to my covers, and continue the look of the fronts over into the backs. Here I just had to extend the grain/sepia treatment I had applied to the front poster and it made for a nice background.
The backs are hard, so it always helps me to latch onto a particular art style or theme to get me started. I was going for a Art Noveau vibe to fit the time period, and that dictated much of the layout. I tend to do strictly symmetrical layouts as a rule, but have been trying to break away from it. For this, however, a symmetrical, elegant approach seemed the best fit.
To keep in line with the theme of the source material, I used a font called Silentia to mimic the title cards of silent movies. This turned out to be a beautiful and versatile font, and I wound up using it for all the text on the back. Usually I find that what works for the synopsis doesn't fit the extras-list, but Silentia worked for everything, even the credit block.
The layout of the back took me all day, roughly 7 hours. The one I ended up with was my third version. I originally did some work on using a wavy film strip as a basis to build the layout around, but I wasn't satisfied with the result. It looked too gimmicky and worked against the symmetry I wanted. My second attempt had some busy, ornamental linework going into thick borders around the images, but it just got too cluttered and clunky. In the end I just kept the top portion of that element (the rings you see behind Downey's back) and made simple, horizontal dividers between the different elements.
I knew I wanted a medium close-up of Downey in character as the tramp for the top of the cover. However, all the images I found were of a morose, sad clown type Chaplin. That's part of the film, to be sure, but I wanted a lighter, more inviting tone to the cover. (The front poster was already serious enough.) I eventually found the image of Chaplin with the rose, which I thought was a perfect fit tonally. Again, only smallish images were to be found, so I had to do an upscaled/noise-reduced/grained-up job on that image as well. Downey's shoulders were cut off at the collar bone, so I had to do some extensions by copying other parts of the image and clone-stamping on top of that. Why can't things ever be easy? The colours of the original image were rather dull, so I tweaked them a bit. I masked out the rose to give it a particular saturation boost. The rose is the only really bright element on the entire cover, so the eye goes straight to it and it cheers up the general mood of the piece. The image still looks like a colorized b&w image, but it fits with the material.
When selecting screenshots I try to represent as many different settings or characters from the movie as possible. Considering these will be stamp-sized once they're printed, the facial close-ups tend to dominate. The lovely Milla Jovovich was my choice to represent the sexual content of the film.
Finally, I put an orange overlay over the entire cover at about 20% opacity to give it a warmer hue. This also accentuated the brown sepia tone, which I had suppressed too much originally.
There it is, the process behind this cover. It was a nice change to do a cover for myself after a string of commissions. These personal projects tend to perculate in the back of my brain, and when a little free time crops up they come to the surface.
I'm uploading it to Customaniacs, but will accept PMs through this forum as well.