I never draw or paint straight onto a computer screen. I don’t seem to have the same control over a mouse as I do a paintbrush. However, if you scan a watercolour or a pastel or pencil drawing into a paint program, you can end up with something close to perfection – bleedbacks obliterated, smudges and paint splatters removed, lines cleaned up and flat colours regularised. The trouble is that paint programs are really complicated, and unless you have the time to learn them inside out you’ll never use all the functions, and may well drive yourself bonkers trying to work out how to do one apparently small thing. So I teach myself everything on a need to know basis. I’m finally getting to grips with the difference between smudging and softening and dodging and burning – but the most important button of all is the Undo! It’s also vital to save different versions of your illustration as you go, and start the numbering at 01 so that they always line up in order. Unless you think you’re going to go into the hundreds, in which case you start at 001. I do this for book versions as well, because I’m lazy enough not to want to hunt through files for the most recent document.
The cover of Jinx on the Divide was executed in several stages. For the background, I found a photograph I had taken of the Northern lights in Norway, put it into Paintshop Pro, enhanced it, and brightened the colours. I also changed the outline of the mountains to something I liked better, and erased a building. I then saved this, and loaded into Photoshop. The picture of the Dire Wolf was done in watercolour, and scanned into my computer. I then had the contrast increased and the edges tidied up in Paintshop Pro. I saved it again (with a different filename – you don’t want to get your pictures confused) and loaded it into Photoshop. I used the lasso feature to capture the image, and then made its white background transparent. After that I placed it on top of my background, saved the new image, and clicked on the Text feature. I placed the start of the text in the middle of the page at the top, so that as I entered the words they remained centred. I could mess around with different fonts, sizes and colours until I arrived at something I liked. I then saved the final image, and there was my cover.
The cover of Hunted was easier, as I already had an elephant I wanted to use, so it was merely a question of cropping it the way I wanted, putting it into Photoshop, and adding the text. I was able to replace the original illustrations with watercolours I already had, and I simply inserted one at the start of each new chapter.