If there were a space for a subtitle, it would read: The Making of a Book – How I Nearly Lost my Marbles
The past few months, I have been diligently working on producing a two-volume collection of the art I created especially for coloring over the past year or so, and I can finally hold the fruits of my labor in my hands—the very first proof copy of Volume 1.
It is equally exciting and terrifying.
Exciting to feel the velvety, matte black cover and finally be able to flip through a professionally bound version of my book instead of the messy draft I cobbled together in a 3-ring binder. Terrified because my work is headed out into the world, and what if I missed a stupid typo, or what if there is a quality problem with Print-on-Demand I can’t control? What if people hate the paper? So many what-if’s, yet an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment holds me steady and keeps me moving forward. I finally did what I set out to do, and I can now offer my art on Amazon to a wider audience as a less-expensive version of the locally-printed, hand-made books I currently sell on Etsy.
Mapping out the draft of the book took a lot of time and loads of paper and printer ink. My poor old Epson was put to the test this summer and it’s tired. And I used an awful lot of tape. In addition to each of the 22 plates (full illustrations), I recreated isolated parts of the plates to build the art journal pages. I could have used simple boxes or circles colorists could use as swatches to test out their colors, but thought it would be even more useful if people could experiment with the actual parts of each illustration before working on the plates if they wanted. In the video below, you can see how I built mock-ups of the pages. The ring-binder and tape method worked pretty well because it allowed me to move things around as needed.
Once the draft was in good shape and I knew the final page count would be at about 140, I used Adobe InDesign to build the file I would need to submit the book to the publisher. I had to keep Illustrator and Photoshop open on my computer (and keep my iPad with all my illustrations on it handy) since I was adding in so many smaller designs to my pages and they all needed a little fussing and nudging. I work on a small MacBook Air I’ve had for ages and it’s plugged into a second monitor, but it’s not very big either. I think this is partly why I felt I needed a physical copy to work with so I could see whole pages at their actual size.
The cover design went through a few different iterations and I finally settled on a black cover with a circle of colorful art in the center. I also spent a ton of time searching for the perfect title font and found it through Emily Spadoni. And then once I committed to and paid for it, decided to go back into the interior of the book and change all my headings to that playful font, too. Seemingly little changes can sometimes take hours of work.
Once the interior and cover were done, I submitted my files to CreateSpace and held my breath. The digital proof came back with errors. So many errors. A bunch of my graphics had somehow converted to a lower ppi between Photoshop and Illustrator before making it into InDesign, and the margins and bleeds were mucked up in spots. I had to redo a bunch of graphics and fiddle with the margins and bleeds which was tricky for some of the graphics since they overlapped and purposely fell off the pages in areas. And I intentionally rotated some of the images so that caused even more chaos during the review process. It was a lot of excruciating nit-picking to get it all right. When the proverbial light turned green after a few more rounds of submissions (days and days of back-and-forth), I ordered physical proofs with expedited shipping. Whoo-hoo!
As soon as I got the proofs in the mail, I sent copies to my trusty coloring team so they could take their own book for a test drive and help me with a little feedback. Their comments were incredibly useful and reassuring, and I’ll be forever grateful to them. Paula, Lora, and Lucia—you are a dream team—thank you!
Since July, I have put in an average of 8 to 10 hours a day planning the layout, writing text for the introduction and “coloring tips” pages, creating smaller versions of my illustrations to build the art journal pages, and designing the cover. It’s been a long process and I’ve learned so much along the way. Not only about how to create a book, but about what makes me tick and how dedication and hard work can turn into something tangible—something to be proud of seeing through from inception to reality, start to finish.
This book is a little different from other coloring books. A lot of thought went into the concept and layout. I didn’t want the book to be a simple collection of drawings to color, I wanted it to be an art journal—a place where colorists could play and experiment and exercise their creative muscles. I am fairly new to coloring (I really only started when I began creating line art specifically for coloring last year) and admittedly have very few coloring books.
What I noticed about my coloring habits, though, is that I always needed a few scraps of paper nearby to test my colors. I would jot down notes about which pencils I was using, and had lots of scribbles and color swatches. A lot of times, those swatches and notes would get lost, so if I went back to finish a piece days or weeks later, I’d have to try to retrace where I started and what I used. I knew that others had the same issue and this is where the idea of a coloring art journal came into play.
I want colorists to have a place to keep their ideas together—all those little notes and blended color swatches. A go-to journal that can store ideas and coloring discoveries that can be applied not only to my art in this book, but to other pieces of art in other books as well. Each art journal (or worksheet) page is a little different from the others and directly relates to the illustration from the full plate. And colorists can fill these pages out however they see fit. There are no rules for how something is colored, what is tracked or what is scribbled—it’s all up to the colorist.
Since I knew going into this project using CreateSpace meant the book’s paper would not be ideal for everyone (some love it, some hate it) I decided to back each plate with a black page to help obscure color bleed-through. It’s not an issue with colored pencils at all, but some markers (especially Copics and Sharpies) can make a huge mess. I had my daughter try her Copics in the book, and though the effect of the bleed looked pretty cool through the black back, it’s probably not ideal.
So fair warning: I do not recommend heavy markers for this book at all. Watercolors can be used sparingly. It’s thin paper, and there is not much independent coloring book artists can do about it until CreateSpace hears our pleas for thicker paper, perforated pages and spiral-binding (which in my opinion would be ideal).
Here is a sample of Caran d’Ache Muesum and Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils using a Kurtake waterbrush (easy on the water). The paper warped a little, but not terrible. And while it was damp, a little of the black from the page behind it showed through. But once it completely dried, it was fine. Coloring over it with regular colored pencils helped flatten it back out. I wouldn’t recommend washing an entire page with water, but in small doses, it seems to be fine. This is partly why I encourage colorists to copy plates from the book onto their favorite type of paper or card stock if they would like. It also saves them a clean version to copy again if needed.
While testing out different media on my proof copy (I really beat it up a bit) I discovered that though thin, the paper has decent tooth and is actually pretty tough. Even while applying pressure while burnishing. No rips so far. I spent about an hour coloring the beetle (above) and was very pleased by the way my pencils put down color and blended. I used a mix of Caran d’Ache Luminance, Prismacolor Premier and Verithin, Polychromos and Irojitens, plus a few Sakura Souffle and Gelly Roll Moonlight gel pens.
I also tried coloring a fiddlehead fern design on the back of one plate and yes, coloring on black works pretty well and is a lot of fun. Don’t be surprised to see a Black Magic Art Journal before too long.
The final book proof should arrive in the mail any day and I am anxious to go through it one last time before bringing it to life on Amazon. In the meantime, I am working my way through Volume 2 (same format but with 24 full illustration plates to complete the collection, and new, more advanced advanced coloring tips) as well as ideas for a Journal, a “Just the Plates” companion (with all 46 plates), and a Black Magic volume. Will I make it for the holidays? Only time will tell!
Below is a quick flip-through of my first proof if you want to take a peek. It shows the color charts at the end of the book, the plates and art journal pages, the tips pages and the front matter. I may have skipped a few pages—I am not the best flipper. 😉
Volume 1 of the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal is now available as of September 13, 2018!
Give my blog a follow for updates, and I promise I won’t fill your inbox up with spam. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @RubyCharmColors and, pssst! My coloring team is hosting a Color-Along from September 7 to October 7 if you want to get your hands on an excerpt from the book to color … Autumn Cat! Join the RubyCharmColors FB group, look for the Color-Along event, download the file, and happy coloring!