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.
Notes and binders during the planning stages of the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal (with Starbucks – coffee was a critical part of the work process)
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.
My marked up proof of the Ruby Charm Colors book showing the art journal page on the left and the full plate for coloring on the right.
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.
Each plate has a dark background on the reverse side and includes the name of the plate and room for you to add your name if you like to give your art away, or if you like to cut it out of the book and store it in a binder.
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.
I couldn’t resist coloring on the black page
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. 😉
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!
“Bo Dog and the Moon” is based on an old pencil sketch I did of a canine companion I had years ago. He was a floppy, bumbling (150 pound) Anatolian shepherd. Bo lived with me in my car for a summer while I collected data for research on birds in the Sleeping Bears Dunes National Park. Yep, I’ve had my share of odd (but always interesting) jobs!
Bo (Mr. Bojangles as he was originally named when I adopted him) loved to swim in Lake Michigan, and sometimes at night we’d hear the coyotes yipping.
A “Color Your Own” version of Bo Dog and the Moon is also available as a soft-cover, 120 lined page, 6” x 8” spiral notebook that can be colored with your own favorite colored pencils, pens or markers. The tote bags, great for daily errands, shopping, hauling art supplies, or even using as a special gift bag, can be colored or painted by you or others as well. Bo Dog and the Moon is printed on both sides, constructed of 100% spun polyester with cotton web handles, lined with black fabric, and available in three sizes: 13” square, 16” square and 18” square.
This past summer, I transferred my Bo Dog image to the back of a denim jacket and after painting blocks of color in acrylics, started embroidering and a sewing on beads and metal studs. The jacket is almost finished (just need to add a few final touches and sew in a cotton lining) and it’s ready to wear. Here’s a close-up of part of the jacket:
Lots of options if you are interested in adding “Bo Dog and the Moon” to your home or wardrobe!
I am pretty excited about the possibilities with this new line of notebooks and totes that can be hand-colored by anyone and everyone who loves to color (and personalize their gear). The idea grew out of a growing collection of black and white illustrations that were created especially for people who love to color. The “coloring craze” was predicted to be a fad, but based on my experiences getting to know colorists and some of the artists like myself who create coloring books and pages, I think the craze is here to stay … and it is being elevated. That said, I decided to apply my designs to items that can be colored, but also used again and again.
‘Color Your Own’ Paisley Fox Tote Bag and Spiral Notebook
‘Color Your Own’ Spiral Notebooks:
Jot your notes down in a soft-cover, 6” x 8” spiral notebook with 120 lined pages (90gsm paper stock) with a document pocket in the back. The card stock weight cover (350gsm) features an original black and grey line Ruby Charm Colors illustration that can be colored with your own favorite colored pencils, pens or markers.
‘Color Your Own’ Bo Dog and Moon Spiral Notebook
‘Color Your Own’ Tote Bags:
The tote bags, perfect for daily errands, shopping, hauling art supplies, or even using as a special gift bag, can be colored or painted by you or others as well! The black and grey line illustrations (currently six available) are printed on both sides and constructed of 100% spun polyester with cotton web handles. They are lined with black fabric and available in three sizes: 13” square, 16” square and 18” square.
‘Color Your Own’ Butterfly and Cicadas totes
The totes can be colored with your favorite Sharpies, fabric markers, fabric inks and paints, or acrylics. Be sure to first test your colors on the bottom of the bag since it is 100% spun polyester and may not be suitable for some markers or paints.
Always do a quick test in an inconspicuous spot first!
Always follow manufacturer instructions for proper use of any paints, inks or markers you plan to use. We also recommend inserting a piece of cardboard or plastic between the front and back sides of the bags to prevent paint/marker bleed through.
Also, pay attention to manufacturer instructions regarding special cleaning considerations – your normally machine washable tote will likely need special care (like hand-washing in cool water) once it is colored.
More designs will be added as time goes on, so bookmark this page and check back now and then! IMPORTANT REMINDER:Please be sure to test the paints or markers you plan to use on a small corner (or bottom) of the bag! Applying paints or markers will affect the washability of the fabric, so consider hand-washing in cool water and hanging to dry once you have worked your color magic!
Jot your notes down in this soft-cover, 6” x 8” spiral notebook with 120 lined pages (90gsm paper stock) and a document pocket in the back. The card stock weight cover (350gsm) features an original black and grey line Ruby Charm Colors illustration that can be colored with your own favorite colored pencils, pens or markers. Throw one in a matching tote and off you go!
A 5 x 7″ hardcover journal is also available with a smoother, laminate cover (not suitable for coloring). It has 128 pages (90gsm paper stock) and you can choose lined or blank pages [be sure to select the one you prefer]. Both books are made (and directly shipped to you) by Threadless.