Game of Thrones process post

I’ve always enjoyed other illustrators process posts, because I am – at heart – nosey . It seems only fair to try my hand at one. My process is broadly the same, and for the Game of Thrones series it was important to use the same techniques every time for the sake of consistency

I use a Wacom Intuos 4 drawing tablet hooked up to an Imac. The drawing tablet has been a life and arm saver after years of drawing with a mouse. 90 percent of my drawing is done in Adobe Illustrator with the other 10 percent created in Photoshop. For these images I’ve also been using Manga Studio 5 and finally, because there’s type setting involved, I’ve been using InDesign.

The brief was to illustrate the shocking death of Ros, speared by a volley of Joffrey’s arrows to accompany the quote ‘Chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder’.

Stage 1
Watch the scene over and over (thanks, youtube) and imagine the scene from every different angle, looking for a visual idea or interesting composition. These are then thumbnailed out as simple vector shapes. The bottom three are sent to the design agency as recommendations. The quality of roughs vary from client to client, in this case I’m working with the US designers at digital agency 360i so I could afford to save time with simple shapes and colours. This is by far and away the most important stage, because once a thumbnail is approved I’m stuck with it.

Ros process1

Agency Feedback
Adam and Nick, the guys from 360i, liked the image of Ros in profile against the bedpost, because the arrows form a visual ‘ladder’ to match the quote. They ask for it to be simplified, and they have a good point.

Stage 2
Get rid of the bedpost and flip the image so it reads more comfortably (left to right). Start putting in the basic shapes in Illustrator after a Google search for images of the actress Esme Bianco. I made her skin grey to imply the coldness of a dead body, and also to try and mitigate any implied lasciviousness in the image. I introduced a candle flame to help the eye across the image and to add some implied movement to the arrows. I could mention a candle flame as a metaphor for a bright and brief life snuffed out too soon, but that would sound extremely pretentious so I won’t.

Ros process2
Stage 3
After brightening up what were pretty dull colours, I export the image as a Jpeg and drop it into Manga Studio. I love drawing in MS, and unlike Photoshop it’s a dedicated drawing programme so is comparatively stripped back (I tend to get lost in Photoshop and have 7 million layers before I know it). It also has a genius ‘stabilising’ function on all drawing tools, turning wobbly scribbles into elegant swooshes and swirls. It allows me to fill in some detail work around the hair, blood splatters and feather details on the arrows which would take an age to draw in Illustrator. There’s also a simple airbrush tool to soften the vectors on Ros’ skin to suggest candle light.
Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 09.58.50

Stage 4
Another extremely handy aspect of Manga Studio 5 is that you can export artwork as layered PSDs, preserving the layers in photoshop. I try to be disciplined in labelling the layers – background, foreground, poor dead person full of holes, etc. but I inevitably end up switching layers on and off in photoshop to see exactly what’s on ‘Layer 17’.

I wanted the candle ‘light’ to lead your eye across to Ros’ face, then down the blood drip to the arrows back round to the candle and so on, and to do it with textures. I have no idea how anyone else uses them, but I fudge it using ink splots I’ve created, dropping ink onto water soaked paper. I have a load of these scanned in, the candle light mainly uses this ink splodge (below). By choosing Image>Adjustments>Threshold you can get some nice rough edges. I then cut and reposition pieces like a collage until I have the right kind of shape. There’s also some overlayed on the arrow flights – it’s a less mechanical looking way of shading.


Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 10.06.48


Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 10.04.59

Stage 5
Finally, I bring the image into Indesign to set the type (Trajan, with a few bells and whistles) and import the Lannister sigil from a separate Illustrator file, which reduces the risk of overwriting/losing files. Although using four different programmes to create one image seems pretty over the top, it actually saves time by using the best bits of each application. Like everybody else, my process has evolved through messing about, trying things out and nicking things from other peoples process posts. I hope there’s something here you can half inch yourself.


Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 10.49.52

Stage 6










6 thoughts on “Game of Thrones process post

  1. Wow! Thank you for posting your creative process Robert! Your use of experimenting with various programs is amazing. I really enjoy your series of posters. So much emotion and movement in each and every piece.


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