The Deck of the Planes from Scribbles to Print

For the upcoming book on Jesters from Alluria Publishing I had the task of illustrating a magical deck of cards used by Jesters. What follows is a description of my process of working through the commission from beginning to end.

I started with the description from Alluria:


The Deck of the Planes: A magical deck used by Jesters. This deck has four unique suites. Suite of Chaos, Suite of Sea, Suite of Shadow, and Suite of Wild.

Suite of Chaos: Ever changing, everything about this Suite is in constant flux

Suite of Sea: This Suite glows slightly shimmering with scales.

Suite of Shadow: Cool to the touch no two people see this Suite in the same way.

Suite of Wild: This Suite vibrates to the touch, and those who hold its cards often hear the sounds of nature and her beasts roaring inside them.


I read and re-read the text. Alluria also included information on how the Jesters could use the cards to cast various spells. The challenge was trying to depict a whole deck of cards in a way that can be shown in only a couple illustrations. I started to doodle and let my imagination wander.

In order to free up my imagination I put down a few scribbles in a 30% gray marker. Then I used pen to start pulling details out of the marker. After a few doodles I settled on the idea of showing the King of each suite. That way I could capture the unique feel of each suite in a way that the viewer could compare across each image.

Using the descriptions as my guides I continued to doodle and scribble in my sketchbook using marker and pen. I then scanned the scribbles in, lightened the image, and digitally scribbled a bit more.

King of Wild Sketch


King of Shadows Sketch


King of Sea Sketch


King of Chaos Sketch


Then I printed the scribbles out very lightly on Bristol paper, and drew a very tight pencil drawing of each King.

King of Wild & Shadow Pencil Drawing


King of Sea & Chaos Pencil Drawing


I scanned those in and printed them out again very lightly on Bristol paper and did a value drawing in Burnt Umber Acrylic Ink.

King of Wild Ink


King of Shadow Ink


King of Sea Ink


King of Chaos Ink


Finally I scanned those in and digitally altered them to ad color and make them look like cards. I also added a unique “K” to each piece to make sure they looked like the King of a Suite. The nice thing about doing the Burnt Umber Ink drawings is that it makes it easier to alter the color digitally.

King of Wild


King of Shadow


King of Sea


King of Chaos


In the end I had four unique Kings of the various Suites from the Deck of the Planes and a happy client.

Alluria Publishing’s book on Jesters is do out at the end of January 2010.

4 thoughts on “The Deck of the Planes from Scribbles to Print

  1. Sam,
    Amazing work, as always. My only comment comes from a need to see relationship in the cards to convey they are part of the same deck and this circles around the K icon. I really like what you did with the fish and wish the same iconic ideas were carried over to the other cards to help them feel connected.

    My 2 cents and I know you didn’t ask for.

    Other than that, you can see you process getting really tight and your quality is topnotch.

  2. Usually a deck of cards has the backs of the cards to unify a deck and make it clear that they belong together. I haven’t seen that done on the front. Perhaps making the the K’s in a unified font would make that difference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: