The above image is an early composition test render, with only the main prop elements in place over a temp background plate of blue water that would later be recolored. A page layout template has also been overlaid, showing the print book crop and text margins: a minimum of 1/4" must be allowed for print trim, with a text margin of 1/2" to one full inch. I compromised at 3/4".
This temp composite was done first both to achieve an artistic balance in the graphics, as well as to determine the amount of text space the layout would provide, and adjust both to fit as needed. Once the layout was locked it would be too late to add more space for textual changes. The rough draft text was used for fill, and final edited text would be added only after final art was done.
Above is the final composite for the background and central figure layers. The colors were more subdued initially, but were brightened once the foreground elements were added, in order to make the text easier to read. This caused some loss of depth within the image, but in this instance legibility of the text must remain foremost. However, final colors may still be adjusted once all the layouts are complete, in order to achieve an overall color balance, and depending on how the print proofs look.
Since the illustrated novel is being created for both print and digital editions, several conflicting criteria must be kept in mind during the creation of the art. For print a CMYK color space is required, with total color value held below 240%, while ebook reader screens and computer monitors use RGB space with millions of colors. To accommodate this a dual monitor setup is used when creating the artwork, with one screen tuned to each mode and separate files saved for each format.
In order to achieve the "watercolor" look, the original multi-pass render plates were all combined in Photoshop, and blended together with various colored paper layers and grunge textures, using several blending modes. Over this additional caustic light layers and pattern brushes were applied to produce motion swirls and bubbles.
Along with Occlusion and Ambient passes, other layers used were a Shadows-Only render pass, two IBL (Image Based Light) passes along with separate Key, Fill and Rim light passes, as well as two Caustic Light Gel passes for the water ripple effect. This would be done for the background and central figures layer (temple and rocks), as well as each of the four characters in the scene.