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Graphic Designer's Notes

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I was given a huge sheet of card (A0) with black and white line drawings of wonderful beasts and Celtic knotwork. Most were on their own little pieces of paper carefully cut and positioned to make up a complicated mosaic of bits and pieces which were to become the box art for Tara, Seat of Kings. My first task was to work out how to go about scanning everything without losing its relationship to everything else. It is surprisingly difficult to get a sheet of A0 card into an A4 scanner in any way that helps.

Once scanned everything needed tidying up. The white needed to be gone and the black uncluttered by superfluous gray smudges, pencil marks and the aberrations created by the scanning process. This took a lot longer than you might think. One of the hardest jobs in the entire process was making the knotwork that surrounds the whole page look smooth and continuous when it had been scanned in small sections and these had to be merged together without showing the join.

The original image was designed to look like an illustrated manuscript. But what to use as the background? Yes, you guessed it, a piece of printer paper soaked in tea. I darkened the edges more and changed the colour balance a bit but still, a school kid's craft work project. The edges are slightly scuffed and well used, but this manuscript has been kept carefully in a monastery library somewhere, it is not all tattered like some pirate's treasure map.

Initially, I chose a rather simplistic cartoon-like colour scheme and I started to colour everything in. At that time the game's working name was simply 'Tara'. The box art included a quote from Thomas Moore:

The Harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled.

However, we later decided to change the game's name to Tara, Seat of Kings. The king from the centre bottom of the picture was to become the game logo. So, we chose to remove the quote from the box art and expand the king on his seat to make him a more prominent feature. This was all done in Photoshop CS8. Removing the text and making the king more prominent caused problems with proportions. The old image was low and wide. Now it needed to fill a relatively high narrow space. I moved the cumal bull and some of the knotwork, but there was still a space at the bottom. Tony and I discussed for hours what would best fill it. I tried out a number of ideas, but none looked right. Eventually we chose to tell customers that it was a bilingual game with a simple parchment text.

After a while, the colour scheme started to mature. Some areas, like the chests of the birds, gained more colours and some, like the Tara word logo, got fewer. I decided that the gold should always be a plain colour with no shading or texture because I felt that gold on a manuscript would really be that way whatever the use of other colours. My favourite part of the colouration is the relatively subtle shading on the knotwork within the capital T (and on its tongue). I don't think I did nearly as well with the green knots on the grass lower down. I'm afraid I baulked at shading the knotwork around the edge. It would have looked better if I had, but hey, I only had 18 months!!

I think the most fiddly bit I did was moving the images around on the parchment-green grass. Each time a piece of grass had to be re-shaped I re-created the black lines around the edge by copying pieces of the lines I already had elsewhere rather than drawing new. I wanted to maintain the slightly uneven look of a penned line rather than creating new, perfect, computer generated lines. In the end, we decided we did not want a lot of that work and went for a simpler look. These things happen. At the end of the day, and after careful checking, an error got through the net and was printed on the box. Can you spot the 'deliberate' error?

The process took nearly 18 months in all from pen on paper to finished box art.

Charlie Paull

Illustrator's Notes


Bloody Legacy / Confucius / Coppertwaddle / Fzzzt! / Guilds of London / Ivor the Engine / On The Cards / Paperclip Railways / Scandaroon / Snowdonia / Tara, Seat of Kings / Totemo

Surprised Stare Games Ltd.

Carrier Strike / Mission Command / The Cousins' War

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