The Cover Image

So, when designing a new game, what do you do first?
I guess typically, you want some sort of core rule mechanic, and basic info like scale and game size... so I decided to try and make an image for the rulebook cover instead!
The problem I have is that I'm the only person working on this game - rules, miniatures, scenarios etc is all down to me. And until I can afford to hire artists for the project, that includes the art as well. And arty pictures are not my strongest suit...
First of all, I booted up an old copy of Photoshop and made the logo, which took me a very long time... I just couldn't get a look I was happy with. Once I had finally settled on the final design, I needed to plan the cover image itself. Working on the basis that I'm not great at proper painting, I decided to try and use Photoshop line and shape tools to make a very simple silhouette design, beginning with a gibbet:

Then I added some ravens; I used photos of ravens, shrunk down and painted entirely black for that eerie silhouette feel. I selected a quote from a medieval source to add a bit of text. Then I put it all together. I figured this would be a spooky and effective look:

Err, no. It just looks a bit cheap, really. So I started again.
I went for a raven sitting on a skull. I wanted to go for a very chiaroscuro approach, with extreme contrasts between light and dark. I began by mashing up a couple of photos and erasing and cropping bits of them to test out the idea:

Once I was happy with that, I got a piece of MDF and a bag of acrylic paint, and started painting. After many hours of painting, loud sighs, cups of tea and re-painting, I scanned the painted MDF so I could edit it in Photoshop.

Next I took the scanned image, and used the Colour Dodge and Colour Burn brushes to improve the contrast:

Finally, I added the logo and text layers:

Once the cover was done, I finally got round to thinking about the actual game....