The Web Planet

2 October 2005

'The Web Planet' is my first fully colourised cover - or rather, it nearly was.

Since deciding to produce alternative DVD covers and devising a format, it was always my intention to do full-colour illustrations, even for the black-and-white stories. This, I hoped, would be one of my differentiating factors, as the trend with most alternative covers is to go for a unifying colour overlay, something I always feel is a shame when stories have perfectly good colour photos available. For the early stories, where generally only monochrome images exist, it is of course more understandable, so I knew I was letting myself in for some work in choosing to do the Sixties stories in colour.

Until now, I've been lucky. For 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' I used a colour pic of Patrick and the silver Cyberman didn't need much colour. 'The Aztecs' had colour photos available, as did 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' (sort of - that's one of Julian Vince's model Daleks, from an old DWM). So 'The Seeds of Death' was my first true attempt at colourising a black-and-white photo, namely that of Slaar. As with 'Tomb', this was a fairly simple job - just a few shades of green and then orange for the eyes - and by the time I needed to colour in the Tardis console for the Lost in Time covers I'd kind of forgotten how I'd done Slaar. So for this I devised a method whereby I set the blending mode of the Photoshop layer with the mono image to 'luminosity' and then painted in the colour on a layer below. This then doesn't need to be very detailed, as the mono layer gives the definition and detail (kind of how I understand a colour television picture is composed). I refined this with the pic of Patrick on 'The Mind Robber', but got away with simple tinted photos for the main image on that cover. I then got more practice, and I think my best results, on 'The Claws of Axos', on which the pic of the Axon attacking the UNIT soldiers is a colourised b&w image.

Thus, with no colour photos available, 'The Web Planet' was to be my first fully colourised cover. First up was to do the Doctor, the trickiest part of which, surprisingly, was the getting the hairline to look natural. I then composed the Zarbi/Menoptra battle with b&w images and, when I was happy, flattened these into a single layer to set as the luminosity layer. I then added the colour underneath, going for the reputedly yellow Menoptra and, to set them off from the brown background, purpley Zarbi with pink eyes. This took quite a bit of work, and my biggest mistake was doing all the colour on one layer, which made it impossible to then move individual figures around if I decided their position wasn't quite right. But I eventually got a version I was happy with, and duly slotted it into my cover template.

It was around then that I learned there were to be a couple of rare colour photos from the serial on the DVD itself. While I was pretty happy with my colourised illustration, I'm a stickler for accuracy, so was keen to see what colours the story's alien races really were. So when the disc plopped through my letterbox yesterday morning, it was straight into my player. And there, in the making-of feature, were the first colour photos from 'The Web Planet' I (and I suspect most people) had ever seen. Most surprising was that the Menoptra apparently had white fur after all (despite the Production Subtitles reaffirming they were yellow). I tried amending my cover illustration appropriately, but this just made them look like black-and-white images again and so I decided to leave them yellow, but a little less saturated than my first attempt. The brown Zarbi were a shame, as they stood out less against the background, even after I added more green into the landscape. And then, right at the very last minute, I decided to take a screengrab of the colour Zarbi photo and place them into my illustration, to see how well my colourised Zarbi matched (despite the trouble of removing the ones they replaced). After a bit of further tinkering, I think I've done okay, so I've left them in there - see if you can spot which Zarbi are the true-colour ones and which aren't!

Download the final WEB PLANET cover here

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