Photomontage Technique for a Trail of Cthulhu Cover

by Jérôme Huguenin
[Editor’s Note: I have maintained Jérôme’s French style of English, which is as distinctive as his art!]

For this cover about a magical ritual for Trail of Cthulhu, I had decided to work on the idea of an invocation of a great cosmical horror. I wanted the horror to be huge and over looking his invocator, ready to serve him or eat him.


Step 1 : I chose a picture of a piece of wood cover with fungus and mud. Eyes from a pic I took at a dinos exhibition we saw last year with my daughter and tentacles from a pic from the internet. I start to generate a quick shape and multiply tentacles at the basement of the hideous form to see what it could look like. I also placed at the bottom of the picture a section of earth with a waterfall (I erased here the sky and trees that were there). I wanted the water to be part of the invocation and decided to built a small temple over this falling water.

Step 2 : I added a sky made from a photo taken from above the clouds when I was in a plane and turned it upside down. Here I realise the horror would look better if coming out of the clouds instead of standing there, just floating. I have also resized the tentacled thing to have a more equilibrate picture.

Step 3 : I copied a piece of the sky and put it on a layer in front of the creature. The image suddenly works better. The horror is now moving out of the turbulent clouds. Cool !


Step 4 : I started working on the tentacles and cleaning them to have more precise shapes. I also added shadows over the clouds and unified the background sky so the head of the beast came out better.

Step 5 : I added the temple, taken from a picture of the Berlin gate. I also added some white in the clouds where the creature pops out.

Step 6 :Then I modelled the temple and used the clone stamp tool to add stone texture and then added shadow with the burn tool. I also duplicated the upper part of the temple to create a kind of step and erased extra from the stone cliff.


Step 7 : Then I added the cultist. It is always cool to have a cultist to put in a picture. This one is done from various Japanese priests for the dress and my face and hands. I thought that the picture was too symmetrical, mostly because of the creature shape. I decide to change this.

Step 8 : So I erased some of the beast, creating more tension and making it more dynamic. I like how the movement goes down to the tentacle near the cultist. I think it is better like that. I also start thinking of the magical lights that will symbolise the ritual energy coming from the cultist. It will also help the silhouette emerge from the background.

Step 9 : I added some more bright lines and engraved symbols turned in negative color on a new layer using screen mode so that only the white comes out. I was still not satisfied with creature. I would have liked to see more of the structure of its body. I also worked on the tentacles and finalised them. One is almost touching the cultist’s head !


Step 10 : I added a new layer with some kind of stripes for the creature. I think it helps in understanding how the beast moves, how it can contract or expanse. I also added more tentacles but make them clearer so they seem to be on the other side of this cosmic pet. I decorated the background with some lovely trees.

Step 11 : Then I flattened all the layers (I never go up more than 10 layers, here I had around 6 or 7 during the conception) and then turn the pic in CMYK, created a new layer in color mode and start putting the colors. Very few to have a nice unity ! There it is done.

This illustration is about 5 hours work.


Thanks for reading.

[Editor’s Note: You can see the final Rough Magicks cover here]

Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu, and its many supplements and adventures, in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.