The WIP: The Metamorphosis Book Cover

Welcome to another segment of, The Work In Progress. With my love for Franz Kafka’s book, “The Metamorphosis,” I describe my process in making an original book cover.


I knew I needed black. The dark and eerie feeling of no light passing through gave inspiration to design this book cover of a psychological and philosophical masterpiece. I couldn’t just use computer generated black though. It would be too plain and not mystical enough. By using a paint brush and making long strokes on canvas, I could subconsciously add a change in emotion towards the main piece I was to create.

Gregor (the main character) and an apple were known to Kafka fans to be influential images throughout “The Metamorphosis.” Without knowing what Gregor actually looked like, I had to use subtle hints in the novel to reveal how I would perceive him to look like. He’s a traveling salesman who seems lazier than usual and struggles to get out of bed. I saw him as being large and bald with stern facial features, such as with the structure of his nose and wrinkles. The apple didn’t need to attract attention, so I added less detail in it and more distortion (plus it would appear on the back of the book).


The positioning became a conflict for me. I didn’t want the face to be dead center in the book so I raised him to the corner of the canvas which had more textures than in the middle of the canvas. The same went for the apple, as well as leaving space in between for the spine of the book. The natural flow of the textures on the canvas were essential, so I did not want to disturb it. The hardest part of painting this was not the detail in the face, but specifically the red portion of it. It needed to add contrast, brightness, movement, and balance all in one go. If I were to mess up, I wouldn’t be able to paint over it, as it would mess up the natural flow of the black background. I used my palette knife to give me what I wanted (thankfully).

I already had the type face and design I wanted to go with before editing everything together. This time was dedicated at the very start of planning this project. Especially for a book cover project like this, my graphic design knowledge became essential. I wanted an analogous color harmony to give a classic appear against the black background. The type shouldn’t be main attractions, but rather the menacing glare of Gregor’s face and eyes. To correct this, I placed the title near his head in white with “Franz Kafka” against the black, but with a lower opacity.


Alongside my peer’s book covers, I reflected on the process which it took to create one of these tedious dust jackets. All in all I learned a great deal just by doing this with experience from Illustration, Painting, and Graphic Design. As I’ve said multiple times, work on something that makes you happy, or in the least interested so that you become more involved in the piece and give more emotion than you would with a lesser one.

Please leave a comment below if you have any critiques or comments, or simply just LIKE and SHARE!

For more, visit Tristan’s Website

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