My latest Warhammer 40,000 novel, Blackstone Fortress, goes on sale this weekend on the Games Workshop site. I’m really proud of how this one turned out so it’s great that I’ve managed to bag yet another gorgeous cover. Rachel Williams (designer) and Christian Byrne (illustrator) at GW have done some amazing work getting the look and feel just right.

The book tells the story of what happens when a bold, noble man has his character broken by a harsh, alien environment and I love the way that’s been captured in the graphics.

The book is available in two editions – the foiled, embossed version shown above, and also a standard edition that comes with cool cover art by an illustrator I’ve not heard of before, Mauro Belfiore. The standard edition has a very different feel and I love the way Mauro has captured the proud, determined, explorer aspect of Draik’s character.

Rachel Williams, Senior Designer at Black Library, was kind enough to answer a few questions about how she designed the limited edition and her work process in general.

What’s your working process at BL? Do you receive a brief, have to read the novel, talk to an editor? How does it work? Do you sketch out ideas on paper, or work solely on screen?

The process usually starts with a chat to the editors. They let me know the main plot points, key characters and settings and give me an overall idea of what the book is all about. I’ll then start gathering research, looking through existing art, doing a little reading and scribbling some ideas on paper. There is a wealth of inspiring material for all the Warhammer worlds, Blackstone Fortress was no exception! The art within the game that has a dark, eerie aesthetic, lit with a blue light. It’s something we wanted to bring into the design of the book.

For Blackstone Fortress the concept for the cover art was for a portrait of Janus Draik to be shattering and becoming part of the crystal-like walls of the fortress – symbolising the confusion and danger within the fortress and how he will risk everything to obtain his prize. Sometimes I would create the cover art myself, for this one we commissioned Christian to create art for the cover, as he does awesome linework art.

What’s the difference between designing a limited edition BL cover and a standard edition BL cover? Are there different considerations?

For the standard books it’s important we make sure all the information is clear and obvious, so it’s easy to understand what the book is about at a glance from across the store, meaning people can easily pick up something that may be of interest to them. The format of standard books and the materials used to create them are also set in stone. But, for limited’s, we don’t really have that constraint. The only rule is that they need to reflect the content of the book and it needs to be possible to manufacture. As they’re designed as collector’s items there’s loads of creative freedom. Which is a really amazing thing to have as a designer!

Is there anything unique about designing Black Library books, as opposed designing any SF or fantasy novel covers?

The worlds within Black Library books are really well established, so there are lots of considerations around how we visually reflect stories, characters and settings in a way that’s most sympathetic to how they have been previously described and shown. It’s these details that make something look as if it’s part of the Warhammer worlds rather than belong other Sci-fi or fantasy settings. But equally, these worlds are really inspiring, and it’s especially fun to create books that feel a bit like artefacts come to life.

What influences you as a designer? Where do you find your inspiration? Are you a fan of any particular designers?

My biggest design influences are often historical. Gothic and Baroque architecture, 15th-century art, reliquary and specimens, bone churches, bejewelled skeletons and Victorian curiosities – anything a bit creepy! I also love 70/60s graphic design, bold colour palettes and clean lines. I love retro sci-fi artists, like Ralph McQuarrie.

Ralph McQuarrie art

Was there anything particularly fun or challenging about designing the Blackstone Fortress cover?

It was great that we were able to use that lovely shiny blue foil, not much lends itself to that colour palette, but it was perfect for Blackstone Fortress.

Which of your BL book designs are you most proud of?

That’s tough – there’s been so many inspiring books I’ve been able to work on! I think Neferata is one of my faves – creating that feminine, yet creepy line work was great fun and I’ve always loved the romantic gothic style – ‘Death’ stuff is also my jam! There’s also more, one in particular, coming out in the future that I’m really proud of, and also can’t wait to read!

Neferata limited edition