Simpler is often better, or at least easier, when it comes to cover designs. Especially when it comes to elements of cover designs. Compare and contrast these two sets of Oz Squad portraits.
The top set is richer in colors and tones. Each portrait tells (or at least suggests) a story. I like each one individually. As a group, however, they don’t really work. Each has elements that clash with at least one of the others. With Nick’s portrait the amount of action in the background makes that picture really stand out from the others. With the Lion’s portrait the lack of a background makes it seem a bit unfinished, like it hasn’t gotten the same attention as the others. Dorothy and the Scarecrow’s portraits go together pretty well. The lack of any human figures in their backgrounds make those backgrounds seem more harmonious even though one features a tornado and the other a sunlit field. A human figure would tend to draw the (human) eye to it so by not having a human in that background the figure in the foreground stands out more. That very harmony between the portraits of Dorothy and the Scarecrow makes Nick and the Lion’s portraits clash more.
The second set of portraits are, individually, less exciting than the first set but they definitely fit together better. They use the same background colors. They feature approximately the same portion of each character in each portrait. For the purposes they’re going to be used (elements on the cover of a book and not the main elements) they work pretty well.
Just for the fun of it I’m tossing in one more compare and contrast set.
And here, because of the simplicity of their design the portraits of the Scarecrow and the Lion go together best. With Dorothy and Nick the exciting backgrounds in the first portraits makes the lack of backgrounds in the second portraits really noticeable.
Anyway. Hopefully this lesson will stick with me the next time I work on a complex cover design.