Book Cover for Zombies at the Gates, From Sketch to Finish

Posted on by Rob Stenzinger

I'd worked with Pete Gilbertson before, for a chapter of Art Geek Zoo: The Way of Sound. I dig his work and was excited to hear he was going to be publishing Zombies at the Gates. After reading the story and a few discussions later - I landed the commission and was off and running.

My read through of Zombies at the Gates provided me with strong visual impressions and a few composition elements came to mind. A cell door, zombie arms, and a person backing away from the barred door. Even with so few elements - a bajillion permutations and treatments came to mind. After narrowing down to two concepts, I sent Pete these quick sketches.

1 - zombies at the gates concept 1.jpg
2 - zombies at the gates concept 2.jpg

In addition to the composition elements, I wanted to convey a feeling - something similar to the out-of-place-ness I feel when looking at Saul Bass's poster for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. I don't think I captured anything close to Saul's work, yet it felt like a good inspiration to hold on to for my process.

As work progressed, I had an ongoing conversation with Pete throughout. The composition evolved out of that.

3 - zombies at the gates composition 1.JPG
4 - zombies at the gates composition refined.JPG

After the line work and layout was solid, the colors evolved, first to give more clarity and flow to the composition.

5 - zombies at the gates - color experiment 1.jpg
7 - zombies at the gates - color experiment 3.jpg

Finally I revised the colors to show more of the intensity of the story. There was still something missing: grit and filth. Oddly enough I had just the thing sitting on my hard drive: free, beautiful textures created by the incredibly talented Kim Holm of

I present the finished cover of Zombies at the Gates and Other Tales.