In early 2008 I was charged with a commission to design and produce a limited edition release poster for Indiana Jones 4. I commenced work well before the details of the movie had been released and like almost all the people working within the LucasFilm/Indy machine, I was not privy to all the plot details – especially the characters and their relationships. Even the name of the movie at that stage was unknown and more importantly, the existence of the crystal skull was considered top secret.

I decided to keep my layout simple – devoid of most characters -because I knew that the brilliant Drew Struzan, would be working them all into his two poster interpretations. At that stage the relationship between Indy and Mutt was also unconfirmed, but I was strongly of the opinion that they would turn out to be father and son, so I concentrated on their “mentor and student” relationship for the composition. In confidence, I DID know of the existence of the skull but knowing that it was especially secret, I opted to include it in a way that was more abstract rather than literal.

I wanted to create an uncluttered piece that paid homage to the simplicity of Richard Amsel’s original ‘Raider’s’ poster. The challenge was to source a good reference image of Harrison from LucasFilm where he didn’t look TOO haggard – the result was a hi-res but slightly ‘soft’ shot of him that captured the heroic expression I was looking for…..



After working through a number of rough concepts, I put down the final layout on sheet of acid free paper, working in pencil. I felt the composition would benefit from the inclusion of a Mayan style motif and the circular carvings worked well for the intimacy of my composition.

I prefer to work on MDF board because, not only is it a firm base, but I really like its inherent color – especially when varnished. Using a piece roughly 34 x 25 inches in size I transferred the layout to the board using traditional pencil. The next step was to lay down a wash of general color that would assist me in determining the deeper tones and the underpainted variations.

I chose to use a very limited pallet of colors for this piece (see the list at the foot of this tutorial) and I use Acrylic’s by choice.



I dislike a ‘clean’ surface to paint on and in an attempt to drop in a little texture, I liberally splashed the surface of the entire board with drops of watered down paint. NB. I tend to do this only AFTER I have laid out the underpaint because if you do it earlier it’s almost impossible to see the pencil line work through the spots.

Using a combination of colors from my limited pallet, I started working on Harrison’s face, his chest and his shirt – laying down the initial paint application as a wash. Working with progressively thicker paint, I also worked on his hat so that I could pull Harrison’s face out of the composition



I continued to lay down the paint in progressively thicker layers and I also started to work colored pencil lines into the painting - to enhance some areas of color and to define edges of some shapes. I use a combination of Prisma Color, Faber Castell and Derwent pencils for this. I briefly considered including highlights on his eyeballs (left hand image), but ultimately decided against doing so because in my mind it looked wrong. I felt that Ford's likeness was "off" so I reworked his face again and in order to balance the layout, I worked on the skull and the light areas around Mutt’s face.

I also added flames around the side of Indy’s head.



I was really struggling with Ford’s likeness at this stage so I slightly altered his right hand cheek to get the light to fall properly. His nose, I made a little more lopsided and I reworked his eyes extensively. I changed the flames because the first attempt looked like I had stolen them from the side of a Pontiac Firebird. Shia le Bouff’s face was coming together but I kept it smoother and less cluttered than the rugged treatment of Ford’s.

Finally, I enhanced the red and yellow at the bottom of the composition to lift the Soviet symbol and to bring weight to the bottom of the painting all the while, I continued to work over the entire surface with colored pencils to create the looseness and energy I prefer to employ on my work.




The finished painting was finally varnished and scanned and Photoshop was used to clean up the edges and to lay in the Logo and text.


c l i c k    o n   t h e   a b o v e   i m a g e   f o r    e n l a r g e d    v e r s i o n

Paint colors used:

Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White, Carbon Black, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Napthol Crimson, Cadmium Scarlet

Pencil colors used:

Ultramarine, Kingfisher Blue, Light Blue, Indigo

Dark Flesh, Deco Peach, Venetian Red, Poppy Red, Terracotta

Golden Brown, Burnt Umber

Black, White