Behind the Scenes

Aesthetic Boards

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Like many authors, my background isn’t in creative writing. I have a degree in communications and design—still storytelling, but in a different medium. When I joined Twitter and saw the aesthetic boards the community makes, I was in love so quickly. For this post, I thought I’d do a writeup on three of the boards I made for #WedWIPAesthetic. I’ll touch on my image choices, overall design, and a little about process. All of these are for my dark fantasy WIP, starring a messy man named Magnolia Ryder.

Introductions | Twitter

magnolia board

This is meant as an overview for the story, so I wanted it to look how the story will feel: high contrast, urban, rife with mysteries and death. Balance is important in my aesthetic boards, which is very visible in this one. I make opposite panels reflect the same idea in different pictures. The woman with a gun, the man alone. The Toronto skyline, the buildings at night. The magnolias are, of course, the symbol of my protagonist, and serve as a thematic contrast to the grittiness.

I overlayed two textures, one of cracked stone and another of a blood splatter. I love using textures, something I often do in graphics but a technique that doesn’t have a writing equivalent (maybe paper type?). It gives more depth and visual interest to the board, helping set it apart on a feed and tie the nine images together.

Protagonist: Magnolia Ryder | Twitter

MC board

I prefer to show character through action, so having a board based around Magnolia’s personality was fun, but a challenge. I focused on his biggest interests outside magic: puzzles, exploring, and antiques. Finding little images like crosswords and keys says a lot about what appeals to him in a glance. It also helps show his intelligence and logic which are key to his personality. I focused on having a very limited palette, which meant desaturating some of the original photos. If you’re curious, I do my editing on an old version of Photoshop, but that may or may not change due to recent Adobe news. Fingers crossed.

The background (generic pink swirls), the overlay (pink), and the high contrast and deep blacks work together to show a stark, distant man. Using more than flat images, to me, is the difference between a good aesthetic and a great one. The background reflects the centre row, which portrays who he is, and his theme colours of sharp pinks to have him stand out in the darkness.

Genre | Twitter


Magnolia’s story is an urban fantasy, a sidestep from my usual high fantasy settings. It’s still a world containing magic, so finding images that look magical played a big part. The light dancing and fire walking really give the atmosphere of something more than human. I also went with traditional modern ‘witchy’ pictures with the mortar and herb wall to really drive that magic element home.

The speckle overlay didn’t work perfectly for me. It looks somewhere between stars and snow, which does fit the setting, but doesn’t work with the tone. It makes it seem a little too innocent, and I’m not fond of that. But now I know for next time how it worked, and whenever I have time to join this hashtag again I can revise my ideas and find another overlay that really drives the point home.

If you’re looking for copyright free images, all of these came from Pixabay or Unsplash, which are specifically licensed to be used in any manner. Do this instead of relying on Pinterest and unsourced, uncredited images. The least I can do is pass along the websites that were passed to me.

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