How Do the Covers Work?

If you’ve seen the incredible “morphing” images on the covers of the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School books, you’re probably wondering how they work. The explanation involves a few brave actors, some clever photography, a lot of fancy computer software, and a technology known as lenticular printing. Let’s use the first book, Professor Gargoyle, to walk you through the process.

Quirk’s art director, Doogie Horner, began by reading the manuscript for Professor Gargoyle and then calling casting agencies in search of an actor. He found the perfect professor in Philadelphia actor Frank Baker.

Next, photographer Jonathan Pushnik took “before” and “after” photographs of the professor’s transformation. Some of the Professor’s demonic appearance was achieved with creepy facial expressions, makeup, and fake latex horns. The rest of the effects were added with computer software.

At the end of the process, we had a “before” image:

And an “after” image:

Next, an artist named Ron Fladwood used computer software to turn those two images into a sequence of 12 images, adding movement and detail to the Professor’s transformation. The full sequence of all twelve images looks like this:

Now comes the tricky part. Ron sliced those 12 images into a series of very narrow vertical strips--and then reordered them in what’s called an “interlaced image.” To the naked eye, the interlaced image looks quite strange:

For the image to look normal, you need to view it through a special lens. If you study the front of Professor Gargoyle, you’ll see that a thin sheet of plastic covers the front of the book. This plastic is actually a clear convex lens—and we printed the interlaced image on the back of it, so your eye sees only parts of the image at a time.

The front of the lens is made up of tiny grooves and ridges known as “lenticules.” These lenticules are so small, you can barely see them with the naked eye (but if you touch the covers, you can feel them). Here’s what they look like up close:

At any given moment, your eyes only see two or three of the frames in the sequence. But as you turn the cover from side to side (or walk past it), the lens reveals different frames in the sequence, creating the illusion of motion and transformation.

It’s a lot of work! But the results are worth it. With lenticular printing, you can turn a professor into a demon, or a pair of girls into sinister snake-sisters. What’s next for Lovecraft Middle School? You won’t believe your eyes!