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  1. #1
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Cover Art and Computer Graphics

    There are certainly both pros and cons about being with a small press, but one of the distinct advantages is having input into the covers that go on your books. This is not something that many authors get to do with the larger New York houses.

    As Gary found, he had the opportunity to solicit Robert Sammelin to illustrate the covers for his Gemquest books; and similarly, I was given the opportunity by Windstorm to provide my own illustrations for both The Road to Kotaishi and The Sands of Sabakushi.

    While I am by no means an artist, I do enjoy messing around with computer graphics. By virtue of having a passing familiarity with a good 3-D modeling program (Bryce, available from DAZ Studios) and image editing programs like Photoshop, I was able to come up with some decent images to use for my books. Not only was it quite satisfying to have my own artwork on my own book, but I could eliminate the issue of trying to get someone else to interpret the vision that was in my head.

    Here are my four covers so far, somewhat larger than in the Books thread:









    Over on my website is a brief outline of how I used Bryce to create the Kotaishi cover.

    I'd be interested to hear from anyone on the topic of book cover art, particulary the use of computer graphics to produce them; or just on computer graphic art in general.

    Update from May, 2006: This very loooong, and graphics-intensive thread, started out talking about covers but rapidly became a forum for displaying the various artwork projects that I've been working on. If you start at the beginning and work your way through, you will be able to watch my transformation from total neophyte with using the people-generation program to something hopefully a bit better. Along the way I periodically demonstrate some of the techniques in use. If you'd prefer to skip the preliminaries (some of which are really embarrassingly bad at this point!) and want to skip to the latest stuff, head for some of the most recent pages of the thread.

    Update from September, 2006: After straining the capacity of good ol' SFFWorld, it was recommended to me that I close this thread and start a new one, which I have done. The current thread is the one called Computer Art, and is where all of the new stuff and attendant commentary is located. However, do feel free to read through any of this one that you like, since it does still show an interesting progression as I worked with the tool.
    Last edited by Radthorne; September 24th, 2006 at 09:11 PM.

  2. #2
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    The program I used for the covers for Kotaishi and Sabakushi (Bryce 5.0) does not have a built-in facility for modeling people;this was one of the main reasons why I used structures for the illustrations. I did have a program that could do people, but the results from the version of it I had (Poser 3) were not so great, nor was the program very easy to use. I also had a creative reason for not using people - as an author, I didn't want the pictures I put on the cover to pre-form readers' images of the characters, their clothes, etc; I wanted the reader's own imagination to build upon the descriptions from my words.

    However, having people on covers does tend to improve sales (at least that's what I recall reading somewhere...) And now I have a program that does a much better job of handling people. I've been experimenting with my new program (DAZ Studio), and below is a picture I put together in about an hour and half this evening (with figures created in DAZ and then exported to Bryce, where I built the walls, etc.) It's pretty rough, particularly my quickie backdrop, but it serves as a good example of what can be done. So I'm thinking that I'll probably end up putting some people on the cover of my third book.

    I'd be interested in your opinions on the topic of people on covers - pro, con?



    (Sorry 'bout the Bat'leth... it was what I had to hand!)
    Last edited by Radthorne; March 29th, 2005 at 10:12 PM.

  3. #3
    I AM too a mod! Moderator Rocket Sheep's Avatar
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    Whose that girl in the black. Is that our little street urchin?

  4. #4
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Naw, that's not Nusumi. She'd be a little shorter...

    These were just some generic figures I came up with. They start in the program as plain-jane Anglo figures, with no clothes and no hair, standing with their arms out at their sides. Then you add facial features and skin textures (Asian in this case), clothes, props like swords, and then pose them. The woman is wearing a tunic top, but the pants that go with it didn't fit right. So I used some track suit pants and changed the color to black to match. The hood is actually a hajib prop with a veil, which I also changed to black, and thus made a Ninja hood out of it (or an Anasatsu hood, to use the name for a similar cult in my books).

  5. #5
    Loveable Rogue Moderator juzzza's Avatar
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    If you knocked that up in five minutes I would say you are in the wrong business!!!

    I'm not sure about computer game style graphics for people though. I think your covers are fantastic for your published books. If you were going to use that style, I would say avoid full-face (or half face). So the cover in your example above, would be looking over the un-masked character's shoulder, straight at the ninja, as that would be fine.

    Hey, the company I work for take that approach with real photographs (I.E. no full face images) and the reason is similar to the one you express above. In our case, we don't want clients associating or worse, not associating with the faces we use in adverts/brochures. For you, yea, you don't want to impose your idea of how your character's look too heavily... God bless the ninja hood!!!

  6. #6
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juzzza
    If you knocked that up in five minutes I would say you are in the wrong business!!!

    I'm not sure about computer game style graphics for people though. I think your covers are fantastic for your published books. If you were going to use that style, I would say avoid full-face (or half face). So the cover in your example above, would be looking over the un-masked character's shoulder, straight at the ninja, as that would be fine.
    Thanks, Juzza!

    That's a good idea, using a hooded character that way. When I was considering the earlier program, Poser 3, since the people didn't look so hot I was going to do something similar, by showing them from the back looking at something interesting in front of them.

    The DAZ program actually does a pretty good job with faces. Here's an example of one of the "people" packages, that shows both normal humans and something a little different. The human characters can end up looking pretty realistic, I think.

  7. #7
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I think your covers are great, Kevin. But I would be very careful about using figures that are computer generated. In my opinion, they give the books a game-like appearance, almost like the cover of a pc game or a nintendo game. I think that might cast your writing in the wrong light to a reader who is browsing the shelves and doesn't know what you do.

  8. #8
    Where have I been? Moderator JRMurdock's Avatar
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    You should have done pictures for inside your books. Or do a comic.

  9. #9
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Which kind of goes back, though, to one of the original questions for this thread (before I started filling it with pictures). Which was how much people feel about pictures (specifically covers in the original question) depicting things in the books. The more you illustrate (in a novel, of course, not a comic), then the more you are "imposing" in a way a particular image of the characters, settings, etc upon the reader. I find that some of the most vivid imagery that readers walk away with in my books are scenes where I have intentionally not described everything within a gnat's eyelash but left enough white space for their own imaginations to fill in the blanks. So from that perspective, as much as I would get a kick out of illustrating the books, I think I would rather have the words stand on their own.

    A comic is another whole cup of tea, of course; as is a graphic novel. I would probably prefer to do the latter, but then again I really don't know a thing about that market.

  10. #10
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well, you have fans who gobbled down an illustrated guide to Jordan's "Wheel of Time" by the cover artist and others. Then you have fans like Gary who feel that such art is keeping fantasy fiction from getting the proper respect it deserves and should be banned from the covers. And you have other people who adore manga works, where the art is the main thing, as in comics.

    I love the art, always have. I certainly wouldn't mind a fantasy work having some inner illustrations, especially if the author did them. But that does kind of make things expensive. The printing costs for a 4-color spread can add a lot to a book's price, especially a paperback. Line illustrations are cheaper, and sometimes considered more "arty."

    I think a lot of fans might be into it. The connection with comics certainly hasn't hurt Neil Gaiman. It just brings a whole other audience to the table.

  11. #11
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG
    Well, you have fans who gobbled down an illustrated guide to Jordan's "Wheel of Time" by the cover artist and others. Then you have fans like Gary who feel that such art is keeping fantasy fiction from getting the proper respect it deserves and should be banned from the covers. And you have other people who adore manga works, where the art is the main thing, as in comics.

    I love the art, always have. I certainly wouldn't mind a fantasy work having some inner illustrations, especially if the author did them. But that does kind of make things expensive. The printing costs for a 4-color spread can add a lot to a book's price, especially a paperback. Line illustrations are cheaper, and sometimes considered more "arty."

    I think a lot of fans might be into it. The connection with comics certainly hasn't hurt Neil Gaiman. It just brings a whole other audience to the table.
    I think it quite possible, in the current day and age with technology and what not, that some quality small press out there already dealing with graphic novels or manga would be willing to experiment with an "illustrated" novel. It would be expensive and have limited distribution (but then that's what small presses do, right? ), but someone might do it either out of creative desire, as a flagship "prestige" thing rather than an outright money maker, or simply because they believed, with their particular market, that they could actually make money on it in a limited run. One early example for this sort of thing of course is Ushurak, the book done with artwork by the Brothers Hildebrandt back in the 70's. That of course was a vehicle for their art primarily, but it could serve as one potential model. I think it would certainly be fun to do, but it would require just the right chemistry between author/illustrator and publisher to make it actually happen.

  12. #12
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    More shadow practice... In particular, subtle things like how the shadows fall gradually on her right shoulder help increase the apparent depth of the scene.


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