Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Cover Tutorial - First Cover

FOR OUR FIRST COVER, I think we should keep it very simple. We're going to have a single figure and prop - and that's it. I'm going to assume that you have some working knowledge of the software used, though I'm not going to talk about any very sophisticated functions. I'm also going to assume that you've created the paperback templates as described in my previous post. The programs I'll be using are Poser, Affinity Photo, and Artrage.

For Poser, you could just as easily use DAZ Studio or Carrara. For Affinity, you could use Photoshop, Elements, or GIMP. For Artrage... well, you can use Painter.

Before continuing, I think it worth saying something about why I use a program like Poser to create my source images, rather than using photographic. 

My own feeling is that using art filters on - or painting over - photographs will leave you with something that, unless you are really good (in which case, you are spending more time on it than is profitable in the terms of this project), you will end up with something that is clearly a filtered or over-painted photo.

However, the imperfections found in the 3D mannequins of the staging programs actually lend themselves to the illusion of a painted image.

Do click on the images so see theme at a larger size.

1. The Source Image

In Poser, I've started to build a library of prepared characters, so I've selected one with a period dress and hair do.

Next up, I've added the gun prop, applied a stock pose, which I've modified just a tad to work with the gun, and even a library expression. It all saves time. The lighting is again, just a library pre-set.

The render settings are modest, though for a much larger image than I need (at 3500 pixels). I like to save out the image to a png file.

2. Adjustments

Now, we can turn to the photo editor. Open up your rendered image. This is where we prepare the render for use as a tracing image to create our painting. I usually start by lifting highlights, deepening shadows, and then sharpening the contrast. This result is then subject to some further corrections - in this case, the dress model flared out a little over the thighs, so I've tightened the skirt a bit.

This done, copy the flattened image and paste in a new layer above all the others. This is what you'll send to a filter - something that will simplify colours. In Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, I would recommend a combination of Cutout and Dry Brush. In Affinity, I use a plug-in called Simplify by Topaz. I'll look at how to do this step by hand in another post but it really is too time consuming.

I have also reduced the figure's size and position to give me space where I want it on a cover.

3. ArtRage

In ArtRage, open a new document and in the dialogue, select your trace image (again, I save mine out in PNG format). Make sure you set the document's size to match that of the trace image.

Now, create a second layer and with that selected turn to the tracing palette - on the options menu, select to convert trace image to paint (there are other ways of doing this but ArtRage has the odd quirk using them, while this one seem to work consistently).

You can now turn the trace image invisible in the trace palette and focus on our layers. Select the empty bottom layer and using the oil brush, begin to rough out an abstract background with a view to keeping vaguely consistent with your image lighting.

Switch to the palette knife and start working the background to blend the colours a little. You may need to switch back to the oil brush now and then to add back a little black.

Select the top layer with your figure and on the layer menu, merge the layer down. Now you can zoom in, reduce the palette knife and start to attack the details to create a painted effect.

I find it best to start with the edges, blending a little  in - this way you can pick up surrounding shadow and colours, adding them a little to the figure. Leave fingers and faces to last and use a very small knife - if you need to use one at all. At the end, I like to zoom back out and take a larger brush over some of the details (carefully done, that's not as destructive as it sounds).

Now save and export as another PNG.

4. Building the Cover

Now back to the photo editor - open you paperback template and save back out as a new title. Open up the groups to find the grey layer and above that, paste in your painting as a new layer.

I'm not going to bother with the back or spine, so all I need to do is modify the text and fonts. As it is, I like the fonts in the template for this image, so I just needed to change the text, colour, and position.

Now you need to collapse the front cover text group, right click on it and duplicate the group. Switch off the original group and right click on the duplicate and select rasterize. Keep this layer selected and reduce its opacity to about 90% before adding a little blur to it.

Collapse the cover group and select it. In the edit menu, select Copy Flattened Image and paste - you should now have a new layer between the cover group and the grunge group. Call this halftone and apply a colour halftone filter to it, reducing the layer opacity to around 4%. Now make the grunge group visible and you're almost done.

Make a selection of the front cover but include a bit of the spine as well as shown here. Then Copy Flattened Image and open your display template.

On the display template, click your layer of grey and paste in the cover as a new layer. You'll need to move it into place, making sure that the yellow on the left is visible.

Now you can add that wear and tear you prepared earlier and save out your display image.

5. Fonts

The fonts used here are Rounders for the title and Ascelon for the tag line - both are from the Scriptorium. The author's name is in Lydian.

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