Tuesday, February 23, 2010

3D art for book covers: the answer to a prayer



Painting book covers is always a challenge, but painting in 3D gives the artist one heck of an advantage. I've always vastly preferred to work in cooperation with the writer, who knows what the characters too like, for one thing! A publisher might send along the first chapter, or even the first five or ten pages, and the artist might have to come up with a cover to sell the book on that much alone. (You ever wonder why the cover of a book is often an idea drawn from something around page four? Like, the story starts out with an orphan thief being chased through a marketplace ... and this lands on the cover, even though the character grows up into Charlton Heston by page 50! Now you know why. The artist is usually largely in the dark, with no contact whatsoever with the writer.)

No matter which way the job is done, though, it all comes down to this: the artist creates a piece of work and sends it to the publisher. The publisher can be critical of it and want changes -- and this is where it gets interesting.

When the cover was really painted, with paint and brushes, the finished art was ... finished. It's very hard to change an actual painting, though I've heard of artists being told to go back in and change the color of this and that, make the heroine thinner, or more "pneumatic" and either paint a bikini on her, or paint the existing bikini out of the picture! Basally, out come the paints and another coat gets slapped on over the old ... which creates a lot more work. Maybe a doosie of a hot more...

And that's okay, if an artist was getting paid well. But in today's publishing industry, cover artists are earning nickles and dimes. There isn't time to do the job like Boris, when the pay check is going to be $75 ... much less take the thing back and change half of it on your own time, on the whim of a publisher who prefers green over red today! (Been there, done that, guys, back in the days of paint and brushes. It was such fun. Not.)

And this is where 3D comes to the rescue big time. Today's post is a really cool project: concept art -- the top image -- gets trimmed into a 2:3 aspect ratio cover set up for the logos to be overlaid at the bottom, over the legs, and a teaser-text or a quote from a great review at the top. Looks good so far? Think you're done? Brace yourself: after the work is fiished, the art department changes its mind. They now want the logos at the top, like the classic book cover...

If this were a traditional painting, it would be a big problem. In 3D? Nah. Back to the project and change the camera position. Result? this:


Time taken? Ten extra minutes. Thank you, DAZ!

Now, that cover is only a mockup -- I came up with a really cool title, but honestly, I have no idea what it means. I think there's a heck of a story in there somewhere, and this could easily be the cover, but at this point it's a just a mockup, because today I wanted to talk about how 3D art is superbly suited to book cover work...

And yes, I do a lot of book covers, and I am available for commission!

Jade, 23 February
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