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View Full Version : Book Cover Crit for SYW - Sci-Fi and Fantasy



Daniel A. Roberts
06-02-2011, 10:44 AM
Well, I created my own book cover from scratch. Using a 3D modeling program, paint.net and a logo generator, I was able to come up with this tid bit.

I'm sharing for some feedback. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I hope this won't get kicked out of this particular forum since it is populated by those with interests in Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

Feel free to be drastic as long as it's backed up with sound advice to improve upon it. Oh, and the 1/2 inch borders are to allow for 'bleed' if this ever goes to print. And that's a big if.

http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n203/Oberdan/MvSCover.png

froley
06-02-2011, 12:05 PM
Hi there! Great work creating your own cover, heck knows I don't have the drive to do the same!

My advice (not to sound impertinent--this is a genuine suggestion) is to take a fiction book of your shelf and look at the cover. They generally use one font (instead of the 5 or 6 I see here). They generally exercise tight control over colour (there's literally a rainbow here). They generally stick to the rule of thirds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds). They try to show action or imply scope or hit the reader with a stark and memorable visual. They generally avoid using CG models (to avoid falling into the uncanny valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley)).

Here's an example of a memorable cover: The F0rever War (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JF1gGjMgL.jpg)
Here's a cover with implied action: The F@ll of Hyperi0n (http://www.saltmanz.com/pictures/albums/Cover%20Scans/Book%20Covers/Fall%20of%20Hyperion.jpg)
And here's a cover focusing on scale: Ender's G@me (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_FIl9XUuCwYY/TGv96TZ20rI/AAAAAAAAALg/rglK-JAb3dw/s1600/enders-game-novel-cover.jpg)

Granted these are all SF covers, but look through the library of fantasy and you'll see similar styles: capes whipping in the wind, epic landscapes/castles, an implied sense of adventure and scope, rarely focusing on a single character.

And remember: less is more!

Feel free to take or leave whatever advice you'd like :)

dpaterso
06-02-2011, 12:21 PM
That's not the worst do-it-yourself cover I've seen by any means. The character skin tones blend with the background, I'd consider tweaking the color if possible. And don't forget pointed ears! :) Or something to make the character stand out a little more, is all I'm saying. Could the view through the window be made more interesting, e.g. a fantasy castle, a flying lizard, something visually exciting? It took me a while to realize what's in the oval window, methinks this window could be made bigger, to show more detail. Maybe that's all too much work but I mention it anyway, 'cause those are the things that would draw me in more.

I appreciate as how you want a Sci-Fi audience, but if the thread gets moved to Self-Pub/POD Covers (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=219) forum (which is specifically for cover critique) then a redirect link will be left behind, which will easily take readers there.

-Derek

Reziac
06-02-2011, 07:11 PM
Good advice about the window -- it needs something Flying Out There for us to notice. Either a starship or a dragon, or something on that order.

Also about the fonts - pick one or two and stick to 'em, otherwise they become visual clutter. One idea might be to put the book title in the "Magic" font, and the author name in the "Science" font, since that would match the contrast in the top line.

Otherwise, I think it's a fairly good cover, that I didn't rapidly tire of looking at.

Daniel A. Roberts
06-02-2011, 08:35 PM
Froley - Excellent advice. I did look at several covers - I'm an avid reader of this genre and my own personal library is packed with examples. I was just looking to be a little different to stand out from the pack, but yes, I went overboard. I felt I did, wasn't sure and you nailed it. Thank you for taking the time to write it up, everything is not lost upon me. :)

dpaterso - My apologies, among all the forums I lurk and a few I post in, that one eluded my notice. If I had eyeballed the topic, I would have made a bee-line for it. My fears was to have this thread dumped into a place unrelated and that wouldn't be the case. Thank you for the link, all future covers for other books will be posted there. ^_^ If you move this one, I won't give a whisper of trouble.

As for her skin tone, I actually had her a little more tan at first but she blended out regardless...and I found out it was because of the lightsource I put in to show the glow from the 'portal'. Her magic is also 'glowed' back in an effort to show depth and a little more realism. It washes out the tones a bit too much. But you're right, something needs to be done about her skin.

Reziac - That's an excellent suggestion, to leave the title in a Magic font and my name in the science font! That way I can have the max of two fonts and have it reflect the theme to the book as well. Thank you for your input. :)

Reziac
06-02-2011, 09:56 PM
I actually like this cover better than any of the linked examples, and would be more likely to look at the book for purely that reason, even if I'd never heard of the author. I like the model (androgynous, not clearly female), and the blend of the wall behind her and the reflected light -- it's not clear if that pale corroded bronze (greenish) colour is natural or reflected, shared with the wall or not (tho the blue is definitely reflected). Basically, I liked the ambiguity that was present in every element.

What did you use to make the author's name part? Nice effect, even if not quite right for this cover.

Koobie
06-02-2011, 11:01 PM
Here's my advise: invest in hiring a professional designer / illustrator. If you have no such acquaintances, then there is great number of freelancers and trustworthy freelance websites (eg., elance) where you can find one to your liking. If the book itself is any good, it'll pay off. Cheers.

Daniel A. Roberts
06-02-2011, 11:08 PM
I actually like this cover better than any of the linked examples, and would be more likely to look at the book for purely that reason, even if I'd never heard of the author. I like the model (androgynous, not clearly female), and the blend of the wall behind her and the reflected light -- it's not clear if that pale corroded bronze (greenish) colour is natural or reflected, shared with the wall or not (tho the blue is definitely reflected). Basically, I liked the ambiguity that was present in every element.

What did you use to make the author's name part? Nice effect, even if not quite right for this cover.

There's a website you can design them for free. Google up "Free Flaming Text" and it'll be at the top of the page. You'll see where I got these from, and it's easy to use and nothing evil is downloaded into your computer.

I do the lighting, building and character in the 3d program. The window and magic elements are post effects using paint.net. Everything I use is free, but the learning curve for Daz 4 (3d program) is steep.

As for the advice everyone has given, this is the new workup. I stuck with only two fonts, Thalea and Space Age, and this time I put something interesting in the window. Better, I have her interacting with the 'threat' outside rather than conjure a window to spy on them.

I feel it's an improvement, considerably. And I wanted the focus on the window this time moreso than the character. Let me know what you think, please.

http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n203/Oberdan/MvSCover2.png

Daniel A. Roberts
06-02-2011, 11:13 PM
Here's my advise: invest in hiring a professional designer / illustrator. If you have no such acquaintances, then there is great number of freelancers and trustworthy freelance websites (eg., elance) where you can find one to your liking. If the book itself is any good, it'll pay off. Cheers.

Thanks for the advice, Koobie. Medical bills pretty much killed my powers of hiring anyone for a long time coming. I have to operate out of a shoetring budget budget for now. In a year or so when I can recover the funds through income, I'll be back to shopping. :)

defcon6000
06-03-2011, 12:02 AM
I like that new cover! Looks like she's shooting down a flying saucer. :tongue

My only suggestion is to slide the frame over just a tad to the left, because the girl is barely in there. Also, it'll put the saucer in the top left hand corner, which is a good focal point to have in art (all action and attention will be drawn to that point). But other than that, this works out real well. Nice job!

btw, how tough is it to use DAZ? I've been curious to try it out, that or Poser.

Darren Frey
06-03-2011, 12:34 AM
this thread inspired me to put together a cover for my WIP. I might send it to the cover artist and see what they can do with it for my next book.

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h57/vampiremcmuffin/landscape.jpg

defcon6000
06-03-2011, 01:06 AM
I was thinking about this (as well as reminiscing about my own stuff), and thought that your text might need a boost. A simple outline could do the trick to make the text pop out, or, if you have photoshop, can emboss or add glow to the text. Here's an example of a siggy I did with sims 2 and photoshop (sorry if it's too small):
http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee2/wickedwicka/sims2%20stories/ITYMDbanner.jpg

Here's another example of emboss lettering (I think I used shading/shadows too, but can't remember):
http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee2/wickedwicka/sims2%20stories/sufferwellcover.jpg

That's just to give you an idea on how you can make the lettering 'pop' but not distract from the overall picture.

Amadan
06-03-2011, 01:15 AM
Here's my advise: invest in hiring a professional designer / illustrator. If you have no such acquaintances, then there is great number of freelancers and trustworthy freelance websites (eg., elance) where you can find one to your liking. If the book itself is any good, it'll pay off. Cheers.

I second this. Heck, you can find some amazingly talented starving college kids on DeviantArt who will create a cover that is... frankly, better than anything most people can put together with Poser.


As for the advice everyone has given, this is the new workup. I stuck with only two fonts, Thalea and Space Age, and this time I put something interesting in the window. Better, I have her interacting with the 'threat' outside rather than conjure a window to spy on them.

I feel it's an improvement, considerably. And I wanted the focus on the window this time moreso than the character. Let me know what you think, please.

I think it's a considerable improvement too, but the "pew!pew!pew!" light bursts are hokey, and the bright blue text is awful -- both the font and the color.


btw, how tough is it to use DAZ? I've been curious to try it out, that or Poser.

I use Poser a lot. I can get fairly decent images, sometimes, and I only dabble, I have not put the necessary time into it to get really good. There are books out there that will help, and a ton of free tutorials online. Also, over the years I've amassed a huge library of figures and props. It's a fairly complicated program, though no worse than Photoshop (which I'm also only mediocre at taking advantage of), and not nearly as complex as 3DSMax or other pro tools.

Eldrich
06-03-2011, 05:31 AM
Hi,

For my tastes the re-design was a dramatic improvement! I personally don't like 'obviously CGI' types of graphics (see Froley's example of the 'valley of the uncanny', a very interesting psychological/design concept), though it seems to be more and more common. I really like the change in font, but am still a little unsure about the color of the text. The cyan is kind of jarring. Forgive me if I say this does look a little 'amateurish.'

As an image, the new design is a little static and lacks depth. Angles, and to a lesser degree asymmetry, imply movement. If the girl and the starship were more angled it would make the image more dynamic. To put the wall at an angle would be an example of a 'dutch angle' and will cause uneasiness, not something I recommend.

As for the depth, the girl, the wall, the ship, the background and the clouds are all in perfect focus. When our eyes, or a camera lens, focus on something, the other things are slightly out of focus, and so having it all perfectly crisp tends to flatten the image.

The bursts of light (whatever they are) do get smaller, but they are the same color. Colors in general tend to look cooler the farther away they are. But you have a cool blue light reflected in the foreground, and a relatively warm sunset in the background. This also tends to flatten the image. The girl's dress is red, which helps to bring it to the front, but if you want to create more depth, make the further colors cool, and the closer colors warm.

I think to effectively do these things you'd have to zoom the image in and have the wall take up less of the space, or make the door wider.

Anyway, hope that helps. Sorry if this criticism comes off as harsh, I only mean to try to help. I think your texture and detail are great! The girls hair and the patterns on the stone wall...

cheers

s.m.s
06-03-2011, 06:20 AM
Are you dead set on using this 3D animation look? There are many free websites where you can get photos with the license to edit them, or pay a small sum for more appealing photos.

froley
06-03-2011, 06:44 AM
Hey, the second one's definitely an improvement, but I'd second suggestions to shift the angle so the woman is fully in frame. The fonts are better, but I agree with Eldrich that the colour ain't too great.

Oh, a small thing--why is the background brown? It jars with the image for me.

Keep up the good work!

Daniel A. Roberts
06-03-2011, 11:18 PM
I like that new cover! Looks like she's shooting down a flying saucer. :tongue

My only suggestion is to slide the frame over just a tad to the left, because the girl is barely in there. Also, it'll put the saucer in the top left hand corner, which is a good focal point to have in art (all action and attention will be drawn to that point). But other than that, this works out real well. Nice job!

btw, how tough is it to use DAZ? I've been curious to try it out, that or Poser.

Daz has a new program version, 4, which is free at the moment. I used version 3, banged my head on the desk for the better part of six months. 4 on the other hand, is much more user friendly, presets are all over the place, and for those who are used to a more advanced toolset can switch to one with a click. I used Daz 4 to make this.

Addressing some of the feedback, and no, nothing is too harsh folks. You gave me exactly what I needed to hear, I'm not looking to have my ego stroked. I know I'm brand spanking new at this, but I got to develop new skills sometime in my life. :)

The 'pew pew pew' effect is actually a better turn out than a beam, or even lightning, I've spent around 8 hours trying to get that to look right and it failed even more than the orb shots. Leaving out an attack disconnects her from the threat in the image too much and the eye focuses on one or the other rather than both together. This book turns into a grudge match between the two, as combinable as water and oil.

I improved the font and stuck with one format. I also moved the angle so she is more in the window and the saucer is off to the left a bit more. I like it, nice suggestion!

I didn't have a choice but to layer the background UFO in a post operation, Daz 4 has a bug currently where backgrounds are easily added, but won't render with any of their rendering engines, and they offer a list of three that comes with the program.

I have two photostock CD's with about 10K images between them. As many subjects, castles, people and everything else that were there, I couldn't get the picture - or even close - to what I wanted to display. As for CG, there is an engine that will allow me to have it appear 'drawn' rather than what you see, but even with the settings tweaked from one end to the other, it really flattens it out far more than it does even now. Even so, it's artwork. I'm not looking to create the perfect 3D picture where you can feel like walking into the cover. I just want folks to get an idea as to the type of book it is.

The reason I went with Cyan on the letters is because they're readable when the picture is thumbnailed. Easy to see. But it was too jarring at full size.

The dark brown cover area will be the series standard format for the future books. Much like my Passion Trilogy had a black cover theme, I wanted this one to stand apart from it.

As for making the distant colors cooler, well, I need more practice. So for now, this current cover is as good as I can get until I figure out the shader displacement settings and the reflection settings to mirror them, as it stands, when employed, the distance washes out far too much. I am reading up and following their forums for refinement and skills upgrading in my head. :)

http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n203/Oberdan/MvSCover3.gif

Alessandra Kelley
06-04-2011, 12:42 AM
The second cover is decidedly an improvement on the first, and the third is even better (although I kind of liked the figure cut off a bit on the right -- gave a more dynamic, less framed feel -- but this is purely subjective). You have some blank space at the top, though. Is there going to be a blurb there?

I may be being nudgy here, but if I were doing this I would rotate the figure's left arm up, so the elbow points more to the right and the line of the back is not so strictly vertical. If the upper arm parallels the staff, it would emphasize the movement more, if you see what I mean.

I'm impressed with what you've done with free software.

defcon6000
06-04-2011, 12:44 AM
Ooooh, I like! I don't mind 3D covers, maybe because I play video games and I'm use to 3D figures, but it doesn't seem jarring to me, and frankly, this is a better cover, imo, than some of the professional ones I've seen. I would definitely pick this book up!


Daz has a new program version, 4, which is free at the moment. I used version 3, banged my head on the desk for the better part of six months. 4 on the other hand, is much more user friendly, presets are all over the place, and for those who are used to a more advanced toolset can switch to one with a click. I used Daz 4 to make this.Oh nice. And I like the fact that it's free. :) I've been interested in playing around with one of those programs, as soon as I get my photoshop back.

Adobedragon
06-04-2011, 02:25 AM
For what it's worth, I don't care for 3D cover designs. They scream amateur to me and I never pickup/click on a cover with Poser or other 3D style design. But that's just my opinion.

I do think your third design is a tremendous improvement! The font is now readable and not so annoyingly stylized. One suggestion I'd make is to do something with the blue floor on the pathway leading out the castle. The gradient is just too bland. Maybe find a way to apply some kind of texture? Make it look like tile or brick, etc?

You also might want to fiddle with the lighting on your character and her surroundings. Figure out where the light source is and adjust your shadows and highlights accordingly. Often, people are too timid when it comes to shadows. You don't want to make the image murky, but you do want contrast.

But the latest version is much better. :)

Reziac
06-04-2011, 04:54 AM
I actually like the first cover best, it's the most interesting to look at, tho I could live with the 3rd one, and 3rd has much cleaner fonts. (Don't like the 2nd one at all, nor the font used on it.) You might bring up the gamma or saturation slightly, to get a little more visual impact.

froley
06-04-2011, 06:38 AM
Liking the third cover's font quite a bit! I agree with some other users that the character's pose could be more dramatic. It just occurred to me how strange this scene is--a woman in a building is shooting down a flying saucer. If that's not literally magic vs science, then I don't know what is.

Eldrich
06-04-2011, 02:59 PM
Yes, I think it's definitely moving in the right direction. I agree with Adobedragon's suggestion that clearly defining a light source (the arched door perhaps) and adding some more dramatic shadows, would be a further improvement.

Darren Frey
06-04-2011, 06:10 PM
I got this free download and dont really care for it. Im glad the OP got good use out of it though. The cover looks good for what it is but it does have a generc look to it.

Daniel A. Roberts
06-04-2011, 08:35 PM
Thank you everyone, for your words and follow up comments that helped me tweak this to being a possibly viable cover.

Book One is most certainly going in ebook format only. So is book two. I'll be combining them for a paperback (almost 4oo pages for a 6x9) in which I should by then, have the funds for a professional cover.

In the meantime, I've been making mayhem with my magical lady. I've tweaked the angle, actually got her much closer to the window (it's actually a doorway but window is just as good) which allowed me to pose her better.

I also gave her a much needed haircut and style job. It revealed her profile a little better and I was able to drop her mouth open for some expression of effort.

She was bulking out the picture this close, so I took her to petite, slimmed her up a little. It gave her figure a little more defintion and even though I had her stance wide, now you can see it somewhat. I raised her arm and gave her a better grip on the staff.

She's getting ready to shoot in this picture, rather than firing. I just couldn't get the blasts right in post graphics work. So why have them there? I left the potential up to the imagination over what she's about to do to the saucer.

I raised the title and adjusted the 'Book One' as the lighting is fixed as well, from what I could see.

Again, thank you all for your stellar feedback. Even if this needs more tweaking, I will be setting it aside for awhile and get back to writing some. This took some effort, and now my skills are a little more defined. I need to let them sit still a little to mature before tackling it again. ^_^

http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n203/Oberdan/MvSCover4.gif

Amadan
06-04-2011, 10:55 PM
Uh, she doesn't look "petite," she looks squashed in the middle.

Also, hot pants and garters? Really?

Daniel A. Roberts
06-05-2011, 12:45 AM
Uh, she doesn't look "petite," she looks squashed in the middle.

Also, hot pants and garters? Really?

It's part of the 'Magus' outfit that comes with the program. It was free, so, not much I can do about it for now. You should have seen the crazy looking neck piece that was part of the outfit. I left that one off, lol.

Maybe the squash effect is part of the angle. I'm unsure though, I know I didn't stretch the pic, the original render is at 1800x1800 pixels. I actually have to downsize it to fit the window cutout. Hmm. Maybe I should let her bulk up the scene.