Dolly’s Eyes

Dollys_Eyes_Source_1WELL, THE TEXT OF THE book is in the hands of my editor. I expect it will come back to me in shreds and I’ll have to sew it back together. But for the moment, I’m content to leave it there and move on to the cover.

I’m still in the experimental phase, searching and testing imagery and type, but I am getting closer. I’ve come back to focus on the erotic component of the plot and the relationship between the two lead characters. As such, I’ve hit on a narrow-focus shot of Dolly’s eyes at the moment the docking probes engage, so to speak.

I chose Dreamstime as my source, more to narrow the selection down than for any other reason. However, since I have an account there already, it is simplicity itself to find something. I searched on the phrase eyes wide and found within the first page of results a satisfactory image. It also has the bonus of providing — already built-in — a dramatic presentation in the torn paper edges. This has a dual advantage in, One, as I say, a dramatic presentation, and B, limiting the amount of image I have to work on.

And work I must. It’s fortunate that the model is a redhead, with the requisite freckles, and light-colored irises. But that’s about the limit. You’ll see as I go along where my vision is going to take me and why I don’t want to have to work on a full-face or full-body image.

There will be other elements, but this image is the starting point.

I checked the license on offer and it is appropriate. The rights owner provides a royalty free license, to use on books (up to 500,000 copies — with higher quantities negotiable), permits modification, does not ask credit, but I intend to provide it. If the artist is worthy of his hire, he’s worthy of the fame for it. That’s my take and I see no reason not to hold to it. On the other side, there’s no claim to modifications, so what I intend to do becomes mine to use so long as I adhere to the terms of the original license. All agreeable. I picked a resolution that permits me nine inches of width at 300 pixels per inch. (I intend to pad the height, so the width is the relevant factor.)

As for tools: I am working this image in Photoshop (CS6). No apologies. As I’ve said here and elsewhere, if you want pro results, you have to use pro tools and skills. It’s possible to do this stuff in free or cheaper aps, and Grid knows, there’s tons of them, but I’ve been using Photoshop almost since the beginning (version 2.5, actually, in the early ’90s) and I not only have a high skill level myself, but I also have access to experts who can direct me toward tutelage on particular skills I may lack. In another app, I’d have to climb that learning curve all over again.

I understand that some people starting out or struggling due to expenses in other areas might not be able or willing to make the investment, but I do strongly advise everyone to give hard consideration to the realities. Remember that you are competing for eyeball space with pros who use these tools for their daily bread. Neither they nor the book buyer will cut you slack because you chose not to invest in the right tools.

Now, Photoshop is a bitmap editor, primarily. It can handle vectors — most especially and valuably, type — but it’s primary utility is in handling photos, paintings, soft blend effects, and suchlike. For straight vector art and simple one-up illustration, I use CorelDRAW. This is a matter of preference. I first learned vector drawing in CorelDRAW and find Illustrator, for example, to have a deeply opaque interface and metaphor which I, as a wax-and-exacto-trained layout artist, find very alien.

You may find Illustrator more to your liking. That’s fine. The concepts translate, albeit clunkily. Inkscape is another possibility, but, frankly, I don’t have the time to climb yet another learning curve, so I’ve only looked at it briefly and messed around with it. It appears to support most tasks, but I haven’t delved into it enough to say much more than that about it.

As for alternatives to Photoshop, there are, as I say, multitudes. Primarily, I’d say, your choices boil down to GIMP or Corel PhotoPaint. I have a problem with PhotoPaint similar to the one I have with Illustrator — I don’t grok the interface or the task metaphors. So I can’t speak much about it. However, several of my colleagues in the Corel community swear by it and prefer it to Photoshop OR PhotoStyler — which is an old and, now, abandoned app that actually preceeded Photoshop on the Wintel platform, and which should tell you how far back some of this goes — both my work in the field and my association with other experts.

In addition to these apps, there is the realm of the third dimension. 3D apps, such as 3D Studio Max, Maya, Poser, Bryce, and a long list of others, allow artists to model real objects and render them to photo-realistic images. If I had the chops, I’d be doing this whole image in a 3d app, and may do future, similar projects in one. But I have to take myself to school first, before I can commit commercial art in one.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have done paying work — sold it in five figures, as a matter of fact — in 3DS Max. But the license I have is getting long in the teeth and unlikely — for myriad reasons not relevant here — to be updated. So I am learning a new app — modo. And, if you (or I) think the differences in interface between Draw and Illustrator are stark, you ought to try between 3D apps across a ten-year delta in development age.

But I degrease.

In a Heinlein hagiography — Requiem, I believe — Spider Robinson avers that he is writing an essay debunking a bunch of BS about Heinlein to save himself time — so that, when confronted with loud nits making bogus assertions at cons, he can just hand them a copy of the essay to shut them up and go back to having fun — rather than engaging in a long, verbal flame war. So I hereby take that as my text for this bit of bloggage. I’ve ranted enough about what I see as the foolishness of cheaping out on tools. I don’t want to do it again. From now on, if the subject comes up, I’m linking here and moving on.

If I can remember to do it.

This post is part of a series of posts on the subject of books covers, directly primarily at self-published and independently-published authors seeking to design their own covers. It is in the category “Covers” and can be seen with all of the other posts in that category by clicking on the link in the right sidebar. The sophistication of that display page will improve as time goes on. The next post in the series will appear here within a couple of days.

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