I’ve been learning a lot of really great photo editing techniques in Photoshop lately, but no matter how adept I get with the software there are still factors out of my control. For all of the fine control I have over lighting and color and image blending, I am still reliant on finding the perfect stock image of the model I want to use for any given cover. While I really like Mandy from Neo-Stock, she has the wrong hair color for Ana Eloise, and there aren’t really any sets of her with exactly the right clothing. While I was able to make her outfit from her vampire hunter photo shoot look somewhat sci-fi for the second book, I had to switch to a different model entirely for the third book cover.
I’ve been contemplating a solution to this dilemma for quite some time. I’ve tried my hand at painting her myself, which has come up short of my expectations, and I’ve also considered asking one of my daughters if she wanted to stand in for Ana on the covers. Even if she agreed, I’d still have to find a suitable wardrobe, and then there would be the issue of finding a place with the right lighting. There’s also the sticky point about me not being a very good photographer.
A third option has resurfaced recently. I say resurfaced because I’ve attempted it before, but the technology just wasn’t quite there yet, at least not within my budget. Then I saw the latest version of DAZ 3D and the Genesis 8 models (male and female). Basically the software is free, but you pay for the 3D models and any clothing sets or props you need (it’s still cheaper than buying high quality stock photos of professional models, especially ones that allow you to use them on book covers). It’s kind of like a high tech version of playing with dolls. The nice thing about it though is that you get complete control over everything: hair color, eye color, clothing style and color, camera angle, lighting, and even props like weapons or furniture. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination…and your expertise with the software. I have to say it’s a bit of a learning curve, but the software is fairly intuitive considering how advanced it is.
So my plan is to use a version of the Genesis 8 female from DAZ Studio as Ana Eloise on all of the Protectors book covers. You can see my first stab at re-working the cover for The Sixth Seal below. I’ve included the recently remastered version of the original for comparison.
I’ll probably still do a few more adjustments as I become more competent with the software, but so far I’m really liking the results. I’m especially pleased with the hair on the 3D model. One of the most difficult parts about cutting out a model and pasting her over a background is cutting around the hair without making it look fake or badly superimposed. With the 3D model, I can export a rendered image in PNG format and maintain complete transparency around the hair so that every bit of detail carries over and pastes seamlessly over the background. In fact, I could have left off the added white aura around Ana, but I rather like the effect.
I’m going to start working on the setup for the second cover. The hardest part is posing the model in 3D space, but I’ve already got a great sci-fi jumpsuit for her and a super cool laser gun. I’m just a big stupid kid at heart 🙂