I’ve always been good with colour and shading in my art, but my actual freehand drawing skills? Good enough for my mom’s refrigerator, but nothing that would lead to a professional career. It was a revelation when I started using stock photography as a base for a finished image in Photoshop, working with layers and textures and overpainting with a Wacom tablet to finally be able to create the concept in my mind’s eye that was so let down by my stupid, untalented hand.
Working as a book cover artist brought a new set of challenges (the limitations of existing commercial stock) and a brand-new solution: 3D programmes, specifically Daz Studio. Daz offers a world of models at your fingertips, to be dressed and posed exactly as you need them. Hallelujah!
This will be a three-part series that will tie in with https://ravven.com/portfolio/designing-your-own-book-covers/ my (long-neglected!) series on designing your own book covers. This post will cover some basics, and then the next post will cover customising your models and getting the best renders possible.
I am going to make an assumption (as I will in the main series) that you have a certain level of kit. This will require a Windows PC with an Nvidia graphics card and a certain level of oomph. You can do renders without an Nvidia card, but Iray is vastly superior to 3Delight and the quality of the image will be better. Daz Studio is free and comes with base models and the ability to do your own lighting, but if you can afford a few packages you’ll get much better (and easier) results.
Choosing A Model
For book cover art you’ll quite often replace a CGI model’s head with a photo model, and you’ll usually always have to redo at least part of the hair. In the Daz shop, look at the models – you’ll be working with either Genesis 3 or Genesis 8, nothing below that. Look for not only the right look for your specific project, but also look for a realistic skin with texture and flaws. The eyes should look real as well, without the white. unshadowed look that older models have. There are many, many models with perfect skin but they look less realistic – and it is that “doll-like” look that people think of when they object to Daz models.
This is Reese, one of the models that I purchased recently. I’ll be using her as an example.
Good lighting is also essential, and can change the look of your render massively. I happen to absolutely suck at doing custom lighting setups in Daz, so I have a set of lights that I use a lot for portraits. These are some of the light packages that I use:
- Chroma Iray Lights
- Elianeck Dramatic Lights for Iray
- ElianeCK HDRI Lights for Iray
- PRO-Studio HDR Lighting System
Add a hair and clothing package, and you’re ready to go! Of course, all of this can be very expensive if you don’t shop smart. Much like the way I track books that I want on Amazon, I tend to add things to a wishlist and wait for sales. The Platinum Club membership can save you a fortune if you shop smart.
Remember: clothing, hair and poses for a Genesis 3 model may not work on a Genesis 8, so be careful when buying assets – mistakes can be expensive.
Working With Daz: Initial Steps
I’m not going to go into the basics of actually using the software here, as there are tutorials which will do a much better job. For our purposes, Shannon Maer has some wonderful video tutorials about rendering a model in Daz and then overpainting in Photoshop for some truly unique looks.
Next Post: Creating a Custom Look
For the next post I’ll cover customising models and doing a render. After all, that is why we’re doing this – the idea is to create a truly custom look for your renders that you can’t get with commercial photo stock models. Have fun until then!