I’ve been making covers for my books using Blender 3D from the very first one released back in 2015. I don’t consider myself a fantastic artist (my drawing skills are at the scribble level!) but I’ve got reasonably good at modeling, texturing, and all the rest of the things needed to create mostly pleasing images.
I’m happy with the work I’ve done, but, as I’ve improved my skills, I’ve looked at my earlier efforts and realized I could do better. This has bugged me so much that I recently redesigned the cover of my first novel, Mathematics of Eternity, to give it a better and (hopefully!) more attractive visual dynamic.
Two techniques I discovered over the last twelve months have massively helped raise my game, and I’m sharing them in the hope that you might benefit from them too.
In-Camera Background Images
A little while back I stumbled on a series of videos on the Polycosm youtube channel discussing using Daz and Blender . I don’t remember the specific video, as the subject wasn’t directly related to the tip, which was something more casually mentioned in passing.
Blender allows you to set images as backgrounds inside a camera. You can control the opacity, so you see more or less of the scene as required. None of this is especially new, but what I hadn’t thought of doing was using the cover template as a background. You simply set your render size to match the pixel dimensions of the template, set it as a background image, and hey presto! Now you can see the exact scene as it will fit when rendered.
This allows you to move the various elements around and position them within your render view with ease. Also, if you have your titles figured out (even just an approximation,) you can have a second background image with those on, so you can make sure your composition fits well! How cool is that? This one small trick has made it so much easier to manage my cover scenes, it’s amazing.
When you look at really good artwork (especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres), you quickly notice something odd in their appearance. If you set up a camera and try to recreate the image characteristics, it seems impossible. The reason for that? It often is! A lot of art uses something known as forced perspective to make images look more dramatic and have a greater sense of dynamism. Things up close look bigger and bolder, and what, in reality, are parallel lines, taper far more than a “normal” camera view allows.
These visual tricks, are used so often, we don’t even notice them. Until we try to produce something with regular camera settings and it all looks–well, flat. Artists spend years learning these tricks, but the good news is that we don’t have to.
F-Spy is an open source utility that allows you to load an image into it. Then you use lines to mark the perspective used in the image. Once this is done, press a button and the magic happens. F-Spy will calculate the exact camera settings needed to replicate that visual appearance.
These camera settings can then be imported into Blender, giving you a setup that matches the drama of the original. Once that’s done, move your assets in your scene to match the original and you can “steal” any image’s perspective setup!
I used both these techniques on the redeveloped Mathematics Of Eternity cover below.
Hopefully you’d agree the second image looks far more dynamic, despite the visual elements being the same. And here’s the full wraparound cover.
I also used these techniques on the Hyperia Jones cover, with similar results.
There you have it: two techniques that can easily and quickly increase the quality of your cover design images using Blender. Let me know if you find them useful.