• Uncategorized

    Creating Custom Art with Daz Studio Models, Part Three

    Previously: Part One, Part Two, Copyright and Daz Studio

    In this last section we’re going to talk a bit about how to do some basic customisation on both figures and clothing. This just touches the surface of this software, of course – if you were creating a main character model for a series, for example, you could completely create body/face morphs and bespoke skin textures including custom tattoos, scars and so on. This is too complex to handle in a basic post like this one, however.

    Reese Gets A Makeover

    We’re going to take our model Reese from the previous two installments and change her into someone new. Select your model as usual, and then from the Content Library find a different model. Use the dropdown to find her Iray materials and double-click to apply them to the existing model. You’ll have less trouble if you use skin, eye and makeup textures from the same model, rather than trying to mix and match here.

    Reese model with Meifen textures added

    Now in the Shaping menus on the right hand of the screen you can (hopefully) see that I’ve gone to Head and dialed down the Reese head, then dialed up Pepper for a mix between the two. You can do that with bodies as well. On individual body parts Shaping allows you to change various features, adding elf ears or tilted eyes, a more lush mouth, older faces or younger ones, just as the Posing menus allow you to move parts of the body and clothing. Here she is a mix of two models and I’ve changed the body to be a bit more curvy, and added some bodybuilder muscle definition.

    In this section I’ve added some new hair, as well as clothing from several different sets: a fantasy corset armor top, along with more modern studded pants and boots. We’re going to do some quick surgery to make it match a bit better (you would have to do a lot more to anything that you actually planned on using).

    I’ve selected the top, and then in the Surfaces tab on the bottom right of the screen I’ve selected bits of the fantasy armor that I’m going to hide: bottom skirt and the armor cap sleeves. Go to Geometry, and turn the Cutout Opacity to zero. (Some clothing will have an actual Opacity setting, but it works the same way.) I’ve also selected the top level of the shirt in the Surfaces tab and darkened the base colour, which will darken the entire thing. If I wanted to change colour on just one section, I would do that in the sublevel.

    Again, there are a lot of really cool and complex things that you can do including applying shaders to various things (turn a cloth item to glass, or metal, for instance), but for the sake of this basic tutorial I won’t go into that.

    Parameters Tweaks

    One last thing before we’re done – the tweaks that you can make in the Parameters tab. As in the screenshot below, click on the Parameters tab for the item that you want to change. In this case, since she’s wearing formfitting clothing, I’ve chosen the hair.

    If you can move it around, there will be an Actors submenu with all of the parameters that you can change. Here I’ve made the hair longer, and windblown it to the side.

    And we’re done. :) Here’s a quick side-by-side with our original model and a more finished render of our customised one. Have fun!

  • Uncategorized

    Creating Custom Art with Daz Studio Models, Part Two

    Note: Part One of this series is located here.

    This is going to be a long post, as I’m doing it with images and text. Yes, it would be easier for me to just record a video, but I really hate using video for tutorials just because Wurdz R Hard. Sometimes written instructions are easier to follows when completing step-by-step actions, rather than trying to pause a video every few minutes. Plus, I’m really old.

    Step One: Materials

    Your Daz workspace may be set up differently, but you should be able to follow along. From the Content Library tab, go to People/Genesis 8 Female (or whatever) and in Characters double-click the model that you want to use. I have chosen Reese, as per the previous post.

    Make sure that you have that model selected (as you can see in the Scene viewport on the far right). Now open up the Characters menu on the left, find your model, and apply the textures. Hopefully Iray, as you’ll get a more realistic end result. Skin, eye, makeup textures are applied to that model, but you may need to open up her dropdowns in Scene to apply things like eyelash materials, etc.

    Once you’ve added her skin textures, eye colour, makeup and so on she should start to look a lot more finished – but you won’t be able to see the final product until you render.

    Step Two: Adding Hair and Clothing

    No one wants to go out in public naked and bald (presumably sans homework as well), so we’re going to clothe our girl. Make sure you have the model selected in the Scene viewport on the right, and then find the hair and clothing that you want to apply from your Content Library on the left.

    As per the image above, you see that everything you add works the same way: double-click to attach it to the main figure, then on the right find that item in the dropdown and click on it to add materials, as I’ve added the black texture to the tshirt.

    Step Three: Poses

    Now we’re going to add some action. I’m going to use a pose from a set here, as that is the easiest way to start, and then we’ll tweak her from there. Again, select your model on the right, then go into the poses that you (hopefully!) have available. You can use a G8 character with a G3 pose, and vice versa, but it will need tweaking (I have a script that converts it for me).

    Let’s make her a caster – lord knows there aren’t enough girls in black leather and jeans with magic effects coming off of their hands on book covers, amiright? :D

    I’ve used a pose from a commercial set, and now we’re going to customise it. Note the menu on the bottom right: these are the pose controls that can easily bend, twist, or otherwise move body parts. We’re going to change the position of her head by moving her neck, have her look up, etc. There is a lot of tweaking to be done here for truly custom poses, but you’ll learn that as you experiment with it.

    Step Four: Basic Lighting

    I’m not going to go very in-depth into this (as I said in Part One, this is an extremely basic guide and lighting can be difficult because you can’t see what it really looks like until you render it. This is where some good portrait light packages come in, at least until you become more proficient. This is a good tutorial on Three-Point Lighting in Daz if you want to try doing some custom light setups.

    We’re also getting to the point where I’m starting to rethink my life choices, as a video would have been so much easier. :D I’ve chosen a light package on the left and doubleclicked to apply it. This package has a utility for turning the dome off, which will be important for the transparent background that we’ll want for adding it to a background in Photoshop. I’m skipping over tons of stuff, I know – but honestly, a lot of this just requires playing around with it.

    Step Five: Basic Render Settings

    This is the last step. As you can see on the left of my workspace, I’ve clicked on Render Settings. For this type of work I’ll set the dimensions of the image in the General tab, then open up Progressive Render to set change the settings to the ones shown here: I whack max samples up, and max time as well (so it will allow enough time to render properly). These aren’t exact settings, I just push it up high. Rendering quality I’ll set to 2 or 3, and Rendering Converged Ratio to 98% (you’ll never get 100%). I’m not going to go into what this all means, this will just give you a high quality image to work with. Also, make sure your Engine at the top is set to NVIDIA Iray. Hit the Render button, and you’re done…in a couple of hours. :D

    The result? Here is our girl in rough form, ready to be placed into your scene/background (she actually has a transparent background, no removal of background needed). Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to further customise your model, mix models together, and customise clothing.

    Onward to Part Three

  • Uncategorized

    Creating Custom Art with Daz Studio Models, Part One

    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.

    Basic Requirements

    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:

    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!

    Related information: Copyright and Daz Studio

    Creating Custom Art with Daz Studio Models, Part Two

    Creating Custom Art with Daz Studio Models, Part Three

  • Stock Photos

    Freebie Friday: Taking the Black

    I’ll post again someday, I swear. :D In the meantime, have a (probably too specific to actually use, but what the hell) freebie stock image.

    Personal or commercial use for art or the creation of book covers permitted. Re-sale as stock, or re-sale without change, is prohibited.

  • Stock Photos

    Freebie Friday: End Times Sign

    Okay, obviously it isn’t Friday yet (damn it), but I had a few minutes to upload something so I will.

    *casts all propriety to the winds, tears off clothing, runs down the street singing I Gotta Be Me*

    Ahem.

    Anyway, here you are: an eroded sign of the apocalypse. Add your own letters as needed. Personal or commercial use for art or the creation of book covers permitted. Re-sale as stock, or re-sale without change, is prohibited.

     

    End Times Sign Ravven

  • Stock Photos

    Kickass Older Assassin Stock

    Book Cover Stock

    New book cover stock is in the process of being uploaded and approved, multiple images of a badass, mature woman assassin. I fully admit that I create a lot of stock just because I really want to read the book that this character may feature in. We don’t get enough books with badass older women…I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly don’t identify with cookie-baking grannies just because I’m getting older. :)

  • Book Cover Reveals

    braiiiiins

    Like an unlucky survivor of the zombie apocalypse I seem to have been pulled under and eaten by a massive amount of work lately. Everything else, including exercise, keeping the blog up and any writing have gone by the wayside. I think (fingers crossed) that I’m close to finally coming through the other side.

    I’ve been trying to get the time to work on some pre-designed book covers recently and will be adding more in the future. Not having an MMO that I’m excited about playing at the moment has done wonders for my productivity. :) I’ll add them to the Pinterest board as I do them, so check back if you’re interested in inexpensive covers that you can have now.

    This is the image from this morning: Save the cheerleader…oh no, crap, too late.

     

    Pre Designed Book Cover

  • Art

    Learning to Paint

    One of the reasons for my (somewhat interrupted) hiatus, aside from wanting a stress-free month for writing, was to regain my happy thoughts about my artwork. I’d grown bored with the style of cover work that I was doing, and wanted a chance to start again with a fresh outlook.

    I’ve recently come to a realisation, though…it isn’t so much my work that I was bored with, but the style of cover currently in vogue (at least in the area that I most often work in, which is fantasy and young adult). You see the same stock used over and over, and there are genres of cover that I personally dislike such as bare male torsos. I mean, I’m a big fan of fit, sexy men, but I hate bare abs covers. Girls in pretty dresses have come and gone, as well as Big Face covers. So much of it, though, just looks the same.

    Illustrated covers have fallen out of vogue for the most part, and photomontaged covers using commercial stock reign on self-published books. Obviously, part of this has to do with cost – illustration is definitely not inexpensive. I think it also has a bit of an old-fashioned vibe, especially on fantasy covers (who doesn’t remember the greats such as Frazetta, Rowena Morrill and Jody Lee?). There are books that have used “designer-y” graphic covers to good effect, and there are also stunning painted covers such as those done for the Expanse series by artist Daniel Dociu. That kind of crazy genius talent is rare, however.

    What I’ve been trying to do in these last few days is to learn how to paint. I do paint on covers, of course…but although I’m great with colour and shadow and highlight I absolutely suck at the bones of an image. I can’t draw. This is a real problem, and I want to go back and take my teenage self who refused to take any art classes because everyone was trying to push me into it…and I want to just smack her. “Oh, no, everyone says that I should be an artist so I’ll refuse. I’m going to travel and write.” Well, guess what? You didn’t, and now going back and learning to draw properly is a bitch.

    I’ve been posting the speed-paint images that I’ve done recently to Twitter (sorry guys!!!) in an effort to stay honest. I won’t post them here, as at this point they’re pretty sucky. But I’ll work on it until they’re not so sucky and hopefully someday they’ll be good enough that I can consider them to be professional enough for covers. Even though everything feels horrible right now, and it’s embarrassing to show anyone these rough little sketches, eventually they’ll morph into something worthwhile.

    It’s never too late to rectify the mistakes of your past. :)

     

  • Book Cover Reveals

    Forever Fredless by Suzy Turner

    Book Cover Art

    Forever Fredless by Suzy Turner

    Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday. Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?

    Forever Fredless will be available from online bookstores from October 2013

    For more details about Suzy and her books, visit:

  • Art,  Book Cover Reveals

    Book Cover Art

    I’ve been lax in posting new book cover images. Come to think of it, I’ve been lax in making any kind of posts at all lately due to being swamped with work, tiredness and intermittent ill health. I don’t know how people keep up with multiple social media outlets in a consistent manner as well as do the work that all that social media is supposed to support. I keep a Facebook page, Pinterest boards with my book covers and also inspiration boards for The Clockwork Bluebird, The Tatterdemalion Dancer and Voyage of the Sky Kraken. I have a Goodreads account (which I rarely have the time to visit except to leave reviews of books I’ve read) and a Google+ page which I just don’t have the time to update. I don’t want to automate anything and be one of those awful people who have automatically-generated tweet spam that says “I posted a new picture to Facebook!” Of what? Your lunch? Your cat? Your genitalia? I’m just not interested enough to click through to find out.

    If you’d like to see the most recent book covers (and really, who wouldn’t?) you can see them here: Book Cover Art By Ravven.