I have a colossal backlog. I think when I was researching folk art for my MIDWINTER MAGIC bookcover, I started doing these little patterned animals in marker. (I’m not so good with the flowers.) I think they’re very cheery!
Thank goodness for Krita’s autosave–I almost lost my work on this image!
For all you digital artists out there, here’s some tips plus a list of Krita tutorials that helped me paint my latest fantasy book cover. At the end you’ll see early WIPs, then the full wraparound cover and detail shots.
First, here’s the image we’re talking about:
1) Got a big project? Use Krita’s File Layers to work on elements separately before compositing them in the final piece.
I wanted to paint this much larger than the book size it would be printed at in case I wanted to do posters. With a 300DPI workfile at around 16 inches tall and 21 inches wide and a TON of elements planned, I knew it’d be huge and would make my rig chug. But I’d heard of Krita’s File Layers and thought maybe they could help me out…except I’d tried them out before and couldn’t figure out how they worked.
Then I watched GDQuest Krita tips: using the File Layer for game art mockups: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjscqHhoEOA
And realized what I’d been doing wrong the whole time: to resize File Layers, you have to apply a transform mask before using the transform tool.
File layers let me paint goat, details and all, in his own file, then add him (as a File Layer) to the main cover .kra file (with the full thumbnail as a guide). Adding a transform mask to the file layer helped me get him the right size before I moved him into position.
Using File Layers meant I could also flip back to the full composition and after I saved the changes to the goat. The cover file would update and show me if I was on the right path.
Note: for all of these but the paw I kept the values pretty form-based and plain–most the glowy lighting effects were added at the very end of the process.
2) Keep clean edges on painterly work by using Clipping Groups and making your base layer a plain silhouette.
I wanted this piece to have a look similar to the ARMELLO game promo art. Studying that art, I saw a lot of painterly details inside the characters, but the character edges were sharp. These hard edges meant I could reuse the character art for other promos, but how were they doing that?
Well, I started with a flat, single-color silhouette to define the character’s borders (and make a strong sihouette!). When I was happy with the shape, I locked the pixel transparency (in the layer stack, it’s the checkerboard to the right of the layer name), then hit CTR+ALT+G to make a Clipping Group. After clicking “lock Alpha transparency” in the new layer above the silhouette layer (within the group), I could then paint with soft edged brushes without overstepping the bounds of that silhouette.
So: bottom layer in group: silhouette with pixel transparency locked. Any layers above that in group, normal painting layers with alpha transparency locked (looks like a weird “a” or squiggle). If you toggle the alpha transparency on and off, you’ll see all the coloring you did “outside the lines” of the silhouette.
The following tutorial got me started on the goat, helping me add textures and values without losing my mind: Paintable: Digital Painting Tips & Tricks: How to Achieve a Traditional Look With Texture Brushes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHFTZQ_QG2w
P.S. Digital Painting Academy is worth a subscription!
4) Another tutorial helped me add life to the skin tones, but I can’t find it, RRGH. 🙁 Can you help me?
This tutorial about skin tones had a male presenter, subject matter was like a bikini girl or girl in lingerie (lots of work on the tummy!) on a grey background. (If you find it please let me know and I’ll update this tutorial with a kudos to YOU!)
The artist recommended adding lots more warmth/red to the midtones on a layer above your (yellower) base tone and then erasing the midtone layer to get a glowy, creamy look…and you go more saturated…*squint*…I swear I took notes and everything but my Google-fu is failing me!
5) Need to do some buildings but hate straight lines and geometric shapes? Start with Inkscape, then pull it into Krita for painting.
Technique #3 served me well for the all the character elements in this cover. But on book covers, it’s important to have your character in a setting. My setting was a neighborhood and I am not confident drawing buildings yet. I needed help. Luckily, I had some experience in Inkscape and thought that could help–straight lines are that program’s bread and butter! In this case, I followed along with TJ Free: Inkscape | Draw Houses in Vector / SVG (Speed Art) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wcc1gSFQhnM
And made basic houses in Inkscape. I exported one or two house shapes, pulled them into Krita, duplicated them to make more houses, then manipulated them with the Move and Transform tools before setting them into place. Once I was happy with their placement, was easy to modify colors with hue shift (CTRL+U) and paint over them to match the style better.
6) Trees are hard. This tutorial makes them easier.
Nuff said. Go to: https://www.mclelun.com/2015/10/anime-tree-tutorial.html for nice n’ easy trees. (I used them to cover up my dorky-looking houses, heh.)
7) Krita’s Layer Styles make painting magic sparklies and adding text effects nice and easy
When I switched to Krita, I really missed Photoshop’s layer styles (especially for adding effects to my book title text)…Well, it ends up Krita has Layer Styles, I just didn’t know where they were! Right-click on the layer in the stack. When the dropdown menu comes up, click on “Layer Styles” (near the top, under Properties).
This tutorial for Krita gave me good sparkly magic and a strategy for keeping the computer spry: David Revoy: Dark matter cloud particles effect – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKaCwqTVLus
This tutorial gave me ideas on making electricity effects–I just took the numbers from the Photoshop Layer Styles and tossed ’em in Krita, modifying where needed:
Photoshop Tutorials – Pst: How to Create Electricity Effect in photoshop – Photoshop Tutorials – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyYY0FGR6Z0
(PST’s tutorial with the jaguar breaking out of the TV also helped me do the light rays on the portals.)
Bonus tip: Thumbnails are your friend
Listen, I started with a super boring thumbnail. It looked like this:
So I worked some more. And came up with this:
Even in its rough form, this little composition looked exciting to me. Even more so with some color slapped on:
Having an exciting thumbnail made it easier for me to push through when the painting start looking ugly (they all look ugly in the middle, it’s OK), because I knew it would all turn out all right in the end…Strong thumbnail = strong foundation.
That Paintable tutorial helped me get the texture on this goat easy. I’m really proud of this paw, especially those claws!Yup, here are those Inkscape-made houses plonked down and painted over. Dig those trees, too!
As for the book itself–THE CAPRAMANCER NEXT DOOR is out now on Amazon and other digital retailers.
Looking for a tutorial on how to digitally paint trees for my book cover, I stumbled upon a collection of excellent digital painting tutorials that cover things a little off the beaten path–like painting over photos to make backgrounds and color grading. They’re by Mclelun and you can see some of them here:
Click on the “Tutorial” tag link on that page to see all the helpful tuts!
I’ve been wanting to learn how to draw environments FOREVER but nothing’s ever quite stuck (looks at the various perspective drawing books on her shelf). But this! This video from Tyler Edlin (AKA BrushSauce) on YouTube has opened my eyes.
I started doing these…and then…just once…while watching something, maybe a shot of a hallway on TV? I SAW THE MATRIX!! I didn’t see the picture as hall, door, sconce, etc. I saw the big general shapes that made the depth. DING!!! I need to do this more often, but it’s really upped my confidence. So if you need help leaning backgrounds, try the exercise in this video first! It’s way fun to do with colored pens and markers (for values).
This is Will. She’s the Capramancer, a mage who speaks with the magical goats and coordinates with them so they can rescue mages lost in the aether.
There’s a lot of elements on this book cover, so it’s taking me some time…Slow and steady wins the race (and perhaps makes a cool poster to sell later). I liked how this turned out (I think; it’s a massive improvement over the rough), but probably will make some corrections later. OTOH it reads well on the full cover, since it isn’t very big.
Off to take a break!
Designing my latest book cover has been a struggle…but I finally got my composition in order and now I’m working on the individual elements one-by-one. Different than how I usually work. This goat pose was tricky, but I think he’s well on his way now!
Please check out:
A Kickstarter Campaign Creating Five Writing and Publishing Bundles that Include 17 Writing Books.
Normally I’m not one to signal boost Kickstarters, but this one’s well worth a look. Veteran writers Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kris Rusch have a Kickstarter going now where if you pledge $10, you can pick from one of five bundles of books on different writing topics. Pay a little more, you can get them in paper…get lectures…etc.
Here’s why this is exciting to me: Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog posts (two sets of which are compiled in two of the books in the “Industry” bundle) literally changed the course of my writing career. At the end of 2016, I’d just finished the manuscript for Steel City, Veiled Kingdom (SCVK) and was feeling pretty down. It was a ginormous novel and I knew novels that big rarely do well with literary agents. It’d take years to shop around, and after that, they’d probably want me to change it, if anybody accepted it at all (which was a long shot).
Then I stumbled upon those posts and realized…yeah, I had ALL the skills to self-publish it. And no need for an agent at all. Three-ish years later, SCVK is out in ebook, soon to be in paperback, and in the meantime, I’ve got, like, a dozen shorts and a few other novels available on Amazon, BN, and libraries (among other digital storefronts) and more fiction on the way.
NONE of that would have happened without Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing–and in this Kickstarter, you can get it plus three other ebooks in the “Industry” bundle for just $10. And there’s, like I said, five total bundles on different topics.
It’s good stuff, folks.
If they make it to $9,000 before April 30th, 2020, everyone who pledged $5 or more will get access to SIX workshops on topics like Writing Sci/Fi, Writing Thrillers, Writing Time Travel, etc. I’ve done some of their free courses and have LOVED them so this is a great goal to aim for. Even if that doesn’t come true, the info in these bundles is invaluable–it was career-changing for me!
So please, check out this Writing Bundles Kickstarter. They’re covering topics I bet you never even thought about. 🙂
Dunno ’bout you, but I’m finally going stir-crazy around here. Yesterday, though, I took the time to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time: put some sheet music on my Gumroad store.
The first is an easy piano solo inspired by a former student’s kitten, called Jade’s Garden. What’s new? I added a version primarily made with 8th notes. You get both versions when you download it.
Second: I compiled all those simplified hymns I adapted into one printable PDF book called Sacred Hymns for Five-Finger Piano: an Easy Piano Collection for All Ages:
Finally, just wanted to remind you I wrote an intermediate piano solo in the ambient spirit of Brian Eno and Harold Budd. This one’s $2.99.
Hopefully I’ll get off my keister and post some more drawings–I scanned plenty earlier this year, just haven’t gotten around to watermarking them yet.