This is a piece created to be the cover for a story I wrote called The Cold Elf.
Initially, the story was created as the backstory of another piece of art I made, but as I wrote it, the image of the protagonist kind of stuck in my head. Then I decided to just move ahead with it and get it out.
It’s created and rendered with Daz Studio 4.5, with a decent amount of post-work done in Photoshop.
The Daz Studio Set Up
For even better skin, I used the Elite Human Surface Shader. This used to be a separate install, but since Daz 4 (I think), it’s been included in the default install. Meaning you should already have it at your disposal if you’re using Daz 4 and up. If you don’t see it, most Elite Texture characters come with the Elite Human Surface Shader included.
See these links for more info on finding and using the Elite Human Surface Shader:
Also, as you can see the head is bald. If you’re using the default M4 model, the texture has some hair painted directly into the head. I wanted the Elf to be bald, so it was another good reason to apply the M4 Elite Lee texture, since the head was completely bald already.
I’ve also used various morphs from the Michael 4 Morphs++ pack (in Daz Studio, a “morph” changes the actual shape of the mesh – usually accomplished by using sliders to tweak the figure until it looks the way you want). The pointed ears were applied using this morph pack, among other changes.
The Clothing and Gear
One of my staples for M4 models is the omni-useful M4 Bodysuit. You don’t see it much here since the shot is so close up, but you can see a little on the neck. I added a simple tiling lizard skin texture so I could get the hint of scales you see there. I can’t remember now, but I likely got it from CG Textures.
The cloak (and most of the rest of the outfit) comes from the Wild Hearts Wildenlander for M4
Visible in some of the other images, the pouch he’s carrying is from the Scout for M3 outfit. Since it’s for M3 and not M4, it doesn’t automatically fit to the character and adjust as you pose the figure.
In some cases this is fine since there’s not going to be a ton of poses. If you’re doing animation, or even a lot of poses like a comic or something, you’d definitely want to try to find something that auto-fits. It can get annoying and downright prohibitive if you have to constantly adjust one prop.
If you check my above screenshot carefully, you’ll see that I only have three Distant Lights set in my scene. Two of them have raytraced shadows turned on, while the other one is merely a fill light with no shadows.
As you can imagine, you’re not going to get photorealistic results this way. However, I’m not concerned with making it look like a photograph, I just want it to look dynamic…and cool, too if possible.
So with this set up, I got this render:
But then I decided it wasn’t dynamic enough, and I adjusted the lighting to get this one:
I thought the second render was closer to what I wanted, but maybe a little too hot on the bright spots. Just to be safe I rendered again, this time setting the lights to be a lot more even, so there weren’t any hotspots or very dark areas in his face. You can always composite different parts of multiple renders in Photoshop (or Gimp/Painter, etc…) later on if necessary.
When I brought the render into Photoshop for “postwork”, the main things I did were:
- Composite the renders together using Layer Masks
- Adjust Hue/Saturation to the blue color you see in the final image
- Add a blue Solid Color Layer to emphasize the tone of the piece
- Added the background, which is actually a starfield I got from the Hubble telescope site
- Simulate depth of field using a blurred layer and Layer Mask.
- Added a canvas texture I got from CG Textures on top to lend it a painterly quality.
There’s always a ton of little tweaks and retouches done in Photoshop, way more than would be interesting to read here, so I’ll leave it at that.
I don’t have any hard and fast rules for Photoshop postwork. It all depends on the project and how I feel about it at the time. If it’s more efficient to adjust the coloring and deal with depth of field within Daz or Blender then I’ll do that. If I just don’t feel like dealing with it, then I’ll fake it in Photoshop.
It’s easy for me to say this since most of my work doesn’t require realism, but I’m not a 3D purist by any means. I just want to make an image that looks good.
The Book Cover
Since I wanted this to be a Kindle story, I was going to have to adjust the image for their size requirements.
Mostly this just meant cropping it to a decent size. If I were doing a physical book on this, I could have used the whole image for a dust jacket, or even a case wrap book. Alas, my story isn’t quite long enough to justify that. I decided to stick with the ebook.
As reported in the Kindle cover specs, the ideal cover size is 1563px wide by 2500px tall. In order to make it fit, I cropped in on the face, and left some room at the top and the bottom for the title and my name.
I felt that having the image fill up all the available space wouldn’t look good, as the title and my name would cover a lot of it. I sacrificed size for clarity in this case, but I think it came out looking pretty good.
The logo was created using the “Trajan Pro” font in Adobe Illustrator, with a few adjustments to nail down the final shape of it, then “re-creating” the letters in Blender using meshes.
I added the metal texture and the stone texture on the logo “backing”, then rendered a very large version using the Cycles rendering engine.
Honestly, I could have accomplished the same look quicker just using Photoshop, but I just wanted to do it in 3D. Maybe I’ll use it in a book trailer or something.
For those of you interested in actually reading the story that goes along with this image, you can either check out a story preview here on the site, or you can buy The Cold Elf on Kindle, or The Cold Elf on the iBookstore for $0.99.
If you have any questions or comments, be sure to let me know below. Until next time…