Friday, April 25, 2014

Cut & Paste – Part 2

Last time I blathered on about depth of field and how it helps to make the subject of an image to stand out from the background. Today I want to bring up something else that does the same.

(Madonna of the Yarnwinder by De Vinci)

aerial perspective
noun Art
the technique of representing more distant objects as fainter and more blue.

This is a real thing, not just something painters made up to mess with our heads. Hike up to the top of a mountain, look around, and will see something like this: 

See how the mountains get fainter and less defined the farther away they are? This effect is caused by our very atmosphere scattering the light. With distance contrast and saturation decreases and everything shifts toward a single color. Not necessarily blue—it depends on the time of day.

The photo sliced from previous post's Pride and Prejudice poster was most likely shot early morning and consequently the background has a warm yellow tint. Here are some more movie posters making it work:

I often take inspiration from movie posters because a whole lot of work have gone into them, and they are designed to work both on billboards and as thumbnail size on Netflix. Sadly, I don't have their designer's budget and super-high resolution photos of places and people. I have to make do with stock photos and that's a challenge in itself.

I prefer not to create my cover models using the Frankenstein method, but sometimes it's unavoidable, especially in case historical novels.  It's hard enough to find a model wearing the right outfit, it's next to impossible to find one who also has the right look. The good thing about those old time clothes that high collars and cravats make head-swapping easier.

So far the cover I had to do the most work on was KJ Charles' Flight of Magpies.

Here are all the stock photos that went into it:

They also took a wee bit of manipulation. For example, the street in the middle left has the right overall look, it could even be from the Victorian era, but it's far too colorful. If I left it so it would've dominated the whole cover. So I manipulated to create the effects of both aerial perspective and depth of field. This was done with multiple layers, Gaussian blur filter, gradient mask, hue/saturation adjustment layer, and selective shading. I also added the cobblestone effect from the other photo.

I'm possibly the most pleased about the street, but putting Stephen and Lord Crane together took at least twice as long. Aside from the obvious, there was also a lot of adding shadows, darkening, lightening, adjusting colors and saturation. But in the end they came together pretty well.

This is the point where I'm supposed to wrap things up and part some sort of wisdom. How about this: cut and paste responsibly. Oh, and put some elbow grease into it. Look up how others did it, look at book covers, movie posters, paintings, illustrations, advertising graphics, etc.

And for closing, don't they look good together?


  1. It's really brilliant. Thank you for showing all the steps you went through to put this together. I understood each one and I had actually studied this cover wondering, TBH. So this tutorial you just did really was educational. :D

    1. Good to know my post served your curiosity, and it wasn't just me bragging. :P

    2. I've been studying you and LC Chase like mad. (That sounded weirder than I intended it, but you get what I meant right? LOL) Your covers are my favorites, hands down. :)

    3. LC has some real beauties. I especially love the one for Pickup Men.

  2. They just look so good. Amazed by how these happen. Also, I am slightly freaked by modern dress Stephen, and frankly enthralled by topless Crane.

    1. The model for Crane is beautiful, but the photographer really knew what he/she was doing too. It's incredibly hard to find stock photos of guys with an aristocratic look but this guy is IT.

      What freaks you in modern Stephen? What attracted me to him is the blush on his cheeks--there's a sense of vulnerability to him.

      You wonder what makes the difference between a modern day person and one from hundred or two hundred years ago. Is it just the hair and clothes?

  3. Fascinating stuff! Thanks for taking the time to share the process of making a book cover. It's very make me want to go out there and make art.

    1. Go for it! There are tons of different ways to be creative.