Art and Photoshop

During my previous three Making of a Cover posts, I told of my adventures during the week leading up to the photo shoot. Designing the cover in Photoshop had actually started weeks before that. I had so many projects going in the design of this book! Before I had my model, I had created various working covers to choose from, along with a number of text fonts to try out. Layouts, backgrounds, foregrounds, ideas upon ideas. Well, just look at them all: https://www.facebook.com/pg/MichaelCSahd/photos/?tab=album&album_id=671475539957154

Here’s an example of my first shared cover.
One I made from silhouettes

I really disliked these covers, but they were improving as I went along. The typography was another mess, and like with many of my other ideas, I turned to social media to request help deciding what to pick.

Using social media to help me decide what looks better turned out to be a very smart move, not only because my followers let me know their thoughts on the designs, but also for another reason that I will discuss in a bit.

Now came the fun part. I had my pictures from the photo shoot, and I needed to make a cover. Unfortunately, the pictures at the park didn’t sit right with me. The environment in the cold mountains of Aaruda are not the same as the humid briar lands of central Texas (Aaruda is what I named the world that Samara lives on, but it’s not really mentioned in the story. The inhabitants don’t often use the word for their planet, but I will definitely say more about it later. Maybe in another blog post, maybe in another book).

Pre Book Cover

Before I could start making the cover, I had to rifle through over 200 images to find something I liked and wanted to use. The image above is the one I finally settled on.

Then I had to get a background I was okay with using. For this, I turned to Pixabay, where I found this neat photo of a tree being struck by lightning.

Next, I had to remove the figure from the background. This is not an easy task. Any Photoshop user can tell you, hair and fur are a pain to separate from a background, even a green one. This gave me such a headache. This process is so difficult that my first two attempts were very shoddy.

my first attempt.

Take a close look at the hair and the fur. I’m sorry, but it’s terrible. She’s got some weird spiky thing happening at the edges. What happened is, in an attempt to get rid of the green screen, I had to desaturate the green in the image around the edges, making them appear dark. Hence the reason for the darkness at the tips of the fur.

I really, really disliked this and turned to Youtube to figure out a method to fix it better. What I found was instructions on how to paint hair back into the picture. So I recut out the model and got to work repainting the hair after the cut. I was very satisfied with this, and almost called it good:

Look how much cleaner that is.

However, before I washed my hands of it, I returned to social media to get opinions on my work, and let me tell you that I’m so glad I did. Three artists from the #artistsoftwitter community came to my rescue.

These artists (@ZenFuryBuddha, @GDNaturedVLLN, and @SaraGSpaceNerd) provided me with numerous tips on how to improve this picture even further. GDNatured even went so far as to do a quick example for me:

Compliments of @GDNaturedVLLN

I did like GD’s image, and I may have used it if the resolution were a little higher, but I jumped back into Photoshop and Youtube and started back to work on the cover.

Finally, I had something I was completely satisfied with:

Book cover mockup.
The final cover

I would love to hear some feedback. What do you think of the final cover? Does it pull you in? Would you grab this book off the shelf if you saw it in the store? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you.

~Michael C. Sahd

The Day Of The Photo Shoot

This was your classic busy day, during which you scramble to get everything done in the short amount of time you have allocated. We had to meet our photographer at “solar noon.” Why? Simply because we were using a green screen, poor-man style.

Basically, I had bought some green fabric, which we needed to hang from a tall fence, and the sun had to be directly above us so that it would not cast a shadow.

So we had a timeframe to get ready in. One of the largest issues with using my daughter as the model for Samara was her hair color. Samara has dark black hair, and my daughter has dirty blond locks. Otherwise, she fit perfectly.

So her cousin, who used to work in beauty departments, suggested that we use spray-in hair coloring, because we did not want to use a permanent dye.

We had gone to Sally’s Beauty Supply the day before to buy one of these sprays, and that morning, we took my daughter over to her cousin’s house to get it colored and to apply makeup.

If you are unfamiliar with beauty supply products, then you are blessed. That stuff stinks. I can hardly understand why anyone would sit in a nail bar (parlor, I’m not sure what they’re called), and suffer that scent. I get sick walking by them at a mall.

Anyway, her cousin started spraying her hair with this stuff, and it was working wonderfully. Her hair was turning black before our eyes, and it was drying quickly. She was a third of the way through when the can started sputtering.

Now we were in trouble, sort of. I jumped in the car and raced down to Sally’s.

You know that feeling you get when it seems like you’re rowing up a current, trying to fight against the rapids? Well, that’s how I felt when I pulled into Sally’s and found it closed. Of course it was closed on a Sunday.

However, my quick thinking had me ramming the car in reverse and skipping over to Walgreens. They have beauty supplies, right? Damn straight.

I found L’Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up, as per her cousin’s recommendation, and raced back to her house.

She finished spraying my daughter’s hair, and it looked black! Except (and here I’m rowing up that river again), the new stuff bled . . . badly. Her face and makeup would get a black streak in it any time the wind blew a strand into her face.

We decided that it was fine. It would make her look dirty, and Samara was dirty a good portion of the book, so good.

We went to pick up her costume, then drove over to meet our photographer, just in time.

The first round of pictures were taken against the green screen so that we could get the solar-noon lighting.

Pay close attention to her hair. It is black in the front and not so much in the back. This was due to the Sally spray lasting and the Walgreen spray not. Anyway, these were a lot of fun, and we took oh so many more, but these were my keepers.

We were not done yet, however. We headed over to a local park next, which had a nice nature trail and a river next to it, to take some more natural pictures.

We took this awesome set and thought we were done after that, but then my daughter noticed a neat-looking tree in the distance and wanted to climb it and get some pictures in that.

They came out nicely too. You may recognize the middle one from my Twitter or Facebook banner.

Next week, I’ll go into what it took to make the actual cover.

That’s all for now.

~Michael C. Sahd

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Poster
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So, the newest Star Wars is out and, apparently, fans are mad. I understand. Although I enjoyed the movie, it left many of the questions I hungered for the answer to . . . hanging. Actually, not just hanging; they basically wrinkled them up and tossed them into a furnace.

But I’m sure you don’t want to hear another nerd rant, so enough about Star Wars. If you really want to know more about my opinion, feel free to drop a comment below.

On a different note, I have been editing a story for an acquaintance in exchange for some artwork. I’m sure you’ve all heard about my continual issues with artists, but hopefully, this will be a mutually beneficial exchange. The idea behind his story shows promise, and after a bit of tidying up, it should be an excellent read for anyone interested in the fantasy/superhero genre. After seeing the artwork that he has previously created, I feel hopeful about his ability to provide me with greatly improved cover art.

Ta-ta for now!

~ Michael C. Sahd

After a late night of last minute editing and fussing with Amazon Direct Publishing, my first short story is published.

Assassin Marked
by Michael C. Sahd
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Assassin Marked tells a story of a man and his lover who work for the mafia in a futuristic setting. I believe it is an interesting read.

Although I have overcome a great hurdle, my nerves are twisting into a ghastly knot, much like a pile of unraveled yarn. The pressure to provide more stories to the public weighs heavy on my mind. The last thing I want to do is provide this one story and then not release anything again until years later.

Assassin Marked, which I began to write almost ten years ago, had sat complete and edited for almost a year now (maybe more). I’m really hoping that future stories will come more quickly.

Yet I’m not done with Damian. Already, work has begun on a larger story involving the assassin, and the addition of some new individuals.

Meanwhile, Balanced Tipped faces a serious revision, but I’m confident that I will turn it in to my editor, Laura Pruett, very soon. Incidentally, if any of you reading this article are in need of an editor, click on the link I provided. I know of no better editor than her.

Keep checking back here for more information on published works.

In the past, I always felt that writer’s block was my biggest problem. After finally finishing a piece and readying it for publication, I find that finding an artist poses a much more harrowing task, especially when low on funds.

At least with writer’s block, my issues stem from self-induced obstacles, but finding an artist is beyond my control.

Over on Goblin Savant, I had my friend Ian illustrate Gerald der Zeichner, the Goblin Savant. However, finding suitable art to portray my protagonist in Assassin Marked proved nearly impossible, and after months of searching, waiting on the good graces of others, I decided to dust up my own Photoshop skills. I created a very plain cover in art noir that I am extremely pleased with.

Assassin Marked Book Cover
New Assassin Marked book cover

Please feel free to let me know what you think, either as a comment here or as a submission via my contact form. While you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter for your chance to win a prize.

~ Michael C. Sahd