Creativity comes in many forms, and I doubt many of us are confined to just one. Writing has been a wonderful journey but rarely do I remain complacent in one area for too long. Too many creative seeds clamouring to the surface, to be the next to taste the sweet sunlight of creation. Is it any surprise that I made a decision to go all in for graphics with my recent novel? I, therefore, direct this entry to some of the finer points of my digital artwork. Hopefully, this will strike a similar chord in others out there.
First, the technical. I use GIMP for my art for the same reason that I use Google Chrome docs for my writing and editing. I suppose I should be chastised for not ponying up the cash for Photoshop and Microsoft office. Try not to cast stones; if something is working fine, why upgrade? (Don’t ask how long I went with an iPhone 3G) Gimp is a very effective (and cheap!) platform that has served me just fine. There have been many paths to the discovery of its various features, and I am still discovering more from time to time. If you have wanted to create digitally and save yourself a bundle on art supplies, or you don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for other products, I recommend trying out Gimp. There are lots of tutorials and I have taught this system to many students in the past.
Production: Well, placing images into the novel was educational. Here were some things I noticed that you may wish to consider should you ever choose to do the same.
- Images always print darker than they show digitally. Almost all of my images had to be deliberately brightened, to the point where you would question the outcome. Well, the proof is in … well, the proof. I got my copy and a few pictures were darker than Stephen King’s closet. I noted that with my first novel on the cover, assuming there are dark elements in play. Remember to lighten those images, even if it defies all logic. The amount, unfortunately, is by feel, and I hope you don’t waste weeks of time and multiple proof copies to find the balance. At some point, you just have to say – print the darn thing. Thankfully, ebooks have no such issue. However …
- Those awful formatting ebook issues. Ok, learn how to use HTML and sit those graphics and headers down where they belong. Or pay someone to do it. Those pics scatter across the pages and it’s a terrible mess. Such is the sacrifice we must make. I think I will set a goal to learn HTML slowly and hopefully by the third book I won’t have to dig into the ol’ wallet.
- DPI or, as I would call it, Damn Pixel Integration. So, when I started creating my images, I really didn’t worry about it much. Here’s what I learned: start with a hefty size for the original image and work within that frame (or canvas). You will want these for the print copy for best resolution – Createspace doesn’t care if it’s a big file. After this, you can shrink them down to an appropriate ebook size. Amazon will apparently take some of the cut as a transfer fee for oversized ebook files. Createspace will let you know when your image is below 300 dpi, but it won’t prevent your printing if you choose to go ahead. For the odd blurry image that may arise, I accept as the wounds in this war of words.
Aesthetics: I really enjoyed creating the scenes that were in my head. There are many ways and tools that bring this to life. I have used brushes exclusively in some, and in others, I imported parts of an image that would be useful for the overall effect. I even used my own limbs in a few of the graphics. Anything goes, it seems. I have called it Frankensteining, but I promise all graveyards are perfectly safe. It actually prompted me to start taking more of my own photos for various backgrounds. There I was, in the Rocky Mountains, gleefully shouting “It’s alive! Alive!.” What a thrill.
Another point to add in this category is the subject of character depiction. In choosing to represent Firah or Tey’ur, I have potentially broken some immersion wall. What I have chosen is but one interpretation of the character and should not be taken as gospel. Every reader should have the privilege of interpreting the identity of a character. At least, until they make a motion picture. Then we are stuck with whom they chose, for better or worse.
So why do it? Immersion, perhaps. A better product, self-satisfaction, images for printing on t-shirts, and who knows what else.
For me, I stretched my create muscles and gave those seeds some sunshine. The flowers are now quite lovely.
This post is reblogged from Dan’s writing blog, Ad Infinitus Creations.