I’m far from being an experienced Blender artist - in fact, I had barely used it until my most recent project, which was the cover for my latest novel, Afterglow, Synthesis:Weave 2.
My previous novel cover (for Synthesis:Weave) was a relatively simple affair, with a photograph of my partner scaling a climbing wall at a rock-climbing centre with his wheelchair attached. I then edited it in Gimp and composited it with a photograph of a cliff and added a background in Inkscape. This time around, I wanted to be a little more ambitious.
Unfortunately, his wheelchair didn’t have the type of wheels I wanted to use (Loopwheels) which were suitable for a scifi novel cover. I also thought I’d struggle with reflections when using his real chair, so I set about taking measurements and copying it in Blender. Loopwheels sent me a side-on diagram of the wheel, from which I was able to copy the suspension profile, while Frog Legs Inc (the caster manufacturers) sent me an IGES file. I had a problem opening that in Blender and had to use FreeCAD to output to DXF, but then regenerate the geometry by hand using the original model as a framework for the dimensions. The DXF had the irritating problem of the generated surfaces not lining up on the vertices.
After a couple of months’ work, I’d finished the wheelchair itself. I set about making a full-scale crater for the town background, but struggled to put in as much detail as I’d have liked. I settled for placing only the buildings in the immediate foreground and using displacement modifiers to generate the finer textured geometry. After I’d rendered the background and mapped the foreground photo into the image, I had some comments from a designer friend about adding extra depth, so I rendered some alternative lighting and combined that with the original image, using masking to manually blend the reddish lighting with the whiter daylight.
I had some issues with the crater’s subdivision: for some reason, the sculpted crater fractured, so I was forced to reduce the geometry for the shot used in the cover itself (I was also running out of memory). With the geometry being all around the camera, I ended up using mask modifiers to isolate the patch I wanted, and then blended a different texture with no displacement to make sure the ground was flat.
In the foreground, I placed a smaller patch for the gravel texture. It only needed to be big enough to cover the camera view, so that wasn’t too much of a problem.