Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Countdown to Three Dances: Images

Mailing List

Friday, April 5, 2013

Countdown to Three Dances: Images

Various versions of Three Dances are under final review at Amazon and B&N. The print version, actually, is live here: you can buy one (or ten, or a hundred) if you want, and I will get paid for it.

For some reason, this is terrifying to me.

So in order to stay clear of being afraid, I'm going to put up a blog post I wrote months ago with the plan of posting it in the runup to the Three Dances launch, mostly because I thought it was interesting and also because I thought it might drive some attention. Warning: It's long and gets a bit technical in places.

Anyway, here goes:


Today I want to talk about the art for the collection, and the interesting challenges it has presented for me-as-publisher.

I decided to include art in the collection because I wanted something to help it stand out from the crowd. There's so much being self-published right now, and it's so easy to just chuck something up on Amazon as an e-book, that I wanted to provide my readers with immediate proof that I had not just chucked the book up on the Internet. That, in fact, it had been planned and plotted and slaved and sweated over, and was going to be worth their few dollars of money and few hours of time to experience.

Including custom art seemed to be a good way to do that.

Originally, I was going to have a friend of mine who does amazing things with spraypaint and stencils and letters make the art, but his schedule got too crazy, and he had to back out. I then approached my grandmother, who has been making art for the better part of a century, about helping out.

Luckily for me, she was excited about the project, too.

Working with her has been a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime experience worthy of its own blog post, but one of the upshots of it has been that I'm left doing the digitization of her artwork completely on my own. Computers are not her thing.

I'm using a free program called GIMP, which was introduced to me by the folks at Wattpad, to do it. Process breakdown below:

First, I receive the finished art from my grandmother. It's not exactly in ready-to-display shape, but we're on deadline here, and she's working for free, and I'm happy just to have it at all.

Next, I wait for good, natural light in my apartment, take a digital photo of the artwork, and shovel it onto my computer. It looks something like this:

Next, I crop and rotate the photo in GIMP.

At this point, it's still far from ready for production. The whites aren't white, and there are a lot of extraneous lines left to be cleaned up. My first thought was to attempt to go through and clean everything by hand, but that very quickly proved to be an untenable amount of work.

Luckily, GIMP has a tool called "Color Select" that selects everything in an image that's the same or a similar color. The tool has been a godsend for me. So next I create a new image with the same dimensions as the original, select everything that's black in the source image, and copy it over onto the new image. It gives me something like this:

Pretty big improvement, right? But we're not done yet. It looks a little washed out, like it's been copied poorly on a machine. So next I go after the gray tones.

It takes several steps, but eventually, I get this:

Still not perfect, but it's getting closer, and we're now at the point where manual touch-up becomes feasible. So I go in with my GIMP paintbrush/pencil tool (they work kind of the same) and eraser, and I blacken in lines that I think are meant to be blacked and get rid of lines that I think were not meant to appear in the final product. It takes some fiddling and a little artistic interpretation on my part, but eventually, I end up with an image that looks more like this:

Finally, I print off a test page, which includes the image and the text roughly as I think they'll appear in the finished version. I then put it under a good light and circle areas of the image that I think need further retouching, like so:

Then, after I go back through and do some more image correction, I come out with what's approaching a final version:

Now I still have to get it laid out for real and wait for proofs, and there's a chance that the image will need some tweaking at that stage, but for now, it's done! And in much less time than one might think, as well. This one probably only took me three or four hours of work, and I was figuring everything out as I went. Future images should take even less time than that.


The image I used as an example here is one of the black-and-white ones that appears in the print and basic digital (for black-and-white ereaders like the basic Kindle and Nook) editions of the book. Creating the Digital Deluxe Edition's colorized images was a bit more fun. I'll pop back on the blog to talk about that sometime next week.

I also have a Three Dances-related blog post in the back of my head that churns my stomach and brings tears to my eyes to think of. I will write it when I think I have the mental space to do it justice, and I will share it with you before the book's official launch on the 13th.

I promise.

No comments:

Post a Comment