The hardcover will be off to the printer very soon. Emmie’s just applying a few finishing touches.

Over the past two months, Ian and I have continued to refine the method we’re using to create the look and feel of our illustrations. Here’s an illustration from Chapter 2 — where Dom encounters Serapen in Musaion — and the story about how it came together.

Storyboards laid the foundation

In our original storyboards, we selected the scenes we felt captured key parts of the story arc. Those storyboards showed us the characters, environments, and poses we would need to capture in our illustrations, and it also gave us a place to develop a color palette to help differentiate our primary “realms” — Dulai, Earth, and the alternet. (Dulai, in this case, takes on a violet cast.)

Here’s the original storyboard for this illustration:

Sketches set our direction for overall look-and-feel

Early on, we decided based on some of Ian’s exploratory sketches that we wanted to achieve a look that was shadow heavy, as we liked the dramatic simplicity that comes with lots of darkness.

More sketches brought our characters to life

For key characters in the storyboards, we developed the unique look of each character through sketches. Here’s a collection of sketches that led to the final look for Serapen.

Zbrush added the third dimension

The next step — selecting which elements and characters to model in Zbrush — has been the trickiest aspect of the project so far. Three-dimensionality adds a lot of visual interest and depth to a scene, but modeling is far more time-consuming than sketching. Too much modeling also risks reducing the graphic novel quality of the images. Although we like how three-dimensionality evokes the idea of the alternet, we don’t want the illustrations to look simply like a screen capture of a virtual world.

Since Dom’s character appears in so many scenes, and because his physique is so distinctive, he became the testing ground for many of Ian’s experiments in Zbrush, from modeling to posing to shading.

Trial and error, Photoshop, and plenty of elbow grease combined 3D and 2D elements into the final result

The high-fidelity model of Dom allowed us to work on scenes that feature him alongside elements we intended to have a more hand-drawn quality. Here are a few of the elements we combined into the final image.

And voilà!

The final result:

Kickstarter Update #8: Refining our mix of 3D and 2D illustration elements

October 2, 2012

I’ve just posted our latest Kickstarter update showing some detailed images of the ZBrush work Ian has been creating for the illustrated version of Realms Unreel. This first image, which you may recognize as Zeke’s samurai avatar, Prodigytal, demonstrates how we can take 3D-modeled character renders from ZBrush and push them through Photoshop to get [...]

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iTunes Producer doesn’t play nice with Scrivener ePub exports

August 28, 2012

Just thought I’d share some of my recent experiences preparing Realms Unreel for the iBookstore, in hopes that this will help other authors grappling with the taciturn error messages of iTunes Publisher. Using iTunes Producer 2.7.1, I was trying to deliver the ePub format of Realms Unreel to my iTunes Connect publisher account. I encountered the following [...]

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Kickstarter Update #7: Faces and places, look and feel

July 11, 2012

Over the past few months, the look and feel of Realms Unreel has taken shape in the studio of our esteemed illustrator. In parallel with the work of storyboarding scenes and developing characters, Ian has been exploring ways to combine the aesthetic of hand-drawn illustrations with the three-dimensionality of models created in Zbrush. We’re looking [...]

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Kickstarter Update #6: Realms Unreel, from Ava to Zeke

March 19, 2012

Before Ian and I met for our official Kickstarter project kickoff in February, we agreed to a bit of pre-illustration homework. It was slightly ambitious homework, perhaps; we each wanted to identify a sequence of scenes from Realms Unreel that captured the entire story (350+ pages of narrative) in just a handful of images. When [...]

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Facebook ads for self-published book promotion

March 10, 2012

In terms of exposure, no self-promotion effort I’ve tried so far has even come close to the Facebook ad campaign. Here are the numbers. Between February 23rd and March 10th … 2,750,762 unique Facebook users saw one of my Realms Unreel ads ⬇ 23,212 unique Facebook users clicked on one of my Realms Unreel ads ⬇ [...]

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Realms Unreel Kickstarter Case Study

March 10, 2012

[AA's note: Pardon the third-person POV. This is a case study my friend Diana Kimball wrote based on information I gave her about the Realms Unreel Kickstarter project I'm running in collaboration with my friend Ian Steplowski.] Realms Unreel: A Fiction Project by Audrey Auden On December 5, 2011, Audrey Auden stepped away from her [...]

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150 minutes a day

March 10, 2012

In November 2010, after years of trying and failing to finish my first novel, my writing had come to a standstill. Perfectionism, outsized expectations, lack of discipline — there was plenty of blame to go around. So I started over. I decided that finishing an awful novel would be far better than never finishing anything [...]

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How I reached my first 5,000 readers

March 10, 2012

Some time in the last week, the five thousandth copy of Realms Unreel found its way into the hands of my five thousandth reader. Here’s a timeline of my readership growth. November 2010 through October 2011 — 9 readers Over the year I spent writing Realms Unreel, six beta readers and three freelance editors read the [...]

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