Starfighters in Profile

I’ve had this idea of making a series of art books based on the old Aircraft in Profile series that my dad had when I was growing up. They were In-depth histories of fighters with multiple profiles in color of each aircraft.

The hardest part of doing a book like this is actually drawing all the different profiles needed. I was either going to have to figure it out myself or hire the task out to an artist. I decided to go ahead and learn how to do it myself. I don’t profess to be a great digital artist, but I’m learning. Here are some of the first and easiest profiles that I’ve done so far. These are all KiV-1 starfighters from my Star Saga series.

It all starts with a vector based line drawing like you see below. This one shows the fighter from the left, bottom, top and right side. I didn’t do a head-on shot. Mental note: do a head-on shot. The top and bottom sides are blended which will be more evident after this one is “painted”. The program I use for this is called InkScape and it’s free and open source.

After I have this sketch completed, I import it into Gimp, which is a free and Open Source Photoshop clone. That’s where all the magic happens. Below is another version of the above line drawing but with just a left/top/right orthographic view. This attempts to recreate the cardboard model of a KiV-1 that I built years ago.

By the way, the KiV-1 is about the same size as a P-51B Mustang, as seen in the models below.

The real point of doing this is to show multiple liveries on the same starfighter. I’ve started doing this with separate files as seen below. The first one is nearly complete. I still haven’t learned how to do shading, so I may come back to this one later and add that. But it does have decals and unit markings.

The Type 33 variant just has the main parts painted in but lacks any decals or unit badges. The Type 35 is still in the process of being painted. Each color has its own layer in Gimp so you can color outside the lines and then just use an eraser to clean them up. Once I realized this was the way to go, things go so much easier. You start with an insanely high resolution vector file and then lower it to about 1000 to import it into Gimp. The zoom in and out feature is your friend.

Because these are different types, there should be some visual different in the appearance other than just colors. I have not attempted that yet. Also, usually on these profiles the aircraft are weathered a bit. Again, have not learned how do to that yet. So I have a ways to go before these are ready for print. But at least now you can see where I’m heading with this project. Eventually I’ll move on to the Alliance fighters which will have readable unit names and numbers.

The unit markers were done seperately in InkScape and imported as a layer in Gimp. Inkscape is perfect for creating cool looking unit badges and other decal type markings.

One thing that surprised me when doing these profiles is how much fun they were to make. Listening to some jams and just coloring in Gimp was pretty relaxing. A nice creative break from writing novels and a good way to make art while the dumpster fire of 2020 burns in the backgroung.

Cover Models, Corvette 3

The Corvette 3 manuscript is being scrutinized by Beta Readers at the moment, so I have some time to prep the starship models I built for the cover shoot. This began by using canned air to blow the dust off of both the pirate ship and the new corvette. More time was taken on the Kootenai to ensure dust and hairs were removed as it would probably be in the foreground. I had to glue a piece back on that the air can blew off, but other than that, they were good to go.

I still don’t have an exact idea how the ships will be positioned on the cover. I’ll try and replicate a scene from the novella and make it look visually interesting. But the end cover will come alive after a decent Photoshop session from Byron, my cover artist. The color scheme will include mostly blues and oranges. No more black and white covers like Corvette 2.

The title will be orange and the nebula and twin black holes in the background will be blue. I’m going to rely on Byron to make all that. I think the end product will be engaging and fit with the previous covers of the series. Since this is a trilogy and the next books will be called Destroyer, I’ll probably combine three novellas into a single book and charge $1.99 for it. That cover might be just a collage of the other covers.

The ebook should be out at the start of this summer with the paperback version probably coming out in the fall.



Cover Art Evolution – K’nat Trap

Every book I release has a cover that is produced by myself and my graphic designer brother, Byron. Since we are working in the Sci-Fi, Space Opera genre and in one particular universe, we try and have starships on the cover to get that fact across to future readers. We also have a certain style that we carry over from book to book so that readers get a visual clue that this new novel fits into the same universe as the last one they may have read. Being consistent with the branding helps readers find you and stick with you throughout your series.

All the covers start out with a concept doodle, by either myself or Byron. For K’nat Trap the original idea was mine and I imagined a K’nat starfighter being targeted by another fighter’s computer system or heads up display.

I didn’t have in mind any particular color but knew that the star field had to be blurred to suggest speed and that there had to be some kind of target reticule. The book’s title would be in the same font as the other series books and so would the author name.

The first thing I had to do was build the model of the K’nat Trap. That was already underway and after it was finished, I photographed it against a black felt background and sent the high definition image to Byron. He sucked it into his series book template in Photoshop and then added the text. He used a stock image for the target graphic while he worked on doing his own original version.

The green color was striking and it would stick with us for the whole process. I had a few suggestions for this version; punch up the brightness of the stars and the target. Also, we needed to start adding subtitles that declared the book to be a Star Saga story.

Now we’re getting somewhere! The image popped and the color was still working for us. Now to take out the stock image target and add Byron’s original version.

At this point I decided to try another color. The resulting experiment turned out to be too red and green or Christmas-like.

We tried again, this time going all red. The font changed to what we refer to as the bad guy font or Votainion font and it appears on the Devon’s Blade and The Blood Empress covers. Unfortunately, we felt it didn’t have the right impact so we went back to the regular series font. Byron also added some engine flare in blue.

I showed this one and a green one to some folks at work and they all seemed to prefer the old font an the green color. More comments indicated that the white lines in the target were distracting. So we changed things again, going back to green.

After studying this version I decided to call it done. It was eye-catching and it looked sharp. We could have kept tweaking but at some point you just have to pull back and let it be. This whole process took about a month for us to finish but of course building the model took many months and so did writing the book.




Corvette Cover Preview

I thought I’d try something different with this novella set before the start of the Star Saga. I wanted to see what it would look like if it were painted. The trouble is, I don’t have time to paint cover art, so I used my models and then applied a painted filter over them. What do you think? You might have to look at it on a larger monitor to see the paint effect.



GCU Griffin

This weekend it was cool outside so I busted out the blue screen and a finished model and took some pictures of it. That of course led to some Gimp action with some pretty background images. Since my brother was visiting, he got a chance to watch me photograph the model and then helped me tweak the photos in Gimp. The results are below for your viewing pleasure.




Star Saga Art

This weekend I’ve been taking pictures of my Star Saga models against a blue screen. I try and capture as many angles as possible giving myself the ability to compose interesting images in Gimp. I don’t use proprietary software like Photoshop or Mac OS, I make use Gimp and Linux. You won’t hear me say that I Photoshop anything for that reason. The first image I created was a formation break of Alliance Swift starfighters. The idea for this image came from a stunning picture of four F-15’s breaking formation.



I used one model and took four different pictures of it in four different angles. Then cut them out separately and assembled them into one image. I found a dramatic nebula background that further emphasizes the moving forward implied motion as well as framing it off center to the left. The angles of the Swifts are different from the F-15s because this is space and there is no up or down. Kinda more of a starburst formation than a typical echelon.



The next photo I did was a slow pass of two war fighting starships, a corvette and a destroyer. Both of these ships are from the Starforgers Trilogy of the Star Saga. The models are shot separately against the blue screen and then composited into one image just like the Swifts. Only this time I added engine flares to the finished image. This adds some green color in the flare that I was unable to remove.


My compositing skills are not as good as my modeling and photography skills, but with more practice, I’m getting better. I’ll have more images like this on the blog in weeks to come.

SS Weippe

This is the principle vehicle of the novel I’m currently writing – Corvette. It is a 1/350 scale model with multiple mount points. (For scale reference, it’s a few inches over a foot long.) It’s the first model I’ve built with RenShape material for the core. RenShape is a special polymer block that cuts like wood and allows me to drill a hole for a mount rod and then drill a hole and tap it for a set screw to secure the rod into the model. The rest of the model is simple sheet plastic and kit bashing. I’ll have a page for this model showing how I built it soon. The model does not have any lights but it does have drilled out portholes where lights would go. I later used Gimp to light some of the portholes.

The model was mounted to a tripod in front of standard blue screen and lit with the Master Key, or the sun. The blue screen material covering the mount rod caused some blue reflection on the bottom of the model. So I chose a blue nebula star field image to matte behind it for the finished image. I used Gimp to assemble the composite.



Shadow Fighter Showdown

My latest scratch built starfighter model is the K’nat fighter or as they call it in STARSTRIKERS – the Shadow fighter. While I’m building my model from plastic and Renshape, my son is building his model in Blender. He’s much faster than I am. It’s going to be a race to see who’s fighter will make it to the cover of K’nat Trap, my next novella.



At this point, he’s winning.

Cover Model – The Blood Empress

The cover of my novella The Blood Empress features a dual KIV-3 starfighter. This is actually a 1/48 scale plastic model scratch built specifically for this cover art. In addition to being a writer, I’m also a model builder. All the starships featured on my novel covers are original designs created specifically for my novels. In many cases they are taken from old drawings I and my friends did when we were kids. The designs have been modernized and my modeling skills have improved since childhood resulting in some pretty cool models.

This model started with some PVC tubes and model rocket nose cones.

The center section is complete with a 1/4 20 screw mount for holding the model up while its photographed.

Details and fins are made from plastic and various other model parts, known as greeblies.

Wings are built from sheet plastic and attached.

The final creation is then painted with acrylics and weathered with pastels. The paint scheme was based on a WWII German Messerschmidt.


The model is then put against a blue screen and photographed with a DSLR camera. I use a Canon camera and high intensity flood lights under blue gels to simulate sunlight. This image is then passed on to my graphic artist brother, Byron, who uses Photoshop to insert it into a scene for the cover. The background image is a modified NASA photo of Mars. He adds battle damage, markings and exhaust flames.

The Blood Empress 10-27-15 High Res

The final design is composed with a title and author name to make an eye catching cover with all the right elements to attract readers who enjoy Sci-Fi. I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at how I build a book cover. You can find detailed looks at all the spaceships I have built under the Model Builds menu of my website. You can buy The Blood Empress on Amazon Kindle.


Weathering the Terrox Model, Part 1

My second favorite part of modelling is weathering. After the details have been finalized and the base coat of primer and paint applied the final step is giving the model a history. That’s what I think of when I weather a model. No machine stays looking factory fresh over its lifetime. Dents happen, weather happens, maintenance happens. Sometimes battles happen and damage occurs. This is the secret history of a vehicle over time.

For the Terrox model I decided to just go with the base gray primer color and instead of adding unit markings and exotic camouflage patterns I’d just concentrate on heavy weathering. This is a front line starfighter in a war that has raged for hundreds of years. Field maintenance, battle damage and modifications are the norm. All of which can be simulated in weathering.


I started with the port wing and the engine nacelles. All skin after the wings has been removed for easy access. The Votianion starforce used a blue-gray color for interior paint. I mixed several Tamiya grays and blue and white to get the color I was after. This color was inspired by the teal blue color inside Russian fighter planes. It contrasts nicely with the flat gray primer base. For the exhaust pipes I went with a burnt brass color. This was to mimic the exhaust pipes of modern fighter planes.


The area along the engine tubes was detailed heavily with mechanical looking model parts. I wanted this to be oily and dirty to add interest for the eye mostly. In this shot of the starboard engine you can see where a panel has been removed on the body of the nacelle exposing some ribs. This was done to suggest a field modification.

The technique I used on this part of the model was mostly a black acrylic wash. I touched it up with a bit of dry brushing of the original blue-gray paint. I then dusted it with black pastel dust and a soft brush.


The panel lines on this wing were done with a Tamiya scribe. I love that tool. Then I accented them with a #2 pencil that was carved with a hobby knife to have a sedge shape to get into the panel. I got this technique from Fine Scale Modeler magazine. Then I went to work on the panels themselves to make them pop. Most aircraft modelers use a technique of filling panel lines with black and then lightly spraying over that with the base coat of paint. This leaves a shadow area around the lines.

I don’t do that with these starfighter models. For this one I used my own process of dusting the panel lines with black pastel dust and then hitting the middle of the panels with white pastel dust and rubbing it all in with my fingers. It’s a tad bit messy but the results can be pretty good.


This image above shows my pastel brushes and chalk dust covered paper towel. Someday I’ll have to do a video showing me dusting panel lines.


The next area of focus was the port nacelle. The blotches were done with a dry and wet brush of gray and black dabbled on with a brush. Then I hit the area with a fine sand paper and repeated the blotching. I was quite pleased with how it came out and hope to emulate that all over the model.


I just had time to continue the blotching a bit on the front of the nacelle intake.


I’ll do another post as I get further along in the weathering process. Since I’ve taken these pictures I’ve begun adding a few smaller decals. That process will be explored in the next post.