Night Creature creature artist Duncan Long's creation for a book cover

Sometimes, some pretty strange characters need to be illustrated for book and magazine stories. Whether science fiction, fantasy, or horror, often a weird monster (big or small) is key to the plot as well as hooking a reader.

So I find myself assembling some pretty strange characters when illustrating such stories. As of late I’ve been creating 3D models for this purpose. While the initial work is harder, the payoff is a figure that can be posed and have its “lighting” altered to make a very realistic picture — or series of pictures.

And if a pose or the lighting isn’t quite to a client’s liking, changes can be rapidly made to get things just right.

For example, the “Night Creature” above can be relit, posed, and have a background added to create the creature pictured below:

Night creature illustration by book cover artist Duncan Long

Another plus of this process is that I can make a quick “render” of a figure I create and send the resulting picture as an email attachment to a client. This makes sure we’re on the same page before I start the final illustration. If the creature needs a tweaking, it’s easily done at this point and little time is lost in the process of creating the book or magazine artwork. Here’s the “full body shot” of a 3D character:Demon 8 demonstration render by magazine illustrator Duncan Long

And here’s the same creature in a “closeup portrait” shot.

Demon 8 reposed to glar at the viewer - artwork by Duncan Long

Here’s another weird creature:

chip 3 book story creature by Duncan Long

And from another angle…

Chip the Alien magazine art by illustrator Duncan Long

Now notice how this “cute” creature becomes ominous with the proper lighting:

Chip 2b with ominous lighting to give a more monstrous look.

Once the creature’s design has been finalized, I can then move to the actual illustration work with suitable lighting and background in place along with any weapons, clothing, or other features the creature needs to have. This process results in a creature tailored to the writer’s story, with a step-by-step process that is both rapid and also pretty painless for both the artist as well as the author and publisher.

Here’s one such final picture: “Killer Toad.”

Plan 10 - Killer Toad book cover creature with final lighting and pose - illustration by Duncan Long


Duncan Long is a freelance magazine and book illustrator, working for indie publishers as well as large presses. You can see more of his artwork at his Online Gallery.