A New Fantasy Experience

Fun with Free Art and Photos

For independent novelists, getting the things that we need to produce the best book is vital.  Getting the best things that we need for little to no money is, of course, desirable.  I had begun to think that I would never be able to get a photo-like cover that I liked unless I took the photo myself because of the very fact that I had no money to spend on a professional photographer, models, or even most stock photo sites.  My son takes photos that I have used in the past, but they entail a great deal of photoshop to make them not look like the places around my house.

I had about given up on finding photos for free on the internet that inspired me as a book cover for my fantasy series.  Then I found Unsplash and Pixabay.

Now, the photos on there are varied.  There are some that are very similar to ones I’ve seen on other sites.  Many lovely stock images of buildings, landscapes, skies, animals, and people.  I combed through their library over many tedious hours and found a few that sparked my interest.  The site says that the photos are for use for free and no credit to the photographer or contact with them is necessary, but I feel that giving credit where credit is due is important.

I picked several photos where I like certain elements and tried to keep the names of the artists with them in my computer.  Granted, I altered the ones that I used.  Heavily altered in some cases.  But, I am writing this blog to share with you the possibilities that are available on Unsplash or Pixabay, with a little help from photoshop.

Here are the original photos that I selected and downloaded for free on Pixabay and the altered finished cover for THE DAWNSTONE TALE.

This first one is an image offered by Pixabay contributor Thisismyurl aka. Christopher Ross.

U pixabay Thisismyurl Christopher Ross



I liked the lonely, resolute quality of the model’s pose, the fact that she was barefoot (which Lylith always is) and the red hair.




Her shape and wavy hair reminded me of my original Lylith model, Tara Cardinal (seen here in one of her photo-shoots shown on Model Mayhem.)


The Tower of Sunrise had to be typical enough not to be recognizable as a specific place on Earth, but strange enough that it would fit the way I saw it in my mind.  I chose an image by Pixabay graphic artist Mysticartdesign.

U pixabay mysticartdesign

Dissecting this ruin picture for the pieces that I needed, I then turned to a colorful background that would help give a sense of Jorthus.  I choose a rather popular shot of space (the Milky Way) that was available from Pexels on Pixabay. And flipped it!

After many hours (days) of fiddling with the pictures, I came up with:  Dst lylith cover 6x9


Unsplash Tomas Malik

For the second book in the series, I had a very Conan-style art cover for the first edition, but this time around I wanted to emphasize another of the central characters, Rachel, and keep the photo-e

sque look of the artwork.  I came across a rather serene and striking photo on Unsplash by a contributor named Tomas Malik.  It was simple yet seemed to say a lot about Rachel’s journey in this book.

The Convergence cover FULL 6x9 2019 KC

The color of the lake really caught my eye.  The lone figure, her bag beside her, and the cloud covered mountain all rang true to a feeling that I was relaying in Rachel’s arrival on Jorthus. So, I altered it!




In fact, if you look closely at the castle on the mountainside, you may recognize other parts of the ruins from Mysticartdesign.  The planet looming in the sky, Jorthus’ sister-world of Quorrelles, was a pure product of photoshop.








The third book cover in the series, THE EXCURSION, is the result of my son’s photo safari in a construction zone near our house.



He even graciously posed for me with one of his many swords.

Again, I wanted to keep a single main figure as a brand or style for the covers.


Excursion 6x9 332 nook

Since this is a blog about the fabulous convenience of image sharing sites like Unsplash and Pixabay, I will mention that the silhouetted horses were plucked and altered from several images on Unsplash and are varied and vast.

Not that I couldn’t have used pictures of my own horses that I took in high school, but those would have entailed scanning and rotoscope on a large scale and I just didn’t have time or energy for that. So (again) after many days on photoshop, I had an image that I think not only relayed a feeling of the journey described in the story, but matched the look and feel of the other two.

In conclusion, I found the selection and quality of pictures available on Pixabay and Unsplash excellent and highly recommend checking them out! – R.L.

Find out more about Jorthus or the books by R L Davis Hays at www.rldavishays.webs.com.

#photos #art #Pixabay #Unsplash #Jorthus






3 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Cereal Authors.


    January 11, 2020 at 12:34 pm

  2. These covers look absolutely amazing! When I saw the first figure on the stairs, I thought it WAS Tara! Stunning covers! (By the way, my daughter was bugging me again about book 4 – no pressure) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    January 11, 2020 at 12:35 pm

  3. I’m working on it at the moment. 🙂 Thanks for the support!


    February 25, 2020 at 10:52 pm

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