As a SFF cover designer, publishing house, or self-published author, if you haven’t heard of NeoStock, then you’ve been living under a rock. We all know the struggle of the search for (a) good, usable, fit-for-purpose, high quality SFF stock, and (b) that piece that hasn’t been used by everyone across a thousand covers.
World renowned cover designer Dean Samed–responsible for a range of well known covers for authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, and Graham Masterton–has put his ability to wider use and kicked off the premier SFF stock site out there, NeoStock. It’s full of high quality themed shoots covering just about everything you could want, and there are thousands of photos per shoot. Thousands.
Anyhow, blowing smoke up Dean and NeoStock isn’t the purpose of this post. Having been a part of his Facebook focus group, I’ve been keeping a keen eye out on what cover designers have been producing. If you love a good bit of art, you could spend twenty minutes in a far worse manner than scrolling through that group because there are some absolute gems.
Without further ado, I give you the top five cover designs from the NeoStock focus group.
THE GREY DEAD (by J. Caleb Design)
If you’re after some grit in your cover, you could find few better than J. Caleb Design. The Grey Dead is just one excellent example of his work and his site is a great example of what’s possible through a skilled designer. He’s made excellent use of a couple of NeoStock’s models, and I’m a huge fan of his progress shots that showcase his ability to take a model and make it something that pulls at your interest and stands out from the crowd. Aesthetically, I love the alignments between the sword angle and the broad colour strokes in the background, as well.
FALLEN EMPIRE (by The Mighty Pen)
Pen Astridge of The Mighty Pen has showcased the model’s ability, allowing that rageface to shine with her deft design touches (how cool is that blue right eye!). One of the hardest things to find in stock photography is a model that really puts some genuine emotion onto their face, and when you’ve seen models with their half-arsed ragefaces that ruin an otherwise solid cover you know the value of this kind of effort. What Pen’s done best here is allow the model to shine, to bring out that extra bit out of him and add to the feeling that this warrior is about to burst off the cover and attack you like you stole his beer.
KNEE-DEEP IN GRIT (by STKreations)
Give Shawn King a theme and a model and he’ll deliver you a deadset movie poster-level cover. To me, Shawn’s signature style is his angled typography and ability to create colour and movement while also ensuring a working cover from a sales perspective. His covers catch the eye for their movement and action, and he has a horde of fans in the dark fantasy and grimdark communities for a reason, and that’s because he consistently delivers cover of this level (Knee Deep in Grit).
Soul Bound (by J.M Rising Horse Creations)
I look at this and I shiver. Jennifer Munswami of J.M. Rising Horse Creations has created a chilly ambience with her use of blues and whites in this cover, and the use of the tiger’s head is both dynamic and not ham-fisted. Overall this cover sticks out from the sales page despite being quite dark and lacking a spark of bright colour that you’ll often see in juxtaposition. Her skill is to bring the model and the magic off the page while sticking within her colour palette to maintain that feeling of biting cold.
THE LIBRARIAN (by Anna Czekala)
This cover would require a more innovative style of typography placement to create balance, but I just love this piece by Anna Czekala. The librarian with a book tucked under her arm in a dark, dank library smelling of leather and old bones and melted candlewax just speaks to all the right emotions and senses for me. I haven’t seen a version of this one with typography, yet, but I would love to.
If you haven’t yet checked out NeoStock, click on the below logo and get yourself over there.