The following isn’t a photoshop tutorial but rather a simple walk-through of how the basic design process works for me. Of course every artist is different and not every artist designs covers by manipulating stock photos, as I do. Photo manipulation is chiefly popular among small presses, epublishers, and self-publishers. It keeps the cost of cover design affordable yet still provides an appealing and professional quality product.
So here’s how it works (for me):
I have a standard form that I ask all authors to fill out. This form has alot of questions like, “Description of Hero (please list hair color, eye color, age, any facial hair or tattoos, etc)”. You get the idea. The author types in their responses, returns the sheet to me (or sometimes to their publisher who passes it on to me), and I get to work.
I drop by one of my usual stock photo sites and do a search for a model who fits the author’s description. I have a dozen “lightboxes” crammed full of hot men, cute children, eerie scenary, etc that I’ve stumbled across at different times, so I usually start by sifting through those and seeing if any of them will work.
Once I’ve selected my photos I purchase them, open my design program, and get to work. If the author hasn’t requested anything terribly specific, I play around a little, positioning the photos in different ways and seeing what appeals to the eye. Once I’ve formed a mental picture of what I want to do and how I want the photos positioned, I can get down to the details. I crop, resize, splice, and adjust hues and lighting. I fade some layers for a “ghosted” look. I blur or smudge out anything I don’t like. I add the title and author name of course and occasionally swirly scrollwork or floral sprays. Sometimes a publisher might ask me to add their logo to the cover or an author might want a brief review snippet or blurb on their cover.
Below is a fairly simple cover I recently did for DECADENT PUBLISHING. The title of the book is THE SWEATER CURSE by Leanne Dyck. The author indicated in her cover art form (remember I send these to the author before I start making the cover?) that she’d like the cover to depict a man removing a blue sweater.
So I selected a photo of a man who matched the author’s physical description and changed his sweater to blue (it was white in the original photo). I cropped and resized him and set him on a white background. Still we needed something more. Since the author indicated in her cover form that the book was about the birth, life, death, and possible redemption of an artist, I immediately thought of placing a clock somewhere on the cover to suggest the passage of time. There were numerous tweaks but in the end what we’ve got is a pretty straight forward cover that appeals to the eye and matches the feel of the book.
I originally created two mock-ups (rough, early versions) of this cover and emailed both to the publisher, who sent them on to the author for her thoughts. The first option was this cover, the second was one of a bare-chested man in the act of actually pulling his sweater off. This second version was more in keeping with what the author had originally suggested but in the end I think we all felt that the first option, the cover you see above, presented a more striking picture. And of course that’s what artist, author, and publisher all really want. A cover that will catch the eye of readers while suggesting the flavor of the book.
And that wraps us up for now. Next time I’ll post about what you can do to help your cover artist in creating the ideal cover for your book. Until then, happy writing.