Evelyn Chartres Author

Creating a Cover Swatch

Dressing up the Cover – Part 7

I discovered through trial-and-error that dropping a series of images into a gallery then asking users to comment was inefficient. Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Users tend to ignore titles and will comment on the first, or third image. Unfortunately some sites will vary the order;
  • Users have a hard time comparing covers which are very similar in design. This requires them to look back and forth, which makes comparisons more difficult.
  • Images dropped into a gallery may not exist or be accessible later. The first time I created a sample gallery to compare against, the images became unavailable and was unable to address the issue. This particular behaviour is showcased below:

52-Post-Error.pngTo mitigate the above points, I created a swatch containing all of the images. This permits me to provide titles, a consistent order and can throw in thumbnails to compare how covers will appear at smaller dimensions. That single image will mean users need only click-once to get a view of all versions, which increases the chance of getting meaningful commentary.

Creating a Swatch is straightforward; create a canvas large enough to fit the desired versions. Since Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing lists covers should be least 625 x 1000 pixels, all featured variants meet the minimum.

Using larger covers in the swatch can make it too large to upload at many sites. Additionally, the swatch would take more time to view and require users to zoom-in and out frequently. Hence sticking to the minimum provides avoids a whole slew of issues.

Cutting Down to Size

Before we begin, we need to create usable variations. The files we created contain Layers and Styles which react differently at lower resolutions. Additionally, we want to preserve these originals, so use the Save as Copy feature to avoid modifying the source files.

Open up your Bravo Paint Shop Pro project file then from the File menu click on Save Copy As.

41-Save-Copy-As.pngThis feature permits you to save a copy of the image without modifying the working image.  Select either JPG or PNG formats then click on Save.

Note

Ensure that your save path and file name are correct prior to completing this operation.

42-Save-Copy-As-Window.pngYou will be presented with a warning about losing Layers and Styles through a Merger. This is precisely what we want, since the image is to be resized later. Click on Yes, then open this newly created image.

43-Save-Copy-As-Warning.pngFrom the Image menu click on Resize.

44-Resize.pngA new window will pop-up. Resize to 625 x 1000 pixels or settings that allows you to meet the requirements. Since our examples made use of increments of the minimum size, so the window appears as follows:

45-Resize-Window.pngOnce satisfied, click on the OK button.

Repeat the above steps for each variant;  in this tutorial we did the same for Hotel and India.

Creating the Canvas

Since we are dealing with three variants (Bravo, Hotel and India) we need to create a swatch that permits fitting in all three. We also need to include a buffer since thumbnails will be added as well. So we create a canvas that is:

  • Width — 2500 pixels.
  • Height — 1400 pixels.
  • Resolution — 300 dpi.

From the File menu click on New. This will bring up a new window, replicate the options shown below:

40-Swatch-Create.pngThe colour of your background should be something neutral. This provides a separation between the covers and will not distract the viewer. For the above example, we used a variant of grey.

Once satisfied click on OK and a new image with the appropriate dimensions will be created.

Dropping in the Variants

Now drop in copies of the variations onto the canvas. Click on your copy of Bravo then select the Background Layer. Now from Edit menu, click on Copy or use the CTRL-C keyboard combination.

46-Copy.pngThis will place a copy into your clipboard.  Switch to your Swatch then from the Edit menu click on Paste As New Layer.

47-Paste-As-New-Selection.pngThis will drop-in Bravo, which can be moved anywhere onto the canvas.  Since this is our first entry, place it near the edge on the left and leave a bit of spacing.

48-Selection-Dropped-In.pngNow add-in the thumbnails for Bravo.  Switch to your Copy of Bravo and shrink down the image to a maximum 160×160 pixels.  Repeat the Copy-and-Paste operation done previously then drop-in the thumbnail.

48-Thumbnail-Dropped-In.pngNow we can compare the full-sized cover to the thumbnail.  This permits us to see how the image appears on Amazon.com.  Now we lack a method of seeing how it appears on a black and white display like the Kindle Paperwhite.

Drop-in another thumbnail then from the Effects menu, select Photo Effects then Black and White Film.

49-Black-and-White.pngA new window will appear, I found that Default is sufficient for this step.

50-Black-and-White-Film.pngWhen satisfied, click on OK.

To add in a label, from the Tools Bar, select the Text Tool.  For this example, Arial Black at 28 points set all Black was used.  Adjust as necessary to end up with a result that looks like the following:

51-Text-Tool.pngNow you have the following on your swatch:

  • Main image;
  • Thumbnail;
  • Black and white thumbnail; and
  • Label.

Repeat as necessary for the other variants.

Final Touches

Once finished, crop the Image to remove any unused space.  You should end up with an end-result that resembles the following:

Swatch.jpgNow you have one image that gives you an overview the three covers.  It’s easy to compare one against another and allows you to see how they hold up at lower dimensions and on black and white displays.

Hotel does not display well as a thumbnail or in black and white.  That alone should steer you away from that design.

Create these whenever you wish to compare a sample set of covers.

A Mild Dose of the ‘Eat Me’ Cake

Digital Alchemy – Part 12

This is Part 12 of the Digital Alchemy tutorial and previously we created an Ethereal Night.

The base resolution for this picture is barely within the guidelines set out by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Obviously, we cannot create additional pixels where none exists. Modern programs have gotten far more effective at increasing image size without leading to a dramatic loss in quality, however there are limits and artefacts will be introduced.

Fortunately, the original shot was a painting and we have the option of using Corel PaintShop Pro to the image in brush strokes to simulate a painting. This will smooth out errors and leave us with a high-resolution image.

From the Image menu, select Resize.

From the Resize window, you can resize based on Pixels, Percentage, Print Size and Based on One Side. Select By Pixels, then set the Width to 9000 pixels.

When you switch to By Print Size, more options become available. Namely, you can set the Resolution (density) in pixels per inch (Pixels/Inch) also known as Dots Per Inch (DPI).

This measurement is important for printing an image and should be considered when self-publishing through CreateSpace or similar. We want to set the Resolution to 300, which is better than the 96 DPI used for screens.

Switching from one resize method to the other maintains settings; so set the Resolution then return to Pixels to find your selected pixel intact.

Note

This multiple section Resize window is new with Corel PaintShop Pro X8. Earlier versions had an all inclusive window instead. However, the capabilities is the same between versions.

Now we have a larger image than the original, flaws an all. From the Effects menu, select Art Media Effects then Brush Strokes.

Brush Strokes is powerful and yet slow effect, especially at high resolutions, so selecting the Preview on Image check-box is not recommended.

Select Factory Defaults from Settings then change the Color under Lighting to introduce purple with the brush strokes. To learn more about these settings, click on the Dice button to observe how changes play a role in the effect.

When satisfied with, you end up with an effect similar to the one shown below. To showcase the effect, a zoomed in portion of her head is shown to highlight the introduced purple plays a part in colouring her crown.

Lastly, this is a full version Lady Ethereal is shown below:

Instead of using Lady Shade, use the Soft Light blend on the Original version of the Lady. This version has more skin tone and is a better suited for some covers.

Ethereal Night

Digital Alchemy – Part 11

This is Part 11 of the Digital Alchemy tutorial and previously we Removed Lady Shade’s Glow.

Lady Shade in the previous section fits in well with an eerie scenes. Now we will experiment with a variant that creates a ghostly background; one which may be might encountered when a fog rolls in. We need to use Radial Gradients to achieve this effect.

Note

These new layers must be be located above all others for them to be effective.

First, create a New Raster Layer then provide the settings shown below. Set the Blend mode to Darken then reduce the Opacity to 50%.

Definition – Darken

Displays pixels in the selected layer that are darker than the underlying layers.  Pixels lighter than the underlying layers disappear.

Using the Material Properties window, click on the + button to create a new gradient. The mechanisms discussed in Let There Be Night are still in play.

However, with the Night Sky Layer we did not care about Centre Point or Focus Point, as we wanted a linear and gradual transition. Now Radial Gradients are used (select the third from the top), these settings will play a large part in how the gradient will progress and from which point.

These layers may seem counter-intuitive, since this layer aims to maintain lightness in certain areas while they darken those covered by a gradient we will creat next. Replicate the settings shown below then click on the OK button.

When prompted to save; provide a meaningful name. Gradients cannot be sampled using the Dropper Tool, so saving your gradients is the only way to create or modify them later.

Once the new gradient is complete, use the Fill Tool from the Tools Bar to populate the Ethereal – Trees Layer.

Now create a New Raster Layer then select Screen as the Blend Mode vice Darken from the previous layer.

Definition – Screen

Lightens the colors of underlying layers by multiplying the inverse of the selected layer and of the underlying layers.  The result is a color that is the same or a lightened version of the selected layer.  This blend mode produces the same result regardless of the order in which the layers are stacked on the Layers palette.

Because of the Screen Blend Mode, this gradient will lighten many areas in the field including Lady Shade. This is why the Darken Blend Mode was created previously to counteract some of these effects.

Once you use the Fill Tool from the Tools Bar to populate the Ethereal – Field Layer you will end up with something that looks like this.

Next in Part 12, we will give Lady Shade a Mild Dose of the ‘Eat Me’ Cake.

Removing the Lady’s Glow

Digital Alchemy – Part 10

This is Part 10 of the Digital Alchemy tutorial and previously we Took a Bite out of Lady Gray.

In the process of creating an eerie night scene, a glow was introduced on the left side of the Lady’s face. This glow detract from the overall effect, so best to remove it!

From the Tools Bar, select the Lighten/Darken Brush to address this problem.

Note

Since the Soften Brush is already selected, click on the arrow besides the icon to show tools selectable within that group.

Select the Background then zoom in on the area. Since this is a combination tool, the left-mouse click will Lightenen the area while a right-mouse click Darkens. Darken the area on the background while with the Lady Shade layer remains visible to gauge the effectiveness of the correction.

Once pleased with the results, you should end with the following end-result.

Next in Part 11, we will create an Ethereal Night.

Taking a Bite Out of the Lady

This is Part 9 of the Digital Alchemy tutorial and previously we made the Lady Green with Envy.

Lady Shade may share the undead’s skin-tone, but lacks something linking her with vampire lore. Early on in the cover’s design it was decided that the effect should be subtle to provide the viewer with a clue. This made fangs too obvious, however puncture marks hidden in the shadow of her neck seemed appropriate.

Using the Brush tool from the Tools Bar, place two marks in the appropriate area as shown below:

A new layer was created when those brush marks were made. From the Adjust menu, select Brightness and Contrast then Highlight/Midtone/Shadow. When you select Highlight/Midtone/Shadow, you will be requested to convert to a Raster Layer, agree and continue.

Set the elements as shown below or select Intense colour pre-set from Settings.

Double-click on the Fangs Layer then click on the Layer Styles tab. We are going adjust the Emboss settings to add shadows and depth. Either replicate what you see below or experiment to add a unique flare.

Double-click on the Fangs Layer then click on Blend Ranges tab. Select Soft Light as the Blend mode for this example.

From the Tools Bar, select the Soften Brush. This feature smooths-out elements within the affected area, a useful feature for removing the jagged edges.

Hover over the area then click to apply the effect, continue until satisfied. Remember to use CTRL-Z to Undo when necessary.

When complete the effect should produce an image that looks like the one below. Not only is the end result subtle, but should make this clue worth finding.

Next in Part 10, we will Remove the Lady’s Glow.