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.

Notes and Variants

Dressing up the Cover – Part 6

This is Part 6 of the Dressing up the Cover tutorial and previously we covered Taglines and Layer Styles.

t_21-Tagline-Inserted.pngNotes on Bravo

Bravo was originally released along with two (2) other variants and was by far the most popular of the three (3). Feedback shown below led to the creation of other variants.

Bravo caught my attention better than the others.

Bravo looks the most professional, although the fonts are kind of sterile.

I’m not a fan of any of them. They all scream —self-published— in the worst of ways.

None of them say horror to me.  If you’re sold on using the image, I’ definitely try to bring it out in the fonts.  Look at some popular horror titles and see what they use.  That will give you an idea of what communicates —horror— to readers.

Overall, the points brought forward were related to the choice of font and how the cover did not fit the ideal horror cover. The Portrait does not subscribe to the modern ideals of horror, at least in terms of gore playing a large part.

People expected to see streaks of blood, fangs protruding from the lady’s mouth or vast amounts of gore. This worked against the story of the premise where the supernatural settings are concealed for most of the novel and would potentially spoil the surprise!

There was a noticed distaste for the red borders employed with this particular variant. While I initially believed that they infused the cover with a bit of colour, people predominantly disagreed and preferred to have no transitions as all.

Over all I managed to pick up a few points to work on:

  • Keep some distance between the outside edges of the image and the font. Text elements are more likely to remain visible if the image needs to be truncated or applied to a printed cover;
  • The use of red for fonts to add in colour may not work out as expected. Red does not display well in black and white images;
  • There is a strong preference for covers to use an image covering the whole of the visible area. This led to the development of Hotel and India variations which are covered later;
  • Font selection is key and has been discussed before. There was a strong push for Trajan Pro as a general-purpose font.

Some  recommendations were applied to Bravo which created the variant below.  While it does not address all of the faults, it does provide an incremental improvement.

A Hotel Visit

Hotel was a variant that aimed to make use of different fonts that would grab the attention of a potential reader.  This version also made use of transparencies and the outer glow effect which differs from other versions.  While Hotel universally reviled in comments it does have certain features that were fun to explore.

You will need to make use of the Lady Normal Base, to proceed with this aspect of the tutorial.

The cover size is longer than the original image allows . To achieve this we needed to create a mirror image copy then join them at the seams. This increases the space above her head to prevent the Author’s Name from obstructing her face.

From the Image menu, select Canvas Size.

30-Canvas-Size-Select.pngA new Window appears, which permits you to adjust the Size of the canvas. Increase the Height of to 16000 pixels then ensure Placement is set to Bottom, Middle as shown:

31-Canvas-Size-Options.png

Click on the OK button, which adds an empty space above the image found.

32-Canvas-Size-Result.pngUsing the Selection Tool, make a copy of the top portion of the Base then Paste as a New Layer. You up with two copies of the Top with the new selection that needs to be flipped.

From the Image Menu select Flip then Flip Vertical.

33-Flip-Vertical.pngLine-up the images as though they were part of a mirror image. Once satisfied with the merger, right-mouse click on the layers then from the Merge Popup-Menu select Merge All (Flatten).

This operation will merge both layers together. You may need to experiment until the connection is seamless.

Next add the Author, Title and Taglines. As mentioned previously, Layer Styles for Author and Title employ of Outer Glow, Emboss and Transparencies to get the desired effect. To reproduce the effects showcased on the cover the following fonts were used.

  • Title — Bebas Neue Bold
  • Author — Oleo Script
  • Tagline — Cinzel (Bolded)

For Layer Styles adjust until settings match the options below:

35-Layer-Styles-Emboss.pngThe next step is to adjust the Outer Glow, set it to match those shown below:

34-Layer-Styles-Glow.png

While there are a lot of ways to adjust transparency, you can do so from the General Tab of the Layer Properties window. Copy the settings found below then save it for later use. This ensures consistency when applying it to other layers.

The Tagline only makes use of Emboss, copy the settings below to match our style.

35-Layer-Styles-Transparency.png

The Tagline only makes use of Emboss, copy the settings below to match our style.

36-Layer-Styles-Emboss-Tagline.png

You end up with a cover which looks roughly like our sample.

A Trip to India

India was not one of my designs. Ironically, an acquaintance used a phone app to whip up a design she felt worked well. This formed the basis for cover design used on The Portrait.

Other than making use of Lady Ethereal as a base, this design uses techniques which have been explained before.  To the following fonts were used:

  • Title – Cinzel (Bolded)
  • Author – Cinzel (Bolded)
  • Tagline – Cinzel (Bolded)

In Part 7, we will talk about making a Cover Swatch.

Taglines and Layer Styles

Dressing up the Cover – Part 5

This is Part 5 of the Dressing up the Cover tutorial and previously we covered Borders and Text.

Make use of the Pick Tool from the Tools Bar to reduce the size of Lady Shade until she fits within the confines of the borders. Take your time to ensure that the resize operation is done using one of the Corners to maintain Aspect Ratio.

Note

Sometimes the Pick Tool will not Resize. Attempts to modify will instead alter the Perspective which is not the desired behaviour. To correct this behaviour change the Mode to Scale.

After completing your adjustments Lady Shade should look roughly like below.

20-Lady-Shade-Adjusted.png

Now is the time to add a Tagline, a sentence or short paragraph which is used to grab a reader. Since we not use complex Layer Styles for this section we can go ahead and create it one layer.

The Liberation Sans Font was used for the tagline. The Font Size was set to 72 Points so we can work on it later. Note that Bold or Italics in the Font Styles were not selected.

To match our example the following line was used:

A vision from the

past becomes a

writer’s deadly

obsession

Once the text is inserted, resized then moved the appropriate location (shown below) the image should resemble the following.

21-Tagline-Inserted.png

Next make use of Layer Styles to finish up the Text Lines and Borders.  From the Layers Panel, select one of your Author’s Name Layer’s then click on the Layer Styles icon.

22-Layer Styles.png

The Layer Properties window will open and feature effects applicable to layers. As seen below, operations range from Reflection and Drop Shadow effects.

23-Layer-Styles-Window.png

For the Title and Author we want to make use of the Emboss style, use the settings above then click on OK to set the Layer Style. This process must be repeated for each layer, so save these settings to use as pre-sets. This will ensure consistency throughout all of the elements.

24-Layer-Styles-Window-Tagline.png

Now for the Tagline Layer, we will adjust Drop Shadow. You can copy the settings found above, to provide a subtle shadow effect to create the illusion the tagline floating over-top the Lady Shade Layer.

Use Layer Styles to Emboss the Borders as well. Once complete the cover should appear as it does below.

In Part 6, we will talk about Notes and Variants.

Borders and Text

Dressing up the Cover – Part 4

This is Part 4 of the Dressing up the Cover tutorial and previously we covered Creating a New Image and Placing Lady Shade.

To continue with our design, we need to add two rectangles that have a Black Border and Fill. From the Tools Bar, select the Rectangle Tool.

15-Rectangle-Tool.png

Create two new Rectangles, one at the top and the second at the bottom and have them in the same Vector Layer to manage. Also ensure the Lady Shade layer is just above the Background Layer else the rectangles will be obscured.

Now create a Rectangle that has a Red Border and Fill. This one will be small and narrow to create a transition between the Lady Shade Layer and the Filler Layer. Duplicate this Rectangle using CTRL-C/CTRL-V combinations then move them over the transition points.

These two Rectangles should be grouped as this permits the application of consistent Layer Styles later on. This Borders Layer should then be placed on top the Filler Layer.

The image should appear like the one shown below.

16-Rectangles-Added.png

Now it is time to add text. For now, we will work on the Title and the Author’s Name. These elements are prominently found on covers, although the prominence of the Author’s Name tends to vary with name recognition.

From the Tools Bar select the Text Tool.

17-Text-Tool.png

As seen above, the Neuton Font was used for both the Title and Author’s Name. Since we are working at high resolutions, setting the Font Size to 72 Points and Bold is enough to both select and adjust at a later time.

Because Layer Styles will be used later on, the Title and Author’s Name are broken into smaller chunks. The image below denotes the different segments by alternating colours.

18-Fonts-Adjusted-Coloured.png

Using the tricks learned in Higher Resolution Blues, we lined up then Link the layers for both the Title (3) and Author’s Name (4).

Note

Make sure to line up the individual elements before making any alterations.  Once dimensions change, replicating the change in individual components is difficult to achieve.  To adjust a line, select all layers by holding down the SHIFT key.

Experiment with these Text Lines until it looks like the image below. Be aware that you may need to move the Border Layers in addition to adjusting the Filler Layers to achieve this result.

19-Fonts-Adjusted-Normal.png

Note

When you want to resize a Text Line, always do so from the Corners. Using the other methods will stretch and skew the Text Line.

In Part 5, we will Add the Tagline then Adjust Layer Styles.

New Image and Lady Shade

Dressing up the Cover – Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Dressing up the Cover tutorial and previously we covered Caveats and Workarounds.

Before creating a cover, look at best-sellers within your genre. They showcase trends and expectations, such as the location, placement and style of image. After some research, I created a series of covers including the Bravo variant.

We know that Amazon.com requires their covers to be of a certain size. This guideline informs us that a resolution 625x1000px is the minimum resolution. From the File menu, click on New, which will open the New Image Window.

12-Slate-Create.png

We are going to create an image that is bigger than required to maintain detail:

  • 6250 pixels wide;
  • 10000 pixels high;
  • 300 Pixels/Inch for resolution; and
  • Transparent.

Once you are satisfied with the settings, click on OK, which will create a new image base. Now that we have a blank slate, it is time to start adding in elements.

For this particular version, we are going to use Lady Shade without the Ethereal background. Open up your fully rendered version of this image then copy it into the New Image. To copy a Background, select the Background Layer then use the CTRL-C keyboard combination. Alternatively you can click on the Edit menu then select Copy.

Click on the Tab for your New Image. Then use the CTRL-V combination or from the Edit menu select Paste As New Layer. This will drop in Lady Shade which takes up more than the allocated space. The end result should look like this:

13-Copied-Shade.png

Lady shade is currently not in position, we want her closer to the centre, even if that leaves a blank at the top.  From the Tools Bar, select the Pick Tool then drag it down for a bit.

Note

Do not worry if the image moves off the confines of the image.  This has no effect on the layer being moved.

Resize and adjust as necessary, until you get the result below:

14-Shade-Adjusted.png

In Part 4, we will Play with Borders and Text.