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Generating a Cover Illustration

Discussion in 'Cover Design' started by Addison, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    Hi guys,

    Well I've taken a big step in my story, it's at a proof reader's. So to take my mind off it, and to exterminate the butterflies from my stomach, I've started working on the cover.

    I have the title, the font, the placement and all that typing stuff. The only thing I'm stuck on is what is drawn on the cover. A cover should have an element of the story on it correct? Usually the character and something in the story. But how do you decide which other element? Also how do you decide what pose? Which direction it's going (up, down, left, right, curving)? Is it just on the front cover or does it flow to the spine?

    I know I want a bit of the setting, Portland, and the main character, but I'm not sure if the city should be like the background and the character should be foreground or maybe the city part extends from fore to back with something else in the background.

    How the heck does one decide on the cover? I wrote the beginning of the story with less hassle.
     
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  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    One possibility: hire an artist.

    I'm about in the same position, though it's ebook rather than print. Here's what I have found so far.

    1. A huge number of covers come from stock photos that are composited in various ways. Many people can spot the look right away, but at least it can be done cheap. By cheap I mean down around a hundred bucks or so but running up to four or five hundred.

    2. Original art, at least if it's good, is frighteningly expensive. From several hundreds to thousands.

    You hire an artist for the same reason you hire an editor and a proofreader--because no matter how good your craft, you're too close to the project.

    And that's what I've learned so far. Next week I may have learned entirely different things!
     
  3. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    I'm doing the cover myself. Possibly the biggest art project of my life-okay it IS the biggest art project of my life.
    All I've learned about designing a great cover, from articles and you tube videos, is:
    Do not have a busy/cluttered cover. Keep it clean, with a single (or FEW) striking elements.
    Don't use standard fonts: Use a font that relays the genre and character of the story.
    Don't make your name small: Make it stand out as much as the title and art.
    A Good cover creates mystery. Whatever is on the cover will intrigue the reader to read the inside flap, back cover and first pages and beyond.
    Make the cover recognizable yet different in its genre.

    Having all of that in mind how does one know what elements are the best to use to make the cover striking, original and all that good stuff? I have a list of key elements of the story that could go on the cover, but how to narrow it down and compose it is the big question here.
     
  4. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    I might be wrong but I suspect most of it is intuitive. If you have a natural eye for balance and some computer skills I don't think it's an issue. But knowing where to start can be tricky.

    Perhaps give us your title and blurb then tell us a bit about your story, the primary characters (appearance & age), the subgenre, & the subplots. I'm sure we can make some suggestions. Also - what are the dimensions that you need to use? Whether you have a teeny tiny spine or something thick might also make a difference as to your optimal approach.

    It all depends on the kind of story you have and the audience that you are trying to attract. For instance, if it's not geared towards women, having a pink background with a shirtless man and bright green script should be avoided.

    It's my understanding that a large portion of creating an effective cover comes down to conveying the right mood (or genre) of the book. So when you look at a book, while some of it has to do with conveying the story between the pages, the packaging is also the first thing you see (and likely what prompted you to pick it up in the first place).

    Do you have any images of Portland or would you be looking for stock images of the city as well? I've never been to Portland so I can't comment on whether it has a distinctive skyline or not. Either way, a nice way to get around using a clear city image would be to set it in the background and lightly blur it (if it's the image was taken at night- if it's a daytime image this probably wouldn't work as well).

    If you're using stock images, whether you choose to use the same image on the spine or not might be determined by the size of the images you can find (which are usable for your project). Using a different color on the spine is a nice way to get around sizing issues (especially if it isn't large enough to wrap completely around the book).

    Some of this also comes down to your personal talents and abilities to produce visual arts. Some of the videos that I've seen use editing techniques the average person would probably not be able to replicate (decently anyway). But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Look at some books in your subgenre and try to figure out what pulls you in.

    If you want to keep the whole thing simple, there's less room for error. I think this would work better in a different genre but in terms of simplicity, I personally find it appealing. And since I'm the one that made it, I know you don't have to be a pro to replicate it.

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    As you can see in the example above, the man is looking up at the title. Your book will be looked at in a clockwise fashion beginning with the top left corner and circling down (and back again). I once learned in a CogSci course that images and information included in the bottom right hand corner is the hardest for readers to remember (in languages that read left to right and top to bottom). Since I only included one image, I decided it would be more effectively placed on the bottom left.

    When you look at the image (what should be just the front of cover) your eyes should naturally go from the title down to the tagline, down to the fictitious author's name and up to the image. Since he's looking up and humans have a natural desire to look in the direction that others are looking, you should want to look where he is looking (which happens to be the title and tagline).

    If he was looking down, you'd want to reread the author's name.

    Of course, there's other things at play here like the look on his face, the camera angle and the shadows.

    Also ... in this image there is a top light so I chose to add a gradient from the top right corner (though I could have done it better since it looks a bit blocky). When you initially look at the image it's probably something you wouldn't notice but I decided it was important since it made the background less flat and added some cohesion between the image and the background.

    Because of the black background I thought a white text would contrast nicely and given the serene look on the man's face, a light blue seemed like the obvious choice for an accent color. His skin also has some orange tones and so the blue should contrast with both the white and the color of his flesh.

    It's not the best looking cover but I didn't really mean for it to be. It is, after all, just an example.

    Not sure if I answered your question about angles ...
     
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  6. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I would say start with your genre and your readership. Certain genres go with certain types of cover element. Space operas usually have some sort of space ship. Romances, a half naked guy or girl on the cover. Ask yourself what is the pull of your book? Are you looking for readers to have an intense connection to the character? In which case you need a face on the cover. Are you looking for them instead to be moved by the plot? In which case you need an image which conveys plot - preferably something exciting or mysterious.

    Also, cover designers don't have to be that dear. I used Dani Owergoor for my latest book and her prices were reasonable and the product she put out was brilliant. Daniela Digital Art

    Go through places like Deviant Art and browse.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  7. Martha

    Martha Banned

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    Well as option very clearly, I like it
     
  8. Starbright

    Starbright Acolyte

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    If your background is a modern day American city, perhaps the character should be the focus. Is the character some kind of magic user? Perhaps have the character showing off their powers.
     
  9. Addison

    Addison Auror

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  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hey, there. I use depositphotos for my stock images and play with it on Canva or Photoshop. I prefer Canva because it's easier to work with and I'm technologically challenged. Just take some time and go through images that resemble what you have in mind. It's going to take a few tries and the first attempts you make at a cover will come out like crap, but keep at it. Or...you can also pay for a professional cover by either getting a premade or providing stock images to an artist. I always recommend Keri at Alchemy Book Covers. She did two of mine and they are breathtaking. I can also play with something for you if you'd like. PM me if you want to chat about it.
     
  11. Darrin Drader

    Darrin Drader Dreamer

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    What I learned about cover art: spend time to get a good Photoshop with stock art, spend time on it, and don't hire an artist.

    For my first book, I spent about $550 on cover art. The art was fine, but even though this book went out via a small publisher, I only ended up about $400 to the positive on the book once the royalties came in. More recently, the publisher went out of business, and I found a cover I like better. The cost of the new cover art: $65, and I'm self publishing it this time around. I've already turned a profit on it.

    The prices here are pretty reasonable, but you have to sort through a lot of crap to find the rare diamond. SelfPubBookCovers: One-of-a-kind premade book covers where Authors can instantly customize and download their covers, and where Artists can post a cover and name their own price. When you consider the money you save, it's worth it.

    My next book is going to be a space opera novel. I've found a background, and I've found a starship. Both are stock art, and here's the mockup (note that I'm not happy with the fonts or text placement, so that will change when I do the actual layout).

    Darrin Drader - Darrin Drader added a new photo. | Facebook

    I'm pretty happy with this cover, and it's going to cost all of $26 once I get around to buying the art.
     
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I also used selfpubbookcovers.com for my latest work - The Wolves of War. (There's another thread about the cover in this section so I won't show it again.) The prices were reasonable and the selection was good. I think I paid just over a hundred bucks. But there are plenty of others out there you can use. Just Google "premade book covers for sale" or some such and you should be fine.

    For my latest work I stuck to my basic rules about book covers. For a start it's more plot driven in this case than character driven, and so I wanted to use a plot element on the cover - hence the wolf. I needed something to indicate the genre - epic fantasy - so the wolf got glowing yellow eyes and the font chosen was Black Chancery. And I wanted to add a mood to the photo - one of scaryness, so I took the original cover and darkened it and deepened the colour which helps with that. I also took a strategic decision that effect was more important in this case than words - ie the cover design equivalent of show don't tell! - so the text - title author were done in a dark blood red with shadowing in black. They don't pop against the image of the wolf, but they can be read. The point is that the cover will be seen by potential readers in a list of thumbnails first and I wanted something that will grab their attention. The yellow eyed wolf is what does that and so I decided to sacrifice almost everything else for that. (Alas, if only I was Stephen King I could do a blank cover and put my / his name on it and sell it - but I'm not.)

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  13. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    thebookcoverdesigner.com also has great covers for reasonable prices and a lot of their artists do custom jobs (it's how I found my current designer and she's talented/well-priced).
     
  14. RupamGrimoeuvre

    RupamGrimoeuvre Scribe

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    I am a cover designer/painter, I don't do photo-manipulations, but I think the basics apply to that as well.

    Here's a thing, the cover serves one main purpose: To Grab The Attention of the reader. It is my job to make them pick the book, then it is the writers job to make sure they don't put it down.

    Now there are a few ways to do that:
    1. You tease the story, without spoiling anything, obviously.

    This is where the cover depicts some scenes from the book.

    2. You exaggerate.

    This is when the cover depicts something or someplace that might never existed in the story, at least not in the exact way. Or just use design elements or type or go minimalistic.

    This is the most creative way to do covers.


    3. You take shortcuts.

    This is when you see characters standing in cool poses and not actually doing anything.
    IMO, that's just lazy, but hey, this also works sometimes.

    So you can do any of these three or the combination of the three to design a cover. As long as it is readable.

    Speaking of readability, you need to design the cover/compose the picture in such a way that the image is balanced. It should lead the reader's eye to the point where you want them to see. That is usually something of interest that intrigues the reader to pick the book.

    This is where it helps to be a designer or an illustrator, because this part is kinda complex.
    This knowledge is what helps the artist to decide what pose and direction to choose, where the light should be, what colors, saturation and value to choose, etc.
    And it changes with every new cover, because every story demands a different emotional response from the reader and the cover prepares them for that.

    So you can decide on what the emotional response you're looking for and do some sketches do see which one works the best.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the cover should look good and should be clear even in a tiny thumbnail size. As most of the e-readers and phone displays are small.
    This is again techninal, because you have to design it that way so that it should look fine in small size. But I'd say if you are new, avoid adding too much detail. Keep it simple.

    Sorry if all this is overwhelming. But if you want to do it yourself, I think this information might be of some use to you. All the best!

    I paint and write stories at: TheGrimBook.com
     
  15. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    If you do your own book cover art, getting feedback from those in your target audience can be a big help. As an author, you engage beta-readers for your text. The same concept applies to artwork you're considering publishing. Ask your testers what sort of story they'd expect to be reading if your potential cover art was on the book's cover. Do this without telling them what kind of story you're intending to use it for, so as not to influence their opinion. You want their first, unbiased impression, because you want that first look to intrigue the right audience. The thing to be careful about is that some testers will make assumptions about the story behind the cover based on who the author is, and let that influence what they tell you about the potential cover art, so take that into consideration as you assess their input.
     
  16. RupamGrimoeuvre

    RupamGrimoeuvre Scribe

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    Oh, and I forgot to add that the cover art is kind of genre based. Like scifi/fantasy books usually have detailed painted covers, where as romance novels do not.

    It is a good idea to check other books in your genre/subgenre, and see how the cover art is approached. There's a reason books have similar covers, readers expect it to be that way. It is also good for sales, because of the familiarity.

    I paint and write stories at: TheGrimBook.com
     
  17. abydos6

    abydos6 Dreamer

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    Have you tried Cava?
     
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