Sunday, 19 October 2014

Design Your Own Book Cover: Guest Post by author Diane Rapp

If you can imagine a book cover, you can design one. I start with professional photos purchased from Shutterstock. When you purchase a photo you also purchase publishing rights (read the agreement before you buy). I buy background scenery and images of characters that match my novel. I currently use the Adobe PhotoShop Elements 10 program. (I tried the program free for 30 days, a good way to test the features.) The one feature that sold me on this particular program was the Magic Extractor (see how I used it later). 

Let me walk you through the step-by-step process I used to design the cover for my newest mystery/science fiction novel THE ALPHAS. Here are the three photos I bought:

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3

I suggest you practice using three pictures of your own while you follow these instructions. Open the Adobe PhotoShop program, choosing Edit. Start a new file by clicking File/New/Blank File. Change the boxes from pixels to inches and fill in the size of the picture you want to design (I chose 5.75” by 8.75”). Be sure to click 300 DPI so you get the highest quality.
Next open each picture in the program. Click File/Open and choose each photo from their saved location. Work on each photo separately before you combine them. When you edit a picture be sure to save it under a NEW file name so you don’t lose the original! 

After you’ve opened all the images, select the image you want to edit from the thumbnails at the bottom of the screen. I needed to turn the dog around so it faced towards the right. I clicked on Image/Rotate and selected Flip Horizontal. Click SAVE and choose a new file name. The next step is to eliminate the background around the animal by using the Photoshop “Magic Extractor” feature. Click Image and select Magic Extractor at the bottom of the pull down list. A new page opens with buttons that look like magic markers along the top left side. (Instructions are listed across the top of the page.)
Using the first magic marker, click around the edges of the image you want to keep, then switch to the next marker and click the background areas you want to eliminate. Don’t worry about doing it wrong. When finished, click preview and wait for your results. If you don’t like what you see, cancel and start again until satisfied. 
When you click preview, the new image displays the foreground and small grey boxes indicate the deleted background (these boxes disappear in the final picture). If the picture looks right, click okay and your new image will appear in the main editing area. Zoom in to identify stray spots that can be erased using the eraser tool along the left side. If too much got erased, close the photo without saving and reopen the original photo to try again. If you’re happy with everything, SAVE this photo as a Photoshop file using its NEW name. You can also save the photo as a JPEG file. The Photoshop files stay on your screen as these are the files you combine for the final cover. The JPEG images gets saved in your pictures file. See how my two images appear (in JPEG format) after I removed the existing backgrounds:
Image 1
Image 2
Now we will combine all three photos into one file. Open the background scenery file. Click Select/All and then click Edit/Copy. Double click to open the White background file waiting at the bottom of the editing screen and click Edit/Paste. The scenery is pasted across the white layer. 
Stretch the scene until it covers all the white showing. Move the scene to show the specific view of background you want and then click the green checkmark. SAVE this file as a Photoshop file under a NEW name designated for the cover design. (Note: You will now see Layers open on the bottom right of the editing screen. To work on any specific layer, click on that layer and it will be available to edit on the screen. You can change the size, position, or move the layer forward or backward.)
Next step, open one of the foreground images by double clicking an image displayed in the boxes at the bottom of the editing screen. Click Select/All and then Edit/Copy. Double-click to open the main Cover File again and click Edit/Paste. You should see the first foreground image appear on top of the background scenery. If you don’t see the new image, drag the picture box to shrink it and see all the edges are in the editing area, and then click the green checkmark. You may need to bring the picture forward to see it on top of the scenery. Click on Layer/Arrange/Bring to the Front. This should do the trick.
Once you see the foreground image in front of the background scenery, resize the image by dragging the edges and move the image until it is in the right position. When satisfied click the green checkmark. See #1 below (note that I left enough room at the top to add a title):

Repeat the same steps for the next foreground image. When I added the wolf image (see #2), her lower body ended in an abrupt angle across the front of the dog. I decided to push her image behind the dog image to hide this angle. I clicked Layer/Arrange/Send Backward to make this happen. Do not click “Send to Back” or the image disappears behind the background scenery. Image #3 shows the corrected placement of the wolf.The images are arranged to your satisfaction, so add titles. Click the Capital T tool along the left side and place the cursor over the part of the picture where you want to add the titles. Draw a box and you’ll see the outline. Font choices, size, color and alignment boxes are available for your personal choice across the header. You can mix font sizes in one box. Type the titles, change them until you have the look you prefer and then click the green arrow to set them. 

After you click the green arrow, a Style box will appear in the header. (You are still using the Title tool.) Click the pull down arrow to find different style choices. Play with these choice by clicking them to create shadows, outlining, depth, etc. See how you like the results. Click the green arrow to set your choices. 
Zoom in and examine your cover up close. If you see something that needs to be fixed, click on the layer you wish to edit and make the changes. You may need to click on the arrow tool (top choice on left side) since you were last using the Titles tool. Zoom in for a close look at any element. (I found stray white spots around the dog’s face.) Use the eraser tool to delete stray background around the edges of the new foreground images. It will only erase things in the layer you are working on, the background scenery layer remains intact. 

Final Cover Design
Save the final cover in a Photoshop file and again in a JPEG file. Use the JPEG version to insert a copy into a word processing file and shrink it to view a thumbnail to see how it looks. This shows how the cover reads as on the Amazon page or Kindle. When satisfied, upload the full-sized JPEG cover to Amazon KDP or use it for the front cover in Createspace. You need to be sure the titles are positioned far enough away from the edges to create a print cover in Createspace. Adjust the title placement or shrink the font until it works.

Buy the book

I hope this helped you learn to design a cover using Adobe PhotoShop Elements 10.  I enjoy making new friends and would be willing to answer questions after you try to design your own cover. 

About the Author

Diane Rapp became an entrepreneur when she started her own dog grooming salon in Santa Barbara, California. She spent the next thirty years as a small business owner; she sold real estate, started an office supply/copy center, and performed free-lance advertising design. During all those years Diane wrote stories as a cure for insomnia. the idea of writing a mystery set on cruise ships in the Caribbean.
Visit her website to learn more about all of Diane's books and contact her by e-mail.

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