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Seekerville: The Journey Continues

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Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

As queen bees of the JustRead hive (aka owners of JustRead Publicity Tours) and avid readers, we’ve learned a thing or two about sweet reads and sticky situations. We want to help you avoid common book cover blunders and ensure your readers aren’t confused or even deterred by a sticky situation. 

Generally, authors will either have DIY, outsourced, or a publisher-directed cover design process. While this article is written primarily with independently publishing (or hybrid) authors in mind, the concepts are important for all authors to consider. Whether you are creating your own cover or conveying your vision to others, the goal is for the heart of your story (or nonfiction content) to shine through the cover.

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Visual Vibes

Research book covers that are selling or trending in your book’s genre and subgenre, making note of images, design styles, fonts, and colors. Once you’ve identified design elements that work well for your genre, focus on reflecting the heart of your story within your author branding and genre trends. 

Stock Images

Even the pros utilize stock illustrations and images but check to see if your selections are already being used on another book cover. Layering multiple images is one way to create a more unique cover but make sure proportions and blending are natural.

Fonts

We love fonts but readability is key. Two different typefaces on a cover (sometimes three) are acceptable as long as the placement is mindful. Whimsical and script fonts are especially tricky but they pack a visual punch when used in moderation and/or paired with a simple clean font. 

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Good Sticky

Stick to your budget and timeline. Don’t wait too long to finalize your cover or make last-minute changes, delays could end up costing you more. Compromise is common during the cover design process but be willing to stick to it and keep the lines of communication open rather than settling for a cover that doesn’t fit.

Encouragement for DIYers

You can successfully create your own book cover with thorough research, more research, and the popper tools! Creating an appealing cover on Canva, Picmonkey, or other free or low-cost design platforms is possible. Many of these tools even provide book cover templates and it’s a great way to get the ball rolling for cover mock-ups and even final cover designs. Be sure to ask a few trusted and experienced confidantes for their opinion on your work but don’t stress over trying to please everyone.

Cover Design Pros

If your budget allows, we definitely recommend working with a cover designer. Choose a professional who has created covers you love. We love so many covers including those designed by Roseanna White, Teresa Tysinger, Hillary Lodge, Sarah Monzon, Emilie Hendryx, and more! Please feel free to give a shoutout to your favorite cover designers in the comments. Keep an eye out for a more in-depth post on working with a cover designer in the future.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

It’s a nice sentiment but the truth is that the cover is the first glimpse a reader has of the content within. Book covers set the stage just as words pull back the curtains on the wonderful experience we share through stories, devotionals, and nonfiction accounts. Readers are going to judge book covers so let’s embrace that and maximize their impact positively. 


Can you name some genre-specific design features? Does a certain cover style grab your attention? Carrie, Beth, and Rachel would love to chat about your favorite cover trends in the comments! 


 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC is a full-service publicity tour company for published works in the Christian genre or books considered within the wholesome or clean reads genres. 

Check out their About page to meet the queen bees or jump right into the Authors & Publishers or Readers sections to learn more about JustRead campaigns.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)


By request, today's post focuses on how to use the programs and resources covered in Parts I, II, and III to create DIY book covers by merging two or more photos to create attractive covers.

First, it takes a professional graphics artist with high grade software to mash, smash, mix, and combine multiple photos of landscapes and people and make it all look as if it was all taken together. I'm not a professional. I'm a rank amateur and a DIY guru. The covers I've created aren't meant to look as if they were photos taken that way. But there are techniques to get around that obstacle.

So, let's get started...

The untouched photos of the woman and the landscape below were chosen to compliment each other. Ideally the photo of the woman would have had a bluer sky to make it easier to "merge" the two photos, but I decided to work with this one as is. I actually made this "mockup" cover a couple of months ago in preparation for this blog post, but realized I didn't have enough screenshots of the process to show you much of what I'd done. So I created another one yesterday, and decided to show both as they each employ some different techniques.

And, as I was going to "press", a friend shared a great FREE resource that you're going to love! I'll share it at the end.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
horsewoman-4001_1920.jpg


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
utah-1802033_1920.jpg

As you can see from the photos above, neither look like they'd lend themselves to a book cover as in being the appropriate size, although the landscape would make a great wraparound cover for a print book. You'd just have to add more blue sky and clouds to the image.

But never fear. All I did was crop both photos until I got the look I wanted. I added a blue sky background behind the woman and then used a blue sky/cloud-looking swath across the middle to blend the two images. This created the perfect spot to add a title.

Now... you can still see a bit of white around the woman, but I liked the way it lended an airbrushed look, so, all in all, for a sample book cover, I was pleased with it.

I used Picmonkey to create this covers, and the Basic Graphics tool to create the faded edges and cloud effect on the cover below. I'm sorry that I didn't save more steps to show you how I did this. (That's why I created two covers for this project, so I could show you some of the specific steps.)

And... I notice I use the words "layers" and "flattened" a lot in this post. This might not be necessary to explain, but each piece (every photo, every grouping of words, every graphic) of a graphics arts piece is a different "layer", that is, until you "flatten" the pieces. Flattening in digital design software is kind of like ... covering something with scraps of cloth, paint, newsprint, letters, words, stamps, (whatever), then painting over everything with Mod Podge. lol You're welcome for the analogy!

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)

Now on to a cover I created for today's blog post called One Summer in Tuscany. When I realized I didn't have very much step-by-step screenshots to show how to create the above cover, I went to Unsplash and started looking for a landscape that I liked. Any landscape would do, since I didn't have a story idea slot to fill. My "mock" cover could be anything I wanted. If that seems backwards, it is. So, if you're thinking you need something VERY specific for the story you've already written, then read Part I of this blog series. In Part I, I cover how important it is to search for and save photo ideas for future projects. 

So, let's pretend I'm writing a book set in Tuscany. :)

First, I found the beautiful Tuscany landscape below and could just picture it was working for a book cover. Then I searched for couples, but didn't find anything that jumped out at me. Ideally, I was looking for a couple or a woman outdoors and with a muted background that would work well with the landscape. I found the blonde woman wearing the hat, but she didn't really work for the look I wanted, even though the muted background would make working with her image fairly easy. I kept looking and found the beautiful woman with dark hair. The background was going to be a bit harder to work with, but the look of the woman fit the Tuscany landscape SO much better, and I was excited to work on the project.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Unedited Photos Downloaded from Unsplash

Originally, I planned to create a cover on the same lines as the Western-style cover above (titled When Comes the Spring for lack of a more appropriate title): a landscape on the bottom with the woman on the top half, separated by a banner of some sort. But as soon as I uploaded the Tuscany landscape to PicMonkey, my plans changed. I could see that this cover idea could be so much more...
DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #1

Screenshot #1, above, shows the landscape image uploaded to my book cover template (templates are covered in Part II of this blog series), cropped to the size I wanted for the cover, then FLATTENED. Flattened anchors or "glues" (like that mod podge we talked about) that image as the background. It's your first layer. You don't have to do this step, but it helps if you're pretty sure you've got that layer just as you want it.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #2
Screenshot #2 shows where I uploaded the dark-haired woman before I had edited it at all. It's a new layer on top of the landscape layer. It's obviously way too big, but I wanted to leave it that way so that I could see enough to erase the parts I didn't want. The old eyes aren't what they used to be!

Also, I'm explaining ALL about erasing, but wait until the end when I share the cool new website I just learned after I did all this work. :)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #3

When you click on any layer/image in Picmonkey, a toolbox called IMAGE appears on the screen. To erase parts of the image, choose erase and adjust the parameters to fit your needs. I wanted to erase all the hard edges around the photo, as well as ALL of the background around her.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #4

As a matter of fact, when I started, I planned to just keep her face, but she looked really funny with that hand on her chin. lol (And I liked her longer hair). Also, the "dangling" hand as well as her left arm with the wet shirt-sleeve looked totally out of place. Erase. Erase. I just slowly edited out until I hit just the right balance.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #5

With a few more tweaks, I knew I was really close to a decent mix of these two photos that (to me) would make a gorgeous cover. Screenshot #5, above, is the landscape background and the cover model with NO filters applied to either.
DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #6, "Tuscany Screen"

Now, let's play with filters. Sometimes, an author (or her editorial team), will decide to fade the model (or some other portion of a cover) for whatever reason. It might be a play on something in the novel... say, the heroine has amnesia and her memory is foggy. Or the title was something like "When Love Fades" or "Memories of You". You get the drift. To achieve these effects, use the Image Tool and play with the BLEND MODES. Screenshot #6 shows the results of using the SCREEN mode. Screen mode achieves a slightly different effect than just FADING, which is also an option on the Image tool. The more you play with Blend Modes, the more uses you'll find for each and learn the best times to employ them on different projects.


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #5 again. NO filters applied. I called this "Tuscany Normal"

At this point, I was very happy with Screenshot #5, aka "Tuscany Normal", and after I let the images settle, if I was truly ready to publish this book, with this title, I'd probably go with that nice, sharp image above. 

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
"Tuscany Faded"

But sometimes you have to play with the options to see what works and what doesn't. The photo of the girl above is faded just a tiny bit from Tuscany Normal. Just enough to let a tiny bit of the background to show through. If you look closely, you can see it in the duller look of her lips, and the way the horizon cuts through her hair toward her eyes. Using fade works in some situations and not in others. It's just a matter of preference.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Tuscany Screen

Here's Tuscany Screen again with the actual filter applied, which shows a LOT of blending of the model into the background. It's not a technique I'd use on a cover unless I had a really good reason. 

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Tuscany Smudge

To achieve Tuscany Smudge I used the Textures filter, which shows up on left of the screen. There are tons of options under this from Wood, Water, Marble, Papyrus, Ice, and on and on. Again, Tuscany Smudge is a bit over the top, not an option I'd chose, but it might work if the filter wasn't applied with such a heavy hand. Maybe just a tiny bit might be okay.

Oh, and BIG TIP. For Tuscany Smudge above, I FLATTENED both the landscape background and the cover model before I applied the Smudge filter. Otherwise, the filter would have only been applied to whichever image (layer) I'd selected. And, it's possible to apply different filters to different layers if you find you need to do that. Just know as you're working which layer you're working on and/or if the layers have been flattened first. (Sorry, that's getting a bit complicated, and I promised to keep it simple. :)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
One Summer in Tuscany MOCK Cover


Tada! We have a cover. I used Tuscany Faded to create this cover, but again, if I really had a novel set in Tuscany, I'd probably go with the original no-filtered photo of the model.

Now, for the cool new software that I just found out about. And, it's FREE! While babysitting two of my grands just today (well, yesterday by the time you read this), my daughter-in-law's mom came by and we started talking about fun projects. She enjoys creating all the stuff you can do with a Cricut: mugs, t-shirts, etc. She told me about this cool site that removes the background of a photo and you can save your photo with a transparent background. While I manually edited out the backgrounds of both of my models for today's projects, there are lots of times I could have used this site. So I definitely plan to add it to my toolbox for later. Pretty cool, huh?

>>>>> www.remove.bg <<<<<

"Download" is free. "Download HD" will accrue a charge. I used Download for the following image.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Tuscany model with background removed using remove.bg


Okay, I think I've covered everything, and since it's nearly midnight and I'm out of time, we're going LIVE! Hope y'all enjoyed today's post and learned more tricks and techniques to create amazing graphics, whether for book covers, memes, or even t-shirts for your next family reunion.


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Fonts, Titles, Series Logos (Part Three)


In Part I of this series of DIY graphics design tutorials, we reviewed the need to find photos that will work for your projects as well as saving the links to those photos somewhere that you can find them later. Click here to review Part I, In Part II, we went over the basics of planning a series and choosing photos, cropping, the use of filters and planning for a series of covers, so click here to review Part II.

Today we’re going to concentrate on creating titles, series “logos”, taglines, etc. In other words, all the WORDS you see on the book cover.

First, a few simple rules to follow. Sure, you can break them, but if you do, make sure you know you’re breaking them for the better good.

A goofy example highlighting contrast

1) Contrast. Fonts need to STAND out and the best way for that to happen is to have sharp, clear fonts that contrast with the background. This doesn't mean that you have to ALWAYS use white against a black background, or black font against a light background, but if you narrow the gap between dark/light too much, it might make your title hard to read. Make sure you view thumbnails of your project before you get too far along in the process.

Another goofy example. But it is pretty cool. lol

2) Generally, don’t "fade out" or make cover fonts transparent. While It looks really cool while you’re working on it, when your readers view the thumbnail cover, it might be hard to read the words. Again, there are exceptions. A BIG, BOLD title with HIGH CONTRAST can work well with a bit of transparency. Again, just be aware of what it looks like on a thumbnail, which is what the bulk of our readers see these days. In the example above, the fading works and makes this fake title pop. I used two fonts and two colors, but both stand out great against the black background.

3) Don’t use too many fonts on your cover. TWO styles are fine. In some cases, you might use one font for your title (or a combination of fonts that create the look you want like the Black is the Night above), a different font for a series logo, and a different font for your author name.

4) Titles can work well as ALL UPPER CASE or lower case, depending on the font you choose. My examples above are all upper case. There's no hard and fast rule here. Readability is job #1, followed quickly by catching the reader's eye.

5) Generally, the author’s name on the cover will be ALL UPPER CASE. This isn’t a RULE, but it truly does help your name stand out better. Well known authors tend to have their last name really BIG, bold, and uppercase (KOONTZ). And some authors have a “trademark” style for their name that’s printed on the cover of all their books. Again, there’s not a rule of thumb on this, but just be aware that sometimes lowercase names are harder to see on thumbnails, and depending on the font you choose, you might even opt to make your name bold.

Now, let’s move on to the actual programs I use to create the words that go on my covers.

I use Picmonkey (I talked about this program more in Part II of this series), to design my book covers, but if I can’t quite find the right font, I’ll open Word Swag on my phone and play around. Picmonkey has added more bells and whistles over the years where you can curve fonts, but it still takes a bit of time, and each step is a conscious effort to click and decide how to turn this, how to adjust that. I just haven’t felt the love for design for TITLES and SERIES TITLES in Picmonkey yet. 

Enter Word Swag.

Word Swag is an app. Word Swag is available for IOS and Android (I think), but if it’s available for desktop/laptop, I haven’t found it, but since I don’t really need it on my desktop, I haven’t searched hard for it. I’ve had the app for a while, but I think it costs $4.99. That’s a one time fee, and I seriously love it. I’ve definitely got my money’s worth.

WordSwag is a simple, on the go type app. It’s not something you have a lot of control over as in being able to go back to it and keep working later. But it’s so easy and quick that you can recreate a title or meme if you didn’t quite like what you’ve previously created. Quick redo, then AirDrop it to your laptop.

Oh, AirDrop. STOP THE PRESSES: I just realized that I use an Apple iPhone and an Apple MacBook Air, so I can easily share between both using AirDrop (love it!). I'm not sure if Android users and Windows users have things this easy between platforms. I searched and there is such a thing as “Nearby Share” for Android users, but that's as far as I delved into that realm.

Okay, back to Word Swag. In a nutshell, Word Swag is just what it says … WORD SWAG. Perfect name for this little app. You can start with a photo or background and add a quote to make a meme, or just use the transparent background if you’re creating titles, series logos, etc. So, for titles, the transparent background is your go-to, because when you create your lovely title, you’ll want a transparent background so you can add it to your gorgeous cover in Picmonkey (or Publisher, Canvas, or BookBrush, etc.) I suppose someone could create an entire cover in Word Swag. I haven't tried that yet. Hmmm... :)

When you open Word Swag, it looks like screen #1 above. It’s pretty intuitive, but LIBRARY goes to the photos on your device, FREE PHOTOS takes you to a world of free photos from Unsplash and Pixabay. Use the search feature and have some fun making memes and all kinds of PR. HOWEVER, for today’s tutorial, we want to make a cool title for our book. As you can see on screen #2 above, you need to choose TRANSPARENT BACKGROUND. And of course, #3 shows what a transparent background looks like. The light/darker gray checkerboard lets you know that this is a transparent background.

HOT TIP: Many times, you will need to create WHITE TEXT on a transparent background. You’ll be able to see your white text when you save it to your photos, but if you crop this image, it goes wonky. I just always save this on my computer so that I know exactly what it is, and that it’s white text on a transparent background. ie GYPSY_WHITE FONT TRANSPARENT

Deciding on Colors for your Title

What makes Word Swag so cool is that it offers some unusual fonts. When you type in your title, you can quickly play with the styles by rolling the dice (yes, literally… well, not LITERALLY, but by clicking a button) and trying various color options. When I was playing with The Gypsy Bride title, I thought a blue title would look good (bringing out the blue in the sky and the blue on the sleeves of the red dress), but turns out I needed white for contrast, so I had to go back and redo it. I tried white by itself and it looked washed out. Then I add a black shadow and ended up with just what I wanted.

I’m sure Picmonkey (or Canvas, Publisher, Book Brush, etc.) can and does create lovely titles, but if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, try Word Swag. I just like the idea of a REALLY COOL title treatment for a book. Maybe that’s just me. lol

Here's a short video of how I made the Seekerville heading at the very top of this blog. Fingers crossed that the video plays correctly. There is no sound, except some clicking when I'm typing, I think. It's a Screen recording on my phone.


Last, here are two more resources that I have not really tried out yet. Fontmeme has some really, REALLY cool fonts, but I haven’t researched the site enough to know if the quality is sufficient for book covers. The jury’s still out, but if the quality is good enough, the options would be wonderful.

And, I haven’t researched Heritage Type Co. either, but I LOVE their fonts. I’m tempted to just buy it for a late Christmas present to myself. My mom gave me some money for Christmas, so I really, really should! But after I research some more. I'll need to make sure the fonts work with the software I'm using. :)

Next month, I'll talk more about designing split covers and pairing title treatments with the cover design. Let's talk. If you have questions, I'll do my best to answer them.

Also, I'll be out of pocket some today, but I'll stop by as often as I can.

Ready for Part Four of this series? Click below...

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four) 

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)

In Part I of this series of DIY graphics design tutorials, we reviewed the need to find photos that will work for your projects, and saving the links to those photos somewhere that you can find them later. Click here to review DIY Graphics Design Tutorial Part I.

Also, in Part I we dipped our toes into editing your photos so that they are the perfect background for your book cover. Today, let’s take that a step further. And, one other thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned… for simplicity’s sake, we’ll be designing ebook covers only in this series of posts, not wraparound print covers. However, if you plan to publish your book as ebook and print, think about designing the cover for both from the get-go.

I’ll be using the paid version of Picmonkey Pro as my main design software in this series of how-to’s, so there will be a few filters that are only available in the pro package. Regardless of which design software you choose, many of the terms and techniques are interchangeable, and I've found that I learn from articles and workshops regardless of which software is being used.

Picmonkey Pro costs $120.00 a year. There is a free version of Picmonkey, but I discovered years ago that I use the paid program enough to get my money’s worth. As mentioned in the previous post, whichever design software you’re using is perfect for YOU. Sure, Photoshop, Canva, CorelDraw, etc. might have more/better bells-n-whistles than a competitor, but the learning curve is sometimes too steep to jump off the cliff. And finally, one last word about the multitude of different design softwares available. A quick search revealed that the yearly price range is comparable for most of what I’d call the “poor man’s design software”. If you’re new to design software, play around with a few and see what feels right for you.

Now, let’s have some fun. :)

Just like an artist decides on the background color for his painting before he starts painting, the photo(s) you chose becomes the “background” for your book cover.

In Part I of this series, I showed a photo of a girl in a red dress that I really liked, and that I dubbed The Gypsy Bride, even though I don’t have a gypsy bride story… yet! I cropped the photo so that the style and placement would (or should) complement the cover of The Evergreen Bride, the first book in my Mississippi Piney Woods Novella collection. So, let’s see how this pans out.

If you’re doing a series, you want to use the same basic layout from cover to cover, but use different photos and color schemes so that readers don’t skip over your cover, thinking they’ve read the book before. You want similar, but different enough to catch the eye. A good example are the covers from my Natchez Trace Novel series that the amazing team at Tyndale designed, and the first two releases in my Calico Trails Novella Series that I designed.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)

Back to the Mississippi Piney Woods Novella “template”. We want the cover we're about to create for The Gypsy Bride to end up complementing The Evergreen Bride in theme, layout, and style. What do you think? Can we take the photo on the right and come up with a cover that works well with the one on the left? Let's see...

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)

Step One: Create a template in your design software for your future ebook covers. Open your software (again, I'm using Picmonkey), create NEW, then BLANK CANVAS, and enter the dimensions.Dimensions for a KDP cover should be 1600 x 2560 pixels. (1583 x 2500 works as well). You don't HAVE to use these dimensions, but they do work. The key is that your height/width ratio be correct. To read more about this topic, check out this article.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)

Step Two: Duplicate or Save a Copy of your new ebook cover template. You'll see at the top of the screenshot below that it says "Gypsy Bride". This step isn’t necessary, but if you do this, you’ll have a blank template every time you get ready to create a new cover. :)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
Step Three Screenshot

Step Three: With your saved and renamed template open, click “Add Image” (in the top left part of the screen) from wherever you have it stored. This might be your computer, Dropbox, the cloud, or even your Picmonkey hub if you’ve already uploaded it to the software. In the screenshot above, I added the entire photo of the couple. As you can see, it's almost perfect for the size of the cover (that's the thin blue-line box around the couple), but since I'm not going that route, that's immaterial.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
Full photo before
expanding/enlarging

Step Four: If you only want to use part of the image, enlarge it, making sure to retain the aspect ratio. I want to focus on the dress and crop out the girl’s face, leaving her features to the reader’s imagination. Use the little "circles" in the corners of your photo to enlarge it up to (and even BEYOND) the size of the template you're working on. Once you get it to the size you want, you have two options: you can either crop out the excess part of the photo that you won’t be using, OR you can just use the LAYERS tool to FLATTEN the layers. Basically, that locks (or flattens) your photo image to the 1600 x 2560 size you started with.

See the Layer tool in the image below? Then below that, the "Background/Convert to layer" instructions, and then the small "stacked layers" icon with the arrow pointing down. That's the "Flatten Layers" icon. Once I got the RED DRESS just like I wanted it, I clicked that little "stacked layers" icon, locking in my background. I can un-flatten and resize it if I change my mind, but it's locked in for now.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
Photo expanded to fit the 1600x2560,
leaving the part I wanted on the cover.

Step Five: At this point, you might be ready to play with shades, textures, and shadows on the background if you have a particular filter that you just know will make your image perfect. But maybe the background in the photo above is just right as it is. Who knows until you try, right? I do know that I want that red dress to pop. It's a stretch to use a red dress on a bride book, but for a gypsy bride, I think it works. Since I wasn't sure if any distressing, antiquing, or textured layers will fade the dress out too much, I went ahead and added the title, series tagline, and my name to get a starting point for the cover. (We’re starting to move into fonts, so I’ll talk briefly about those at the end of today’s post, but reserve the tutorial on creating each of those layers for another day.) With no filters or edits (other than cropping), we’ve ended up with Version 1. I like it. Seriously, I could go with this cover just as it is. But, what if we play around a bit...

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
The Gypsy Bride, v1
No filters on the background

Step Five: Play with shades, textures, and shadows. With all the other layers added, you need to click on the background layer (the red dress), and edit it. I ended up with several versions. Will one of these end up being THE one? Maybe. Maybe not.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
The Gypsy Bride, v2


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
The Gypsy Bride, v3

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
The Gypsy Bride, v4

Okay, I'll be honest. I'm having a hard time picking one of these over the other. And they are TRULY close in style. The filter on V3 is the only one that really "dulled" the red dress much. But since I knew I needed that dress to stay a nice bright red, I couldn't use too many filters. But I do like the extra texture that the filter gave to the dress in V3.

Questions? More on background aspects of covers, like split covers that I'm using for the Calico Trails Novellas? Or move on to the fonts and title treatment?

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
The Gypsy Bride, v3. Maybe???


At the last minute, I created VERSION 5. I duplicated the RED DRESS background, and added Picmonkey's red smudge filter, made the title just a tad smaller, more in keeping with The Evergreen Bride title. I like the way this doesn't change the dress too much, but darkens the sky and also gives it the look of a painting like brush strokes. This might be the one I choose. :)


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
v5... I am SO conflicted!!! lol

Okay, that's the end of today's lesson. Let's chat. Are y'all interested in seeing more about the background photos, like how to do SPLIT covers like I did for below for my Calico Trails Romance novels, Destination Christmas and Castaway with the Cowboy? If we go this route, you'll see that you will probably use filters on the abstract parts of a cover more than you can (or probably should) on a photo. But, again, that's according to taste and genre and the photo, I suppose.

Or would you prefer that we move on to fonts with the next installment in this DIY blog series? I use fonts from Picmonkey and Wordswag, and I found a new cool website for fonts that I want to play with to create unique titles. Then there's deciding when to use color in your titles, and when and if they need drop shadows, etc.

So, should we discuss split covers next or fonts?

Click here for Part III 

 DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Fonts, Titles, Series Logos (Part Three) 


And last, don't forget my Kindle Countdown deal for Destination Christmas ends in THREE days!! Buy, share a meme, read the excerpt. Toss a penny in my tin cup. Ha! :)


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)
DESTINATION CHRISTMAS sale ends Dec. 12th.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)

This post originally appeared on November 27, 2020, aka Black Friday. Seekerville is re-posting it along with Part II that will go live later today for a two-day post on DIY graphics design. We hope you enjoy the discussion and learn a few tricks of the trade. Next month, I'll continue with Part III.

Recently, I designed my first ebook cover, then a second and a third. At first, I was just doing a mockup with the intention of hiring a designer. But when I showed my cover to the other Seekers, they convinced me to run with my own ideas (so it's their fault! lol). When they started asking about some of the techniques I used, I decided to do a series of blog posts on the subject. I’ve blogged about DIY graphics design in Seekerville before, but sometimes I think I cover too many aspects of design in one post, and it's too much to soak in at once. 

So, this time I'm going to take it slow and focus on one small part of design each month: finding, saving and editing photos, fonts and font design, combining these layers, and the different softwares I use to create my covers.

While I really wanted to focus on creating the WORDS (titles, series taglines, etc.) first, I think I need to start with photos. So, here we are.

RULE #1. When you’re thinking about designing a graphics art piece, especially if it’s something that you’ll need to work on in stages and will have to come back to it and edit, OR if you’re just browsing photos, do NOT under any circumstances take a screenshot just to see how said photo will look in your project, with the thought that you’ll be able to find that photo on the web again.


You WILL regret this. I speak from experience. 

Horrible, terrible, time-sucking experience.

Instead, here are the tools to make this part of your design life simple and workable.


1) Find (and always save the link!) to royalty-free (or paid) stock photos for your project(s).

2) Save the photo (which will save the all important link) to a secret Pinterest board(s).


There are any number of sites that offer free stock photos. This site has a pretty good list to get you started. https://www.foleon.com/blog/5-sites-for-free-stock-photos


I like Pixabay and Unsplash for free photos, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the free sites, then iStockphoto.com and Shutterstock.com are well-known paid stock photo sites. I’ve also found good photos on Bigstock.com. Again, these three are paid subscriptions, so it pays to look for photos on the free (and legal) sites.


>>>>Pay Attention Here!!<<<<<


As I was writing this post, someone on an indie loop passed on a Black Friday special for photos from a site called depositphotos.com (Note: the special sale is NOT listed on the depositphoto website, but at Appsumo. Weird, but true!) You can purchase 100 image credits for $39, plus if you create a new account with appsumo, you get $10 off that, so your total is $29. You don't have to choose your 100 photos now. You get "credits" and your credits never expire. Pretty good deal!


The special deal is through Appsumo - 100 images for $39 ($10 discount on new accounts …. Use this link http://fbuy.me/v/phillman64 to order. And, yes, it’s legit. I just bought my 100 images yesterday. Once you make your purchase and get your code from Appsumo, you apply it to your account at depositphotos and you have 100 credits toward photos that never expire. And… the special ends in 3 days!


Also, if you buy one of these packages (they have more, but I just got the 100 images), don’t panic when you get to your depositphotos log-in and you see a flashing banner at the top letting you know that you can get 100 images for $80. You already bought 100 for $29 from appsumo! Once you apply the CODE you received from appsumo, you’ll see your 100 images under the “Active Plans” tab on the far right of the screen of the depositphotos website.


Okay, enough about that. Back to the point of today’s post: finding and saving photos for later.


How do you do that without losing your sanity? And how do you save the photos for later? And why pick photos FIRST before you start trying to design a book cover or a series of book covers?


Everything on your cover is built around your background: the photos, the colors, and how all that is laid out, and those are the hardest to find and decide on. At least it is for me. If you’ve got a whole folder full of good ideas ready and waiting, then you’re way ahead of the graphics design game. 


Enter Pinterest again…


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
Pam's SECRET MS Piney Woods Pinterest Board

Before I go any further, I’ll say that I tend to search for photos on my phone, and Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, and [BREAKING NEWS: Yes, my new friend Depositphotos also has an app! I just downloaded it. Whoot!) has an IOS app that you can download to your phone and when you’re stuck somewhere in traffic or at the doctor’s office, you can search for photos and save them to your Pinterest board. (Yep, there’s an app for that, too!)


So, what next?


I’ll use my Mississippi Piney Woods Novella series as an example. The title of the first book is The Evergreen Bride and it’s set in the late 1800s in Mississippi, so I started searching for photos that I liked. Pine trees, brides, rural and rustic settings, cabins, logging camps, etc.


As you can guess, it’s hard to find authentic-looking historical photos without paying for a photo shoot, and since the titles for this series all had bride in them, I decided to go with a bride theme. There are millions of bridal photos to choose from. You just have to look with an open mind and a fresh eye.


I’m sure there are multiple ways to keep up with these photos you find, but the best way I’ve found is to create a secret Pinterest board for the specific project you’re working on and save those royalty-free photos that MIGHT work for covers and/or other advertising to that folder on Pinterest. I prefer secret boards for this. There's nothing wrong with making them public, but this is for YOU to design your covers. It's not for PR for your book. I won’t go into detail on how to create boards on Pinterest, let alone secret boards. If you use Pinterest, you can figure that out. Create as few or as many boards as you need, whether that be cowboys, brides, flowers, landscapes, mountains, ships, etc. I’ve chosen to create boards based on my two series for now. You can save these links to a Word file or Scrivener on your computer if you like, but honestly, Pinterest is really perfect for this!


As you compile these photos, do NOT add suggested photos that you find on Pinterest that you think might be perfect for your book cover. They are NOT perfect if you can’t trace them all the way back to the source and that source is either a royalty-free stock site or a paid stock site. Resist the urge. You’ll find plenty of nice photos that will work for your book covers. Keep these folders clear of images you can’t use for your designs.


Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get to the MEAT of this post. I want to open your eyes to possibilities of photos. You don’t need to use the entire photo for your book cover. So if you like a photo and think it might have possibilities, save it for later.



DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
Pixabay Image


Here’s the photo that I found on Pixabay that I chose for the cover of The Evergreen Bride. This is also the cover that I had to change after I didn’t follow RULE #1 and could not find the screenshot of the first photo I’d found (also on Pixabay). I wasted AN ENTIRE DAY looking for that photo. Never did find it again. But I guess I should say those hours weren’t wasted because as I was looking for the mysterious photo that disappeared, I found this one and saved other interesting photos for future reference to my secret Pinterest boards.


TIP when searching for photos. Make sure that images are crisp and clear, especially if you plan to zoom in on a portion of the photo.


Obviously, this landscape sized photo will not work for an ebook cover. (But it would probably work great for a wraparound print book cover!) But cropping is your friend….


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
Photo Cropped

I cropped the photo, and you'll notice I FLIPPED it left to right (or right to left). Either way would work, but as you see where the placement of titles, taglines, author name goes, and how an entire series fits together, you have to make a decision and stick with it for consistency. But this photo still wasn’t quite right. The dress was too bright white, the grass too green. I antiqued this photo up a bit to make it fit a historical-themed cover, and put both versions to my street team, and they chose the antiqued version on the right, so we had a winner.


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
The Evergreen Bride, Final Version on the Right

As you can see, I ended up with nothing like the original photo. So open your eyes for possibilities and save everything that catches your eye for later.



DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
Couple, Pixabay Image

Here’s another cool photo I found while looking for bride dresses. The flowing dress caught my eye because I was already using a billowing dress in The Evergreen Bride, but it was red. Not exactly bridal, huh? But this photo screamed “The Gypsy Bride” at me when I saw it. I don’t even have a novella in my Mississippi Piney Woods Novella series about a gypsy bride, BUT since the king and queen of the Gypsies are buried about 50 miles from me, I will have a Gypsy Bride book soon and I’ll probably use this photo for the cover.


Something like this that I whipped up just for this blog post. It will have title treatment just like The Evergreen Bride. This is kind of fun to actually create a cover before I've written the book. :)


And...I might have to flip this image left to right so that I can keep the format of the Piney Woods logo in the left-hand corner. See that on the Evergreen cover? Check!!


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
The Gypsy Bride, Coming... Some day! lol

Okay, I didn’t give you a lot of technical how-to’s today because I felt it was very important to start with the basics. I wanted you to visualize how you can use these photos to create covers, memes, PR materials, etc. And you can create banners with the same techniques. See my header at the top of this post.


I’m trying to decide what to cover in my next blog post, and I’m leaning toward showing you how I actually edit some of these photos like what I did to turn the photo of the red dress into what I see as the perfect cover, even though I’m STILL wanting to get to the fonts! lol 


Regardless, at some point, we’ll cover every aspect of cover design, from what size they need to be, to how I created the taglines, the covers, banners on split covers, even the little bells that I added to give readers a hint that The Evergreen Bride is a Christmas story.


I use WordSwag a lot for some of my titles and taglines because I like the options that little program offers. The “Mississippi Piney Woods”, The Evergreen Bride title treatment, and the bells came from WordSwag. But the cover itself was created in Picmonkey.


For my next blog post, I’m probably going to delve more into editing the photo portion of a cover. Depending on how much information I go into, I might or might not get to the fonts and WordSwag until the next post. I’ve taken classes using other software (Photoshop, Canva) and I looked into BookBrush. Each has a bit of a learning curve, but they’re all basically the same, so techniques learned in one software can usually be implemented elsewhere.


Sorry this got so long, but if you are going to pursue designing your own covers, or even providing photos to a designer, this is really, really your first line of defense.



Ready to move on to Part II of this blog series? Click here!




But before you go... check out these NEW eBOOKS BY PAM AVAILABLE NOW!!!!



Would you believe I've published not one, not two, but THREE novellas in the last month? Yep, formatted them with Vellum, figured out KDP and all that jazz, designed covers and everything. They're all available on KDP and as Kindle Unlimited.


Click the covers to read the blurbs. Destination Christmas and Castaway with the Cowboy are the first two novellas in my Calico Trails Romance Collection, stories about being stranded, abandoned, marooned, lost, etc. The Evergreen Bride is the first novella in my Mississippi Piney Woods Novella Collection.


As you can see, the first two covers follow the same format, and the MS Piney Woods Novella does not. Two different series.




Castaway with the Cowboy just released! :)



DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)




DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)
DESTINATION CHRISTMAS,
a novella in the Calico Trails Romance Collection
is available for .99cents this week on KDP.
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover SituationsDIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Fonts, Titles, Series Logos (Part Three)DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: STOCK IMAGES (Part One)

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