Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: PicMonkey


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

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

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.

Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs

Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs

by Pam Hillman

This post first appeared in Seekerville in 2013, and at the time some of us didn't know what a meme was, and others thought it was pronounced memE (ahem). Assuming some of us might need a refresher, let's start at the beginning.

What’s a meme? Our current society considers a meme as an image or video that is passed electronically from one internet user to another. All those cute little pictures with captions that we see on facebook and Pinterest? They’re memes. We’ll get to the monkeys in a minute, but first, my graphics design credentials.

I became an amateur graphics designer many, many years ago. And I do mean amateur. My first foray into design was of the cut-and-paste nature. A co-worker’s son was having his 3rd or 4th birthday party and his mother found cute action figure plates, cups, and napkins for the party. We designed invitations, cut out the action figure from one of the plates, and taped it to the invitation and made copies on a black and white copy machine. Hey, this was the dark ages, but the invitations were still cute as a button and his son loved them, so that was what counted.

One thing led to another, and I started a cottage business called Celebrations, DTP (desktop publishing). I created logos, business cards, and letterheads for small businesses. Since the internet was unheard of (yes, there was such a time), I ordered font packages, clip art, and software to install on my computer. I also begged the local newspaper for all their old clipart books that they were going to throw away. HUGE books with tons of clip art that could be used in all manner of advertisements.
Okay, enough about that. Fast forward to today….

We’ve come a long way. Professional graphics designers wouldn’t be caught without the latest digital software, graphics, and fonts at their disposal. I’m not a professional, but I still need promotional pieces here and there, and usually too quickly to contact a professional designer. I don’t want to buy new software that has a huge learning curve when I’ll only use it a few dozen times a year. I want something easy, fun, and cheap. Free is even better!

So today isn’t about buying anything fancy. It’s just a few quick, easy examples that you can implement to promote your books, yourself, your brand, etc. I’m going to use the *free picture editing software called PicMonkey to show you what you can do in a few minutes. You really can’t mess this up!

My interests lean toward cowboys, sepia-toned pictures, country, rural areas, horses, steeples, churches, rustic barns, cattle, etc. So we’re going to use a picture I took of my home church. This particular picture was taken with my iPhone. I prefer my digital camera, but I worked with what I had at the moment. I took several shots at different angles, and at first glance, this one might not be the best choice to use, but it appealed to me. I could already visualize the type of design I wanted if the pictures turned out okay. See the vehicle in the bottom left-hand corner of this picture?
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Steeple In Shadow Original Photo - Taken with an iPhone at Dusk White Plains Holiness AssemblyPam Hillman 2013
After uploading my original picture Steeple in Shadow to PicMonkey (just click “Edit a Photo” and follow the directions. It’s easy!), I started playing with it.

If you just want to add text, click on the “P”, pick a font and type your text. You can change fonts, sizes, colors. Just play with it until you're satisfied with the results. Obviously, since this picture was dark with a lot of shadow, I needed to use a contrasting white/cream-colored font.

Wait!! Stop the Monkey!! The sky is blue…ooohh, blue font… Be right back. I’m playing in PicMonkey as I type this. What fun!!! And…more playing. Visually, this font needs to be right-adjusted because of the shape of the pink crepe myrtle bushes that are in shadow… Let’s see how this looks…
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Steeple in Shadow - Blue Text Only Change
I haven’t done anything to the picture itself at this point. Just added the text, decided it needed to be pale blue, and right-adjusted. That’s it. Then I saved it. You could run with that. But let’s play just a bit more and see what we can come up with. I’d like to get rid of that car in the corner.

I could crop the picture, but I don’t want to. I like where the steeple is, just off center, so I’m not going to do that. Some kind of soft edging appeals to me for this pic. Let’s try that first...
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Steeple in Shadow - Blue Text and Faded Edges. Nice!
Yep, that works! Simply select Dark Edges under the Effects tool BUT move to white (or a creamy color) on the color wheel. Again, with all these shadows, I don’t want to make it more dark. The car is almost completely gone. In some cases you can use the Clone tool to get rid of something, but in this case, I chose the soft edges option instead. Worked okay and makes a nice enough meme.
One final picture of my Steeple In Shadow because I simply can’t resist, and the final result is exactly what I had in mind when I took this picture...
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
White Plains Holiness AssemblyIn the Shadow of the Steeple
To achieve the meme above, I used Daguerreotype frame with Effects / Sunglow applied. Notice that since this version fits my personal style of old-fashioned photos with an antique flair, I’ve added my website in PicMonkey’s Bleeding Cowboys font. Small, understated, and unobtrusive.
~ ~ ~ 
Here are some more before and after examples I’ve created with picMonkey. I wanted to show you these pictures side-by-side, but the blog feed is too narrow for that.

At the original posting of this article, ACFW was having a sale on all their conference CDs until the conference. So, I went into action. I grabbed my CDs, my pink iphone, pink earbuds, made a glass of raspberry tea and staged it all on my front porch. I took about 15 digital pictures, then uploaded them to my laptop. I jotted down 2-3 that I thought would be perfect to promote the sale. I needed a good sharp picture that showed the CD case, but also left room for text. I’ll try to point out all the options I used.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
ACFW Original Photo Taken mid-day with Kodak DX6490 Uh...My Front Porch
First, I decided where I wanted the text to be, placing it where it was visually the most appealing. I rotated the price just a bit clockwise. Then, thinking about the pink earbuds, I decided to use that to give some eye-popping color. Fun, flirty pink font at the bottom and at the top for the price. Next, I used the contrast and clarity tools to brighten the picture. I found the sunglasses in Overlays, made them pink and faded them out. The coup de grace was when I discovered the bright sunlight feature in Effects. I popped it over the top left-hand corner and added even more color with the yellow Summer Sale text. Use color and contrast to achieve the effect you want.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Final version of ACFW CD Sale Advertisement
I’m going to share a SECRET TIP with those of you who want something just a little more advanced. Sometimes you want a shadowed font, but oftentimes free software doesn’t give you that option. I haven’t found shadowed fonts in PicMonkey, but you’ll see that I have some in the ACFW CD sale. The words “Summer Sale” and the “$89.95” have a dark gray shadow behind them. Here’s how I created that.

First add your text to your photo, formatting it as you would like it to appear.

Next, create a new text box and copy/paste the original font into the new text box. Make sure it’s the exact same size and shape as the original. The tool box will help you with this.

Reverse the font color so that it contrasts with the original, but also doesn’t blend into the background too much. If your reverse/shadow text box is in front of your primary color, use the Layer toolbox to Send backward.

And then shift your shadowed text box off-center just a little. Not much. You want the illusion of shadow, not something that jumps out at the viewer. That should give you a shadowed text. But don’t use shadows in long strings of text, only for emphasis and for contrast.
 ~  ~  ~
I mentioned clarity earlier.

Sharpen and clarity are your friends.

Just be aware of what happens when you use these features, so work to get the mix just right. In some cases, too much can be ...uh... too much. Check out this picture that I posted on July 4th. I cropped out the date, of course. Used the Effects / Sharpen and Clarity tools to create eye-popping color.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Original Photo taken on perfectly windy morning in June 2009 Hardy Manufacturing, Philadelphia, MS Pam Hillman, Kodak DX6490
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
American Flag - God Bless America!
Can you see the difference?

You might have to click on the pictures to see. The white is brighter, the red deeper, and there is a slight glow all around the flag. This is a good example of what a difference sharpen and clarity can make. I ended up putting a basic picture “frame” around this.
~  ~  ~
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to create a PicMonkey masterpiece….
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Black Angus Bull - iPhone Broken Ended FarmsPam Hillman
I took this shot with my iPhone while helping My Cowboy work cows. I was standing inches away, and the big guy was in the chute, so it wasn’t like he could get me. And he’s pretty gentle anyway...most of the time. I used Daguerreotype / Shiro and the picture needed no other work. I popped my website in the spot at the top where that piece of treated lumber was, and the words “I’ve got My Eye on You, Cowboy!” along the side. Pink font just felt right for some reason. Again, contrast.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Black Angus Bull - Broken Ended Farms Bull's Eye!
~ ~ ~
Final tips:

Make sure you RENAME your creation when you’re done. You don’t want to override your original picture, and then have nothing to work with if you goof up.

Take your own pictures, purchase them, or at least make sure they are in creative commons. Get creative with your own shots. If you can shoot it, do it, then you can add your own website or name without concern.

Make sure you use proper grammar, check your spelling, and don’t leave words out. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a meme on the internet with errors. No matter how cute or catchy, I will not share it.

Don’t just upload your masterpieces to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Sometimes this is okay, but even better, upload them to your blog and then pin them to Pinterest from your webpage or blog. That way it’s linked back to you. Instagram is such an amazing place for memes of all kinds, and the cool apps on mobile phones makes it all so easy.

PicMonkey is a quick, free (there is a paid version*) way to create a little buzz, and when I first wrote this blog post, you had to create and finalize your meme in one sitting. In addition, once you edited and saved your photo, then logged out of your online PicMonkey profile, you couldn't go back and edit or rework your creation. However, that's changed. With the paid version, PicMonkey offers something called the Hub. With the Hub, you can start a project, save it to the hub, then go back later and work on it some more. This is really cool because it never fails that I find something I want to change about a project.

*PicMonkey has a free version, but there is also a $33 yearly paid membership that gives more options. Some of the tools that I've used in these pictures come with the paid membership. If you're unsure of how much you might use the site, then opt for the free version until you're sure.
Me? I knew I was going to enjoy it and signed up after about thirty minutes of playing. I hope you've enjoyed today's post as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you. Now, go out and have some fun with monkeys!

Next month I'm going to share about an app I have on my iPhone called Word Swag. I love, love, love Word Swag and it's my latest on-the-go, go-to design app that  I use on my PHONE for all kinds of stuff. Yes, I still use PicMonkey (and sometimes use both on the same project if needed), but PicMonkey is like going to a sit-down restaurant to dine. Word Swag is ... fast food. And I'll have some fast food tips on making Word Swag work for you on the fly. Psst... the first meme in today's post was made using Word Swag. It took minutes!
DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: PHOTO EDITING USING PICMONKEY (Part Two)Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs

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