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.