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.

I like Pixabay and Unsplash for free photos, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the free sites, then and are well-known paid stock photo sites. I’ve also found good photos on 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 (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 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)
a novella in the Calico Trails Romance Collection
is available for .99cents this week on KDP.