Anatomy of a cover

RP guldtext gulare kille

So this is my new Rival Poet cover, and I just wanted to share how it came to be – because seeing the constituent parts of things fascinates me, so perhaps it also fascinates someone else.

Fair warning though, it’s the equivalent of telling people how a magic trick is done, or how a poem was put together. Some people hate that. They want the magic to stay intact.

But being an INTP (analytical, dreamy over-thinker extraordinaire), I think there’s a special kind of magic in knowing the nuts and bolts, because in the end, the sum is so much greater than the parts. (Not to toot my own horn… :P)

Anyway, the images that went into this cover were the following:

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Paper, quill, & ink lit by candleTouched by the soft window light

The red one is the wallpaper in my writing room, the second one is a mound of dirt in the basement (there’s a part of the house that hasn’t been “excavated”, so it’s basically mud), and the final two I bought from iStock. The software I use is, which is free and therefore not super advanced, but then neither am I, so we riff off each other pretty well.

Now, obviously I flipped the guy so he was facing the other way, and I cut the candle, but that’s not the interesting stuff. The interesting stuff is LAYERS. Ah, the beauty of layers. The things you can do! Also, metaphor. This time around, I wanted the cover to better convey a few things in the story, such as the theme of water. Thus the blue-green bits.

But none of the images are blue, are they? Well, that’s where both “hue/saturation” and “layer properties” come in. As you can see in the image below (of my finished, not-yet-flattened cover), there are tons of layers. I’ve never learned to do them from a tutorial, because I’m rubbish at following instructions, so I’ve trial-and-errored my way to a level of proficiency I’m happy with.

Skärmklipp 2016-04-12 13.18.21

I always work intuitively, too, so I don’t have much of a plan to start with. The reason I’m telling you that is that this is not a tutorial, since I have no idea what I did! I’m sure there are much easier ways of getting the same effect, but this is my method: import a load of images into the programme and play around with hues, contrast and layer properties.

So this text should rather be seen as some kind of inspirational post. Which I guess I should have said at the beginning, but the INTP is also the original “distracted professor” type, so why not let that show? (Actually, maybe this is the sort of scatterbrained tutorial I would personally be able to live with, so maybe there are other instruction-abhorring intuitive thinker types out there just gagging for a rambling post on, and this is actually the Holy Grail.)

Skärmklipp 2016-04-12 13.18.10

The image above shows that I used the “additive” layer property for the photo of my wallpaper (which I obviously also turned blue-green with the help of hue/saturation, shown below).

Skärmklipp 2016-04-12 13.17.27

For the basement mud (turned green), I randomly used the layer property “overlay”. I don’t really know what that means, but there you go. As long as it works, I’m happy.

Skärmklipp 2016-04-12 13.18.01

As you can also see from the images, some layers are cut, or rather they fade away. I did this when they interfered too much with some other image, mostly with the guy’s face. If there was too much dirt up in the right hand corner, he looked… well… dirty. And Kit might not be God’s best angel, but he’s not a slob. (Unless he’s in a bad mood, but look at him – if they’d had cameras back then, this would be him gazing in post coitus stupefaction at Will the photographer. He’s not in a bad mood.)

Skärmklipp 2016-04-12 13.17.37

This is what the background looks like without the guy:

Skärmklipp 2016-04-29 09.57.20.png

Brightness/contrast is also a fun thing to play around with. As you can see from the original photos, most of them were brighter than they ended up in the final picture. There’s a reason for that too, of course. I wanted half of Kit’s face (oh, and apologies to anyone who prefers to see the guy as Will – that’s fine!) to be shadowed, because he’s such a secretive character, with this hidden side to him, and obviously a literal double life. So. Contrast way up. (Not all the way up, or the picture will turn black and white, but you know. Use your judgment.)

Skärmklipp 2016-04-12 13.17.31

Finally, the lettering. I’ve been mooning forever over covers with gold relief text, thinking it’s really really hard to do, but then I remembered this:

Skärmklipp 2016-04-12 13.16.41

If you write the text in Word, you can make it gold with the click of a button! Then copy and paste onto a new layer in the document, twiddle for a bit with hue and contrast, and hey presto: olden times on tap.

So… I guess that’s all?

Oh, wait, a tip! I actually did watch a few tutorials by a fun guy on Youtube, and he was the main reason I was inspired to learn more about the programme, so a big warm round of applause for Yakobelt, please!

3 thoughts on “Anatomy of a cover

  1. Pingback: Revamped vampires and non-obscene wall colours – Ingela Bohm's gay romance

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