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Gale Haut
09-02-2011, 12:20 AM
I'm going to do several of these tuts here to try and help all the self published authors at AW who simply do not have the monies to spend on a graphic artist.

I will update this tutorial in increments. Make sure to check back if you're interested in this stuff.




table of contents LINKED (http://fenderstitch.com)
#1 get graphics and images (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6503895&posted=1#post6503895)
#2 software (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6505545#post6505545)
#3 starting a project (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6514058&posted=1#post6514058)
#4 color (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6519683#post6519683)
#5 picture walkthrough (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6992680#post6992680)
#6 ...


Warning! Things that are especially important will appear thus. Sometimes you won't understand why they are important immediately. But trust me.

Another example of this...

Warning! I use the terms ppi and dpi interchangeably. One means pixels per inch, the other means dots per inch. The latter is a printing term. Remember back when you could see those overlapping colored dots in print media. That's where that came from.

Gale Haut
09-02-2011, 12:46 AM
#1 get graphics and images

I personally have the luxury of being friends with an award winning local photographer and I've got an Austrian photographer/friend with some access to beautiful natural resources and a great eye for them.

Good for me. Not everyone has the luxury or pockets to get original images. So then, what are your options?

Um... Stock?

Don't worry. Everyone uses stock. Successful graphic designers sure as hell use the stuff all the time.

Take a look at some of the sites I like:
*This is a living list. PM me to add or remove resources.

free! o.O

Wikipedia: Public domain resource (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Public_domain_image_resources) - My recommendation!
Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page)
Creative Commons (http://search.creativecommons.org/)
morgueFile.com (http://www.morguefile.com/)
stock.xchng (http://sxc.hu/)
WebTreats (http://webtreats.mysitemyway.com/)


free! o.O & for monies

mediamilitia (http://mediamilitia.com/)
Colorburned (http://colorburned.com/freebies)


not too much monies

123RF (http://www.123rf.com/)
Bigstock (http://www.bigstockphoto.com/)
iStockphoto (http://www.istockphoto.com/)


lots of monies


Shutterstock (http://www.shutterstock.com/)
corbis IMAGES (http://www.corbisimages.com/)
Veer (http://www.veer.com/)


Beware! Using stock will mean that your image won't be unique to your cover. Free stock is even more common to see in other works.


TIPS AND TRICKS OF THE TRADE
1. Choose an image that still looks good when it is in thumbnail size. What is thumbnail size? Think in terms of the book covers that scroll horizontally on the bottom of the Nook. If your image is a giant cover focus on a teensy tinsy baby rabbit in the middle of the page... Once it's reduced to a thumbnail, no one's gonna be able to see that.

2. Avoid too many grainy textures. Unless, that is, you are a savant at retouching photos.

This point is highly relevant to punto numero uno. When an image is resized to a smaller version, a lot of cluttered textures like a sandy beach or the severe acne on your YA cover model are going to look muddy in thumbnail size.

Also take note that texture balance in graphic design is just as complex and wonderful as color balance, as it can significantly draw a readers eye to portions of your cover. If you don't have the time to figure out how to use texture correctly, then go the route of the minimalist: don't.

3. Resolution! Listen up. This is an ebook cover. You will need an image of at least 72 ppi, which is assuming you aren't going to bloat the image and stretch it to be larger than the original in order to fit your cover.

If you ever ever ever plan on using the same image for print, you need a bigger resolution. 300ppi is the magic number for printed works. You need to pick images at the higher resolution if you plan to use them for print later on because you cannot increase an images resolution once it has been rendered in lower res.

4. If you choose more than one stock image... that's great. You're a very ambitious person. But keep in mind that when choosing images of say two people in two separate pictures to be on the same cover, you are going to have to make the photos match up so that they don't look like they are two different photos cropped together.

Think in terms of movie posters. Have you even noticed an actor/s on a poster that just doesn't seem right (head is too big or arm is sticking out like a ken doll). This is the result of a graphic designer not quite accomplishing harmony between multiple photographs. Even the pros mess it up, and often.

So don't expect it to be easy, especially if you aren't very familiar with your image manipulation software.

...


Speaking of software, that's the next chapter in this little tut series. And guess what... there are some great free options that I'm going to focus on.

Gale Haut
09-02-2011, 04:16 PM
#2 software

I'm not going to mention all of the image manipulation and drawing software out there. If you feel I've done a major disservice by leaving something out, please let me know more about it.


COMPENDIUM

IMHO, the 3 most powerful freebies
Paint.NET (http://www.getpaint.net/)
gimp (http://www.gimp.org/team.html)
Inkscape (http://inkscape.org/)

semi-affordable options
Pixelmator (http://www.pixelmator.com/)
Adobe PS Elements (http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel/)

barnone industry standard
Adobe Photoshop (PS)
Adobe Illustrator (AI) (http://www.adobe.com/products/catalog.html)



Freebies! ^_^

The PS alternative, Gimp is your best bet for doing everything you need to do. It is a powerful tool that has the potential of creating professional level designs. In addition there are an endless fount of online resources for this thing. It's great. It is extremely tricky to use, though. And pretty intimidating to someone who's never used an image editor.

The PS Elements althernative, Paint.NET is the lesser child of Gimp. It does many of the same things, but then lacks essential functions such as blending modes. I highly recommend it.

The AI alternative, Inkscape isn't really the competition because it's not an image manipulation tool. It's a vector drawing tool, and an excellent additional resource for making line art on the computer. You can import files between the two programs.

Vector v. Image Manip! The difference between vector software and image manipulation software is that the latter rasterizes the image, which means it converts your lines and curves into pixels. You know how when you zoom into an image a lot it turns into a bunch of little squares? That's what I'm talking about.

A vector program won't do that. Zoom in all you want. Of course, if you upload a rasterized image into the program it will still be made of a billion little boxes. No program can convert an image back into vectors.



Lots of Monies! U_U

Photoshop, it's awesome, but hellu- expensive. It does everything you'll ever need and then some. This program is my virtual playground. One thing that makes the adobe software superior for book covers is that it has far better text manipulation options. It might take you thirty minutes to figure out how to drop a shadow or reflect a line of words in Gimp and then it only takes you about five minutes to do the same in PS.

Adobe Illustrator, the vector tool. Also awesome. Especially great for doing the text layouts on the cover. Another tool to consider for this would be In Design. Though, you could honestly do all you need in just PS if you wanted.

PS Elements, a child of Photoshop that has several of its basic features for a WHOLE lot less money.

Pixelmator, even cheaper than PS Elements and with a nicer UI. But it's only supported on the Mac, lacks CMYK mode for printing, and doesn't currently handle .psd files as well as Elements does.


...

It is entirely possible to create a beee-yootiful cover from scratch without spending a dime on software. In a sense you get what you pay for. Yes, you can do everything you need to do with some of the free alternatives, but the User Interfaces tend to be trickier to navigate and accomplishing the same tasks often require more complicated steps. So, you'll need to make an important decision before deciding what or whether to purchase expensive software. What is most valuable to you, your time or your money? Afterall, it is the end result that matters, not necessarily how you get there.

Also, you might want to consider whether you would actually be saving both time and money by hiring a professional who already has access to the software.



Next up on this tut is starting a project. Stay tuned...

Gale Haut
09-05-2011, 03:23 AM
Just wanted to say that I'm still working on this tutorial and if other more experienced graphic artists notice something inaccurate or misleading please let me know. I'd like to improve both the tutorial and my own skills as much as possible.

ScribeLady
09-05-2011, 04:58 AM
Dear Gail,

I can't thank you enough for posting this tutorial. What a wonderful thing to do!

Scribelady

Gale Haut
09-05-2011, 05:45 AM
My pleasure. I'm working on the next section right now.

Gale Haut
09-05-2011, 06:44 AM
#3 starting a project

Most image editors have essential features in common. I will try to give a general overview here.




open sesame!

Now that you've selected an image editor you'll want to open a file for your cover. Don't directly edit your original image. You want to keep that as a back-up in case something goes wrong. Instead start a new image from scratch and then upload your images.

Create a new project under File-->New. A window will pop up with fields to fill out. You would want to use these specs for an octavo sized print ready cover: paperback.


width: 6"
height: 9" / 8"
ppi: 300

Size! If you have a traditional size (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_size) already planned for print, choose that size. Otherwise, I suggest using the standard paperback size, Octavo 6" x 9".

ppi! A printed cover needs to be designed at 300 and a digital design at 72. Since you can't increase resolution, better to start a file at 300 just in case.

Voila! A blank canvas should appear in the middle of the screen.




what am i looking at??? o_O

There are three basic UI elements to every image editor worth its salt.

canvas
tools
layers


Right now your screen should look something like this:

http://freebizware.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/09/gimp-screenshot.png

Of course, if you're not using gimp it will be kind of different, so don't get upset if it's not exact.

The window in the middle is your canvas. It's a blank white page. That's where you use all of the image editing tools to manipulate photos, draw pictures and write text.

The one on the left:
http://i1-win.softpedia-static.com/screenshots/Portable-GIMP_1.png

This is your toolbox. It's a virtual box that holds all of the tools used to manipulate the canvas.

The one on the right:
http://miao3d.de/files/screenshot-layers.png

These are your layers. Basically your canvas isn't just one canvas, it's a multifaceted canvas where you can stack new canvases on top of each other, change their order and cause them to effect the ones above and below in neat ways.

It's like your making a stack of transparent pages one on top of the next. You can select which page you want to draw on, one at a time. And the higher up on the list a layer is, the higher on top of the stack it is. That means if you put a solid black layer on top, you can't see anything behind it. It's called layer hierarchy.


There are a lot more complex features to these programs, but I hope that this was a decent introduction for you. For more information either see the specific documentation available for the program you are working with, or play around and find out how it works for yourself and...




have fun ^_^

Upload your cover image(s) and go to town on it. Don't worry about messing it up. You have a back-up and you also have an undo button. :D

Hiroko
09-05-2011, 07:47 AM
What a lovely little tutorial! Thank you.

Fortunately for me, I'm already artistically inclined and have Photoshop courtesy of my dear ol' dad, but I was kind of at a loss when it came to images (I'm not even sure of whether I'll use any or not). XD

Gale Haut
09-05-2011, 09:09 AM
Cheers.

And there's more to come. Maybe you'll still learn something from the technical info. For example, the difference between CMYK and RGB, and problems that arise during conversion.

Gale Haut
09-07-2011, 02:38 AM
#3 color

Testing! Please take a moment to adjust your monitor's color settings (http://www.stoletje.com/monitor/barve.html) before using this tutorials.

Whether you're basing your design on a photo or designing everything out of sketches and vector graphics, there are a few techniques to choosing a color theme for your work.




complimentary colors

This is a concept that's usually taught in the middle years of a public school art class.

There are three primary colors on a wheel that transition into each other by increments. Let's take a look at the color wheel for a quick reminder.

http://arichmike.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/color_wheel.gif
The complimentary colors are those that are directly opposite each other on the wheel. Therefore, red compliments green, yellow compliments violet, blue compliments orange, etc.

A color's compliment is the one most unlike it. What this means in terms of design is that these colors contrast each other as much as possible. They stand out when you use them in concert.

So, say that you have a red title. It would stand out against a green background better than it would on top of an orange background. Just take a look.


https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ULwIgG_kqQo/TmaIpz-LnOI/AAAAAAAAAcA/8EPghvR7sdM/titleRG.jpghttps://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-kUUWyARpYCc/TmaIpRW3UnI/AAAAAAAAAb8/5BTXqzPZZUI/titleRO.jpg

The reason being that orange is fairly close on the wheel, as it contains red. So the orange in the background blends with the red in the text. On the other hand green is as not red as you can get.

Consider! You could choose to base your color theme entirely on complimentaries. Of course, even if you don't, you should absolutely keep them in mind throughout the process of designing the cover.




value scale
Color value is the scale used to determine how light or dark a color is. The more black a color has, the closer it approaches zero. You can see in the color drop down menu for the text editor that the colors are darker at the top and become lighter near the bottom. This is another helpful concept when trying to create color contrasts on your cover.

Here's a picture of it:

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-B40QtgTzFaE/TmaLuw7LwDI/AAAAAAAAAcI/5uZ0R1Cq5P0/value_scale.jpg

As you may have guessed a color with more white in it will have a stronger contrast against a color that has more black in it. Let's revisit the red green example:

Similar values
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-l6_xI2YRUwQ/TmaO42P9t1I/AAAAAAAAAcM/IVNoEUZIPa0/titlevalueS.jpg

Medium value contrast
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ULwIgG_kqQo/TmaIpz-LnOI/AAAAAAAAAcA/8EPghvR7sdM/titleRG.jpg

Extreme value contrast
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6xz0r-O8LvU/TmaO5lPOleI/AAAAAAAAAcQ/9HdneRT9iBc/titlevalueE.jpg


So at this point we have two different contrasting scale to consider. The difference in amount of light or darkness, and the amount of difference between true color values. Well, now it's time to complicate matters further...




temperature

Did you know that color has a temperature value? That's right, and the hotter the temperature the more harshly it strikes the eye. Sadly it's not a simple hierarchy like the value scale. It's an entire spectrum. Yeesh!

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/ba/PlanckianLocus.png/533px-PlanckianLocus.png
A good way to remember it is to think of reds, yellows & oranges as being hotter colors that tend to stand out more whereas blues are cooler colors that don't boil up to the front of the page.

Also, take note that the color white has it's own temperature. Of all of the primary colors, yellow is closest to white. That's why, as you can see in the title of this subsection, yellow easily fades into a white background. It's because they have a similar color temperature.

Is this is an important concept to keep in mind when dealing with chromatics, your shades of gray. Gray scales tend to have colors added to them. Giving a gray a color adds to its temperature.

A blue-gray is cooler than a yellow-gray. So as you can see you can create contrasts or and draw attention to certain areas of the cover by varying chromatic temperatures. Here's an example I threw together.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-fu_ow5ppC3o/TmaWIWlygxI/AAAAAAAAAcU/VtypPoiJtcs/temperatures.jpg
As you can see from this example the dark yellow gray pops to the forefront when coupled with a lighter blue gray. ETA: Actually this is a bad example because the lighter blue has a high temperature of white... I'm going to leave it though as an example of strong contrasts. Plus, I'd like to move on.



color balance techniques

There are two very similar techniques that I like to use when creating color balance for a cover.
Pulling colors from an image
Adding colors to an image

The first technique can be used simply for creating color themes in any design even when the original image isn't used anywhere in the design.

How this is done...

It's fairly simple. What you'll do is...
pick an image with a color theme you like
extract a palette of colors
use what you now know about color to add text to the image



#1
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-CquwPdIngDk/Tmab-jHY1AI/AAAAAAAAAcY/ytdP15qL5zk/colorTheme.jpg

#2
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-sZN4sVj7rVk/Tmaf0-l_hzI/AAAAAAAAAcg/Rp8NEBWQSz8/Extract.jpg

#3
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JoebQIjhzcw/TmaltCnYTnI/AAAAAAAAAcs/72kkgZmgvF0/withtext.jpg
As you can see, I pulled the color of the text from the existing image. If I were to continue playing with it, I would develop a stronger & subtler contrast between the background and the text color. I'd also consider adding an outline or dropping a shadow. But as it is I just wanted to get the basic concept across.

The second technique, adding a color, is more complicated. But essentially you can use various blending modes and opacity options to add color to your image so that you can use it in other aspects of the design. It's kind of like what I did when I increased the contrast behind the the text in the example above. For example, imagine you'd like to use a purple text for the title of this image. You can actually change the color of the flowers from pinky red to the new purple color. :D

Gale Haut
09-07-2011, 11:38 AM
This tut is on hiatus as I develop and work on some personal/professional projects. But in the meantime feel free to ask questions or make suggestions.

Gale Haut
10-15-2011, 05:03 AM
I haven't abandoned this tutorial. There will be updates coming within the next week.

Quiggs1982
10-15-2011, 05:09 AM
I love Gimp, and this is very helpful. Thank you!

Isabella Amaris
11-26-2011, 01:41 AM
This is very helpful! Thank you for being so generous with your time and knowledge:)

Anjasa
01-21-2012, 06:21 PM
Thank you for this! Very good tips in here :)

HistorySleuth
01-31-2012, 09:33 AM
Thanks Gale. :e2flowers This has been very helpful!

Snowstorm
01-31-2012, 12:05 PM
Holy cats, Gale. Fascinating stuff, and thank you for taking so much of your time to help AWers!

KatieJ
02-04-2012, 04:05 AM
Thanks, Gale, this is so helpful. It needs work, but here is my first attempt.

http://i1229.photobucket.com/albums/ee468/Catherine_Johns/DDThumb1.jpg

Gale Haut
02-04-2012, 08:16 AM
That's a very nice cover, Katie. My one niggle with it is that the word "daughter" is a bit hard to read because of the dress. But I really like how she's holding the other word.

KatieJ
02-05-2012, 06:54 AM
Thanks,

I'm having a little difficulty with fonts in GIMP, but trying to work through them.... I pulled the colors from the dress, but I'd like to figure out a way to make the fonts crisper/more defined. If I can do that, then the word "Daughter" should pop out.... "should" being the operative word.

It was so helpful for you to post the tutorial you did. I really wanted to thank you for your work! And I only paid $19 for the image from Shutterstock. It was a photo and I was able to turn it into an "oil painting" with GIMP.

Gale Haut
02-05-2012, 12:08 PM
Try fitting the second word onto the right side of the woman with some of the first letter behind her head.

Scribe4264
02-05-2012, 01:45 PM
Gail,

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this sci-fi novel cover I am putting together. Here is what I have so far.


http://i698.photobucket.com/albums/vv342/Scribe4264/MAEILSTROM_COVERcopy.jpg

Gale Haut
02-05-2012, 10:35 PM
Hi Scribe. The concept looks incredibly familiar. I'm not sure if it will give potential readers the impression that the book has anything new to bring to the genre. The background appears to be a fractal image that you used a filter effect on, and I like how that looks. The man in the center probably shouldn't just be gray. IDK, maybe as a whole it just lacks detail at the moment. I'd love take a look when it's done.

Scribe4264
02-08-2012, 04:59 AM
Gale,

Is this a little more on the right track?

http://i698.photobucket.com/albums/vv342/Scribe4264/Maelstrom_Cover_2.jpg

Gale Haut
02-09-2012, 12:54 PM
#4 picture walkthrough

This is a simple image by image walkthrough that applies the techniques in the previous sections to create a book cover.



I select an image from commons that was in the public domain.
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-Nxb5AZx3h0g/TzOGNOEzyKI/AAAAAAAAAhI/SIuU2_PFtkA/s531/picture.jpg



I create a canvas proportional to an octavo book cover.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-I_DGxzFgMic/TzOGLJfiWxI/AAAAAAAAAhA/B2q8GNEljVc/s640/picture1.jpg



I fill the canvas by extending and naturally integrating the photo onto the entire canvas.
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-0YzM_uNRxlk/TzOGJWRgRVI/AAAAAAAAAg4/NPWchI6zyPY/s640/picture2.jpg



Tweaking the color, contrast and appearance to my own tastes and also to create a suitable contrast with the text I'll be placing.
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-cucbvkN6J7s/TzOGHNE_vJI/AAAAAAAAAgw/V-JE7gWGA4I/s640/picture3.jpg



Selecting font and positioning the text. Since this is a self published novel the author's name probably doesn't need to be visible from space unless it's a name that will garner more sales for whatever reason.
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-_ZzKZ_ApkAg/TzOGGWJBjyI/AAAAAAAAAgo/d6HkTAq4ZN8/s640/picture4.jpg



Adding fx and making the text pretty... hmm, maybe I should do a chapter on that as well.
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ffrGJShS8so/TzOGFxR-jCI/AAAAAAAAAgg/THDc_nW-PL8/s640/picture5.jpg

HistorySleuth
02-11-2012, 07:08 PM
Very nice Gale! I like the effect on the type. Maybe KatieJ just needs a lighter color border or shadowing around "Devil's Daughter" to make the letters pop.

KatieJ
02-17-2012, 02:02 AM
I've been working on this, and I posted in the Tech help my latest try (because they were all helping with my GIMP manual questions) I couldn't have even started this without you Gale, here is the link to my cover on the other thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7016186#post7016186).

HistorySleuth
02-17-2012, 08:00 AM
Hummm... Would the "Daughter" pop better outlined with a lighter color?

KatieJ
02-17-2012, 06:58 PM
I could try that.

Gale Haut
02-19-2012, 12:05 AM
I agree with History Sleuth that daughter's needs to pop more. But overall, I think you did a wonderful job on your cover. Congrats!

HistorySleuth
02-19-2012, 01:46 AM
I like your cover too KatieJ. Especially the way it looks like she is holding the word Devil's. And the outline on that makes the word more defined. It's good you are being particular so it comes out well. Some covers out there are plain awful.

I'm working on one too for a non-fiction book I plan to self publish. When I get it laid out can I post it here for you guys to look at? If you don't mind. :e2flowers

Gale Haut
02-19-2012, 09:21 PM
You can, but I think that if you post it in its own thread it will receive more feedback.

L.Blake
02-23-2012, 05:46 PM
Thanks for the gobs of helpful information.

HistorySleuth
02-23-2012, 06:36 PM
Silly me, yes a new thread would make more sense. :)

NikkiSloan
04-17-2012, 12:08 AM
Thanks, Gale! Very informative.

toraguru
05-07-2012, 03:04 AM
Hello, I read something in a Photoshop guidebook a while ago that I can't seem to find, but I located this article here that basically covers it. It's about choosing font for your project and how to make sure it is the right font.
Ex: don't use Comic Sans on a book about a murder mystery. (Well, don't use Comic Sans EVER, but you catch my drift)

http://naldzgraphics.net/tips/choosing-right-typography-font/

Rachel Udin
08-22-2012, 08:12 PM
Typography--you need a section on that, because it drives me nuts on covers. (It's my number one complaint on self-published books) Stuff like margins, leading, tracking, rivers, lakes, readability of fonts, when to put words v. image v. both, getting the right font for your cover (So don't put on an Art Nouveau font on a retro cover), and concentrate more on the negative space issues than decorating the fonts. (Also where to find free fonts)

A good cover can also be done on very good typography alone.

Also image/typography harmony.

Typography is tricky, which is often the person who does the typography for the cover is separate from the actual artist who draws the cover. Writers often don't appreciate a good job with type... because unlike images, good type you can't appreciate until it goes horribly wrong. (Like ice skating).

Also think about the whole cover rather than the front cover... the spine and the back cover need consideration too. (Also jargon like bleeds, etc probably will need a section as well)

thebloodfiend
08-22-2012, 08:27 PM
^I hate when people use 3d text or comic sans on their covers. It looks cheap and very "look at me, my inner fifth grader designed this."

Filigree
08-22-2012, 11:26 PM
Almost as bad as Papyrus.

BigWords
08-23-2012, 12:51 AM
Jumping in with another font-related bit of advice - and these will probably be more useful in a typography-specific thread - be aware of what others are doing, and try to maintain your individuality. There are (figuratively, but probably soon to be literally) a gazillion books, film posters and general adverts using something strong such as Impact (or Agency FB, Arial, Gill Sans, Haettenschweiler) in dark (or black) against a light (or white) background to indicate importance. It is fast becoming rather predictable and tired.

There's also the lookalike aspect to watch out for in general. It is fine for Asylum to do their mockbuster posters riffing off a current blockbuster film, but you want your title to stand out alongside the other books in your genre, not blend in. If I see one more book which tries to be Twilight I'll have to be physically restrained to stop myself ripping my eyeballs out.

Rachel Udin
08-23-2012, 01:07 AM
Be aware of falling in the trap of using Helvetica as a default too. It's not that it's a bad font, but that it's used on *lots* of store signs. You should watch the movie on it.

Another faux pas I see often is people trying to cram as many fonts as possible onto the front cover. Please don't. If you need more than one, then go for two. If you are trying to push your luck with three, you need to rethink your design. Less is more with type.

My typography professor also pointed out that people using Black Letter automatically on a Fantasy Novel or Chinese fonts on an Asian take out menu is often in bad taste. It's screaming a bit too much, "Do you get it yet? THIS IS ASIAN" Plus he had several larger complaints about using script fonts or copperplate for branding titles. But that rant is rather long... maybe we need a guide to typography thread too? Type is this subtle balance between blending in and standing out just in the right ways.

A lot of what Steve Jobs learned in type classes, he applied to the definition of how Apple Computers would look. His mantra was "simplify" so it is with type. Sometimes the least you do with it is the most.

And Comic Sans is evil, but I think most people already have covered this. Even the creator of Comic Sans.

Oh and this applies to *any* design. Negative space doesn't mean it's "empty" and you need to therefore "fill" it. It has a function in design. Respect negative space. It can help you rank importance as much as positive space. <-- Saying this because some clients of mine have insisted that all negative space should be filled. O.o; Ummm... no. That looks like hording to me.

Gale Haut
08-23-2012, 01:45 AM
Rachel, I think that I covered some of those things in the tut, though it is still lacking in many areas. I haven't had time to update it yet.

For example, it especially needs a nice big section on typography. And seeing as that is one of the things I have the least experience in, I could use the help. If you could post a nice, easy to understand, beginner's guide to typography for making cover art, I will happily add a link to the post number in the the Table of Contents.

Thanks for jumping in!

EDIT: Of course, you could make a new thread since the subject is rather large.

Kitty27
08-23-2012, 08:50 AM
I am totally lost, so I will just silently seethe with jealousy over Gale's skills.

Purple Rose
08-23-2012, 09:42 AM
^I hate when people use 3d text or comic sans on their covers. It looks cheap and very "look at me, my inner fifth grader designed this."

hahaha... I know what you mean and agree in general.

However, my front cover, back cover and spine were all designed by a fifth grader. She has just started grade 6 but she was in grade 5 when it was done in April. It ended up costing me a small fortune because while the design was great, she could not execute it - I had to contact the font creator myself to customise my title using the same typeface the designer found online. Then I had to find someone to illustrate the butterfly (her mother did it eventually). The publisher's graphic artist put all the elements together into final art.

My publisher was going to organize everything with his own team but the kid wanted the opportunity and I'm glad I gave it to her.

Goes to show that a talented fifth grader could in fact design a good cover :D

http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/428957_319248581504580_620024041_n.jpg

Alessandra Kelley
08-23-2012, 02:07 PM
... maybe we need a guide to typography thread too?

That is an excellent suggestion. Please feel free to start one.

thebloodfiend
08-23-2012, 05:30 PM
hahaha... I know what you mean and agree in general.

However, my front cover, back cover and spine were all designed by a fifth grader. She has just started grade 6 but she was in grade 5 when it was done in April. It ended up costing me a small fortune because while the design was great, she could not execute it - I had to contact the font creator myself to customise my title using the same typeface the designer found online. Then I had to find someone to illustrate the butterfly (her mother did it eventually). The publisher's graphic artist put all the elements together into final art.

My publisher was going to organize everything with his own team but the kid wanted the opportunity and I'm glad I gave it to her.

Goes to show that a talented fifth grader could in fact design a good cover :D

http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/428957_319248581504580_620024041_n.jpg

That's pretty cool.

When I was in fifth grade, kids didn't have computers -- Photoshop was completely out of their reach. They got excited over the possibility of using Joker and Papyrus over a bright, neon gradient. Nice to know those days are slowly ending.

Gale Haut
08-23-2012, 10:21 PM
That's pretty cool.

When I was in fifth grade, kids didn't have computers -- Photoshop was completely out of their reach. They got excited over the possibility of using Joker and Papyrus over a bright, neon gradient. Nice to know those days are slowly ending.

I remember in grade school the first time I drew a picture on a screen in MS Paint by filling in pixels. The computer lab lady was really excited and made me show her how to do it. Good times...

Rachel Udin
08-23-2012, 10:49 PM
I remember in grade school the first time I drew a picture on a screen in MS Paint by filling in pixels. The computer lab lady was really excited and made me show her how to do it. Good times...
I feel old. My first program in this area was Superpaint for the mac, which if I'm not mistaken, is older than MS Paint. Mind you, this is the days before the blessed tablet too.

Alessandra Kelley
08-23-2012, 11:00 PM
I feel old. My first program in this area was Superpaint for the mac, which if I'm not mistaken, is older than MS Paint. Mind you, this is the days before the blessed tablet too.

I did math on an electric typewriter in a giant refrigerated room. If we were very good we had the option of letting the typewriter type rows and rows of characters to make pictures, if you squinted a bit.

By the time I got to art school we had Macintosh IIs with 8-bit art programs. The teacher was very excited by Hypercard, but could not understand why I wished to make pages linked by images in the form of a labyrinth.

Gale Haut
08-23-2012, 11:48 PM
Is superpaint more super than MS paint?

I think that when I used it MS was brand spanking new. It was a big deal when the computers came in and they herded us all into the lab to oggle over them.

They were not Macs. I do remember that much for sure. My first mac experience was unpleasant.


I did math on an electric typewriter in a giant refrigerated room. If we were very good we had the option of letting the typewriter type rows and rows of characters to make pictures, if you squinted a bit.

By the time I got to art school we had Macintosh IIs with 8-bit art programs. The teacher was very excited by Hypercard, but could not understand why I wished to make pages linked by images in the form of a labyrinth.

This sounds like pure awesome! Did you make it? And--and--and can we see it?

As to the typewriter art... I have always been kind of fascinated by ascii, though I can't say I've ever done it. There was a short lived resurgence of it on facebook.

Rachel Udin
09-16-2012, 06:44 AM
Just a general thought... though authors won't generally think of this, but it's the same as it is for books:

Commercial art COMMUNICATES something. Even with all these tips and guidelines to creating art, what is the central rule to all of it, is that if the design fails to communicate, you've failed.

More than the rules about color, negative space, positive space, foreground, background, middle ground, etc. Your first job is the communicate to your audience what your book is about on your cover. if a piece of art can say 1,000 words, what do you want those 1,000 words to say to the reader about to buy your book?

I say this, because I, too, didn't get it. But after I took design classes, and took art classes, my drawings started to tell their own internal stories of sorts. A cover can tell the story for you, without giving away the ending, without using physical words. And that's kinda the art of graphic design.

When do you break a guideline? When it serves to communicate your message better.

For a cover, I would look for the following:
1. What is the genre? Can I tell from the cover?
2. What is the tone of the story?
3. Are there themes or elements from the story that give a nuance to the *other* things without re-enforcing them?

I always start here though some of my clients don't like it. (Since I do websites, they are more going on about the bells and whistles, and I'm trying to get them to concretely tell me what they want the website to function to *do* for the *client* first.)

Genre: Mystery
Setting: Thailand.
Themes: hardboiled, noir, gritty. Riverboats.
Tone: Sarcastic. Maybe with a little Irony.

The obvious on the nose choice would be to go for the open air market in Thailand. Go for some slangy Thai-ish font, slap it on the background like the MV Dirty put in a dead body and call it a day.

But like with stories, you want it to tell a story. YOUR story. And don't give people easy.

If your blurb reads, "On the backstreets of Thailand, there is a new boss in town." Then maybe you've got the wrong image.

What are you trying to say with this cover besides murder in Thailand? What does your story eventually say to the reader?

Some of the best covers I've seen are where I read the story and the cover gradually makes more and more sense as I look at it over and over again. The cover didn't give away the ending at all, but little details come out that make me appreciate the art on the front more. It becomes less of a marketing tool, but kind of joins with the book as one entity and you don't know it, but when you do finish, that's what you find. Just like subtle is good in stories, so it is with covers.

I have to say, I'm a huge fan of Michael Whelan covers. Because I'd often glance at the cover during the course of the story and then little details he'd put in make sense suddenly. (He says he reads the books before making covers, which make his art richer as a marketing tool)

You, who know the book the best should know what it's trying to communicate in the art. Put that as your first directive, and no matter what rules you break, you will probably end up breaking them well if you break them for that reason.

Nanowrimo had a book cover contest. And one of the graphic artists chose a book about a kid with OCD. It broke every rule about typography very subtly, slamming me with errors, but it *worked* because it communicated to me the meaning of the book through those type of errors--the type of thing that would drive someone with OCD mad.

The design works as a WHOLE Type and image to communicate your book. Start there before messing with the image and image ideas.

Think of it that way.

That occurred to me today when I got pissed off at Barnes and Nobles... I thought their customer service kinda stunk today. And then I realized I was obsessing over it because it's user experience (My main obsession with design). And then I realized user experience extends to all kinds of design. User experience makes the design function. You can have the prettiest design in the world, but if it doesn't communicate, it's pretty dead. (Thank you Steve Jobs--though he wouldn't mince words and say something like, "It's a piece of S***"--I find his biography inspiring on design aspects for some reason...).

Usually for me, it's a no duh moment, but then I realized that not everyone here has that moment, though they may now automatically have it for stories (eventually)

^^; I hope this doesn't usurp anything though... not meant to.

Rachel Udin
10-07-2012, 02:16 AM
Help with color links:

http://colorschemedesigner.com/

Stuck and need to cheat it... use this link. (I also use kuler inside of Photoshop)

http://pronouncedyou.deviantart.com/gallery/11215209#/d1zx4ie
Basic color theory.

http://www.precisionintermedia.com/color.html
Basic Color psychology. (Western Hemisphere only)

Please note that actual color psychology is kind of an early science and they haven't gotten that deep into it yet.From my basic research, some thought about colors comes from the Victorian era thoughts about flowers and the meaning of flower colors. Also that thoughts about colors has changed over time (blue for boy and pink for girl were switched at one point)

...which is to say, don't base it 100% on color psychology to choose colors, use to augment choices.

girlyswot
10-07-2012, 06:47 PM
I have this book (http://www.amazon.co.uk/2000-Colour-Combinations-Graphic-Designers/dp/1906388121/ref=pd_cp_b_0), which I love for lots of reasons, but one of the good things is that it shows you colour combinations in different proportions, so you can get a good idea of which colour to use as an accent and which to use as main backgrounds etc.

Rachel Udin
10-11-2012, 08:55 AM
Side note, since this is more design than pure typography.

Type is a design element.

As with most things, I learned this the hard way. I know the very temptation. You think, Ooo~ I'll make a pretty image *gets into image* then you think oh, but it needs a background *gets into background* then you think... OK... where do I put the type...... uhh... somewhere.... The character's foreshrotening and color doesn't match the background. The background perspective doesn't match the characters so they are sinking into the floor, the colors don't unify, and the type isn't readable because there was no room for it in the first place. It's a terrible mess, but you can't see it from staring at it so long.

I used to do that too. Obviously. And when I feel lazy I usually still do and then have to cover up my tracks which is a pain in the butt.

So the better approach to composition (beyond all the guidelines and "rules"):

Think Globally.
When you're drawing, the art teacher will explicitly tell you (besides your posture makes your drawing horrible... =P) to work "globally". This means to not just draw the hand, but to maybe draw the idea first, zero in on the hand, move to the face, move to the other hand and keep moving. 'cause if you keep to one area, then it won't fit in with the other areas. Details come later.

Thumbnail
Graphic design teachers will say, "thumbnail, thumbnail, thumbnail again." Some assignments insisted that you show the thumbnail ideas before you produce. And believe me, it saved my hide several times. *Professor Points* What is that [ugly] negative space? *sweatdrops* Uhhh... defining stuff... *professor looks at me because he knows I know better* me: Fail?--how about this one...

This helps you determine your negative space beforehand and what goes where. You get a unified picture.

Type is a design element. It needs its space, just like the picture does. Just like you plan your colors, you plan for your type as you design the picture.

I was slow, but I eventually got the idea and started to think if I wanted type first, then if I wanted type, where was I going to put it and then thought of the image as an unformed mass on my negative space, thumbnailed it and then drew the thing.

Think of the story when you compose the image/design
It's also probably my storytelling background, but I kinda talk to the art too as I draw the thumbnail and concept... especially to characters, which sometimes translates into a scene. Not quite Bob Ross though.

=P More like, ah, she's angry. Wow, she's really angry, but over what? Damn, did he just stick up his middle finger at her and roar her down? Ah, but the jacket it wrong. The jacket needs to be like this... this, this, move it... ah, hand on his hip. He's getting impatient... what does the other character say to that in the picture? Pointing her finger at him, eh?

He wouldn't stand like that if he's yelling at her, legs apart... make himself look more important. Must be one arrogant B. Much more like him.

*Imagining dialogue at this point probably because I forgot to eat and am hallucinating <--jk*

"You can stick it..."

"Oh, you are soooo mature. I'm sooo sure."

*adjust hat* Looks like he bought it from Stetson? *Researches Stetson.* Must have cost him a whole lot when he bought it if he smuggled it from Earth if it is a Stetson. No wonder he's possessive.

And they are standing in a forest... must be on assignment. Wow, he's really mad at her. Probably saying something like, "I am sick of you. *insert insult* You have no idea what I go through for you." but I know he doesn't mean it, mean it. *adjusts hat to reflect that*

By the end, I had a fairy pointing down a man 7-8 times her size, totally fearless, and it really did explain to me why she had absolutely no problem with slapping a flying tiger on its nose in the written story. I finally got that reason after I did that and I understand why she's so sassy.

I keep talking, asking questions to the picture and then I get a mini story out of the concept. And I don't always gets happy little trees. (I also talk to the actors I draw and say stuff like, "You have weird planes on your face. You must hate having your face shot from the other side..." Also ask about personality since I can always fit it into the expression. "What foods do you like? Favorite hobbies?")

Much easier when you plan the design as a whole. Though I concede since I draw/do other creative arts, it's cheating...

Rachel Udin
10-15-2012, 01:13 AM
And just to save my brain and back hurting: http://eschergirls.tumblr.com/

Please don't make females into Escher girls. We don't bend that way.

writeontime
11-26-2012, 05:29 PM
I've been lurking around this forum on designing but I'm coming out of lurkdom as I want to say a massive thanks to this thread. It's really informative so thank you! :)

I've been re-visiting this thread ever since I stumbled across it and have bookmarked it.

I don't know how to use PhotoShop and frankly it terrifies me. But having said that, I'm going to start tinkering around with Paint.net especially if it's more user-friendly than GIMP.

Rachel Udin
11-26-2012, 11:35 PM
Photoshop TV (May have been renamed, but if you google it, you'll find the current name), which you can download for free from the iTunes store (at least the recent episodes) helped me tremendously with basics of design and how to get over the anxiety of Photoshop with concrete tutorial. After 1 month I'd leveled up from Photoshop hermit, where Photoshop was the light blinding my eyes, to a person who was making actions. I'm still below guru level since I don't program custom content and I'm afraid to break the thing... but you can get up to that level if you like and it'll help your gimp and other graphic design skills too. (They also have in their backlog how to use Painter as well and also working with illustrator.) I can beat Photoshop into submission now. (though I admit to binging... so it may take you three or four months... which isn't bad for free.)

writeontime
11-27-2012, 01:37 AM
Thanks, Rachel. Until just now, I didn't know of the existence of Photoshop TV but it sounds wonderful especially if it can get me over my fear of Photoshop and help me put together something decent without me wincing at my efforts.

I suspect I won't be able to get to the level you describe you were at in one month (luddite that I am), but if the tutorials can help me toward learning how to design graphics which somehow come near to what I envision, I'd be happy.

I'm going to hunt down the site now. Thanks again! :)

Rachel Udin
11-30-2012, 09:11 PM
I figured, why not have a check list of basics of design. Anyone want to add on?

The rule that supersedes all rules: If it bends to the concept and you know what you are doing all following rules can be broken.

Which is the basic rule of pretty much all art that I know of. And these are in no particular order, despite being numbered. I'm using numbers 'cause of Neilsen's principles of website design... ^^;;

1. Do not split the canvas in half.
Why?: Because the eye doesn't know where to go. In the cases where a split in half works is where the character has two choices that are equal. So the rivals are on either side of the character.

2. The rule of thirds/Golden Mean

A more detailed explanation is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds (I don't want it to run too long.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

Smack in the middle of the canvas isn't interesting. You can lead the eye with negative space, shape and color. (If you do the tl;dr version)

3. Size matters.

A large object on a blank page will attract more attention than a small object (unless there is color theory, but I'm looking at composition more) A small dark object in a large space will also attract attention.

Therefore, in order to *usually* rank your object's importance you do it by size. This means usually the title or the author name is a different size. Debut authors usually get a smaller size font than the title.

Make sure the positive space does not equal the same as another if it's not on *purpose*. (You can simplify it by thinking about the object filling a jar)

If you're good with color theory, you can work against this.

4. Negative space has a function.
And that's not to merely fill it.

Negative space defines the positive space and depending on your piece can be more important than your positive space (Such as in typography or the dot in a large field)

Contrast of objects will also define the positive and negative space.

Along that line, margins help to contain the elements on the page, no margins makes it seem formless. And margins define objects and groupings. You can see this with paragraphs and below.

**** *****

or with a telephone number 1-800-555-2718

the space created by the dash creates a grouping. Margins are a type of negative space that does that.

5. Tangencies are (usually) evil.
That's usually a small negative space that doesn't need to be there. If you're thinking of math, that's true. Exceptions are when one wants to lead the eye from one positive space to another. This is true of serifs and this is why small type is done in Serifs. (or the equivalent)

Small negative spaces often draw attention to themselves unnecessarily.

6. Watch for internal flow.

The eye should move within the canvas and *usually* not fall off. Just like you don't want people to stop reading a book, or walk out of a play, this is the artist's version of thinking about how to move the eye. There are several techniques for this, but usually watching out for lines leading off the page and sharp angles will help.

Where this would be an exception, would be if you're making the viewer struggle on purpose by leading them off. Still, the rule is no 45 degree angles because that is the most difficult angle for the eye to climb. You need to be really strong in design for that.

7. If it is on the canvas/working surface, it is a design element.
Dadaism is a good teaching tool for this one. Accidents happen, it becomes part of the design, it's not merely a secondary.

That means plan the whole design as one element. Thumbnails are king here. Make at least a thumbnail and a mock up before doing the final design. You are less likely to change a piece you've worked hours on.

I haven't found exceptions to this, even when it's the last element, it is still a design element.

8. The human brain is feeble and can only usually hold 3-4 objects at a time.
(Might be useful for selecting titles and breaking them up)

That's why telephone numbers are broken up.

That's why titles usually are grouped into parts.

That is a psychological rule, however, it does help with design.

9. Color theory
Well covered, so I'll glance over it, but generally it can work with or against the composition. But to work against the composition you need to be really good at it. This is because the human brain sees shape before it sees color. Another functional design rule, but, again, useful for marketing on things such as logos and color. You can test that here.

Say the COLOR of the word:

Green
purple
blue
pink
orange

Yeah, gets harder. Words are shapes, so they supersede color information. (There is a long, long biological explanation for it including evolution)

10. In the US, British and countries where the *reading* is left to right, the eye unless told not to do so tends to gravitate towards the upper left hand corner. (Especially in website design)

(Chinese, Japanese, etc are exceptions... design is a cultural thing too.)

You can take advantage of that. If you see the standard website that has the top and a side bar, notice in the US that the side bar is usually on the left and the banner is at the top. That's using that principle.

Covers as a marketing tool can take advantage of some of those rules of culture and psychology, including colors, shape, etc. Most designers do it subconsciously anyway.

Anyway, basics if you need a check list. But mostly be purposeful in what you do in design. Think it through. Ask yourself "Why".

Oh and one rule from my professor, "Never apologize for your work. Tell them you did the best you could for the time you were given." I thought it is sage advice.

Another thing he taught me was, "Your clients will always pick the one you hate most." Haha. He's right.

Alessandra Kelley
12-01-2012, 07:08 AM
Thanks, Rachel, for a thought-provoking list of basic design principles. There's a lot to think about, and of course a lot of approaches are possible.

Just off the top of my head, though, I wonder a bit about this one:




2. The rule of thirds/Golden Mean

A more detailed explanation is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds (I don't want it to run too long.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

Smack in the middle of the canvas isn't interesting. You can lead the eye with negative space, shape and color. (If you do the tl;dr version)



The rule of thirds is founded in English painting theory of circa. 1790-1840. It is a useful rule of thumb for quickly producing compositions that are not too awkward looking, but I wonder if it is versatile enough to be a prescription.

The Golden Mean is more problematic. It has been the darling of numerologists and theoreticians for centuries, but apart from some fairly brutal modern art there is little or no evidence that it has actually been used to generate work by practicing artists until quite recently. It is an eye-pleasing ratio, but so are many others. I would hesitate before recommending it as a guiding principle.

I'd like to quote a post (slightly edited) I made on the Golden Mean in a different context.


As a practicing visual artist, I have a deep suspicion of formulas presented as How Things Are Done, because they too often get turned around to How You Must Do Them.

This formula does sound like the Golden Mean idea. That's a kind of ratio using the Fibonacci sequence, where each iteration gets closer to the "perfect" rectangle. The Fibonacci sequence is gotten by adding a number to the number before it, starting with an invisible 0 and 1, so: (0), 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 35, etc. And the rectangles have ratios of 1:2 (not so perfect), 2:3 (better), 3:5 (better yet), 5:8 and so on.

...

Like just about every literary or artistical analysis, the Golden Mean appears to have some possible merit if you throw it over something and look hard for patterns.

But I am unconvinced.

I have seen golden rectangles and spirals superimposed over carefully selected photographs of Greek temples, and I cannot see that they actually coincide with important parts of the buildings, as is claimed.

This system is supposed to be exact, so fudging and skewing to try to force photos of buildings and paintings to fit it cannot be permitted.

Furthermore, the analyses often disagree with each other, which uneasily suggests a pseudoscience rather than a mathematical reality underlying our aesthetic experience of art.

For example, Leonardo's "Last Supper" is often cited as a paragon of the Golden Mean. Perhaps it is (although he never in any of his copious writings suggested an interest in it -- his famous Man is based on the system of Vitruvius, not the Golden Mean), but nobody seems able to agree on how and where the Golden Mean applies:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-O0BQ4RTLVlw/Ty7KqaZiTKI/AAAAAAAAANs/ZwEdJQjIYhM/s1600/leonardo-supper.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2478/3569587541_0c18d0ca61.jpg
http://www.mathematicianspictures.com/images_275/275_GADV_P_LASTSUP_1015_300.jpg
http://acunix.wheatonma.edu/jsklensk/Art_Spring09/inclass/golden%20ratio/leonardo-last_supper-mylines10.jpg

If one were of a cynical turn of mind, one might think these were little more than random rectangles people tried to line up with whatever they thought was important in the image rather than an obvious, clear mathematical reality.

...

The major use of the Golden Mean to create artwork has been in twentieth-century modernists such as Le Corbusier (http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/Corbu/savoye1.jpg) -- I will leave it to you to decide whether he succeeded in producing beauty.

I think LillyPu spotted it: there are important things everywhere in writing, and any formula thrown over a piece of writing is liable to hit close to something important.

This idea smacks of literary criticism, not the practical realities of making art.

On the matter of the principle of art or typography in the middle of a design being uninteresting, it is worth noting that there are striking book covers that do just that:

http://bookcoverarchive.com/book/the_sheriff_of_yrnameer
http://www.amazon.com/Love-Stargirl-Jerry-Spinelli/dp/0375856447

Knowing the basics is good, but knowing why they are considered such, and how and why they are worth following, and how and why to play with them is also useful.

Rachel Udin
12-02-2012, 04:05 AM
http://bookcoverarchive.com/book/the_sheriff_of_yrnameer

That's not dead center... just pointing it out. It may be centered horizontally, but it isn't vertically.


http://www.amazon.com/Love-Stargirl-Jerry-Spinelli/dp/0375856447

Again, not dead center. One single object may be dead center, but as a compositional whole, it is not dead center. Also the lack of symmetry is partially why it works.

Usually doing dead center every single time on the x and y axis can be boring. It's a default because it's easy... but sometimes for the subject matter it doesn't work. And sometimes doing dead center leads to tangencies that would have been better thinking about asymmetry. Usually people do it because they don't have faith in negative space or think it *has* to be that way, rather than making a conscious decision to make it that way because they know nothing else will work.

Rule of Thirds and Golden Mean are popular in photography, particularly in movies. It's a tool, but not an end all know all, which is why the super rule applies. Everything bends to concept. Just like in writing, everything bends to story.

I'd say it's worth giving other types of composition a try before defaulting to dead center.

The dot and the line old animation did not always use the rule of thirds. I think that works because it is the strongness of recognizable simple shapes that isn't asking for lots of interest, and going for a more minimalist design that it often works in the cartoon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmSbdvzbOzY

BTW, I still love the cartoon. It's a classic. And it's a good lesson in design.



Knowing the basics is good, but knowing why they are considered such, and how and why they are worth following, and how and why to play with them is also useful.Yes, which is why I listed exceptions underneath each other the given rules as well. I wasn't sure if going over art theory would be on topic since this thread is more for rookies as I understand it than it is for the graphic designer getting a degree.

I've been trying to find a website that goes over basic composition too. Such as the triangle composition, etc, but that's a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. The website I'd found before went poof. Other shapes are useful, such as circles as well.

I also got tips such as circles/curves are often seen as softer and are usually used in places that are supposed to feel warm. And squares and sharp angles are usually used on things that are "evil". I wasn't quite sure how to apply/discuss that though. I got it from the guy that did the art direction/concept drawing for Pan's Labyrinth who came into my class...

writeontime
12-11-2012, 08:35 PM
Thanks for putting this together, Rachel.

As a result of reading all the advice, tips and hints in this thread, I've been paying close attention to book covers on my shelves, bookshops and my local library. I've been asking myself: why does this work? Why do I like this particular cover? What is the font they used on this cover? Why do I love these colours? How have the elements been arranged on this cover?

I'm hoping to take all I've observed from these book covers and all the guidelines here on this thread and apply it to my graphic attempts. :)

Rachel Udin
03-12-2013, 07:06 AM
Resource: Lousy Book Covers.

http://lousybookcovers.tumblr.com/

It doesn't go over *why* so much, but sometimes it is obvious.

Tezzirax
03-12-2013, 11:06 PM
To think! We could have helped so many of those poor designers!

Rachel Udin
03-13-2013, 11:21 AM
I think you can learn from bad design as much as good design, but it really does show what having a fresh set of eyes does to your work.

WriterTrek
03-18-2013, 10:12 PM
Hey there guys.

So this is a fantastic thread. I've been using GIMP for years and it is what I intend to use to help me edit my own book cover, but I wasn't sure about a lot of the legalities until now when you bring them up.

For instance, I didn't know where I could get legit images from (great list), nor was I aware that I could then alter them to my heart's content.

If it's a free image from one of those sites do you still need to credit it somewhere? If so, where? I want to avoid any potential issues.

But my real question is this: Is there a list somewhere of artists willing to design custom art & approximate prices? I don't want to spend a lot on a design, given that I haven't got much money and haven't sold anything yet, but I don't mind dropping a little cash. I'd just like to know where to find people that do it regularly (I know DeviantArt, but that requires sorting through profiles to see who does commissions, who does book art, etc.) and approximate prices so I don't waste my time messaging someone who charges an amount I can't afford yet. I know there's also issues about getting the copyright released to you if you're going to use it as a book cover to avoid issues later about who owns the artwork, etc.

Thanks -- great thread! *goes back to playing with GIMP*

Rachel Udin
03-22-2013, 09:33 AM
Hey there guys.

So this is a fantastic thread. I've been using GIMP for years and it is what I intend to use to help me edit my own book cover, but I wasn't sure about a lot of the legalities until now when you bring them up.

For instance, I didn't know where I could get legit images from (great list), nor was I aware that I could then alter them to my heart's content.

If it's a free image from one of those sites do you still need to credit it somewhere? If so, where? I want to avoid any potential issues.
Attribution is part of copyright. See if the license requires attribution. If so, then it would go with your copyright information. If you see the copyright page of most books, it'll attribute the cover artist, etc. So you would do it there.



But my real question is this: Is there a list somewhere of artists willing to design custom art & approximate prices? I don't want to spend a lot on a design, given that I haven't got much money and haven't sold anything yet, but I don't mind dropping a little cash. I'd just like to know where to find people that do it regularly (I know DeviantArt, but that requires sorting through profiles to see who does commissions, who does book art, etc.) and approximate prices so I don't waste my time messaging someone who charges an amount I can't afford yet. I know there's also issues about getting the copyright released to you if you're going to use it as a book cover to avoid issues later about who owns the artwork, etc.

There is concept art as well, but they are pro level. There is also a listing in this forum too.

You want the LICENSE to use it for a TIME PERIOD. Not the copyright. Copyright will cost you quite a bit of money.

***

Anyway, I had a thought... artists often when they are being trained are told, "You better thumbnail." and are told to thumbnail for pages until they get used to it. Think up different concepts and perspectives of the same thing.

After thumbnail, you get concept sketches and I like to do a study sketch too. (And then sometimes color comps).

But I rarely see anyone pull any of those things here. We get the full investment of color and typography (Where the typography *sometimes* is an afterthought. I'll chant it, "Typography is part of design." Because I learned it the hard way). But since it takes a few hours to pull that off, people are often more reluctant to change it.

In short: Thumbnail and/or concept sketch. It'll make your headaches less because basic problems like type and composition can be solved by this basic measure.

Gale Haut
06-21-2014, 06:47 PM
Dropping in another amazing free resource: https://creativemarket.com/

Also, I'm looking at this whole thread with new eyes and big plans, Mods be willing. Stay tuned.

Filigree
06-21-2014, 06:57 PM
Great resource! I'll be watching that site and the thread.

kevinwaynewilliams
06-22-2014, 02:06 AM
For all the discussion of fonts on this thread, I'll point out that when I asked about them (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=288958), I was met with a response only slightly louder than crickets.

Alessandra Kelley
06-22-2014, 08:56 PM
For all the discussion of fonts on this thread, I'll point out that when I asked about them (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=288958), I was met with a response only slightly louder than crickets.

The person who started this thread was no longer with us by that time.

Font afficionadoes are welcome to discuss their interests here.

greendragon
02-18-2015, 07:14 PM
Just found this thread - great information, Gale! For those that drool over Photoshop, if you are a student (or have one), sometimes you can get a cheaper version of Photoshop through the college.

I've been working with Photoshop since about 1994 I think. I paint in PS as well as do post-work on photos. I'm happy to answer questions, etc. I designed my own covers in PS, as well.

http://www.greendragonartist.com/Galleries/gallery_digital.htm for examples of my digital painting.

http://www.greendragonartist.com/Galleries/gallery_photo.htm for my photos :)

kevinwaynewilliams
04-08-2016, 08:03 PM
I don't know that anyone is using it for book design, per se, but when it comes to actually making the cover image, yes, people use image manipulation software for that, and then import the image into the book design tool of their choice.

Gale Haut
04-11-2016, 05:55 PM
I've not read through all the replies on this thread - who really has time for that? - but one thing is standing out in these tutorials and general design threads: are people really using Photoshop and Illustrator for book design? I can understand that some people might consider a book cover little more than an image, but even so, Photoshop and Illustrator are not the most suitable tools for designing covers and definitely not the actual books. If you're going to be putting together a book yourself, you'd be much better off, if you're considering an Adobe product, with InDesign or Quark, dedicated book design software. If my old design tutor found out people were using Illustrator he'd go spare.

The design of a book cover and the design of a book are two different things. The software cited does not give an appropriate range of tools for building your cover image. It would be fine if you are doing graphic design with an existing image, or as second tier software in the process. There's no reason to intimidate nonprofessional designers from attempting the process since this thread was not written as a walkthrough for people who are already professionals. InDesign is for editorial layout for example, and while it has a conversion option for eBooks, I wouldn't trust it if my job or my own publication depended on it.

If people would like a tutorial on ebook design, I'm not sure that would be appropriate for the design forum and it may already exist in the tech forum. Do you know anything about this Alessandra?

*ETA