Designing a Book Cover

Hello there! For the last few months, I’ve been setting aside some time to design book covers to add to my portfolio because it’s something I’d love to do for self-publishing authors (if you are one and would like to work together, please send a message through the contact page on my website here) because I love doing it. Most of the covers I do are of already published books, usually something I’ve read or is a favorite of mine. I redesign them for fun and to put up on my portfolio, but for this cover, I did something a little different.

This time, I first found the original stock photo while searching around on Storyblocks and wanted to build a cover around it. So, this cover is not of a real book nor is Nathan Patterson a real author. I made it all up to fit around the concept, kind of reversing what I usually do. I wanted to do more fantasy and more work with photography rather than vector art, which is what I usually do, and thought I’d share the design process for this particular cover.

First, as I said, I found the image that I wanted to work with. It’s a stock image a photographer has available on Storyblocks that immediately made the gears in my head start to turn.

There were a few things that I wanted to edit and fix of the original: the fold in the fabric close to eye needed to be smoothed, the contact lenses the girl are wearing are a bit crooked, and I wanted to smooth out the fabric in general so that it didn’t look quite so cheap-looking (this was done later, so not shown below). So those were the first steps. I achieved these tweaks in Photoshop.

Below, you’ll see that editing out the folded-up part near her eye doesn’t look perfect, which I knew would be okay because I was going to be doing more work on it.

After that, I took the photo into Lightroom just to play around with the coloring and shadows to make it look darker and less bright and green in the background (on the left). Then, I brought back into Photoshop to continue editing to smooth out her skin, darken her eye makeup, and smooth out the fabric to look less like velvet (on the right).

Once the photo was where I wanted it, I continued in Photoshop to add more effects. This included darkening more of the background to even it out, coloring her contacts to be blue, and adding this stock image texture I found, which reminds me of metallic eye shadow or something. After applying the texture over it, I erased it just around the eyes so that they would still pop and not be too covered up.

One thing that I wanted to try, was having a smoke/fire/magic-looking effect around the text of the title. After much trial and error, I was able to achieve the desired effect by removing all the black from the original smoke image in Photoshop, then digitally erasing and painting in several layers of the text in order to make it appear as though it is within the smoke, not just on top of it or behind it.

And there it be! I’m very excited with how it turned out. This was my first design using many of these techniques and the first I’ve ever done using a photo of a person, too. I pushed myself to go beyond my usual style and comfort zone, and I’m glad I did!

Here are some more covers I’ve done:

Again, if you’d like to work with me, whether it be for a cover design or something else, visit my website and use the contact page to ask any questions you’d like!

Recent Design Projects

Hi! So I’ve been trying to do more design work outside of work like I talked about in this post. I’ve been really enjoying just designing and creating some digital art just for the hell of it. Here’s some stuff that I’ve been working on:

So, I’ve been working on alternate book covers for some of my favorite books to put up on my portfolio because designing book covers for self-published authors or for publishing houses is something that I want to do. I’ve been working on a few more but I have finished one that I’m in love with, and that’s an alternate cover for the book Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. It’s about Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed for murder in the early 1800s Iceland. I’d wanted to feature the setting and tone of the book, using the imagery of vultures circling the farm house in which Agnes was forced to stay before her execution date, signifying her impending death.

This trio was simply doing an exercise. I just needed a refresher and some practice with layers and effects, and especially wanted to work out how to do a metallic effect. It’s not perfect here, but I like how these three image turned out.

I saw a tweet about Mary Shelley, saying how she was both a cool gothic teen and a revolutionary author who invented a genre with Frankenstein. I thought, Yeah that’s right, she’s my homegirl. Then, I thought about the “Mary is my Homegirl” t-shirt with the Virgin Mary on it. These two things merged in my brain for a second. I laughed out lout. Mary Shelley is my Homegirl. And I really, truly, desperately wanted a shirt with that on it. But none had been created yet. I was upset but only for a moment because I realized — UH, I COULD MAKE ONE? So I did and she’s amazing and I gave her a little skull necklace. It’s my first, like, illustrative design so it’s not perfect but I’m really proud of her anyway.

If you happen to be as weird as I and love this little design I made, I have the shirt up on Redbubble for myself to order and I’m just going to keep it there for anyone else who likes it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of an online shop for a while, so I’ve been slowly trying to build a social media presence and designing products that I want to sell. I have a whole big plan and everything, but I’ve just been working on some pieces casually for now. One such pieces is a calendar that I’m real excited about. So far, a few months have been completed but I recently finished “January” and I love it.

And lastly, I played with animation for the first time in a LONG time. I took an animation/motion graphics class in design school, but never really bothered with it since. But as I was working on the calendar’s page for “February,” I started to like the way I was maniplating some of the shapes and thought, “Woah, this would be cool if I saved each change as an image and animated it frame by frame.” So I did and it’s not, like, the coolest thing in the world as I’d imagined (lol) but I still think it’s neat. I think I’ll try to do more of it because it was a lot of fun. I’d love to be able to work out more complicated ones. Anyway, here’s a short clip. (Literally like two seconds lol.)

And that’s it! These are all the little projects I’ve been working on outside of work and thought I’d share!

✌🏻

Being Creative Outside of Work

As I’ve started to do more design work, I’ve realized that I have done less for myself. I used to design stuff just for fun, outside of either work or while in school, like the book covers I did for my portfolio and the digital art I used to do. And I realized how important it is for me to do. Just like doing anything creative or anything that started as a hobby and turned into a business, it’s easy to fall into the mentality that what you used to love is no longer fun — it’s work.

And I think I’ve been doing that with design. The past year, I haven’t done many projects outside of work — in fact, I haven’t at all. The only thing that I wasn’t being paid for was the images I did for each blog post last year — which fell into the mental category of “work.” I hadn’t done a book cover redesign for fun, I hadn’t done anything. The moment I realized this was in November when I had an idea for a podcast — one that I will most likely never do (like I need anymore creative outlets) — and I, just for fun, designed a cover image for it. And I had a blast doing it. I was able to create a design just for myself and I’d missed doing that.

So this year, I’ve set as one of my goals, to do a personal design like that, just for fun, once a week. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate, just a cover for a book or an album, a little graphic, a fun piece of digital art. Maybe even a motion graphics piece. Anything I want! Just for fun.

I think it’s important to flex other muscles and do things new, too, which is why I’ve been working on illustration for the last few years, trying to get better and improve my skills. I know that illustrating skills can be super valuable to a designer (depending on the type of design; it’s definitely a spectrum).

Anyway, I’m really excited to just take some time just to create something for fun again. And the best part, these are designs that I can easily put up on social media to keep content regular and I can add them to my portfolio. One a week is a lot — that’s fifty two for the entire year. Not sure if I’ll be able to do it, but I’m sure going to enjoy trying.

The Curse of Procrastination

For the past few months, I’ve been preparing to start taking on work as a freelance designer. This is something I’ve been planning on doing for a while. Right out of design school, I thought I would be doing these exact things—not a year after I graduated. At the time of my planning, I hadn’t realized I was going to already have a non-design related business that I was going to be co-running that takes up a good portion of my time.

Because I’ll be freelancing part time, I’ve been looking at how I’ll be scheduling myself once I start taking on jobs. At first, I assume it will be one or two that won’t be hard to schedule and (hopefully) will begin to grow in numbers. I know that I have the time for these jobs, because right now, I’ve been taking that time to do the work on prepping to start freelancing.

Only…I haven’t. What have I been doing instead? Almost anything and everything I can think of, including, at best, adding more time to my writing schedule and at worst, doing nothing but stare at the wall. Why am I doing this? Why am spending so much time, wasting so much time when I could be working toward what I’ve wanted to do for so long?

The answer? I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m worried.

Am I ready? Should I do this? Am I good enough?

Every time I think about working on anything to prepare to freelance, I instantly become terrified of doing it and work myself out of even trying. I end up doing something else, wasting yet another day I could’ve finished my portfolio.

The worst part? Some days, when I have no excuse not to, I’ll sit down at my desk and plow through a lot of the work I’ve been procrastinating on…and I’ll love it. I’ll get excited again, I’ll be right on track and can’t wait to work on some more again! What was I so afraid of before? This is great! I’m going to do it!

And then, like clockwork, I take a day off from it or I’ll go to work for a few days, and then I’m right back at where I started. Am I ready? Am I good enough? Do I really want to do this?

When I think back to school, studying design, I would always push whatever I had to do to the last possible second. I’d convinced myself that I work best under maximum pressure, and I think, to a degree, that’s true. It wasn’t a good process of waiting for the last two days of an assignment being due to start working on it. It just stressed me out to the point of overworking myself for 48 hours, crashing for a few days and do nothing, then the cycle would continue.

But I realized recently that the deadline part of that process worked for me. And I figured out that because I never had a concrete date to when I wanted my portfolio site to go live, for when I wanted to start taking on clients, the answer always just being “soon,” I was stuck in that permanent cycle of procrastination. “It doesn’t really matter if I work on it today, I can do it tomorrow.” I’ve said that so many times the last few months.

The solution is to find a medium ground. Work steadily without the mad-dash finish, but still have a set finish line, a light at the end, an incentive to get out of this endless procrastinating cycle.

So what I’ve decided to do, is to take myself more seriously and to get over this feeling of unreadiness I have, I’m setting a deadline for myself. Instead of procrastinating, instead of letting myself feel that nervousness, I’m not going to take any days from working on it. I’m going to do at least one thing every day that brings me closer to my goal. And the hours I already have scheduled to prepare, I’m going to make sure I don’t do anything else. I’m going to keep the momentum going.

Officially, since I’m saying it here, so that even with the small amount of people who read this, I’m putting it out there to hold myself accountable to complete it. By March 15th, I’m going to finish the list of things I need to accomplish, loose ends to tie up, and finish my portfolio. By March 15th, I’m going to have my site with that portfolio up and running.

I have exactly one more month, to the day, to push myself passed the finish line.

EDIT 03/15/18: Even thought I’ve been working hard every day to reach the deadline I set for myself, there are still a few things I need to iron out! So I’m pushing it a few days to Monday, the 19th of March!

Book Cover Design

Ever since I decided on going to school for graphic design, I’d always had the goal of designing book covers. It made perfect sense to me: as a writer and a reader, I’m surrounded by books. It’s something I’m passionate about. So it feel natural and exciting to start the process of designing books.

To start, I had a goal of marketing myself as a book cover designer to do freelance work. But I knew I needed some work to go into my portfolio to do so. This led me to the idea of redesigning the covers of books I love to bulk up my portfolio. But I didn’t want to just design books that had terrible covers, I wanted to redesign covers that were already good, maybe even one of my favorites, to challenge myself to make one as good—or better. I don’t know if I accomplished that, but I’m dang proud of the ones that I’ve done so far.

I’ve been working one a few in the last few months in my spare time. Here are three that I really love:

These are just front covers that would work for e-books, but I’ll have a few full spreads in my portfolio for print hardcover jackets and paperbacks.

My goal for the very beginning of 2018 is to have a portfolio up online (other than the link above to just a WordPress page) and to put myself and my work out there to get jobs with self-published authors or small independent publishers.

If you happen to see this post before my portfolio is up and ready, like the covers above, and are in need of any design work (not just book covers!), feel free to message me through any social media outlet or here on WordPress. I’ll have a proper way of contact up soon!

Hand Lettering

Each month, I’ve been focusing more on one goal for the year over the others, setting aside a few hours a week to one goal instead of trying to fit them all in. This has been making it easier to dedicating more time to them rather than spreading myself too thin by trying to do a little of them all. One of my goals was to work on my hand lettering skills, and having only taken a calligraphy and letterform class in design school, I wanted to practice it more and get better.

Over the month of May, I practiced as often as possible—which ended up not being that much, but much more than I had before—and, though I still need to work a lot more, I can definitely see an improvement from just one month alone! Some were done quickly, some when I had a few hours to spare, so the quality varies. Overall, I definitely felt like I had improved by the end. (Also, if anyone has tips or books on lettering, please share!)

Here are a few pages of work I’ve been doing over the course of the month:

After doing some on paper, I wanted to try vectorizing a piece of lettering to use in a full design, and because I’m already working on redesigning book covers of some favorite books to add to my portfolio, I though I’d give it a try and add some lettering to my redesigned cover of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I’m not entirely happy with it—my lettering skills still need a lot of work, but it was still worth it to try out.

I also designed the cover without the lettering, which I prefer anyway, to go into my portfolio. I did it in a few different color options, and I think I prefer the white cover with the single star shape.

Screen (+ Relief) Printing

Recently, I’ve been getting into the idea of printing—both relief printing and screen printing. If you don’t know what those are: relief printing is like a stamp, using linoleum or rubber or wood as a surface to carve into, and using ink or paint to print the carved image onto paper or fabric using pressure; screen printing is using a meshed screen in a frame, having the image displayed through a hardened emulsion layered on top of the mesh, allowing the ink to go through where the emulsion hasn’t been hardened—it’s a complicated process, and if I didn’t explain that very well, Google it, it’s cool.

Anyway, I’ve been following a few printers on Instagram and have been inspired to try it out. There’s some awesome DIY ways to go about printing, so I’ve been doing a lot of research on the best way to do it and most cost effective way to get the supplies I need. I never had a chance in school to do any screen printing before, though I have done some relief and have all the tools needed to do it, so I’m excited to give it a go. I have plans to design a lot of different things in the future and would love to be able to print them myself, giving them a more handmade, personal quality to them.

For now, I have most of the thing I need to do some relief printing, so I think I’m going to work in that medium for a while and get to screen printing later (I’ll have to gather the supplies needed for screen printing gradually because of money). There’s a lot of choices to make and I need to save a bit of money for the supplies, but I’m excited to work on some stuff and document my journey on here.

On Instagram, I’ve been following Eva Stalinski and Chris Neuenschwander.

Art + Design: Favorites

Since the last time I posted about my recent art and design favorites, I’ve stumbled upon more – as I often do thanks to Pinterest and Tumblr. There’s a mix of new album art of songs that I’ve bought, some art and design finds from scrolling through Pinterest, and some newly discovered books with incredible covers. Here they are:

Album + Single Art

 

Illustration + Miscellaneous Design

 

Book Cover Design

 

Note: the cover of A Conjuring of Light, the final book in one of my favorite trilogies by my favorite author VE Schwab, is A+ and matches perfectly with the others, which I love— they’re my favorite covers of all time.