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!

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.

Illustration – Progress Update #4

So for the last few years, I’ve been working on my illustration skills. I’ve been slowly getting better with practice. The reason that I wanted to improve, was that I wanted to incorporate more illustration work and styles into my design work. Not only that, I just think illustration skills can make a more well-rounded designer.

Art is something that I’ve loved since I was young. But after high school, I just sort of stopped while in design school. And even before, I was never that good at drawing. I worked hard on it but always felt like my work wasn’t good enough. However, now, I’m thrilled with my progress. I’m nowhere near some illustrators I’ve seen, and may never get there, but I’m happy to keep working and learning and growing as a self-taught, hobby-illustrator.

The images below are some sketches (I mostly do faces; it’s my go-to) and some full-color illustrations I’ve done. The bird is unfinished – I’ll get it it some day – and I did Inktober, which are all the spooky little ones on a few pages.

Here are my favorite sketches and illustrations I did in 2018:

Daily Instagram Challenge

One of my goals for the year of 2017 was to post more on Instagram, specifically posting once a day (or at least one post per day of the year, because sometimes I forget to post for a day or two and I have to post several in a row to catch up) and so far, I’ve been doing great! I wanted to focus more on photography and posting quality pictures (though, sometimes I just post random pictures of whatever I’m doing that day) and flexing my photography skills more. I used to do a lot of photography in high school but sort of stopped doing it recently and wanted to get into it again.

Sometimes I take a few pictures in a day and post them sporadically, sometimes I post whatever is happening that day, or post an old picture from high school. Most of them are new, however, and a lot of them are just snapping my day-to-day life, but a good amount are thought-out photographs and special ones captured on a whim.

I’ve also had a lot of fun editing pictures—recently, I’ve been using the ColorStory app for effects and filters, and Polarr for more advanced editing and some great filters, too. Sometimes the Instagram filters and editing are fine, but these apps are great.

So far this year, these are the best I’ve posted/my favorites of 2017:

Illustration Progress #3

So, the last time I made an update about my illustrations was in May. I hate to say it, but I haven’t had much time to work on a whole lot. But I have done a few and I think I’ve improved, just from looking at the ones I posted back in May. I haven’t been sketching every day like I’d planned and the summer has been so busy, I haven’t been working with my Copic markers or doing anything too elaborate. I’ve wanted to do more animals and take a shot at some landscapes. I haven’t done a lot, but I’ve done a few that I’m proud of.

Here’s some illustrations and doodles I’ve done over the summer:

 

Illustration Progress #2

For the past few months since my last update about my journey in bettering my illustrating skills, I’ve been incredibly busy. Because March was busy and April was spent focusing solely on reading in my spare time, my sketching every day streak I had going dwindled to a few times a week. And, I’m behind on doing a full color illustration a week—by like ten. But! That’s okay! During the month of May, I’m going to be focusing on hand-lettering (another one of my goals for the year, I’ll also have a full post about this after the month is over) and in June, I’ll be focusing more time on illustrating specifically. Instead of trying to do all of it all the time, I’m going to work on one more heavily than the other in certain months, which is why I have very few works in this post. But still, I’m very  happy with the progress I’ve made these last few months despite not being able to put the time I want into it.

I definitely have a tendency to draw exclusively people, so in June, my hope is to illustrate more animals and objects. And, all of the self-portraits of myself seem to have much larger heads than they should—I don’t know if I’m just bad at proportions or my brain just knows I have a large head and is making fun of me. I think that I’m starting to develop a style, at least somewhat of one, which is great. The floating heads all together with names are characters from one of my book, a little series of sketches that have been so fun to do! Anyway, my skills are improving, I’m still learning a lot, and most importantly, I’m enjoying the process!

 

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.

Illustration Progress

Since late last year, I’ve been working on my illustration skills by trying to sketch everyday for about a half hour, as well as working on different projects more often, when I can. So far during the first month and a half of the year, I haven’t really been able to sketch every single day—but I’ve been sketching as often as possible—probably a few days of the week. Because I hadn’t done any art for a while during design school, it took a while to relearn how to do the basics. I can definitely see the difference and improvements since starting again, even if they are slight.

Right now, I’m just drawing, sketching, whatever I feel like to sort of feel a groove, find a style. I’m looking at a lot of other illustrators and work for inspiration, feeling things out. Here’s a few examples of sketches and illustrations I’ve been done over the last few months—some are just quick doodles, some took a little more time. Some more cartoonish, some more life-like and shaded (and obviously, some are better than others, especially from the start of all this to now). And apparently, I tend to draw girls almost exclusively.

 

I’m really excited to be doing art again, learning and growing. My goal has always been to get better at illustration in order to be able to incorporate it into my design work and be able to do more. And just being better at illustration in general, having another outlet and getting back to what I fell in love with as a kid.

Art & Design: New Favorites

I’ve posted design favorites before in different categories (book covers, film posters, motion graphics, patterns, etc.) and I made some “update” posts with recent finds, but I decided to expand from just design and share illustrations and other forms of art in my favorites. So here are recent favorites that I’ve found and became obsessed over:

BOOK COVERS

 

FILM POSTERS

 

ILLUSTRATIONS