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!

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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.

2018: End of the Year – Goals Wrap-Up

2018 was a difficult year for me. It has had a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs. My dog died, I turned 25, I had a bit of a mental breakdown, I almost went to Spain for 9 months but couldn’t, and I’ve been in a strange, surreal funk since my 25th birthday–almost six whole months exactly. (Side note: I’ve always felt weird about having a birthday in the middle of the year. I can’t ever pinpoint how old I was during a particular year in the past because I’ve spent equally half of each year as two separate ages. I can’t just perfectly do the math in my head from my birth year. I’m bad at math anyway.) All of that and I haven’t even mentioned all the terrible things that have happened in the world. It hasn’t been the greatest year. But at the same time, looking back and from where I am now, I’m doing good. I’m at a good place at this moment in time, on New Year’s Eve, heading into 2019 with a good night’s sleep — no, for real, I’m spending tonight alone and have no obligation to stay up until midnight. I’ll be able to have the perfect start to waking up early and having a more productive year. Begin as you mean to go on, and all that.

Anyway — on to the reason for the post! How have I done with my goals for the year? Well, let’s take a look.

Design & Illustration

I had scaled back from my lofty goals of 2017 and I think I did fairly well. Although, opening my online shop took such a back burner this year that I decided against doing it at all for this year and focus on it next year. I did start freelancing on the side and had a few projects, all gone well. As for practicing my illustration skills, I started off sketching weekly well enough but fell out of the routine after a few weeks. Although, sketching every day in both April and September as my focus for the months worked well, only having skipped three or four days in each month. And I did, unexpectedly, participate–sort of–in Inktober for the first time, illustrating six or seven prompts at a time each weekend and on Halloween. This counted as several illustrations for the month and I ended up with the needed twelve to complete my goal! All in all, I did all right with these goals and I have some ideas and changes for next year.

  • sketch 2-3 times a week βœ“
  • 2 full-color illustrations a month βœ“
  • start freelance work βœ“
  • open online shop

Writing

*deep breath* I really didn’t do well this year. i mean, technically I accomplished most of my goals here, it just seemed like less because the MAIN goal I had was to finish the draft of “Book E” but decided against writing it and to focus on the book I’ve been working on, Thoughtless. So that’s what I started working on but barely worked on it. (It was a really bad year after my birthday, y’all.) Anyway, I did finish two short stories, I finished the draft of the book I did NaNoWriMo 2017 with and I did NaNoWriMo 2018 this year and won! So, I’ll take it. I did my best.

  • write 2 short stories βœ“
  • finish first draft of Book E Thoughtless βœ—
  • finish the draft from NaNoWriMo 2017 βœ“
  • complete NaNoWriMo 2018 βœ“

Film

I’m real happy with what I’ve accomplished in this category. Technically, writing a feature-length film is a writing goal, so I did actually write a lot this year! I like the film I wrote, even though it needs a lot of work and I’m not confident in writing in this form yet, but I enjoyed the experience and it was a great start in writing for film. I also did a small project of my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary video — not the short film project I’d wanted to do, but I’m counting it because it was after my birthday and as I said before, not a great time. I’ve done a rough cut of it and like it thus far. It’s just a wedding video but I enjoy the practice in filming and editing something. I also watched 25 new-to-me films! One was even in theaters! Just a quick top five of them: Lady Bird, Incredibles II, Atomic Blonde, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Annihilation, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Okay that was six. Special mention to The Edge of Seventeen, which was a surprisingly great coming-of-age film. That’s seven. I’m bad at this. I just really liked them, okay?

  • watch 25 total (in theaters or not) films βœ“
  • film 1 experimental short film/video project βœ“
  • write a first draft of a feature-length film βœ“

Reading

I set a goal of reading 25 books, thinking I could trick myself into reading more. I usually set my goal to 50 and always fail around around 20-25. And how many books did I read? 23. I just can’t seem to get there, y’all. But I’m setting my goal back to 50 next year and I’m really going for it. I know, I know. I’m a masochist. It’s fine. I can do it, I believe in myself. Don’t you believe in me? (Don’t answer that.) I did read less fantasy, shorter books, and I abandoned my old reading lists that had been eating me alive for not getting to them. That felt good to just read the books I wanted to in the moment as I chose. I even abandoned the newer list I made and just went with whatever I was feeling after finishing each book.

  • read 25 books βœ—
  • read less fantasy βœ“
  • read shorter books βœ“
  • abandon old reading lists βœ“

Exercise

Boy, howdy. I walked a lot (except for the last two months, I walked almost every day) and I even worked out a bit. I tried the Whole30 and had a mental breakdown because of it and lost my dog after the first week — so I needed chocolate and alcohol. I wrote a whole post about that experience. Overall, I lost a good portion of my weight (though put some back on these last few months because of holidays and not exercising at all) and am proud of that. Even if it’s not as much as I wanted. I’d rather gradually lose weight and feel better than killing myself to lose it quickly. I’m good.

  • be more active, walk or bike βœ“
  • stick to work-out schedule better βœ“
  • do the Whole30 at least once Β―\_(ツ)_/Β―
  • go to bed earlier/wake up earlier Β―\_(ツ)_/Β―

As you can see, I technically accomplished a lot of my goals. I just feel sort of meh about them all, though. I feel like I’m exactly where I started last year. I haven’t gone any further in my life or career, not really. This year was rough. But I’m looking forward to 2019. I have a lot of goals and changes I want to make for next year. And I’ll post all about it soon.

✌️

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 goodβ€”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!

New Work/Living Space

The start of 2017, I began the transition of taking all of my work spacesβ€”office and art supplies and writing spaceβ€”all into one new space in my bedroom. They were all scattered across the house before and now everything is in one place so that it’s easier to work from. The process had been long and I only finished todayβ€”as in the day this is posted, February 12th.

Mostly I needed three things: my giant drafting table for working on hand-created designs, illustrating, any project that I need that angle for; a regular desk for my computer and general working and writing at; and then another flat work space that would be completely emptyβ€”I do a lot of cutting paper and needing an extra work space to set things while doing other work is important. And the desk I have now isn’t very large, so that had to be a separate space. I still need a few things, furniture-wise, like more shelf space and a larger drawer unit (I have my eye on some IKEA pieces.) Not to mention just general things like a second monitor (I do have a second monitor for my other job, which I love, but I need another good one in this space) and a high quality printer.

Other than work, I still needed to fit my bed, dresser, and the billion books I have. So setting up a reading corner was essential, with my reading chair, side table, and bookcase with most of my books, I have a great spot to read and relaxβ€”though the chair could be more comfortable, I’m not complaining to much (especially because the chair was free).

Overall, I love my new space. I feel relaxed here and productive. There’s a lot of things I’ve collected over the years all around that make it feel like my own unique space to create. Everything has a place (almost, there’s a few kinks to work out) and everything is all in one space, so I don’t have to go downstairs or leave the room to get something I need while working. It’s a perfect space for me and I’m overjoyed with the way it turned out, even if it was a long journey getting here.