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.

2019: New Year | New Goals

2019 is a brand new year! I’m a big believer in setting goals, not resolutions, and working toward accomplishing tasks rather than setting out to make “big changes” in my life. Last year was rough and, even though I don’t like resolutions, I do like the blank, clean slate a restarting of the calendar can give, even if it’s kind of arbitrary.

Last year, I tried to do too many categories with too many goals to keep up with. I tried splitting my time as evenly as possible between them and realized that some things aren’t as necessary for me to focus on. And I’ve been doing a “monthly focus” where I focus on one thing more than the other each month, but found myself not devoting enough time to each. So this year, I want to focus on three more than that others. My main focuses will be design, reading, and writing — three things that suffered last year, along with everything else, even though they’re more important. I’ll be doing less illustration practice and simplifying my health and fitness goals, but keeping film on the same level. I’ll break it all down below.

Here are the goals I’m setting for 2019:

Design

This year, I’m going to be continuing freelancing on the side — especially in the first few months, as I’m getting a large break from my main source of income with the small business I co-run until summer. So I’ll be focusing on doing more freelance design jobs this winter/spring. With that, I’m hoping to work more toward opening an online store of products (like cards, stationery, prints, etc.) with my designs. It was a goal last year, but I didn’t have the time, and now I have some so I would love to get it going — many steps before that happens, however. With that, I want to start doing some of these designs, and others, outside of work — like the book covers I did for practice/fun a few years ago. I want to do more, with a goal of one a week to keep my creativity going between freelance work.

  • freelance work
  • plan to open online shop
  • 1 personal design project a week (52)

Reading

I never read as much as a I want to. I want to change that. That’s why reading is one of the main goals I have this year. It’s so important for me, not just as a writer, but as a person, to read more. It’s something I love. I’m setting my Goodreads goal for 52 books. I know, I know — if you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’ve done this before and every year, I don’t get anywhere near 50. But I want to focus more on reading specifically. So I hope I can do it. If I just double my reading time this year, I’ll make it. I also want to return to some old reading lists — I have several series and trilogies that I’d just like to finish or continue.

  • read 52 books
  • complete trilogies/series
  • read more often
  • Reading Rush (formerly BookTube-A-Thon)

Writing

This year, my goals for writing are pretty much the same. With NaNoWriMo 2018, though I wrote 50,000 words and completed the challenge, the book itself is far from finished and I’d like to complete it. I’d also like to do NaNoWriMo again this year, outline a new fantasy series that I’ve been thinking a lot about, and continue to work on the book I’ve been working on — or supposed to be working on — Thoughtless.

  • finish NaNoWriMo ’18 draft
  • NaNoWriMo ’19
  • outline fantasy series
  • Thoughtless

Film

I’m more or less keeping my goals for film the same. Instead of wanting to see 25 new (to me) films, I’m going for 30, which shouldn’t be an issue at all because I was able to do 25 easily last year. I’d also still like to do a small, short film project — I wrote one two years ago that I love, but it’s not a feasible film to create on my own — and write another feature-length film, as I did last year.

  • watch 30 films
  • write/shoot short film
  • write feature-length film

Illustration

I’m doing a total change to my illustration practice. I’ve been steadily better in the last few years, which is great, but I’ve been taking too much time focusing on it. Last year, sketching a few times a week, everyday for two separate months, and doing several full-color illustrations a month was two much. This year, I’m going to just do two days a month where I sketch and illustrate for a few hours, and do Inktober with daily prompts. Much more doable with everything else and I think I’ll like it more, as I was getting frustrated that I had to do it every week instead of wanting to.

  • sketching and illustrating 2 days a month
  • Inktober

Health & Fitness

For health and fitness, I’m going to continue to walk everyday — though, the last two months of 2018 were spent doing nothing — and working out 3 times a week. I’d also still like to try to get up earlier and so far, I’ve been slowly going to be earlier to do so (skipping New Years Eve festivities and going to be early helped set that habit and realign my sleep schedule). I’m adding, however, a tracker in my bullet journal on how much soda I drink –both diet and the occasional regular — and would like to limit myself to about two a week instead of the one, sometimes two, a day. I already had three this week, so I’m not doing great, but if I could do without it for the Whole30 for a few weeks last January, I think I can do it.

  • walk everyday
  • workout 3x a week
  • go to bed/wake up earlier
  • 2 sodas a week

Other

I have a few stragglers for the year that I’m adding here. This year, I want to take one work day each week (I work six days, Mon-Sat) and devote it to solely intake, filling my creative well. Whether that’s watching a film, reading, going to a museum, going for a walk, etc. — just stepping back from outputting and creating, and making sure to absorb (this will obviously help with my reading and film watching goals). This is so important as a creative, and I think sometimes I forget — and wonder why I occasionally have a creative block when working. Another thing is, I’d like to grow my social media following more — I’d like connect more with people and grow my numbers before opening my online shop. I plan on posting the designs I’m doing more often and be more engaged than I have previously. Not only just on social media, but here on this blog. I want to post more and be more active here. Speaking of, another goal is to post about my further learning journey that I posted about a while ago. I’m learning a lot about language right now and want to move on to Greek mythology later this year. My goal is post once a month about things I’ve learned, things I’ve found interesting.

  • 1 intake day a week
  • grow social media
  • post regularly on blog
  • further learning – 12 posts

As I said, I also like to choose a specific month to focus on these goals more than the others. I find it helps, especially with something like NaNoWriMo and Inktober. It makes it easier to let a few things slide and focus on just one each month.

  • Jan: Design (plan + research for shop, freelance)
  • Feb: Writing (NaNoWriMo ’18 draft, outline fantasy series)
  • Mar: Reading (5-6 books)
  • Apr: Design (continue planning shop)
  • May: Film (write/shoot short film)
  • Jun: Writing (Thoughtless)
  • Jul: Reading (4-5 books + Reading Rush 7 books)
  • Aug: Film (write feature-length)
  • Sep: Design (open shop?)
  • Oct: Illustration (Inktober)
  • Nov: Writing (NaNoWriMo ’19)
  • Dec: Reading (5-6 books)

Looking at all these goals has me wondering if I should try to choose a few less hobbies. This is normal, right? It probably is. I’m just interested in a lot of stuff. Anyway, those are my goals for the year.

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!