How I designed the cover

Since I wanted to put the first chapter of my latest finished novel The Orionar Queen on my website, I thought I should design a cover for it. I must stress I’m not planning to self-publish, this was just a bit of fun I did for myself, using some of the knowledge I’ve garnered about designing covers. I’m no expert but if this article is of any use to anybody, that’s great. Please note the design was only ever intended for use on the web, not to be printed off.

I used Photoshop Elements version 8 to do the manipulation. Photoshop is a very powerful program and I certainly don’t rate myself as an expert. I am self-taught. Photoshop has a number of excellent tutorials on matters such as layers (I’ll mention that later), removing bits from backgrounds and so forth. There are also plenty of books and articles around to help you.

Okay, first things first. What’s the book about? This is important because I want the cover to attract an audience and I don’t want to disappoint that audience. My book is science fiction with a strong romance element. Sort of space opera with sex. But not erotica. My audience will be largely women. So I went looking for some pictures that might signal that theme.

I searched the internet for pictures of lovers and came up with several free images, none very large. That was fine. It wasn’t going to be the most important element in the design.

This was what I decided on. As you can see, there are a number of parts of the image that just won’t work in a space saga, so I cut the picture down and removed any remaining seagulls in Photoshop.

Which left this. Note that this is a very low resolution image and as such wouldn’t be suitable for a printed cover.

Battle cruiserNow I needed my space opera element. I went searching the web for a suitable space ship scene. I use Dreamstime but there are other sites. I bought this image for about $5.

Now to put them together.

I saved the battle cruiser at a smaller size using Microsoft Office Picture Manager (although I could have used Photoshop).

I used the lovers as the background. I increased the image size which made the outline fuzzy but it didn’t matter for this purpose. I also converted the shot to black and white so it would merge with the starscape.

Then I added the battle cruiser as a layer. A layer is what it sounds like – another image set on top of the existing one. You can combine any number of elements into one picture using layers. You can set a level of opacity to a layer, so that deeper layers are visible through whatever you place on top. The level of opacity for the battle cruiser is 77%. I had to do a bit of fiddling with extra layers to adjust for the different horizontal and vertical orientation of the two pictures.

This shot shows what I mean. That light grey section only shows the background image. I had to take a wedge of the background from the battle cruiser picture to fill in the extra bits. I added two layers, top and bottom of the battle cruiser picture, as fillers.

I placed two red rectangles at the top and bottom of the image as a highlight and to add a bit of extra colour. You can see the original colour and what it adjusted to with the starscape darkness over the top.

Next, I chose a font for the words on the front. I wanted something strong and easy to read, something fitting for the subject matter. I selected Trajan Pro for the title and my name and Vijaya  for the tag line. I picked the yellow colour because it contrasts well with the dark background and because it picks up the colour of the planet.

Selecting fonts is a serious subject, both for the cover and (if you’re planning to self-publish) for the content. It spells the difference between professional presentation and amateur handy person. I recommend Lexi Revellian’s article on this topic. For more in-depth advice for formatting inside the book, formatting the interior of your book by N. Gemini Sasson is a great resource.

So there you have it. You can do it, too.

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About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 27 September 2010, in On writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Nice job! I particularly like the use of the planet to offset the lighter color from the spaceship’s jets and the two-layer cover images. I think it does a good job preparing the reader’s expectations, too. Here’s hoping a publisher will be willing to look at and consider this kind of idea – it’s got some really good potential.

  2. Thanks, Susan. I hope you’re right.

  3. Fascinating, Greta, and I didn’t know that about selecting the opacity of a layer. I wrestle with Adobe Photoshop 7.0 myself. Good result for your cover too; it all works together well.

    And thanks for the mention!

  4. It looks like the ship on the cover of Lost Fleet:Dauntless

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