You’ve written an ebook, and now you want to publish. Well first things first, you’re going to need a cover. Sure you could hire one of the many talented and capable designers out there to create a cover for you. But if you’re like me, then you’ll want to try and do it yourself.
There are a few ways to go about creating a captivating and engaging cover. In the following blog posts, I will attempt to demystify the process and give you the tools to create just what your book needs: a simple, eye-catching and genre-appropriate cover.
The tips and lesson within can apply to all genres of books, but Romance and Erotica are just what we do around these parts.
Part 3: Romance Book Cover
If you’re looking to take a little more time to create something a little bit more visually interesting and professional then read on. Many Romance book covers have a unique visual style all of their own and are general longer works than in erotica. So more time and care can be spent crafting the perfect cover.
The techniques discussed below are not genre exclusive, but there is a particular visual style that you will find among Romance books. They are quite often made up of many photographs and have a lot of visual effects to create a cohesive and professional looking product.
Here I will attempt to recreate this style and show that it’s not that hard to make your own. Below are steps for fictional book Love After Dark by Joe Johnson.
Planning it Out
It’s important to approach your cover design with a vision or at least a vague idea of what you’re after. If you’ve done research (like you should) then there will be other books that you can use as inspiration.
Remember with stock photos you’re never going to find the exact photos you want. But with a large library of possibilities you can create just about anything. For this book, I went for an urban, gritty theme for a gay romance novel.
Selecting Your Stock
There are a few things to consider when choosing stock photos for a cover that will use many. Compositing photos together can be simple, but bear in mind a few things when picking images.
Try to pick images with similar lighting. Lighting that matches will make it easier for you to make them look unified. Now we’re not attempting to make models necessarily look like part of the same scene but if they’re lit from the same direction it helps in keeping them consistent.
For backgrounds you don’t necessarily have to buy stock, Unsplash is a great resource for background images. Remember not to think big, you may end up only using a small part of a larger scene.
The more the images “match” before you get started, the easier it will be. Also if you’re compositing images removing backgrounds that are from simple, single colours is much easier than from dynamic setting.
Step 1: Manipulating Images
Firstly we’re going to load up our cityscape in Photoshop. It’s a pretty big image, and we want to resize and crop it to suit our purposes. We don’t wish to have the whole image as the background just segment that shows off the city and the lights.
Above you can see the image that we scaled using the Transform Tool (CTRL/CMD + T) that we learned about in the previous tutorial. As you can see the image it’s a little washed out and not what we need.
So we’re going to create an Adjustment Layer to tweak the levels. I like the blue aspect, but I want the background to be dark and moody. Just like contents of the unwritten fictional book.
We touched on this in Part Two with creating an Adjustment Layer. What we will do first is create a Levels layer. Then using the little black-filled dropper to select the darkest point in the image. Defining the black will balance the image and add drama to the previously washed out cityscape.
Above you can see the adjusted background image. Now it might seem a little bit dark in places, but we can always tweak that later. The beauty of using an Adjustment Layer is that we haven’t made any permanent changes to the original image.
For this cover we’re going for bold and dramatic and so don’t shy away if initially it seems too intense.
Removing a Background
Now we’re going to get our hunky models cleaned up so that we can overlay them on the new background. However in both photos they have dark backgrounds that need to be removed before we can use them.
(Tip: If your background layer is locked, just right click and select “Layer From Background” then when you erase, it will be transparent).
Here are some tutorials that detail the process of background removal using various different techniques:
- Using the Background Eraser Tool
- Background Removal with the Lasso + Eraser tool
- Remove Background using Channels
- Using the Quick Selection Tool
Depending on your image, requirements and workflow you might come up with another solution that works best for you.
As you can see the Magic Wand was pretty good, but there are the edges that still need to be refined. There are several tricks I use depending on the picture. Often when you remove a background you will find that there is a few pixels worth of the background left creating a sort of border around the image.
To fix this easily can use the Refine Edge Tool to help correct it. This is especially helpful with things like wispy hair.
But for this image I went in and using the Eraser and my pen tablet to clean up some obvious spots. Since this is a stock photo is going back onto a dark background you have more leeway with the edges.
Make sure you zoom in close to see what you’re doing, and make sure that you get things clean without taking chunks out of the model’s skin.
After cleaning up the background the man is then copied as a new layer on to the background. Using the same Transform Tool as before we will resize and position him just where we want.
I did a similar process with the second man and positioned and resized him on the background. Which you can see below.
Adjusting Color and Tone
After placing the two models on the background we can see that they both stick out like a sore thumb. Since they are different stock images both have different color, tone and shadows.
I tried to selection images where the light what hitting from the same direction. (Note shadows to the right of the men, and the highlights on the left.) But more work needs to be done tweaking these so they look part of a cohesive whole.
Thinking about lighting and shadow is a great way to make a more professional looking cover. There are a few tweaks we can do to help tie things together using our old friend Adjustment Layers.
Similar to the background image, I am using a Levels adjustment layer to tweak the values for both men. In order to make sure your adjustments are specific to the layer you can click this icon:
It’s important to tweak the two models separately to try and match their values as closely as possible. I generally just eyeball this and play around with settings until I get something similar.
Sometimes the only thing to do is play around with the various options, see for yourself what they do and how they affect your image, and then go from there.
There is a lot you can do with Adjustment Layers and for some more information check out these tutorials.
Since the background image has a lot of blue in it we’re using a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to add blue to the shadows of both models. Playing with the colour balance is a great way to help both images work together.
Another trick to tie an image together is by creating a Color layer. I do this by creating a new layer, filling it with a color (in this case a dark navy blue). Then I just change the blending option to Color and tweaking the opacity. This creates an overlay that flattens he image and ties it together.
This can be especially helpful if you can’t quite figure out the Adjustment Layers exactly. In Photoshop there are many ways to create a desired effect.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect, there are still other elements to add. I find that once text is added you will start to see things differently. The beauty of Adjustment Layers is that everything can be tweaked at the end.
Once our images are in place we can start adding the text. For the author name, I am using the exact same layer as in the previous tutorial. To copy it over easily without repositioning just open up your original .psd file, select the author name layer, right click and press Duplicate Layer.
This will bring up the following dialogue box:
Select the new cover and the layer will be duplicated exactly on a new layer, including styles on the new file.
At this point I noticed the author name was a little hard to read against the light jeans of the cover model, so I added a simple gradient layer below like I did in the previous tutorial.
Using Styles on Text
Now we’re going to add and position our title text. I’m using the Dolce Vita font chosen for its fun shape. For this cover, I want a neon-inspired glow to fit in with the vibrant, urban city of the background.
To do this, I am using a pre-made layer style. The one in this tutorial is Neon Styles by Sonarpos. To use a layer style you load it in Photoshop by double-clicking the .asl or through Window > Styles, clicking the Options button and then selecting Load Styles. There are thousands of layer styles online, some free and some paid.
There are thousands of layer styles online, some free and some paid. Like everything, it pays to read the licence. Using styles created by others is a great way to save time and learn something new. By analysing what a style does you can not only figure out how to replicate a similar effect, but find new ways of manipulating text and other layers
By analysing what a pre-made style does you can not only figure out how to replicate a similar effect, but find new ways of manipulating text and other layers. You can also easily create your own styles for things you use often.
Below you can see what happens after I applied the layer style. The text takes on a lovely orange outline glow, but it’s kind of hard to read. But don’t despair, we’ll add our own custom tweaks to make the text pop.
To make the title text stand out I’m going to duplicate the layer by either right clicking or dragging the layer to the new layer icon. Just make sure you don’t move the text position and it will fit nicely inside the text like below.
Now with most elements in place it’s time to add flair, adjust colors and make sure the cover comes together cohesively.
The first thing I added was a tagline, an element you see often on professionally done books. Just adds a little bit more visual interest and I think adds a nice balance. Book covers often have more text than just the title and author name.
If you are a best-selling author you might also like to add that to the cover above your author name. Other text elements to consider are series titles and other branding.
But there is still something that isn’t quite working for me with the cover. I find that this happens pretty much all the time, and you’re never going to be completely satisfied.
I recommend at this stage to take a break from your cover, go and have a cup of tea or something and come back with fresh eyes. You’ll always be able to see things that jump out at you.
For me, I don’t think the title font stood out enough. So I duplicated the neon layer then adjusted the opacity until it was just right, but not be too overbearing. I also added a subtle smoky effect over the author name.
The smoke was added using custom Photoshop Brushes, which like layer styles are an invaluable tool. Brushes are especially for adding embellishment. Another tool in your ever-growing Photoshop arsenal.
And with one final tweak of colours the cover is done!
And that’s that. I hope you’ve learned something and are inspired to try and tackle you’re own covers. Check out Part 4 for more information on Advanced Techniques, and let me know what you think in the comments section!