Tag Archives: GIMP

Sneak Peek: Forever Boy Cover

Forever Boy by Lita Burke

In Forever Boy, a dog flees his cruel master, befriends a wizard, and discovers his shapeshifting magic.

Here is the just-finished cover for Forever Boy. I wanted to talk about some of the thoughts that went into its design.

I considered, then discarded, several elements. Vitruvian Man? Didn’t work. Hot air balloon? Nope. Curlicue text frames?  Looked like a restaurant’s menu cover. So I settled on these design elements:

  • Create a series theme
  • Must have a boy & dog
  • Imply time or clocks
  • Renaissance influences

Other must-haves applied.  The title must be legible when reduced to thumbnail size. Since Forever Boy is an Ebook, the cover must look good on a computer screen and various eReader devices.

Create a series theme

Forever Boy is the first tale in the Clockpunk Wizard series of novellas. The stories will stand alone, so Gentle Reader can peruse the stories out-of-order, if desired. The series covers need a common theme. What about a volume number? I came close to using one, but cut it at the very end. I decided on “A Clockpunk Wizard Story” somewhere near the title. All covers in the series will display this phrase.

Must have a boy & dog

In an earlier post, I talked about the central character’s cyanthrope nature. His discovery of this magical duality, and taking action about it, is the theme of Forever Boy. For weeks I taxed my GIMP knowledge to create a sophisticated morph of a boy and dog face. Not pretty. The two different pics with moody lighting is much better than any of my amateurish photo morphs. No need to thank me for this decision. Believe me, this result is much better.

Imply time or clocks

Clockwork mechanisms are central to how magic works in the Clockpunk Wizard world. I had to put a clock or time element on the cover. There are many lovely stock photos of old watches, clock faces, and ticktock mechanisms. I picked a full-page parchment picture with the clock faces already sprinkled in the lower left corner. I applied a filter to darken the background to take the emphasis off of the clock faces and instead focus on the boy and dog.

Renaissance influences

The clockpunk genre sets its stories in the latter 15th and early 16th centuries, in the time of the Renaissance and the devices of Leonardo Di Vinci. Actual book covers from this time have ornate, repeating design patterns and simple book titles. Lovely, but not eye-catching according to modern tastes. There are two Renaissance elements in the Forever Boy cover:

The ornate mirror frame is a nod to my discarded curlicues. The frame is a hint of vintage embellishment, not a glut of it. It is a more balanced design, too. Using Garamond font was a sneaky Renaissance ploy. This beautiful classic font is still used in many print books. It is easy to read. And it is correct to the time period of the magic world in Forever Boy.

Sneak Peek: Cover for Tredan’s Bane

I’m pleased to present the final cover for Tredan’s Bane.  This is by far the most detailed composition I’ve done to date for an Ebook cover.  I had the following high-level goals when I started the design:

1.  Use high-contrast text
2.  Merge at least two photos
3.  Must contain a magic book
4.  Show a scene from the story

Setting the Scene

My first task was to set the mood and pick a candidate scene from the story.  The first scene was a workbench, where a magician would create magical charms.  Second was a cobblestone street with an intricate fountain.  The third scene was the interior of a ghost amulet.

I searched through online photo sites, found, then discarded, pics of workbenches and rustic city streets.  Three “grunge” interiors caught my eye–perfect for the inside of a poorly made ghost amulet.

Book and Frame

After discovering many lovely images of magic books (most have smoke, glitter, or light rays), I selected a vector art magic book with blue streamers and twinkling white sparkles rising from its open pages.  I explain why the journal has blue magic in the story (I know, I’m being a tease!).

The gold-gilt frame was an easy discovery from the many online samples.  This selected picture frame was what I had pictured in my mind’s eye when I wrote the corresponding scene in Tredan’s Bane.

Composing the Interior

I used the photo editing software GIMP to create Tredan’s Bane cover.

My overall strategy for the interior scene was to start with the smallest elements, and worked my way outward.  I first joined the sparkling magic book and its surrounding picture frame.  I made it a transparent layer, then reduced its size to scale it on the rest of the interior scene.

I then selected a grunge background with a red leather chair, and cropped the picture to balance the floor, chair, and space for the framed picture.  I positioned the book on the wall, with an eye toward balancing the space between the chair and picture.

The first try had the picture on the left, and the chair on the right.  This wouldn’t work for what I had planned for the book title.  I flipped the picture to put the chair and framed book in their current locations.

To get the picture’s fade into a black background, I feathered the outer edges of the completed interior to black.

Assemble the Layout

It was time to assemble the cover’s components.  I created a new 500 by 700 pixel blank background, and filled it with black.  Added the completed interior as a layer, and adjusted its positioning within the background.  My goal was to leave the top third of the background for the book title text, and have the bottom quarter for the author’s name.

Time to add the words.  I used GIMP’s text tool for the top title, and experimented with the font and text color until it looked balanced, had high contrast, and filled the top third of the background.  I did the same for the author’s name in the bottom fourth of the background.

Final Magical Touch

Tredan’s magical journal is his bane.  To emphasize this, but still be subtle, I added a blur to the interior scene, except for the magic book inside of the picture frame.  Tredan’s journal is vivid, and it sparkles with Enchanter’s magical essence.

Wrath Cover

Prequel to Tredan's BaneThe cover for Wrath is ready.  I was looking for a single eye-catching graphic that incorporated the primary elements of the story:  a magic journal, smoke, and fire.  I found this stock photo and fell in love with the rich colors.  I used some of the fire’s colors in the text to tie it all together.  Some of the layers needed a little adjustment on the smoke to remove some minor imperfections at the edge of the photo.  I also used a gold color for a shadow effect on the text to give it some interest.

Like most Indie authors, I’m starting on a shoestring budget.  I’ve done some web graphic arts work in my day job, so I downloaded GIMP, went through the tutorials to learn the interface, and did a basic layout for the cover.  I looked at several covers from other recent Ebooks in the fantasy genre to see what worked the best as far as keeping the title and cover art visible when the cover is reduced to thumbnail size.  I Googled and read dozens of web enties about Ebook cover design dos and don’ts until my eyes stung.