Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Graphic Design 101

I'm super excited about this new feature on the blog. I plan to discuss tips and techniques to good book cover design. I will have guests share their knowledge from time to time as well. It will not be a link to free stuff on the web, though I may include certain links.

Let me start by saying that I use Photoshop CS5 and Microsoft Publisher 2010 to create book covers. Photoshop, to do techniques, and Publisher to assemble the layers. I always use a 6"x9" front cover for ebooks.

For this first post, I wanted to share how I got to the end result in my latest book cover, DUNWOODY'S because I am particularly proud of the results.

My initial idea was for a department store display window image. Needless to say, hours of searching later, I hadn't found exactly what I wanted and so began to wonder if I could create it. I settled on two images of two different girls, both RGB color images purchased from stock photography sites.

We'll set my selection reasons aside for now (and probably talk about that on later blogs) and concentrate on how I achieved the effect. Below is an overlook at my Photoshop layers (minus the text) in the layers palette. You will want to refer back to this as you read.

 Bottom Layers: Modern Girl and Historic Girl

1. Create new transparent RGB image with each girl on a separate layer.
2. Adjust images left and right (Move Tool).
3. Uppermost layer (historic girl) set to Blending Mode/Overlay. 

This allowed me to see both images at once.

To remove the edges of each photo (the original images centered the girls, so moving them either direction revealed the hard edge).

4. Create layer mask on each image.
5. Set foreground/background to black and white. Use gradients on the mask to fade the edges.

(This is an easy masking technique which any number of tutorials on the web can tell you how to do more precisely.) 

Note that the gradient on each image was opposite of the other.

That is the simplified explanation of merging the two images. In fact, it was more time consuming than that and I had to move back and forth between them until the edges were gone like I wanted and the background was removed from beneath each girl. 

I also used a soft brush set to either white or black (black hides, white reveals in a mask), adjusting the opacity of each as I worked. Below is the end result of the two layers.

Color was obviously an issue, which I will address shortly. 

6. Created new blank layer, merging both girls into one image. (Hold down the ALT key while clicking on the drop-down arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the layers palette and select "merge visible".)

7. Filtered layer using Phototools (v2.5), to add skin softening and some overall clarity. (The software creates a layer automatically.)

8. Shift the photo to grayscale. This hides the color differences.

I prefer to use Channel Mixer with Monochrome selected as it allows more control over the Red, Green, and Blue of the images. Black and white pictures need more contrast to be visually stimulating, and I also wanted the levels of gray in each to match. 

8a. Duplicate the Phototools layer.
8b. While holding down the ALT key, Create new filter adjustment layer on the layers palette and select "Use previous layer to create clipping mask".
8c. Select "monochrome" and adjust Red, Blue, and Green channels.

The result:

9. Window effect.

Window reflections are typically a backwards view of whatever is across the street. I selected a black & white street scene available for commercial modification that fit the image in my head.

9a. Set the photo as a new layer. Size to fill the image and edit/transform/flip horizontal. This makes any writing backwards like you'd see it in a window reflection. 
9b. Change layer blending mode to Overlay, opacity 83%.

10. Layer mask on street scene to remove distracting lines from the girls' faces. (I used other images of people sitting behind glass windows as a reference).

11. Flyer layer. (Another commercially available generic image changed to grayscale.) I placed the flyer slightly off the scene so it wouldn't detract too much from the image of the girls.

12. Add in additional reflections.

My last four layers were brush work to add highlights and additional reflections. I used a Bokeh brush and another that creates dotted lines, putting each on a separate layer and varying the blending modes and opacity.

13. Text.

Text I ordinarily do using Microsoft Publisher 2010, which allows me to resize it as needed. However, because I wanted to text to have texture and lighting to look as if it were on the glass outdoors, I created each in Photoshop as separate PNG files.

For this technique, visit this excellent tutorial. I used gold foil for the title, DUNWOODY'S and black silk for my name, adjusting each as suggested and painting dark and white highlights to make it more readable.

I warped the title using Free Transform/Warp so it would be so straight.

Once again, here is the final result.

14. Assemblage (Microsoft Publisher 2010)

The placement of the title worked out to be across a white reflection in the street scene. I did return to Photoshop and adjust my bokeh highlights to allow the "Y'S" to show up better.

I opted to center my name and the Romance symbol for readability. (We'll cover text placement and font choices more fully later.)

I hope you enjoyed this look at one of the more difficult covers I've done. If so, leave me a comment on the blog!

Suzanne D. Williams 
Suzanne Williams Photography  
Florida, USA 

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.


Chris Graham said...

Excellent tutorial, I can see I'll learn a lot from you :)

Sharon A Lavy said...

Thank you so much for this post. I really like how your cover turned out.

Barbara Ellen Brink said...

Great cover, Suzanne! Thanks for the tutorial. It was really interesting.

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