To be a true indie author, it struck me that I ought to be doing all aspects of the publishing process myself. This meant becoming a book cover designer. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for! Two things are worth mentioning here. The first is GIMP – free software that, to all intents and purposes, is a free (albeit without all the bells and whistles) Photoshop. The second is Pixabay – a website containing only Creative Commons photographs and various other image types that are completely royalty free and can be edited, modified and used commercially. Without these two resources, I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to create book cover images.
That being said, it didn’t come easy! Take a look at the image on the left. Very basic, I’m sure you’ll agree! I thought maybe I could go for a retro pulpy look. That’s what I came up with. I still love that cover even today, but I think what I ended up with was much much better and more professional.
One of the most important aspects to me was reflecting the fact that giant UFOs are invading northern California, so it was very important that the book cover reflected this, and implied peril. The pulpy look didn’t really achieve this in my eyes, so I had to try to think bigger. I decided that more realistic was the way to go, and came up with the next cover (shown on the right below).
I personally like this look, but the UFO is more implied than solid in the sky above the forest. One of the reasons I like it is that there are a fair few scenes that take place in a forest throughout the novel, as the fictional setting, Camberway, is surrounded by forest and not a whole lot else.
One thing you’ll notice as you scroll through the various covers is how the title and font were changed throughout the process. The font I had chosen for this iteration was a font called ‘Chiller’. I loved it – had done for a long time – but it was all wrong. I still think it’s a great font, but not for book covers! I had lots of font issues as I was designing the cover. One of the most difficult things, I found, was getting the text to look good. Did I try to do fancy things, or did I just keep it simple? On this version of the cover I opted to keep it simple. I thought it looked okay, but it wasn’t going to win any awards.
I really liked that font though, so I played about with several variations, trying to get something I was happy with. This resulted in several rejected options.
Take a look at some of them below. I think the images were all good, but I couldn’t get the text to look good. I had some learning to do!
It was time for me to delve into GIMP and start to learn what I could do with the software. Image manipulation scared me to death, but I wanted a book cover I could be proud of.
I’d accepted by now that my font couldn’t be Chiller, but it was still a while before I settled on my final font decision (which was League Gothic, by the way).
By now I’d found the image that would end up forming part of the final cover. An old abandoned barn that gave the feeling of isolation.
I’d also discovered how to do supernovas in GIMP, and a hint of the final flavour began to show in my design attempts. Ominous lights hovering overhead – just the type of thing I wanted. The font I was using in the image on the left was Assiduous, and while it looked a whole lot better than Chiller, it still wasn’t quite right.
I then found the League Gothic font and started toying around with that in my designs, leading to the image on the right. I was, at this point, still figuring out how to make the text stand out and look good. As you can see, I was failing!
I also hadn’t decided to use the main titles of the novel – ARRIVAL – as the large visual on the cover yet, but I felt I was making progress at this stage. It was starting to feel like I was getting somewhere (finally!).
I was starting to explore the world of GIMP on YouTube, and I was starting to get braver. What if I could somehow make the sky look exactly as I wanted it? And how would that look?
Well, the sky would be cracked open, as though the UFOs were affecting the atmosphere around them, bringing a storm and cracking through, threatening the earth below. But how would I do that? Well, it involved learning how to use layers, how to remove the sky that was already in the image, how to put a ‘new’ sky in – one with cracks in, and how to get it the colour that I wanted it to be.
No pressure then!
I quickly learned how to erase parts of the image, how to cut parts of the image out, and how to add the new image so it appeared to be in the background, without obscuring the barn. Then I found the image that would become the sky on the final cover.
Yes, that’s right, the sky on the final cover of ARRIVAL is actually an image of a cracked desert floor!
It still was far from perfect though. It was the wrong colour, sure, but it was also a cracked desert floor, and it looked like one when I inserted it into the cover. So I used the clone option to smooth out the parts that I didn’t want to look cracked, and rotated it slightly so it was the angle I wanted it in the cover. Then I added another layer – a violet sky, and duplicated it. I also learned at this point how to adjust the colours.
It was at this point that I learned how to create text that looked pretty striking by using the ‘Create Logo’ option, and crafted the ‘FROM THE SKY’ logo that became the final one.
I ended up with these (after also adding lots of one pixel supernovas to look like stars):
Starting to look pretty good now, huh?
I was almost satisfied with how the sky looked. But there were still aspects of it that I wasn’t happy with:
Both my name and the ‘ARRIVAL’ text were not quite right. I didn’t like how the cracked sky ran right through the ‘FROM THE SKY’ title.
I also didn’t like that the barn was in the foreground. I wanted a feeling of wide open space – of distance. So I changed a number of things. The first was the barn. I cut it out of the image and added it back in further away. I cloned the bottom part of the image to make the field bigger.
Next I changed how the cracked sky was oriented, and made it so it was more horizontal, with the supernovas, or UFOs, all across the top part of the sky.
I changed the font of my name to League Gothic, and added a drop shadow to it to make it ‘pop’ a little more.
And I made the biggest decision of all – I made a neon logo of ‘ARRIVAL’ and decided that would be the visual aspect on the cover, as it stood out magnificently and drew the eye.
And, ladies and gentlemen, I had my final cover.