The June 30th deadline for my free CreateSpace copies is quickly drawing close. I’ve been playing with covers for a while now and have finally settled on my design. My first thought was water based, but since I came up with my tagline of “The Earth Clan has declared war and a landscaper is at the dead center of it”, the water theme didn’t work anymore. I tried playing with free stock photos, but my manipulating-people-images skills are horrible. I tried taking a few earthy photos of my own and couldn’t come up with a setting that I really liked. My husband even let me paint his arm and get his hand all dirty (with soil) to try and capture the whole Derek being a landscaper thing.
I decided to take a day to walk Barnes & Noble to look at covers in the fantasy genre to see if anything inspired ideas. I came across a few background textures and symbolic placements that I liked. I’m a huge fan of the new Terry Brooks style–simple with a central icon. With my sister-in-law’s suggestion, I pursued stone with my pre-constructed earth clan tree icon.
Stock photos are great, but I couldn’t find any stone that really fit what I wanted, and since I wasn’t sure of what I wanted, I didn’t want to buy a photo that I ended up not using. I took to my trusty Paint.NET, my go-to program for graphics creation. The wonderful thing about Paint.NET is the number of tutorials available online. I made my own stone, cracks, and embossed my tree on top of it. Then I spent the days following trying to find fonts licensed for free commercial use. I landed at Font Squirrel and after some conferring with my sis-in-law, came away with the following.
The linked image is jpg, so slightly lower quality than the actual cover. Plus the book is 5.5″ x 8.5″ so the pixel zoom won’t be as much as the browser wants it to be.
My sis-in-law helped with the design. The glowing cracks were my husband’s idea. The people at the Mythic Scribes forums helped me to narrow down ways to make the tree stand out. I had to remake everything from scratch to get the final product, because the default dpi in Paint.NET is 96 and CreateSpace requires a min of 300, but since I had the forethought to email myself the links to all the tutorials I followed, recreating it only took a day.
Here are the tutorials I followed:
Background YouTube video: Paint.NET Tutorial, Make Stone Texture. I deviated in the colors but the basics are the same.
3-D tree: Make 3D-Stone Text
Cracks: Cracked Floor Effect
The rest was just trial and error, color manipulation, alpha manipulation, playing with gradients, and lots and lots of layers. The Paint.NET file grew to such an unwieldy size (127 MB) that even my desktop choked a couple times. I usually don’t delete things, but rather duplicate the layer and then modify it. Sure, undo works just as well, but sometimes I like to keep a few of the steps between what I did and where I want to go back to.
Those familiar with the self-publishing world always recommend to have covers professionally done, but since these are my free copies, I figured I’d go the DIY route first. If the reception isn’t great, then I’ll look at getting a professional. But for now, I’m pleased with the output and have my additional covers for Isto (Book 2) and Sovereign (Book 3) in mind based on this stone/symbol scheme.
If you have suggestions or thoughts, feel free to offer them! I’ve got a few days left before everything needs to be submitted to CreateSpace for final review.