Using an image editor


Although I have used imaging editing software for many years, I don’t consider myself an expert or an authority.  I am simply a fairly experienced user. There are many areas of book publication which will require use of image editing, and you will quickly see the need to learn the ropes.

Creating a cover is the theme of this blog, but also consider any graphics placed on the chapter headings, elaborate leading characters, decorative touches and flourishes.  Not only creating the images but sizing them for your page and converting them to the appropriate image type will require a photo or graphic editor.  You need to be able to work in layers, use transparent backgrounds and effects such as painting and drawing when indicated.  It sounds like a lot to learn, and it is, but a quality end product justifies the means. I believe there are many inexpensive imaging editors out there and more on the way.  At this writing, none are as versatile as Photoshop.  No endorsement intended, just fact.  It’s expensive and has a long learning curve but can accomplish nearly any task required.  Your software of choice will be used to output the file in pdf format using CMYK color mode stipulated by commercial printers, if you are creating a book for print. You will also need to create images in RGB for use on the web.

If your book is to be e-book only, you will simply create a cover page for display on the web.  Remember that the small thumbnail is all most people will see and keeping it interesting and readable at that size is the challenge. The proportions of the image are important, but there are no fixed rules.  You will find advice on the web which conflicts. Start with a minimum of 1600 x 1000 pixels using a resolution of 72 (web only).  You should also have a copy prepared using 2560 by 1600 pixels with a 72 resolution.  This gives a more dense image for the agencies to size to their needs.  More about this later.

If you are attempting a cover for a printed book, you need to create the front cover, spline area and back.  Most printing firms including CreateSpace and IngramSpark will create a file to your book specifications that you can use to size and place your image prior to submission. To use this template, you would download the file (in pdf or eps), load it into your image software, and overlay and size your graphic images.  It may sound difficult, but I assure you, it is an easy process.  Before you begin, you need to know the size of your book, the number of pages and choose the type of paper.  This is more difficult than first glance suggests.  You need to consider the font style and size, the margins, and any additional pages required to allow the chapters to start on the right (odd number) side. The so called ‘front matter’ and any marketing pages at the rear will add pages and thickness.  The front cover design should come last, but with me, it rarely does.  It seems to help me write the book if my cover page is nearly complete.  Odd, isn’t it, to use the cover to guide the book contents? I usually change the cover or modify it several times before I’m happy. Perhaps if I used more simple cover designs, it would not be so problematic.

I don’t intend this blog to be an instructional manual for Photoshop. There is a wealth of information available to help you in the form of books, websites,  and YouTube videos.  At the next blog, I will demonstrate some images I created for books and posters which may spark interest and get your creative juices flowing.

Alexander Francis

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