Getting Started: Software for Cover Design
In order to design covers you’ll need some design software that supports layers. Layers allow you to edit individual elements of your design while leaving the rest of it unchanged. There are plenty of options available as nearly all image editors (other than Windows Paint) support layer based editing.
However, as Adobe recently made Photoshop CS2 available free of charge, I’m going to focus on how to design ebook covers in Photoshop. If you have a more recent version of Photoshop then the information contained in these tutorials will still be relevant, however, the screenshots will look a little different as the Photoshop interface tends to change as Adobe update Photoshop. The Photoshop screenshots were made in the Windows Version of Photoshop CS2 and the Windows version was used for the tutorials. 3D Box Shot Pro is a Windows only application.
So, if you don’t already have a version of Photoshop installed, head over to the following link and download Photoshop CS2. You may need to setup a Adobe account to do this.
Getting Started with Photoshop
We’re going to start Photoshop and create a background later that we’ll build on during the rest of the tutorials. You’ll learn how to create a .PSD of the exact size you need for a cover for a book in 3D Box Shot Pro, understand how to unlock and lock layers and learn how to use the gradient tool in the Layer Styles window.
By the end of tutorial #1, you’ll have the graphical assest on hand to be able to create something like this in 3D Box Shot Pro:
When you start Photoshop for the first time, select File->New
The following Window will appear:
Type the name of your book cover in the Name section at the top. Set the Width and Height to 1500 x 1024, making sure that you select Pixels in the drop down list on the right hand column next to width and height. Set the colour mode to 16 bit, then click OK. You’ll now have the blank canvas you need to start creating you cover design.
Photoshop can seem a little intimidating if you haven’t used it before. Fortunately you don’t need to do anything really complicated in Photoshop to create a great looking cover.
The Layers Tab
The Layers tab is where you can select which layer to work on and control the effects you apply to that layer.
By default the background layer will be locked. When Photoshop layers are locked, you can’t edit them. Double click on the locked layer to promote it to a layer you can edit:
Give the layer a name. Call it Background and click “OK”.
The layer will now appear in the layer window without a padlock icon. This means you can now edit the layer.
Double click on the background layer in the layer window to open the “layer style” window. Layer styles can be used to create all sorts of interesting graphical effects. These can be applied to any layer, whether the layer contains text or images, rasters or vectors.
As we currently have the background layer active, we’ll look at what we can do to create a nice background for the cover. Click on the Gradient overlay.
You’ll notice that your cover image background layer will immediately change to show the gradient you have selected. If you click on the tab next to the gradient you can select different types of gradient. Photoshop CS2 comes with a large range of gradients, but these are not in the gradient list by default.
If you click on the tiny right facing arrow on the far right of the gradient preview window, you can access a submenu that lets you add additional gradients to the list. It’s fair to say that the default gradients that ship with Photoshop CS2 are not the best things to use for backgrounds for ebook covers. They are a bit too garish.
However, gradients are a useful tool for designers. As a result it’s easy to find some very nice gradients online that you can load into the gradient list using the “Load Gradients” option.
Many sites tend to aggregate these, for example:
This site supplies a nice selection of gradients you can use in your designs. Gradients are useful for bringing some life to typographical designs on your cover as we’ll see later.
Once you’ve loaded in some nice new gradients, have a play with this gradient controls. Try adjusting the Angle of the gradient, try some different gradient styles and scale the gradient. You should be able to come up with a relatively attractive gradient like this one:
If you’d prefer to see a video of me playing around with gradients in Photoshop CS2, please watch the video below: