Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adventures in Cover Art - Pt 4

Mr. Kathleen Kirkwood here again . . . This post discusses the text and the banners, which we added to all versions of the cover, in some degree.

Let’s talk about the text first. When our son Scott updated the original Trafford cover for his grandfather’s e-book and print book, VENECIA’S EARTHLING (see below), he used new fonts that we really liked (Monotype Corsiva for the title and Opus for the author’s name). His grandfather had commissioned the original artwork, and Scott re-used it as the cover background. But, Scott changed the layout, in particular he placed the title and the author name in new locations and used new royalty-free or purchased fonts, with effects. [FYI, we’re in the process of creating a new cover for the book, using royalty-free photos instead of the painted artwork. We’ll share the results here in a future post.]

So, we started with those fonts in mind. We tried some other fonts on various versions of the cover also, but finally chose Monotype Corsiva for both the author’s name and the title for SHADES OF THE PAST. We also chose the Times New Roman font for the “Award-Winning Author” and the “A Marvelous Author” quote from Julie Beard (we used the full Julie Beard quote on the back cover – we’ll talk about the back cover later in the series). This is how the unenhanced text looked in the final fonts:

Kathleen Kirkwood

Shades of the Past

Award-Winning Author

A Marvelous Writer – Julie Beard

You’ll notice from the cover progression on Anita’s 5/23/2012 post that we added some coloration and effects to the title and author name. Our son had introduced us to these techniques when he created his grandfather’s new cover. We used Drop Shadow and Inner Bevel on the author name. We used Drop Shadow, Outer Glow, Inner Bevel and a brass Gradient Overlay on the title. We chose the gradient color to closely match the gold color on the hero’s coat. Our son, Scott, showed us how to brighten and highlight the color to stand out. This is what the enhanced text looked like:
Next, let’s discuss banners. As a point of interest, Anita always liked the “Lords of Midnight” banner the publisher placed on the cover for the original release of SHADES OF THE PAST (see her 5/23/2012 post). So, a banner was definitely called for. As you’ll notice from that post, we tried various approaches in the various iterations of the cover for setting off the title and author’s name with banners. We created backgrounds for each of the banners with Adobe Photoshop’s rectangle tool. We resized the rectangles as needed using either the Path Selection Tool or the Direct Selection Tool and we used fills to color them. To make the colored rectangles into banners, we used Photoshop’s layering pane to place the rectangles behind the text to create the effect of text on a colored stripe or box (turning the effect into a banner). This is where we refined the text enhancements discussed above. You really can’t tell how the text effects will change the look and feel of the banner until you get the text onto the target background.

Here’s what the final version of the cover looked like with the text and banners in place.

The next post will discuss the addition of the couple to the cover. Check back with us next week. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adventures in Cover Art - Pt 3

OK, we now have the background images. What’s next? Well, we need to identify, modify and add the other material that Anita wants on the cover. Let’s start with the eyes, since she told you in her 5/23/2012 post that she wanted eyes on this cover.

She and our son went on a mission to find candidate images. It took them a few days, but they finally settled on the image shown below (there were actually multiple images of this lady that we looked at – this is the one they chose). As we mentioned before, we buy all these images and they’re licensed to us by The photographer for this photo is Carlo Dapino.

So, they gave me the image and my mission was to make translucent “eyes” out of it. The first thing I did was to crop out her “eyes”. I did this with the Microsoft Office Picture Manager, since it’s so easy to use. This gave us the image below.

Then, I had to make it transparent/translucent. I used Adobe Photoshop’s “Multiply” feature for this step. This resulted in the image shown below.

But, if you look closely, on the sides, you can see straight edges where I cropped the picture. I knew what to do about it, but had no idea how to do it. I knew that I needed to apply a technique called “feathering” to the image to smooth the edges. Since I didn’t know how to do it yet in Photoshop (I learned later on the cover for “A Slip in Time”), I asked our son to do it for us. He did and we sent us back the final image we used on the covers (see below).

One thing to let you know here is that jpeg files do not allow transparency, so anything we wanted to add to the cover had to be in png format (which DOES allow transparency). So, I took the jpeg file into Adobe Photoshop, turned the white rectangular background into “transparent” and saved the image in png format. I then added the resulting image (shown above) to the covers. Note that the png image, with its transparent background, did not block out a white rectangular background area as jpeg files do.

If you’ll look at Anita’s 5/23/2012 blog, you’ll see how the “eyes” evolved over the various versions of the cover. The final result, when the “eyes” were added looked like this:

The next blog will discuss the text and banners. Check back with us next week. Thanks!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Adventures in Cover Art - Pt 2

Hi, this is Mr. Kathleen Kirkwood (Anita’s husband). My role is to perform the technical work that supports her writing. My blogs supplement her blogs on Cover Art development for “Shades of the Past.” In her blogs, she tells you about the trials and decisions we had to make to find the right elements for the cover and come up with the “look” she had in mind. In my blogs, I’ll tell you about what we went through to construct and refine the covers.

One thing to mention before we get started here is that the covers we developed for the websites, the e-Books and for the print version are all different. First of all, the resolutions are different between screen (web) and print. The screen uses 72 pixels (dots) per inch and the printer uses 300 dots per inch. Also, with the print version, you have the bleed, trim and safe areas to consider when laying out the cover. You do not have these for e-books (they’ll display whatever you upload for the cover, scaled down to fit the e-book reader’s screen). For the websites, we resized the e-Book covers.

For the print version, the trim lines are where the printer expects to trim (cut) the book. The bleed zone is extra area outside the trim lines that the printer expects to cut off. The safe zone is where all of the text and critical picture content need to reside (anything that extends into the trim or bleed zones may be cut if the registration of the print machine is off a little). The bottom line is that you’ll notice that the e-book covers do not have the bleed zone, whereas the print version is a little larger in both horizontal and vertical dimensions because of the bleed zone. Here is a screen capture showing the final cover with the guides turned on. You can clearly see the zones – the outer lines are the bleed lines, the middle lines are the trim lines and the inner lines are the outer boundaries of the safe zone.

So, the first question to answer is: what size to make the cover image? We had lots of book sizes to choose from. So, Anita looked through her considerable library of novels to match the publisher’s sizes to books to see what looked best. The size she chose was 5.25” x 8.0”. Then, when you add 0.125” all around for the bleed zone, we wind up with a final image size (for the print version) of 5.5” x 8.25”. At 300 dots per inch, this winds up being 1650x2475 picture resolution.

Next, we needed to create the background. Anita decided that the background should be a picture of a castle with enough sky above it for a pair of eyes to look over it. She did a tremendous amount of searching for “the right castle” to use as the background for the cover and finally decided on three different views of Leeds castle. The three photos we selected, shown below, were then tried on the various cover layouts. The photos are licensed by us from The photographers for the photos below are Filip Fuxa and Simon Gurney.

All of the photos were cropped and adjusted to some degree to give us the look we wanted for the background. The adjusted images are shown below. Note that the castle is pretty much in the middle of the image. This is to allow room at the top and at the bottom for the incorporation of other images and text. I used the Microsoft Office Picture Manager for these adjustments, because of its ease of use.

You’ll notice that we converted two of the landscape images to portrait images. We could only do this because the source images were of high enough quality that there was sufficient resolution for the cover background after cropping. These three “adjusted” photos then comprised the backgrounds for all of the trial covers. Anita’s 5/23/2012 blog shows these images inserted into the trial covers.

In the next few installments, I’ll discuss how we created the other cover image elements – the “eyes”, the “flourish”, the text and the “couple” and how we integrated them together to build and refine the front covers. I shifted over to Adobe Photoshop for these activities because the Microsoft Office Picture Manager did not have the capabilities needed to do the work. I’ll finish up the series with the development of the cover flat (which includes the front and back covers and the spine for the printed version) for which we used a different tool.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Adventures in Cover Art - Pt 1


Okay, I’ll admit it.  With all due respect to the artist, I never cared for the original cover of SHADES OF THE PAST (1999 Signet edition).  In truth, I believed it to have been created for another book altogether and then, for whatever reason, reassigned to mine.  Note the hero’s long flowing hair (my hero, Adrian, is an English viscount in the year 1882). The man on the cover rides bare-chested with a “baldric” across his torso — a wide leather strap that would affix to his belt to support the weight of a broad sword, sheathed at his side.  (Adrian would have used pistols at dawn).  Then there’s the horse, a beauty to be sure, but it is clearly an American Palomino. (My English viscount rides a black stallion named Sampson.) The one detail on the cover that is in keeping with my story is the tiny building in the distance (visible left of the horse’s tail), suggesting an architectural ruin or “folly”, both of which are to be found at my viscount’s estate, Royal Sherringham. At least there’s that.

When I mentioned the discrepancies to my editor, she assured me the cover was painted for my book, not another, and that she didn’t think readers would be so “picky”. As it happened, I did get mail and more than a few comments!

Fast forward to 2012. When I decided to venture into the bold new world of self-publishing, one of the great delights was the opportunity to give SHADES a new cover. This challenge quickly became a collaborative family affair. Thankfully, our oldest son is an experienced web designer, ebook author and cover designer (for his own works). Added to that, my newly-retired techno-husband was willing to learn Photoshop and help out. I brought an art background to the mix, both in applied art and a degree in Art History.  Greatest fun of all, being the author I got total input and the final say on the new cover!

In developing the new cover design, I especially wanted to emphasize the mystery aspect of the novel.  As I’ve previously written, SHADES is a classic Victorian Gothic Romance — dark brooding lord, heroine in peril, remote location, castle full of ghosts — in essence, strong on the mystery with a love story at its core, and hauntingly atmospheric.

In gathering ideas, I scoured through tons of fiction covers, current and past, to test which stood out from the others and why, what appealed most, successful color combinations, etc.  I quickly fell in love with Sharon Donovan’s cover, CHARADE OF HEARTS, featuring a pair of eyes, gazing out from a cloudy evening sky. Below appears a mountain and sea where divers search the waters, presumably for the heart shaped jewel, prominently featured. I loved the concept, and especially loved the mysterious eyes. To utilize the motif for SHADES, a castle would take the place of the mountain.  No water was required.

Our next search led us to websites offering royalty-free photos.  At, we found a woman with beautiful eyes and castles that might serve as Royal Sherringham.  Here are two early “mock ups” for the cover, the castle and daylight view being preferred by my husband and son.

While I loved the eyes, the bright sky did not possess the atmospheric quality I desired, nor did the castle fit my idea of Royal Sherringham. This sent me on a fresh search for a castle set against a darkish sky, filled with clouds for added interest.  Here are two more “mock-ups” that resulted from that exercise:

We also continued to play with the placement of the fonts and quotes, and blocking portions of the cover off with bands of color. Better I thought. The fellows did not agree. Admittedly, the castle still did not match what I’d envisioned as Royal Sherringham.

When we tested our sample covers on neighbors and friends, their preference, time and again, was for the bright, daylight scene. But none of the covers worked, to my mind.  In the darker picture which I’d preferred to that time, the castle looked “dirty” and still needed at least one good tower to be in line with the story. Off I went on another search.

At last, I found the sky and castle view I was after with a sunrise photo of Leeds Castle. I love its lavenders and blues. Also, the castle possesses wonderful towers.  Here is our next attempt at a new cover for SHADES:

Now, if you’ll go back and examine the castles on the different covers, you’ll discover they are all Leeds Castle! The photos were taken at different times of day, from different vantages. 

When my husband and I presented our latest artistic achievement to our son, he was slow to reply.  “Hmmm, something is missing,” he said.

He was quite right.  In so wanting to emphasize the mystery element of the novel, I’d left out an equally important component — the love story that is at the heart of this mystery.  Smacking myself upside of the head, I scurried off to Jimmy Thomas’ website, Romance Novel Covers, to see what I might find.  Jimmy came through with just the right pose, perfect hair (for Adrian), gorgeous coat, and a beautiful blonde in his arms.  Here is the next updated cover: 

We were getting close to a finished cover, but there were still a few additions and changes to be made. The entire image needed to be lightened, the castle “straightened” (due to the perspective, it looked to be sinking on one side). Fonts, banner, flourishes and quotes were also added. Voilá, finally, we had our cover. Front cover, that is. That is all that is required for the eBook editions. For the print version, however, we needed to also create a full cover flat, including the spine and back cover.  Here is the final cover for SHADES (eBook version): 

Next week, my husband will join us and contribute the first of several articles on the technical aspects, details, and tidbits we’ve learned in creating the cover art for SHADES OF THE PAST. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Right Side Up

Happily, life has almost righted itself, and the newest "Note" from Sherringham is almost ready for delivery. Check back in the coming days for "What's Wrong with This Picture? Adventures in Cover Art."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pausing for a Moment . . .

Life turned upside down this week. "Notes from Sherringham" will return next Monday.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Notes from Sherringham: Pompeii and the Cameo Factory (Aunt Gwen's Will)

Courtesy of Depositphotos & Standart
It’s no “spoiler” to reveal that, soon after Shades of the Past opens, the Marrable siblings gather to learn the contents of their aunt’s Last Will and Testament. After all, we first meet Lady Gwendolyn in her coffin on the very first page, indeed in the very first sentence of the book.  What should follow her interment in the family mausoleum and the funeral feast but a reading of her will? 

As Aunt Gwen states in that document, she is a woman born to privilege, but having remained a maiden lady throughout her life, she owns no great private wealth.  There are personal possessions to bequeath, however, including a fine collection of jewels, numbering among them “prime items that I confess, somewhat blushingly, were gifts from admirers over the years.”

For her nephew, Adrian, she chooses a seal ring, "once belonging to one of the minor maharajahs of Jaipur a century ago. You will see it is set with an oval sapphire which has been carved in a flowing script with the maharajah's name.” 

I confess this item was solely the creation of my imagination and research. Yes, I have a fondness for baubles and “sparklies” (ask my husband) and I enjoy pouring through pictures of antique jewelry of all ages.

For Aunt Gwen’s nephew, Lawrence, she chooses “a cameo, its profile carved of my own likeness at the workshops outside the ruins of Pompeii . . . fashioned into a stickpin of purest gold and set with a small diamond . . . .” Our heroine, Vanessa, recalls the trip and “stumbling onto the place after visiting the ancient city and the cameo being carved.”

This episode was drawn from my own past and quite real. What now seems an eon ago in 1974, my husband’s job took our young family to Italy where we lived just south of Rome for a time.  On one occasion we visited the ancient city of Pompeii. Entering by the cemetery, the Way of the Graves, we made our way through the ruins.

Courtesy of Deposit photos & Alain Lauga
Hours later, we emerged on the opposite side of the city (evidently the main entrance, I’m not sure why we entered by the graves). Just outside the main gates was a cameo factory. Unfortunately, we’d arrived late in the afternoon at the ruins and had been hard pressed to see all we did.  Now we had little time left to browse through the factory or see the artisans at work.  We vowed to return, but it was not to be. I’d hoped to purchase a cameo as I have a special love for them.  When still in my teens (another eon ago), my mother gifted me with the beautiful shell cameo pin, pictured here. I’ve collected cameo earrings and a few other pieces since then and am enthralled by the high level of skill and artistry involved.

Author's Personal Cameo,
Her mother's gift
Cameo carving — carving in bas relief on hard stones and shells — is an ancient art dating back to Mesopotamia and Egypt.  The Romans learned the skill from the Greeks and became highly proficient at it. Cameos were even discovered in the archeological excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Naples and nearby Torre del Greco, in particular, remain the centre of cameo craftsmanship to this day.

Enjoy this article on the history of cameo carving from Wikipedia.  (Great depth of detail and beautiful specimens.) The article also contains external links to cameo collections and artists (at the end).