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.


  1. I created a Yahoo group with directions on how to create a cover on Word. Anyone is free to join!

  2. Definitely interesting, very comprehensive and informative. I'm sure it'll be a great help for some. As for me, I always leave the technical part to my hubby.
    It looks like a very good teamwork and I like that. Grand merci Mr. Kathleen Kirkwood ... !!!