(This is not the final cover: that's under wraps for now!)
I would be the first to admit I'm not at all 'techie'. In fact, I'm almost a technophobe! That said, however, I am creative - it's a bit of a necessity for a writer!
As a child I was always painting pictures or making things out of what was basically rubbish - and yes, I loved Blue Peter, for any readers from British shores. Later, I made complex designs of houses (with stable blocks, of course) out of Lego, drew horses by the hundred, baked cakes and buns and even made some of my own clothes.
I like to consider myself artistic, but what little talent I may possess is definitely geared towards the pencil rather then the brush. This is no help whatsoever when it comes to designing a cover - or, at least, not a Regency one unless you only want a silhouette! The idea of graphic design has always had a slight allure, although I've never had the opportunity to do it.
So, when it came to choosing a cover for An Improper Marriage, I was intending to use a photo. I have a nice one of the house where the novel is set, but a scenic view isn't likely to catch the eye of a prospective reader without some person or people in it - and there lay the dilemma...
I am currently involved in an anthology (more about that soon) with eight other authors. One of them, USA Today best-selling author Aileen Fish, has created a stunning cover for it. Inspired and helped by her, and with very useful feedback from my authors' group, I broached the waters and didn't sink - or only a bit!
Here's what I did ~
I downloaded a readily-available programme. The thing to remember here is to also get the User Manual and read it. Even having read it I needed to keep the window open and continually refer to it. The images you use must be copyright free; either your own photos, purchased from a reputable site or in the public domain. Check the appropriate regulations for where you live; they vary from country to country.
For the really non-technical, like me, you will need to open a file on your computer from one of the drop-down menus at the top of the screen. It took me some time to work out how to insert a picture into the template (you put the dimensions you require into a box when you open a new file). You then need to copy your picture and paste it into the template. There are various attributes you can apply, such as flipping, rotating etc.
For a straightforward (to the professionals!) cover of one image superimposed over another, there are several stages to be performed. Each complete picture is made up of layers, to which you can do different things, such as painting, text etc. Each layer must be anchored before you can do anything else, so check this point if the programme doesn't respond. Images can be removed from a background, positioned on a different scene and then any of the original backing still remaining erased. Colours can be 'picked' from the background and used to mask any elements visible that are not required. A variety of tools can be used to achieve the desired result.
Inevitably, there were frustrations, as there always are when learning a new skill. Remembering from one day to the next to anchor the image was one; the lack of a sufficiently elegant, Regency-style font another. My main difficulty was getting the final image to a high enough resolution for printing, since the print sizing window automatically altered the resolution down when I increased the image size. This was because the image must be scaled first (a different window). However, I have thoroughly enjoyed being artistically creative again and able to produce something I can be proud of. The beauty of the programme I used is that just about anything can be undone if you make a mistake or decide to alter something.
It isn't just limited to book covers; you can create birthday cards, business cards, flyers or anything where you want your own design. If I can do it, anyone can!! So what are you waiting for???
Best Wishes, Heather.