Making a cover has a learning curve. Now, I’m not under the belief that just anyone can sit down and make a nice cover. Unlike formatting, it’s not something that can be explained in a single blog post.
For myself, I have a long history with both graphic design and art. Don’t take that as meaning I’ve gone to school or anything. I worked with photo-manipulation software when I was a teenager. There was nothing else to do and this was in the age where your computer still made sounds as it connected to the internet, and was slow as could be. If you wanted to grab a picture, you had to wait ten minutes to an hour for it to download, my connection sucked that much.
I have, over the years, continued to use photo-editing software in the form of Gimp. Gimp was not what I was raised with and I found myself frustrated over the things that I couldn’t do, or couldn’t figure out. The text box alone…
What I was used to was a pirated copy of either Paintshop Pro, or Photoshop Pro. I had used the good stuff and knew that my trouble with Gimp was the limitations of the software. Though it is free and great for beginners.
As a teenager and into my early twenties, I drew a lot. Except it always came out awkwardly un-balanced. Turns out one of my lenses is crooked or misshapen and without special man-made lenses, my perspective of the world was forever slanted. Isn’t that fun? Especially when you can’t freaking draw with them on because it’s very uncomfortable.
My jobs over the years have involved a great deal of visual balance. This is a requirement for graphic design. If you have no sense of balance, or how to make a piece balanced, something will forever bother the reader who glances over your work.
My most recent job involves colour, measurements, creating designs, and guiding clients through the design choices to create a custom look that suits their needs. In the past three years I have learned more about colour and balance than I thought possible, or that I ever thought I would need.
So, with all that, I had a shitty little monitor and a mouse with some photo-editing software. I found drawing and working with the mouse to be annoying and blocky, like I was making the shapes with my shoulder instead of my wrist.
I grabbed a tablet, just a cheap one, nothing overly fancy.
Still have the shitty little monitor.
Why does the monitor matter? Well, each computer monitor is a bit like a snowflake. The monitor I have now is several years old, has dead pixels all over the place and I swear is getting darker with time.
Creating the cover for At Death’s Door, I thought I did really well, until I got it onto my cell phone, which is a much newer screen, and spotted things which I couldn’t see on my monitor. Things which made it look like a three year old had tried to colour the cover.
I would have caught it, had I actually been able to see the colour problem on my monitor. Once I saw it, and I zoomed in, I could kind of see it, but I still had to use my cell phone as a guide.
Hence the monitor’s new title, “shitty little monitor.” It works great for all things not graphic design.
Even with the proper equipment, this takes time, effort, and practice. Lots of practice. I like the practice, it’s quite invigorating to work on something besides writing and editing constantly. I’m also not playing a game, so I don’t have that guilty voice at the back of my head whining about how I should be working.
After getting a cover done, I step back and think that there was a better, smoother way of doing that thing. I remember for next time. Yes, my first few covers are going to be a little lumpy. Yes, it could be years before I produce the types of things which others would actually pay for.
But that’s actually my end goal with this. Not just to make my own covers, but to sell covers as well. That way, when I get aggravated about writing or editing, I can take a break, do some arts and crafts, and still make money.
I just need the practice.