Cover Art: Creating a Cohesive Look

City Magic - 2213058
Hey all!

Today, I thought I'd share some of my new premade covers and talk a bit about cover art, and art in general.  I have a ton of fun with premades because I basically get to just make art and then work it into a cover.  While I love making covers for specific stories, it's more challenging because I have a set of parameters within which I have to work.  I also often have ideas outside of those specific contexts, and my premades let me play with those.

Premades, like this one here--*points to the left*--let me try new things without worrying that I'm going to ruin someone's cover.  I love trying out new techniques for creating additions like magic, and working out new blending techniques, layering styles, and generally playing with images to figure out how I can manipulate them better and how I can blend in original digital art bits so that they look natural and original to the picture.  Take City Magic as an example.  The magic is, of course, added in, but so is the city in the background.  All three of these elements need to work together and when you cut someone out of picture, you have to blend it into the new background, and take in account new light sources, like the magic here.  Even small details can make a picture look slapped together.  Light and shadows are a huge part of any image and working out how to combine two (or more) images means learning how to choose images that will work together, and then knowing how to blend the shadows and light between the two to give them the look of a single piece.

London Nights - 2213061

Layering can be a huge part of creating a cover.  With good layering several images can come together to create a single mood and feel.  Its important to choose images that not only work together in positioning, but to adjust or change colors so that they all work together.  That isn't to say that you shouldn't use contrasting colors, sometimes that comes out beautifully, but if you want an overall color palette for the finished product, using similar or complimenting colors is the best way to get that.  Proportion and positioning are other important factors when it comes to layering.  If you lay out the images in the wrong places, they can work against each other.  In London Nights--*points to the right*-- there are three different images layered so that they work together even though they don't create a single picture.  Big Ben there is obviously not in scale with the silhouetted man, but the dividing element of the woman's leg (and that gorgeous boot) creates enough visual distance that they work as if a single image.

Even after an image is finished, there are a number of things I can do with a cover to give it a more polished look.  Applying effects, textures and styles even after everything is blended brings all the elements together into the same basic style.  Some are softer than others, some more hard edged.  Creating that feeling comes through working with textures, filters and overall coloration.  There are some tricks of the trade, of course, different ways to get a matte look or a shinier, more defined finish.

Dragon Shadow - 2213060
You really pick these up as you go, and develop your own techniques as you work with images.  It's important to keep everything organized in different layers as you work and if you find a combination of textures, colors and filters that you think works really well, you can go back through the layers to figure out how you did it.  *G*  Messing around with new techniques is an important part of developing a style.  When you find combinations that you really like, you start to build a unique profile of techniques that are yours.  With Dragon Shadow, I used a combo of textures and a masking + gradient technique to give the image a bit more shadow and transparency in some places without having to apply it to the image as a whole.  It's a combination I like to use behind a title sometimes, in order to make the words pop without fading the central image too much.

Once you've got a cohesive image, you have to focus on the typography.  The way the text looks is as important as the image itself.  Bad typography can ruin an otherwise lovely cover, because it just doesn't blend with the overall look and feel.  Fonts have personalities and feels just as much as any other element (color, texture, finish, etc.) and if the font you choose doesn't look like it belongs with the image, the results can be jarring and unprofessional.  You're unlikely to use the same font on a romance as you would on a horror novel (although, it has been known to happen!).  I generally prefer clean fonts, rather than the more gimicky ones.  While those absolutely do have their place and may be exactly what a given book calls for, the more basic fonts look professional and can be like neutrals in fashion, they go with a wider range of feels.  They let me modify the fonts in the way that I want them modified, so they're more flexible and that's important with a premade cover.  
Cowboy - 2213059

For instance, on the Cowboy over there I used a nice bold, straight-lined font, both because I think it fits the mood of the piece and because it offers me a wide range of possibilities for modification.  I can overlay an image on it to give it texture or to suit the setting of the book.  I can use a diagonal gradients to make it pop and stand out more from the background, or I can use a mask and a brush to give it a more eroded appearance.  There's enough font there to work with, so that I can modify it to fit more with the feel of whatever book it eventually goes to.

So, creating a cohesive look is about either knowing what you want from the end result, or being willing to play around with an image until you get it right.  The different elements of a cover should all come together, even if the intent is for them to work against each other (to create tension or drama).  Every element from the color to the texture to the typography should be chosen because it serves a purpose for that particular work.

Well, I hope this helps a little!  And remember, all premades are on sale until March 1st!  (Don't worry, it's almost over and I'll stop talking about it soon!  *G*)


Lauren F. Boyd said…
Glad you're my cover artist because, clearly, you know what you're doing. :)
Marion Sipe said…
*G* Thank you! I tend to geek out on the topics I enjoy. *nods*
You have just explained why I could not do the cover myself!!! Thank you!
Marion Sipe said…
It's really just a matter of time and practice, but sometimes that just takes too long! *nods*

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