Creating Book Covers Workshop: 2 Creating a Simple Book Cover

2 Creating a Simple Book Cover

In this lesson, we will:

  • Learn the three visual components of a book cover.
  • Learn how to save experimental images off the Internet onto our computer.
  • Bring an image into the GIMP and resize it to exactly fit a book cover.
  • Change your view to fit the image in the image manipulation window.
  • Type text over the image and change the text style.
  • Save the resulting book cover.

2.1 Three Visual Components of a Book Cover

For the most part, book covers are composed of three major visual components.

One or more images are displayed in an attempt to tell the story of the book.

Text is used to show the title, authors name, and a tag line or interesting selling point. The style of the text can also be used to tell something about the book’s contents (e.g. a western style font versus a dripping blood font).

The third visual component is one or more colored boxes used to create geometric patterns or to set a color behind a font to make the print stand out.

In this lesson, we’ll focus on making a simple book cover by using a single image to cover the entire cover and placing stylalized text over the top of the image. We’ll address creating and placing colored boxes in a later lesson.

2.2 Saving Images From the Internet

When creating book covers, we must use images to which we hold the rights, so we’ll be buying images from image vending sites or downloading them off government web sites. In the meantime, when it comes to experimenting, we can use any image we find on the internet.

The easiest way to find images to experiment with is to use your browser to open the Google search engine at and click on the “Images” link in the top left of the screen to force Google to search for images. Enter a search keyword and click the “Google Search” button. Search strings such as “romance”, “science fiction”, and “nature” should produce interesting results.

Browse through the resulting images looking for an image that is books shaped (portrait), or could have a nice book shaped chunk taken out of it, and best tells the story of your book. When you find an image you like, click on it to display the largest available version. When the image is displayed, RIGHT click on the image and select the “Save picture as…” menu item from the popup menu.

In the “Save Picture” window, save your picture in the “Pictures” directory using a descriptive filename such as “jungleWaterfall”. Most pictures will automatically be saved as JPG formatted images.

Again, remember that such images may only be used for experimentation. When creating book covers, you want to use images to which you clearly own the rights.

2.3 Loading an Image Into the GIMP

The simplest way to load an image into the GIMP is by opening it. Use the File->Open menu item to select the name of the file in the “Pictures” directory that you just saved. Double click your left mouse button on the filename to open the associated image.

2.4 Scaling the Image

The next three steps introduce a standard method you should use when scaling an image to fill either an entire book cover, as in our case, or a rectagular region on a book cover.

Select the Image->Scale Image menu item. Within the “Scale Image” dialog box, type 853 in the Width text box for the “Image Size” and press Enter. The image height will change to proportionally match the width of 853. If the new image height is less than 1280, type an image height of 1280 and press Enter again. Click the “Scale” button at the bottom of the window to actually scale the image.

2.5 Zooming to Fit

As a result of increasing or decreasing the size of the image you’re working on, you may want to zoom in or out on your work. Use the View->Zoom->Fit Image in Window menu item to best fit the image to the image manipulation window.

2.6 Cropping the Image

Note that if the width of your image is now 853 and the height 1280 then you don’t need to perform this step. Move on to step 2.7.

One dimension of your image now exactly fits the demensions of a book cover while the other demension is too long. Select the Image->Canvas Size menu item to crop off the unwanted height or width. Within the “Set Image Canvas Size” dialog box, click the chain symbol to the right of the Width and Height text fields to break proportionality. Type either 853 over the incorrect width or 1280 over the incorrect height and press Enter. The demension you did not type over should remain unchanged.

Click on the “Center” button on the middle right side of the dialog box. The picture below shows a white outline around the region of the image that will be retained after the crop is performed. To adjust the crop region, click your mouse in either the X or Y offset text fields (which ever is currently displaying a negative number) and use the up and down arrow keys on your keyboard to adjust the offset. Hold down the up or down arrow key to move the crop region faster.

When you have the white crop region around the portion of the image that you want to retain, click on the arrow to the right of the “Resize layers” option field and select “All Layers”. Finally, click the “Resize” button at the bottom of the window to actually resize the image.

You now have a 1280 x 853 book cover completely covered with an image. Follow this same procedure when ever filling a cover or region with an image to proprotionally resize the image while cropping off as little of the image as possible.

2.7 Typing Text Over the Image

To display text over your image, we’ll use our first tool from the Toolbox window: the Text Tool. The Text Tool button looks like a large letter “A”. Left click on this button in the top portion of the Toolbox window. The lower portion of the window changes to display options for configuring your text.

Note that you can move your mouse pointer over any tool buttons in the top half ot the Toolbox window, without clicking the mouse, and a small tooltip will pop up to tell you what the button does.

Before placing your text, change the size of the text by entering “80” in the Size text box in the lower portion of the Toolbox window. Now, click anywhere on your image and type the title of your book, press Enter, and then type your name.

Note that when you click on the image to enter your text, the “GIMP Text Editor” window opens. You can close this window by click on the “X” in the upper right hand corner of the window.

2.8 Moving the Text

To move your text, position your mouse pointer anywhere inside the text box, click and hold down your left mouse button, and drag the text to where you want it. Release you left mouse button when you’re done.

Text stands out the best when it isn’t overlaying a complex portion of the image. For example, don’t position the text over the faces of characters in an image. Also, text stands out best when light text is displayed over a dark portion of the image or dark text over light.

2.9 Changing the Text Content

To change the content of your text, double click your left mouse button on the text box. The “GIMP Text Editor” window will open. Edit the text in this window and the changes will appear in the image manipulation window. You can close the “GIMP Text Editor” window when you’re done changing the text.

Note that sometimes when you add text to a selection, the text no longer fits properly within the text box. If this occurs, resize the text box by positioning your mouse pointer over the left or right side of the box until the cursor changes to an arrow pointed to a bar, hold down your left mouse button, and drag the text box outward to resize it.

After changing the text content, you should reposition the text box by repeating step 2.8 above.

2.10 Changing the Text Size, Font, and Justification

Use the lower half ot the Toolbox window to configure the selected text.

Use the “Size” text field to enter the font size for the text. Press enter to cause your selection to take effect.

Click the “Aa” button to the right of the “Font:” label to display a list of fonts to which you can change your text. The resulting popup selector displays a list of the fonts available on your computer with a small example of the font to the left (the letters “Aa” in the font). Scroll through the list and left click your mouse on the font you’d like to use.

In a later lesson, you’ll learn how to install additional free fonts from the Internet onto your computer.

To the right of the “Justify:” label are four options for justifying your text: left, right, centered, and filled. Click on one of these button options to select the justification you’d like. Remember that you can position your mouse pointer over these buttons without clicking your mouse to display a tooltip explaining what each button does.

You may need to stretch the text box to fit your text after changing text’s font or size.

Try to make your font as large as possible, but so the text still fits on the cover, to improve it’s readability. Also, select thick, bold fonts over spindly, willowy fonts so that the text remains readable when the book cover is displayed on the web as a thumbnail.

Select a font that reflects the content of you book. Pretty fonts are best for romance, blocky fonts for horror, and computer looking fonts for science fiction.

2.11 Changing the Font Color

Click your left mouse button on the colored bar to the right of the “Color:” label to change the font’s color. The “Text Color” dialog box will be displayed in response to your mouse click.

There are two common ways to select colors in the “Text Color” dialog box.

The first is to click your left mouse on one of the predefined colors in the lower right corner of the dialog box.

The second is to mix your own color. To do this, left click your mouse on the rainbox colored vertical bar in the center of the screen to choose your color. Then, click and drag your mouse around the color box on the left of the screen to select the brightness of the color. Note that the color displayed to the right of the “Current:” lablel will change to show your current color.

Click the “OK” button in the lower right of your screen to set your text color or “Cancel” to dismiss the dialog box without changing the text color.

Text stands out the best when you use dark colored text over a light image or light colored text over a dark image. As a result, white and black are the two most popular text colors for book covers because they stand out the best.

Avoid garish colors such as bright yellow. Set the text color to reflect the type of book: red is good for horror while pastels are best for romance.

2.12 Zooming Out to View a Thumbnail of Your Cover

To see if your text remains readable when your book cover is displayed on a web site as a thumbnail, use the View->Zoom menu item to zoom out to an aspect ratio of “1:8 (12.5%)”. If you can still read your title in this thumbnail view, your book cover should look good when you load it on Amazon and other online book vendor sites.

Reset your view when your done by selecting the View->Zoom->Fit Image in Window menu item.

2.13 Saving the Result in XCF and JPG Formats

When saving our work, there are two file formats we need to consider: XCF and JPG. XCF is the native GIMP file format. When you save a file in XCF format, you save all the information about the GIMP image. Use this information for work in progress. JPG is the image format you’ll use to display an image on the web or to submit it for publication. When you save a file in JPG format, you save only a rastar image. While working on an image, save it in XCF format. When you want to cut a snapshot to view outside the GIMP, save a JPG formatted image.

When you’re reasonably happy with your book cover (don’t worry, our covers will get better), first save it as a JPG image using the File->Save As menu item. Save your work in the “Pictures” directory and name it using reverse polish notation with the “.jpg” file extension (e.g. theSecretStaircase.jpg). The GIMP will display the “Export File” dialog box. Click “Export”. The GIMP will display the “Save as JPEG” dialog box. Click “Save”.

Now use the File->Save As menu item to save the image in XCF format by following the same process as above but using the “.xcf” filename extension (e.g. theSecretStaircase.xcf). Notice that in this instance you won’t be prompted with the dialog boxes.

You can use the File->Save menu item to save your work in the last file in which you used File->Save As menu item to save. That’s why I save the XCF file last, so you can use the File->Save menu item as a save shortcut to save your continued work in progress in XCF format.

2.14 Learning from Existing Book Covers

The best way to learn what constitutes a cool book cover is to browse Amazon or some other online bookseller for cool book covers. As you do so, make note of the elements of the covers that you’d like to use on your own cover. By the time you finish this workshop, you should possess the knowledge required to replicate most book covers.

Project 2.1: Review the Book of Dreams Covers

The book covers that I created for Melanie and my Book of Dreams Series are basically text over full cover image covers. Check out the following web site to see how effective this simple technique can be:

Click on a book cover to display a larger image.

Notice that I used different sized fonts for different text elements (you’ll learn how to do this in the next lesson) and made the mistake of using a willowy font for some of the writing (it doesn’t show up well in thumbnail).

Project 2.2: Create Your First Book Cover

Follow the instructions in this lesson to create and save your own simple book cover in both XCF and JPG formats.

### End of Lesson, Copyright (c) 2012, Brian Jackson


One thought on “Creating Book Covers Workshop: 2 Creating a Simple Book Cover

  1. Just wanted to let you know that this tutorial is just what I’ve been looking for – a logical, easy to understand process to create book covers in GIMP. Thanks for the series!

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