This post is for those who don’t have the money to hire someone to make a cover for them. Obviously, getting someone else to do it can be an excellent choice. Those of us who can’t, have a steep learning curve, and getting the right tools for your goals is a large part of that curve.
Today, I’m going to go over the kinds of tools available, and what I specifically use to make my own covers, as well as some programs others I respect have mentioned.
There are several programs I’ve seen discussed when it comes to covers. At the very least, you need a program that can place text over an image. I’ve heard some say that you can use things like PowerPoint, but I have no experience with that. The little experience I’ve had with the open source equivalent, Impress, makes me seriously doubt an author’s ability to create anything close to professional-grade with that equipment.
Another cited as a necessary tool is Photoshop. I’ve seen enough tutorials online to be impressed with the program. However, it’s expensive. Like, really expensive. InDesign is another highly recommended program, and is mentioned by Dean Smith as his go-to for covers (it’s a requirement if you take his covers workshop). After seeing a cover one of his students produced, I can’t say anything against it. But again, it’s very expensive, especially for someone who may not see a profit for a few years.
However, any good photo editing software should serve you as a means for creating a decent cover. There’s a few good ones out there. I personally have used Paint.NET and GIMP (both free).
Paint.NET, in my experience, is for someone who has never, ever tried to edit a photo. It’s pretty intuitive, and a lot of fun. In its basic form it’s fairly limited, but plugins add some nice features that, for covers, might turn out to be necessary.
My current favorite is GIMP. There’s a fairly strong learning curve, and instruction from official sources on how to do things didn’t help me much in learning how to use it at the level I wanted. However, there’s some great tutorials on YouTube and the web, plus some Photoshop tutorials translate better than I expected to GIMP (it’s how I managed to figure out how to make the fire effect on the most recent cover for Shining Armor).
Another (free!) program to have, if you want sharp symbols or are interested in vectors, is Inkscape. I used it to create the Ornic symbol on the front of The Baker’s Wife (complete) and it really is the best program I’ve found for creating logos and anything where you’re dealing with sharp images at various sizes. I also used it to create a basic land mass for a map. It’s a little harder to find tutorials, and it’s a lot less intuitive than GIMP, let alone Paint.NET, but when it comes to anything where paths are used heavily, Inkscape is my personal favorite.
A program my husband plays around with, but that I’ve only recently seen a use for, is Blender.
Blender has nothing to do with photo editing. It’s (free) 3D software and it’s a bear to work with! Gah! However, some of the images I want, I can’t find, and don’t have the components to create myself. I’m hoping Blender will fill that gap. We’ll see. With images like this, I have hope.
Next week, I’ll go over how I approach cover design (because I know ever so much after making a few *rolls eyes*).