Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#1
Resources
  • GIMP is a free photo-editing software which aims to emulate photoshop.There's a big learning curve but many Youtube tutorials to learn from
  • Canva is an online editing software with its own templates and its own bank of free images for commercial use. However, they cannot guarantee all free media has the proper releases for commercial use, so use with care.
  • Wordmarkit is a program that lets you preview all of the fonts on your computer for any phrase or paragraph
  • All images on Unsplash high res and free for commercial use and modification without attribution. This is my go-to for photos
  • Pixabay is another good photo site but check the license on each photo--some may not be free for commercial use, some may require attribution, some may not have the proper release for identifiable faces, etc
  • Creative Commons has built-in filters for commercial use, modification privileges, and license types, but not all pics are high-res
  • FreePNGimg has miscellaneous object pictures for free
  • NASA has space images, Library of Congress has a lot of old timey images (including vintage portraits)
  • The Smithsonian Open Access has dedicated its digital assets to public domain. They cannot guarantee all free media has the proper releases for commercial use.
Tips
  • Border: This is more important for covers online than in print format, but borders (or some border elements to indicate boundaries) give a polished and contained look to your cover. It's also one more place that you can indicate the genre or feel of the story.
  • Fonts: this must be quickly readable, and the title needs to be big enough to see from a thumbnail (e.g. if you're scrolling the trending page, can you make out the title?). Have no more than 2 fonts on your cover (it's easiest to use just 1). The style of your font also matters--cursive (script) fonts are regularly used for romance. Grunge fonts for horror and thriller. Retro fonts for sci-fi.
  • Titles and Author Names: Most covers center both the title and the author name. In standard SF&F, the title is usually at the top and the author almost always at the bottom in a smaller font size. In thriller, the author is usually at the top in a larger font size with the title at the bottom. Search for books in your genre to catch current cover trends. (information courtesy of NovelNinja)
  • Single Focus: Even accomplished artists have a difficult time blending too many elements together on a small canvas. Unless you're going for tacky (you do you!), steer away from much more than one or two items on the cover.
  • Have a Friend Look at It: I frequently have two or take a look at cover choices as I work (font placement, border color, photo placement)
  • Colors indicate a lot about your book. Here's a nice color mood guide for covers
The Unedited Photo

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This is classy and easy. The focus element should be relevant to the story, and this combined with the font and overall coloring should give a reader an idea to the genre and mood.




  • From the picture of a woman and flowers combined with a script font and curly, elegant border elements, it's pretty clear that "Gods Above" is some kind of romance. The somber coloring and grainy overlay gives an air of mystery, indicating that there may be more than meets the eye to a simple plot. (There's a soft black gradient at the bottom here for title visibility.)
  • Again, the image of a woman, script font, curly border elements = romance for "Magic's Captive". The woman appears to be running away, so this combined with "captive" in the title indicates that romance was unintended. The band behind the fonts matches the coloring of the image and prevents the font from becoming a mess when entangling with the background while providing some neat structure to the photo. The colors are bright and sunny, indicating a lighthearted story.
  • Planets and a cool funky all-caps font that looks a little out of this world, along with hard border elements, might indicate "Broken Worlds" is a sci-fi story. The black background invokes a sense of vastness. The black and white makes for a striking cover.
  • Once again, we have the vastness of space above the focus element of "Dwellers," which are three humans in front of a sunrise/sunset. This image invokes a sense of new beginnings and hope, though daunting tasks may be ahead. Combined with the strange word, it implies some kind of futuresque or alien setting that may be set underground.
HOW TO: Find a photo relevant to the story. Crop it down to the required ratio (decide whether you want the focus element in the middle or off to a side--notice the different effects it creates in these covers above and below). If it has a natural dark or light spot, put your text there. (For Dwellers, this could have been at the top! But putting the text at the top would have framed in the cover, reducing the sense of daunting vastness.) If there's no place where the text can be seen across its whole length (as the case with "Magic's Captive"), pick a color from the photo and use that as a rectangle. Use either a single rectangle or two (as above), depending on how you like it. Choose a font that suits the genre.

The Double Exposure Effect

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Hopefully you can tell by now, but: romance (probably), romance, romance, sci-fi. The first three have texture in the background for interest, and the middle two have a band of soft light in the back for the same reason.

HOW TO: This takes a bit more work with GIMP or Photoshop, but it's something that you can do with only a mouse and software. Find a picture of a character or object that represents your story. Follow this Youtube double exposure tutorial in gimp!

I hope this helps someone make at least a stand-in interesting cover!

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#4
You may want to add Smithsonian Open Access to your list of free images. 

Also, any nonclassified or declassified image owned by the United States government is automatically in the public domain, which counts for non-US citizens as well. That includes both NASA and the Smithsonian (both arms of the US government), as well as anything provided by the military, FBI, State Department, National Forestry Service, and many more, such as for press releases. Please note, though, that taking your own photos of government property may cause issues if it's a secure installation. 

That doesn't mean they're easily available; in another job (tangentially related to editing, but I have held other careers :p ), I had to help organize a small department of a grad school specifically to go through declassified information from the CIA, which they were required to release by order of Congress. They weren't, however, required to provide an index. Or, for that matter, to make it easy for us to get those copies. It was a petty move on their part, but perfectly legal. So something like the Smithsonian Open Access sticks out, especially to me, as something to use. If you need to find specific government images, contacting the PR office for a US governmental agency usually gets you at least a polite response (unless it's the CIA, in which case don't even bother). 

It's also worth noting that even if a painting, tapestry, castle, whatever, is free and in the public domain, the image may not be. In the United States (and it should be at least similar in all Commonwealth nations), the copyright on an image goes to the one who took the image, unless it was a work for hire such as a photographer taking a photo of your family for a holiday portrait, or a stranger taking a photo of you and your friend on your own phone at your request. So if you go to a public museum and take your own photo of a Monet, that's your photo; if your friend took it, that's his/her photo. 

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#5

FourPin Wrote: I hadn't really given any thought top a cover, I wrote something based on a series of games (fallout), could I take an in game screen shot, modify it, then use that?

If it's fanfic, sure. 

Original and for potential monetization? No. The image created is the intellectual property of the game's copyright owner. You are able to use the screenshots under Fair Use (which covers more than just the United States), but if you are monetizing the story then that's a violation of that policy. 


Things become a bit grey if you have created something unique. One example is using a game like Minecraft to simulate some unique map layout, such as a recreation of a building you know in real life; another is using in-game photo editing tools to modify the screenshot to something of your own design. In both cases, you absolutely and clearly own the screenshot; however, the copyright (yes, technically two different things) may still be in dispute, and the video game company has better lawyers than you do. Don't risk it. 

This doesn't mean that it might not be worth contacting the IP holder to ask permission. It's been known to be granted. 

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#6

FourPin Wrote: This is so great

I hadn't really given any thought top a cover, I wrote something based on a series of games (fallout), could I take an in game screen shot, modify it, then use that?

I'm sure I can find something on the sites you suggested if not, although I am seeing similar stuff on creative commons

Thanks

IDK about the policies of the companies behind Fallout, but it's worth it to at least google how they've handled similar cases in the past. Some companies won't care, while others are absolutely draconian.

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#7
artsymarsy Wrote: Also, I don't know if it's standard, but nine times out of ten I put the author name on the left and under the title.


I forgot to respond to this. It's not standard; in most covers, both the title and the author are centered. In standard SF&F (not paranormal romance, and YA anything tends to be all over the place for reasons I'll rant about if anyone convinces me to sit still long enough), the title is almost always at the top and the author almost always at the bottom, with the author being a smaller font size. In thriller, the draw is more the experience than the story, and so author (as in, who crafted the experience) is almost always at the top, title at the bottom, and the author being a larger font size this time. In both, the size difference mainly matters based on how famous the author is; the more the author's name is recognized, the larger the name is on the cover.

Cover trends per genre are subtle, in that we don't typically notice them for themselves; but obvious, in that we still absorb their information. Search through your genre's bestsellers (not just the ones released this year) until it starts to blur together. That's when you'll really start noticing the trends.

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#9
NovelNinja Wrote: Cover trends per genre are subtle, in that we don't typically notice them for themselves; but obvious, in that we still absorb their information. Search through your genre's bestsellers (not just the ones released this year) until it starts to blur together. That's when you'll really start noticing the trends.

you need to stop being so good at stuff because i'm already out of rep to give you today
David Wrote: This is great! I just edited my checklist thread and added a link to this under the "Cover" section. :)

=O

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#10



What about taglines ?

One problem I have is that I wrote something in an existing world, but used my own people, places, and ideas, so I've got all the cons of the ff tag, meaning it's seen as niche and inaccessible (it's neither) and none of the pros, because the ff crowd isn't interested in original characters/setting (and I had to build 90% of the world anyway)

I was hoping to try and convey this by putting something like "an original novel set in the fallout universe" along the bottom, if that's not a ridiculous thing to say
Llamadragon Wrote: IDK about the policies of the companies behind Fallout, but it's worth it to at least google how they've handled similar cases in the past. Some companies won't care, while others are absolutely draconian.



I didn't even think about that, I was thinking more of the site rules

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#12

Anehalia Wrote: I see canva isn't mentioned in your list of programs. They have a free library of photos, and then they have a "pro" library of photos that cost money to use. (I've been using canva recently for my covers.)

I didn't add canva because I didn't want to figure it out lmao (I was also under the impression they didn't have free-for-commercial-use stuff, so that's nice to find out now that i'm not being lazy and looking into it)

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#13
While not a free resource, DespoitPhotos do a Black Friday sale every year where you can buy 100 commercial image licences for $80, saving you $220. The deal never expires and the person who told me about it (a self-pubbed author who releases a few dozen short stories a year and makes their own covers) said not even they manage to use all 100 images in a single year. It may be worth the investment if you want some high res, professional quality images.

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#14

artsymarsy Wrote: Anehalia Wrote:
I see canva isn't mentioned in your list of programs. They have a free library of photos, and then they have a "pro" library of photos that cost money to use. (I've been using canva recently for my covers.)

I didn't add canva because I didn't want to figure it out lmao (I was also under the impression they didn't have free-for-commercial-use stuff, so that's nice to find out now that i'm not being lazy and looking into it)



I went and looked up Canva's free media use policy to make sure I wasn't giving false information. Book Covers count as acceptable commercial use of free photos. Here is the link to their free media license agreement: https://about.canva.com/license-agreements/free-media/

Re: Create Cover Without Stolen Artwork

#17
Some programs and games for custom work:
SFM - Bit advanced, but workshop has tons of things that will fit your need. It's heavily recommended to get SteamVR and use S2FM instead (better lightning)

MMD - Portable and decent, but it's mainly for animation instead of pictures. Not worth if you're not making anime things

Koikatsu - Hentai game, but it has easy to use tools to create any anime character you want, and a map/scene for the shoot. Picture can look like 2D if you know your stuff. You can buy the game, but most of community recommends pirating it by getting better repack (publishers is total asshole. Steam version requires 10 GB of community patches and mods to have the same things as original version, which is what piss people off)

I'm only going to mention Blender because it's too time consuming, and is usually not worth the trouble