Saturday, June 02, 2012

Cover Art Part 2: Yikes...Techie Stuff

Back with more of the Cover Art Tutorial. 

Part 1 started (HERE).  

Today let's tackle Step 2. Not exactly exciting, but necessary.

Step 2) Take care of the technical stuff. 
You need to know what aspect ratio will be used for the final cover art ... the relationship between width and height of the image. Aspect ratio is about the shape, not the size.

If you get it wrong, when it's enlarged or reduced, edges could be cut off, or you could end up with white edges you hadn't intended, ruining your book cover. 

So.. you need to know the end, before you begin. If it's to be a print book, the publisher will have this info. Ditto for Amazon books, or Smashwords, or Lulu, etc etc. They'll tell you the required aspect ratio for the cover art in their instructions. They'll also have requirements for formatting (jpegs, gifs, etc) and the necessary resolution sizes (pixels) to submit.

My author, Jules at Big Girl Bombshell,  sent me the required measurements, and I went from there. I worked a little larger than the final book cover would be printed, but within the same aspect ratio. Here's a Wikipedia article  on image aspect ratios if you'd like more on the technical stuff. 

Some common aspect ratios are:
1:1 which gives you a square
2:3 which most nice digital cameras use
3:4 which is what is used for ebook reader devices
4:5 which is used for 8 x 10 prints
5:7 which gives you a rectangle

Since ebooks must keep in mind the end user device, such as a Kindle reader, places like Amazon tell you to make your image with a 3:4 aspect ratio to fit them. Be sure to look up the specific requirements for whatever epublisher you plan to use, such as Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, etc. They'll cover it in great detail.

Are we bored out of our skulls yet???!!! 

Okay, here are some visual examples:

Let's say you have this quirky dog about which you simply MUST write a book. You take a photo, and crop it square.
That would be a 1:1 aspect ratio. Cute photo, but troublesome if using for an ebook cover. 

Here's what would happen if submitted as is, and they needed to change the aspect ratio to, say, 5:7

But if they wanted all of the pup included, they would have to do this to retain that overall 5:7 aspect ratio:

So, you save the day by adding a black border to convert the whole shebang into their needed 5:7 aspect ratio:

Clear as mud??

In a nutshell, just make sure that your readers will see what you intended them to see, by making your cover art the required measurements. :-D

Part 1 of the Tutorial starts HERE.  The Steps are more fully explained in each post. 

The Process Summary:

Step 1) What is the main concept; think simplicity
Step 2) Find out the needed technical stuff: aspect ratio, pixels, file size etc.
Step 3) Do a lot of quick thumbnails, in black and white (pencil or digital)
Step 4) Play with color schemes, which supports your concept best
Step 5) Gather any needed reference material
Step 6) Finalize your sketch; think both large & small image readability, & bold text
Step 7) Transfer sketch to your support if paper sketching; or scan in to computer
Step 8) Continue in your chosen medium, or in photoshop (working in Layers) 
Step 9) Font: readability is priority one; must be allowed for commercial use
Step 10) Final copies. Save in PSD. Send needed sizes to author, or what's required by publisher. 

The ideas here are most applicable to the traditional artist who is using a digital art program to do the finish work. Those making 100% digitally created cover art are a horse of a different color.   ;-) 

Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear what you think!


  1. Size matters. :D Cute dog there.

    1. Yeah, I shamelessly look for ways to sneak in photos of Joey, LOL!!