Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cover Design - Grace Be a Lady

Last week I found myself in the unprecedented position of finalizing 11 projects all at once--one for a series of 8 books, so I was producing the final full covers all at once, a contemporary, a box set, and this one.

I was having a grand time. =) I'll be sharing a bit about many of those soon, but I thought I'd start with this Western romance, solely because it's the last one I was working on, LOL.

It's my first Western cover--that's right, the first cowboy I've ever put on a cover! And I was pretty happy to learn that the heroine should be wearing a ball gown. Love pretty-dress covers. Love them. =D But it occurred to me as I crafted Heather Blanton's Grace that y'all might be surprised to realize that the heroine you see on the cover is actually made of 3 models. Namely, these three.

I started my search at, because I knew they had some lovely dress photos. And knowing that Grace had strawberry blond hair and needed an 1890s dress with a bustle, leg-o-mutton sleeves (that's seriously what they're called) and that it should be purple, I set about browsing. This one drew my eye. The dress was gold, but I knew I could change that. Her hair was right, though. And the dress was fairly true to the styling of the day. I'd have to lengthen the sleeve, but otherwise...not bad!
As it turned out, the model herself didn't fit Heather's image of Grace, and she wanted one with the girl looking happier...which didn't exist in this series of photos. So I figured, eh, we'll just find a new face, no biggie, LOL. But first, I had to make the dress lavender. And it also needed to be lower cut--a crucial plot point. So I deleted all we didn't need and changed the color.
Coming along just fine, right? As it happens, I was working on this while watching TV with my husband, and he piped in with some nice commentary as I was working. Like, at this stage, "Agh! She's headless! You're so cruel!"

Roseanna said, "Mm hm." And went to to look for a picture of a blond with her hair up. As usual, I searched for brides, this time in profile to get the right angle of the body. While hockey continued on the TV, I paged through the options. Pretty soon I had snagged this lovely lady.
The angle looked really close, so I dropped her into my file, deleted what I didn't want showing, and earned a "Whoa!" from my husband. Who leaned over my shoulder to say, "You just put those together. And they work. And it took you, like, three seconds."

Oh yeah. I'm that good. ;-)

Feedback from Heather and the fans she showed early versions of the cover showed me some things that needed changed, though. I decided to tilt her head down. I half-lowered her eyes. Made the sleeve smaller. And then the tricky part--she needed more of a, ahem, chest. Both models I'd been using were rather, er, flat. The dress I could reshape with my oh-so-clever Photoshop skills. But Grace herself...well, I went back to Shutterstock. And that's where she comes in:
This happy bride had more of what I was looking for in that department. So yes. I copied her chest and pasted it onto the existing image, LOL. And hey, the result was pretty good!

Being happy with Grace, I then turned to cowboys. I found an image that was promising of a guy in a duster.
His face wasn't right, so I actually put a new one in, LOL, but based solely on his outfit, there was promise...but Heather had another cover with a cowboy in a duster, so I kept looking. I ended up at iStock, where I found this gunslinger.
Not that I wanted the guy reaching for a gun on the cover, but he was half-behind Grace, so no biggie there. The bigger problem was that he was kinda missing his I had to fix that for him. Here's an early version of the cover that had him behind her, on their background.

Early viewers agreed that they liked them...but that it looked like he was staring at her tushie, LOL. So I ended up tilting his head back the other direction.
No more staring at her tushie. ;-)

Now for the background! You can see in the early cover above what I was going for. We needed Wyoming mountains for sure, and after looking at Heather's covers for her current series, I decided to continue with the drama in them that comes of bold skies. So I started with this one:
Which was the correct perspective for behind my people...but the color in the sky didn't really end up on the page once the photo was enlarged to fit behind them. So I also found this one.
The mountains and sky were perfect on this, but the foreground was all wrong. So, you know me. I combined them.
Not that it was quite as simple as it might sound, LOL. I selected the mountains and sky from the second photo, put it overtop the first one, copied the treeline from the first to overlap those mountains...and decided the building looked funny peeking out from behind them, so I also used the Clone Stamp tool to borrow the texture from the grass and put it over the building to make it disappear. The new image was still too short, so I also just duplicated it and brought it down lower on the page, hence why you see identical patches in this photo...which wouldn't be visible behind the figures. So that means we have this.
At this stage I'd also added a purple layer at the bottom, faded out, just to set off the eventual title

Overall, I really liked this, and so did Heather. Another slight change we made here was widening the cowboy so he wasn't so rail-thin. To do that I quite simply widened the image, all but his head, which stayed the same. Just gave him a couple more inches of girth. =)

So then. Time for the words! This can sometimes be aggravatingly tricky, finding the perfect fonts. As you can see in that early cover I posted above, my first thought was an elegant script. But Heather wanted something more blocky and bold, so I eventually found that ParmaPetit gave me what I was looking for--a bold, rather standard serif font, but with a bit of a flair here and there.
Just a few things missing then--Heather had a tag line for this one that she wanted on the cover: Think like a lady. Act like a man. I also had to incorporate that. She'd mentioned she was okay with pretty flourishes behind or setting off the title (in our discussion of fonts), so I found this one.
I took just the top part, put it just behind and under the title, and then added a purple block at the bottom where the tagline would go.
The only thing missing now was the series title! It was rather long: Love and War in Johnson County. So I split it up, put that flourish behind it again, and made the book number large but at a lower opacity behind it.
And there we have it! Heather's name went onto the top, and voila! My first Western romance cover with a cowboy. =)


  1. Very lovely, Roseanna. I really enjoy seeing your process. Being a non-artist, I find it fascinating.

  2. Very lovely, Roseanna. I really enjoy seeing your process. Being a non-artist, I find it fascinating.

  3. You always do such a good job with your historical looking characters. And I'm always like "Wow, I might need Roseanna to find me a picture of a historical heroine one of these days." And then I find out the pic didn't really exist and you made it up. :-)

    I have to say, I really like the cover, and got curious so I went and looked up the authors other covers. I think this one's perfect. It's similar to the feel of the old series but different enough I wouldn't assume it was actually part of the old series. And yes, love the bold sky colors. And the tagline at the bottom. "Think like a lady. Act like a man." :-) Makes me smile.

    1. Well, they sort of exist, LOL...just in pieces that I have to put together. ;-) And any time you need one, you know I'm happy to help!

      That's what I was going for on this cover! And it sounds like a fun book, doesn't it?

  4. Your "cover design" posts are my favorite by far. Keep them coming! :)

  5. I love your commentary added because it made me laugh when you said no more looking at her tushie! Love these posts! Also great job once again! :)

  6. Thanks, Laura! And I laughed too when I saw that comment on Facebook!