Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cover Design - Out of the Ashes by Sandi Rog

I've been having a blast with designing--no secret, I know--and I owe a lot of my new business to one person: Sandi Rog. Sandi has been a friend for years, though we've only met in person once. We met through a historical group that shot off from ACFW, focusing on books set in Europe. Became friends. When Jewel of Persia was about ready to debut, I asked Sandi if she would edit it for me, knowing she was a freelance editor. That was, unfortunately, right about the time she discovered she had cancer. She hadn't been diagnosed yet, but the symptoms were appearing. She persevered on that edit and had her best friend (a fellow editor) help out too, because she takes her promises seriously.

Since those days, WhiteFire has published one of Sandi's books, her best friend has become our non-fiction editor, and that simple online friendship has deepened and grown. And Sandi has become one of my most vocal cheerleaders when it comes to my designing. She recommends me to absolutely everyone, and quite a few of those everyones follow her advice. So a big, big thanks to Sandi!

Naturally then, when she asked if I would design a cover for a novella she was working on--the first book she's written since cancer--I said, "Of course!"

And so we got to work. =) The book is set in the late Victorian era and is called Out of the Ashes--those ashes being from the Great Chicago Fire. Sandi described her heroine for me and said she wanted her in a nice dress.

Sometimes I start with a model. But in this case, I knew the tricky part would be clothing, so I actually started with a public domain image of a dress from the correct era.
I really liked the detail on the back of this, and the dress has a nice sheen, which denotes it as an evening gown, despite the long sleeves. I knew Sandi wanted the dress to be blue, but for now, I was just happy to find a gown. I flipped it and deleted the background.
Then came the process of making the dress blue--Sandi had specified royal blue, so I knew what my goal was. I did this by going into Layer / Adjustments / Color Balance...several times. Increasing the "blue" each time until I ended up with this.

 Then came finding a person to put into the dress. =) As usual, I searched for a bride that fit her heroine's description, since they often have their hair up. I also needed one in a very particular pose, to fit into the dress. I found this one relatively quickly.
As usual, my first step with her was to delete all the background--and in this case, her dress.
Don't you just love this step? So funny to see someone missing their body, LOL. So then we play dress up, and I put the girl behind the now-blue dress to see how they line up.
At this point I also sized her to fill the page but leave room for a background. Of course, we were missing a hand...a problem, but I would deal with that later, I decided. For now, I was just pleased that the head and neck were at the right angle to be coming out of that dress. Yay! So I went searching for a background. I didn't know how literal the "ashes" part was, but I decided to go for some nice ruins and chose this background.
Then made it more mysterious (woooooo) by making it night.
Not bad...but I added some smoke effects. 'Cause you know. Fire. Ashes. Smoke...
(This is just a free smoke texture that some lovely designer offered to other designers.) I liked how this obscured the background...but she looked weird in front of it like that. So I duplicated the layer, moved it in front of her, and deleted all but a wisp.

Better! I really liked this, other than the still-missing hand. ;-) So I added a title in the font hilariously called "The Last Font I'm Wasting on You" (with a script for the "little words"). And Sandi's name, which combines two fonts--The Alistaren Beta for the first letters, and plain ol' Times New Roman for everything else.
The hand was still missing, but I went ahead and sent this to Sandi for an initial reaction. Which was that she loved it--and wanted me to save that background and smokiness for a later book in the series--but this one needed to be in a ballroom. Brightly lit. Oops, LOL. She gave me some direction on said ballroom--she wanted stairs--and off I went to search it out. You'd be surprised how few of these there are! But I eventually found this one.

Quite a different feel, eh? ;-) Quick substitution, and I got this.
In this version, I did a quick alteration on the dress, just to see what we could do about that hand...and make it look more traditionally "evening." By simply deleting the sleeves and the part of the dress covering her arm, I suddenly had a realistic pose. I sent it again to Sandi, who asked me to keep the background out of the blue tones and wanted some more alterations on the dress.

In hunting down other dresses from the era I love, I came across my all-time favorite Worth gown.

I'm not sure I can adequately express how much I adore this dress, LOL. And it's even from a similar angle. So I decided to borrow some of the styling queues for my adjustments and created a similar arm/neckline area.
This looked promising! So I redressed my lovely lady, kept the original tones of the photos, added just a touch of bluing at the bottom to make her name stand out, a glow around "Ashes" for the same reason...and we had it.

Sandi was in love, and so was I. Absolutely adore how this one turned out...even if redesigning that dress did stretch my abilities. =) Feedback thus far has been very positive, and everyone agrees that it screams "Christian historical romance!" which is exactly what we want it to do.

Sandi posted a description of the story here.

Whatcha think?


  1. Nice! Your posts on cover designing are always my favorite. I find it amazing how you can take an idea and turn it into a cover. Way to go!

  2. The dress is stunning! The cover turned out very lovely- the background, the dress and wording all work very well together!

  3. That is a beautiful cover - and you're right: It does say "Christian historical romance" so clearly! Love it, and thanks for bringing us through your design process.

  4. Love it! Definitely does says historical to me! :D

  5. Absolutely amazing! Love seeing the whole process!