Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Cover Design - Beneath the Blackberry Moon

A friend of mine contacted me a while ago about designing a fun project--a novel broken into 3 parts. She wanted them to look cohesive, and yet have something different on each one. To achieve this, we decided that we'd keep the same background image for each cover, and change the figure in the foreground. The compilation title would be large and prominent, with the individual title of each part smaller and lower. There was also a series title to work in, and of course the author name. That's a lot of information to include, but I think we pulled it off. =)

I began, of course, with that background image that would be carried throughout. April explained that "Blackberry Moon" meant something pretty specific to the Native American tribe she was writing about, so I went out in search of a summer field with a full moon glowing over it. I found a series of photos that I really liked.

These were all of a field with a mountain and trees and a full moon, with a beautiful blue coloration that we wanted. But annoyingly, I couldn't find one quite how I wanted it. I needed a big swath of field for my foreground...and a moon that wasn't too obscured by clouds...and we wanted the tree line rather than mountains. So I actually ended up taking 4 different pictures from that series and combining them.
This is mainly used for the up-close grasses.

This I added for the large expanse of sky up above. But the moon wasn't how I wanted it, so...

A different moon. You'll see that there's still a line visible where the new sky hits the old one. I didn't bother fading that out because I knew I was going to add a line of trees. Like so.

April also wanted some glowing fireflies, so I overlaid that...

Strange as it may seem, my next step wasn't to put in the figure, since there was some decision-making to be done there. My next step was actually all the various title elements. I began with the main title, which I wanted in the sky.

I like using a script font for just one word--and for "Beneath" I chose to drop the B down lower than the rest of the word, to frame the "the" and add a nice bit of balance to that "th" at the end. The rest of the title is simple in Georgia font, all caps, with a space between each letter.

Now it was time for the part's title. I had a lot of info to put there. "Part X", the title itself, and somewhere I had to put the series name.

As you can see, I couldn't fit the series title here, but we liked the arrangement. To mirror the main title, I dropped the capital letters of the main words down lower than they'd usually be. I have most of the title here in the script, with only the "Part" part in Georgia. This provides a nice visual balance against the main title.

Behind the words you're seeing a faded out rectangle with a texture laid overtop it. The color matches that lighter cyan beside the moon.

I knew I wanted author name--and as it turned out, series title--in the grass at the bottom.

But the contrast in the grass made it so nothing quite stood out well enough all by itself, so I also had to add some shadow. I think this really helps the name and series title pop. (Look at the bottom)

Now it was time for the people! The girl for this first one turned out to be the hardest. We couldn't find an image we liked on the stock photo sites, so April ended up having a photo shoot with a friend of hers who fit her description. I gave April a few suggestions for the shoot--namely, to make sure she had a full-length image. A solid background would be great but wasn't necessary--and ended up impossible, but that was all right. She came back to me with this (among other images):

Of course, you might notice that this is in daylight, and I need a nighttime image. ;-) But this is something we designers change all the time with our brightness/contrast and color balance options in Photoshop. Had I just plopped her down in the background, she would have looked (roughly) like this.

After altering her coloration, she looked, by herself, like this.

But we still had a bit of an issue. See, the heroine was supposed to be ten to fifteen years younger than the model. April asked if I could do anything to make her look younger.

As people age, bone structure stands out more--young faces are softer, rounder. So I rounded out those awesome cheekbones (sorry, model!), softened the chin, and also smoothed out the area around her eyes.
Which gave us, for part one, this!

Model selection for #2 was easier--we found the guy we wanted:
I just had to add some hair and a moon tattoo, and change the coloration on his clothes slightly, and add a silver armband. Which gave us this.

Part 3 was somewhere between the others in difficulty. April wanted to use this image:

But she wanted the dress brown and the cloak black (given that it's title is, you know, ebony cloak). Her skin had to be darker, as she's of mixed race, and the hair was also wrong, LOL. Which eventually gave us this:

And there we have it! The complete series, which look enough alike that they're obviously part of the same book, but also different enough with the figures that people can tell at a glance it's something new!

Which part do you like best?


  1. Very interesting progression! And for such a fine author. Nice work.

  2. Very neat to see the process. The imaging looks great!

  3. Very neat to see the process. The imaging looks great!

  4. I love seeing this process! I'm always amazed by how cohesive the final image is.

  5. Very impressed with the entire process and with your outcome. You do a fabulous job on the covers you design. Interesting to see the process.

  6. April's books are beautifully crafted with beautiful covers. Thank you for taking us behind the scenes and showing us a little of what it looks like to craft them!