Writing Life: Creating a Cover with GIMP (Part 2 - The Cover Image)

Step 2: Create the Cover Image
Before you begin with your cover, take a look at any of your other covers. You are going to want to have a feel for the styles you’ve used for a particular series, or type of book. That style is called ‘branding’. It helps readers identify your books on the platforms they visit.

There is probably a whole series of blog posts you can do on branding. For now, I will assume you know the general feel you want your books to have, and just say it is important to retain a similar feel for your books.

As you probably guessed from the Comment section in the Advanced Options part of creating the image, I’ll be using the cover for the third volume of the 2014 Short Works collection.
The first step I take as part of creating a cover mage is to colour the background back. This means you need to understand layers.

Each image is made up of layers. Some layers are as big as the image, but some aren’t. The first layer is the layer you can see when you first create the image. You will it in the menu for layers:

When you want to work in a particular layer, you need to make sure it is highlighted. This means clicking on the layer. When you do this, it will turn blue, showing it has been selected.

The first thing I do is to use the ‘Bucket Fill Tool’ and the colour selection box to change this layer from white to black. To do this, I click on the Bucket Fill Tool Icon, and then I check the colour selection is correct.

In this case the colour is not correct. So I click on the colour selection, and a small window pops up showing the current colour.

To change the colour, I can click on a black area in the large coloured square on the left, or I can click on a black square in the rows of little coloured squares on the right.

Once you have selected the new colour, it will show up above the old colour and you can see what change you are about to make.

When you have selected the colour you want for the background, move your cursor over the image. You will see a little bucket similar to the icon for the Bucket Fill Tool. Click on the image, and the background will change to black.

Once you have changed the background to black, you will want to position your picture in the cover image. To do this, click on the ‘File’ tab, and select the fourth option ‘Open as Layers’. This will open a pop-up window allowing you to select an image from your files.

Sometimes your chosen image will not fit your cover.

You can alter this in one of two ways. Today, we will do it in the image you are working on, but you might to prefer to resize it separately. That will be covered in a future blog. For now, you will need to know four things. The first is how to select a layer, the second is re-sizing a layer, the third is moving a layer, and the fourth is clipping a layer to an image.

To select a layer look at your layers dock.

Click on the Layer you want to work in. In this case, it is named after the image I imported, so I will click on the Lightning_dreamstime layer and it will turn blue. In the image screen, the layer will be surrounded by a dotted yellow line. Anything I do now, will be done to that layer. Because I want to resize it, I click on the Scale Tool

As soon as I have made sure the right layer is highlighted and clicked on the scale tool, I hover over the layer I want to change in main image. The cursor shows a small picture of the scale tool icon. As soon as I click on the layer, a grid appears, along with a small popup.

I can now scale one of two ways:

I can place the cursor on one of the squares hanging off the edge of the layer and stretch the layer to fit OR I can change the numbers in the Width and Height boxes in the pop-up. Because I want to keep the proportions of the picture I’m going to change the numbers. This means I will first have to make sure the link symbol beside the Height and Width number boxes is joined, since this will save me from having to work out proportions.

Click on the Broken Link. It will join together.

Now, because the height of the imported image is the main problem, you need to adjust the height measurement. Double click on the numbers in the box next to height. Click in the Width box, but do not change anything. Since you have changed the height, you should see the numbers in the box next to Width adjust automatically. If they do not, click on cancel and start again, but make sure the link if joined and not broken before you change the numbers in the box. The scale function gives you a preview, so when you change the numbers, the layer you are trying to scale will also change. This change is not final until you click the ‘Scale’ button at the bottom of the pop-up.

Now I want to move my imported image so I get the part of it I want on the book cover.  To do this, I have to select the ‘Move’ tool.

Move your cursor over the main image. You will see the Move Tool icon on the end. Left click on the layer you want to move. You will notice the yellow-dotted outline around the layer turns white while you hold the mouse button down. If it does not, keep trying until the correct layer is outlined. If you do not have the correct layer outlined, you will end up moving another part of your image.

When you have the correct layer outlined, hold the mouse button down and move the mouse. This will move the image layer across the cover image you have created. You will see that only the part of the layer over the cover image is shown. When you have the part of the image you want on the cover, you will want to get rid of the rest.

To clip the image to your cover, you need to highlight the layer you want to snip. You do this by clicking on that layer in the layers dock or menu. When it is blue, you click on the Layer tab (top of the image canvas, fifth from the left).

I cannot show the drop-down menu here, but you want the fourth option from the bottom, the ‘Layer to Image Size’ option. When you click that the dotted line showing you the layer will fit snugly to the image you are creating. The invisible parts of the image will have been snipped away.

When you’re happy with the positioning of the picture, you might want to add more images, using layering, or you may wish to stop. For this cover, I added three more image layers, which I won’t go into here. Basically, position your layer as you want them to look on your cover, and then prepare to add text.

This is what my base cover image looked like once I’d finished adding in the other images.


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