Designing a book cover and fighting perfectionism

I’m working on a cover design today. I’m really not good at managing my time when I do this so I’m experimenting today in the hopes of keeping the time down to something reasonable.

Usually I just dig in and start playing with backgrounds, trying to come up with a composite I like. Today, I’m setting my timers up to work for me.

I’m going to design in half hour blocks. I’ve picked that length for the blocks because six of them make three hours, and each one is short enough that if I’ve let myself fall into a black hole of perfectionism, I can stop it before it consumes my entire day.

I really don’t want this cover to take all day. I have a headache, I’m tired and maybe a little sick, and I want to feel productive today.

I don’t feel productive when I get stuck in a loop of tweaks that almost invariably takes me back to where I started. :-)

I’m going record what I did during each half hour block so I can see if there’s something I can learn from this experiment.

Now, to be frank, my last few covers have taken significantly longer than three hours to create, so I’m not cutting myself off at three hours, just seeing how close I can get to done in that amount of time.

It’s not a lie that constraints and boundaries can boost creativity. I’ve experienced it firsthand many times. I’m hoping it will help today. ;-)

I’ll be using GIMP today. Version 2.8.22. It’s open source and free. I generally use stock photography, which I’ll most definitely be using today, and most of it comes from Dreamstime, all properly licensed. (I keep the license information, and if you use stock, you should too, because sometimes the stock disappears from the site and it can be challenging to find the license information after that—speaking from experience!)

First, I’m starting from the base of my last cover, which already has the fonts I need and the alignments for the typography in it.

Second, I’m going to start looking for a background I like.

Third, I’ll do whatever I have to do to blend some stuff together and make it unique and pretty and (hopefully) pop off the screen without being garish.

Fourth, I’ll try to get the type to look nice.

Fifth, I’ll crop and save the sizes I need.

I’m not allotting any of these tasks to any particular time slot, just laying them out so I can see what I need to do. :-)

Now. Time for that first timer.


GIMP versus Photoshop

I’ve been a GIMP user for several years now. I’ve thought it was an adequate substitute for my outdated version of Photoshop, and it was. Not so for the newer versions of Photoshop, which I now know for certain. I started using the trial of the newest Photoshop a few days ago, and I’m tickled at how much easier it is to do some things that I had a lot of trouble doing in GIMP.

It’s making me excited to spend more time learning more cover design stuff. Honestly, Gimp had begun to frustrate me. The latest update broke the interface a bit and it was annoying. I use a laptop with a smallish screen most of the time, and I love the more compact icons of Photoshop compared to Gimp. Also, right off, I noticed some significant differences in file sizes when I exported my cover in progress.

Gimp: My 1625 x 2600 JPG saved at 100% quality came in at 4,211 KB
I exported the Gimp file as a PSD and opened it in Photoshop, checked the layers and made sure everything looked good, then exported the JPG at 100% quality. Photoshop: My 1625 x 2600 JPG saved at 100% quality came in at 1,078 KB

Both were set at 300 PPI and the image properties show that Photoshop didn’t change that, so that’s not the difference.

Unless there’s something I’m missing, this seems to me like something of note. Now I can upload the same file to NookPress that I upload elsewhere (NookPress has a 2 MB limit) and I can stop saving multiple versions of cover images because of file size issues.

The PSD files are also a bit smaller than the XCF files. I backup to many places, but three of those places are Drive, Dropbox, and a 16 G memory card, all of which have limited storage. Some of my XCF files are over 500,000 KB, not leaving me much room to have duplicates for backup in the main directories (which I prefer to do for safety when I’m making changes).

All in all, I’m pretty happy right now with the change. I’m definitely going to subscribe to Adobe CC. The only decision left is whether or not I’m just going to go for the photography plan at $9.99/month, or if I’m going for the entire Creative Cloud deal at $49.99/month.

I’m just about decided to go with the whole shebang even though I hate subscriptions. I might even give InDesign another shot. ;)