Thursday, 2 August 2012

New Ebook Design: The Tyranny of Heroes, by Terry England

My latest ebook cover is for Terry England's novel The Tyranny of Heroes, which is now up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I'll talk about how I designed the cover, but before I do, here is the final cover:

Here's where you can buy the ebook: | | Barnes and Noble

Terry had already worked on a cover concept with an artist friend, and he sent it through to me for inspiration. (There's certainly no need to do this with your cover designer!) But he was very clear that I should produce the best cover I could, whether I used the concept for inspiration or not. Here was the sketch he sent me (sorry, I don't know the artist's name):

The sketch shows a statue of one of the superheroes in the book. Terry particularly wanted the anger of the hero to show through (it doesn't really in this sketch).

The first thing for me to do was to find a piece of stock art to work with. I almost always start with a piece of stock art and then embellish and alter it. This isn't unusual; even the big six publishers often use stock art, and commissioning original art is usually out of the budget of independent publishers.

This was the piece I ended up buying. The pose works, and I think there is clear anger in the hero's eyes:

The first problem with this image is that it's far too clean for what I want. It gets nothing of the dark undertones of the tyranny of the superheroes. The first thing I did was to add some texture to it.

I found an image of an old sheet of paper from Then, in Photoshop, I placed it over the top of the superhero image. I desaturated the paper using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer clipped to the paper with saturation set at -100. (Techie details alert...) I changed the blending mode to Hard Light to emphasise the texture and reduced the opacity of the layer to 84%. This is what I get:

We're getting somewhere with the texture now, but I don't like the texture on top of the superhero. He doesn't "pop" enough to stand out. I duplicated the original image, extracted the superhero, and placed that extracted superhero in a layer above the paper layer.

That's better, but it's still not quite there. We still haven't got that full impression of the effect of the superheroes. We decided to try to add some ruined buildings behind the superhero. Now, we have to be careful here. Ebook covers have to work really well at thumbnail size, and if we add too much to the image, we'll confuse it and make it messy at small size.

I went looking at flickr, and I managed to find this image of Toronto Fire ruins. It's released under a Creative Commons 2.0 license, which means that I can use it as long as I give attribution (which I have done in the ebook).

It was really important in choosing an image of ruins to find one that fitted the shape of the superhero, both to ensure that the image was well-balanced and retained its focus, but also so it didn't distract at thumbnail size.

I removed the text at the bottom of the photo, then placed it beneath the original image layer. I reduced the opacity of the ruins to 95% and changed the blend mode of the original image to Multiply. This is now what I have:

This is my cover image. I've left the bottom of the picture relatively clear, because I'm going to use it for the text.

And so onto the text. I have quite a lot of text to include and I don't have a particularly clear space to put it in. I needed a compact, strong display font. I chose a font called Bebas. I wanted the word "Tyranny" to really stand out. At the smallest thumbnail, you're just not going to be able to read everything on the cover, so having "Tyranny" and the picture prominent gives a really clear idea of the book.

Which brings us back to the final cover:

I've used a gradient overlay, drop shadows, and a black stroke on the text to make it stand out, and I've given the author's name a very faint white outer glow, to help it stand out against the black ruins behind it.

And that's how you can go about designing a cover.

Let me know if you have any questions about the process.

(I should add that I also formatted the ebook, which was a fairly complex process, but I'm still intending to talk about ebook formatting in a future blog entry, so I'll won't talk about that here.)


autiej said...

Hello. I just wanted to say you did a very impressive job with the cover for ToH! I was the book editor on this project, the content editor, and it is an AMAZING story that deserved an AMAZING cover. Good job, my friend! REALLY great job!

Patrick Samphire said...

Thanks, Autumn! I really enjoyed working on this book. I'm looking forward to seeing how well it does.

T. England said...

Yeah, it's a great cover. I couldn't ask for better. Just hope the contents merits the image ...