Sunday, January 8, 2012

CONTEST: Making of a Cover

Dear Reader,

Cover art and graphic design is one of my many artistic passions, and I thought I would do two things. Explain the process within one of my more labor intensive designs, and turn it into a contest, which I will announce at the end of this post.

Below is the finished Forsaken: Goddess of Pompeii (a WIP of mine…) e-book cover.

Typically, I start with my models, before I play with backgrounds or coloring. Now, unlike the norm, finding an embracing couple in suitable clothing for Pompeii 79AD is near impossible! And, yes, I am VERY picky when I know the visual of what I want. So alas, what better place to start than the fabulous Jimmy Thomas? I love using his photos, because not only are they high resolution (very important), they are artistic in the poses, coloring and expression. But, alas—not even Jimmy has yet touched on togas. But it can be fixed—though not easily.

After very carefully cutting out Jimmy and his lady, I went in search of something I could use.

Below are the two togas I used for what amounts to a jigsaw puzzle. When recreating clothing for a model, you have to get the general feel for the model and their pose you want to transfer the portions to. Perhaps, you’ll luck out and find the exact same pose, but chances are, you won’t.

After cutting out the lady’s togas (below), it was a matter of taking little and big pieces, forming them together, and combining elements of both pictures. Then the intricate process of blending, erasing, clone-stamping and painting. After that, I had to up the contrast on the models, and change the hues a bit, then darken them to better match the clothing.

Now, it’s time for the background! When I envisioned this cover, I really, really wanted pictures of Pompeii, and Mount Vesuvius. The mountain was a no go. I found pictures, but they weren't clear enough. So I settled for one of the Rocky Mountains. Although the ruins and columns in the cover are actually Pompeii—present day. So, WOOHOO!

After cutting out the sky from the mountain picture (below), I dropped the fiery sky behind it, and positioned the defined point of contrast over the mountain peak. 

But what good is a volcano without a really awesome explosion?!

Below are the two pictures I used for this effect, plus some editing and painting over, and Photoshop masques. In this program, specifically for images designed for web, there are four color channels, red, green, blue and RGB. When you pull the red channel away from the rest, you’re left with the way cool lava flows (no pun intended), fire and the smoke. The black, grey and blue pixels are left behind. I placed what remained on the mountain, then reformed these layers to fit the mountain of my choosing. Then it was more blending to make the effect seamless. 

The background is now set—time for the foreground! Below are the two pictures I ended up using of Pompeii. I had several more, but in the last few hours of doing this cover I simplified, and cut several images I had used early on. I cut out the building of the left (in favour of the photo’s angle), then the columns of the one on the right.

With the scene completed, I played with contrasts, lighting and darkening, hues and beyond to tie everything in together. I brought in the models to their new “home.” But I wasn’t done yet! The models didn’t match my characters exactly yet. I am a sucker for long, flowy hair. I took out my Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet and sketched out their hair, added highlights and definition by layer; a slow, methodical process that pays off in the end!

And walla, we have Forsaken: Goddess of Pompeii!

Now, for the contest…leave a comment on this post or e-mail me at:

Tell me what you think about this cover and post, to win something very special. The winner will receive a design of their choice: whether a book cover, postcard design, poster design, bookmark design or romance trading card design, or website graphic. This does not include printing of the promotional item you chose, just the design. I will make it to the specs you choose. To give you an idea, the printing company I use for printing is:

I will be announcing the winner this Friday.

You can find more Jimmy Thomas here:

Good Luck!
Kayden McLeod


Denysé Bridger said...

This is incredible! I don't imagine anyone would ever even guess the hours and intricacy of work that goes into a cover like this one - which is GORGEOUS by the way - so seeing the steps should make many people realize just how labour intensive a good cover is for a true artist! Once again a truly spectacular cover, Kayden!! Congrats.

Love & Hugs, D

Kayden McLeod said...

Thank you, Denyse!! It's a hard process to understand, unless it is shown/explained :) I took these things for granted, until I learned for myself, lol.

Penny said...

Great job Kayden, you never fail to astound me in the work that you do. I know the torture you were going thru to get this one just right and the end result shows a patience I have never ever known.

Kristin Boyd said...

Is there any limit to your artistic and creative ability?! JEEZE! Love the cover. Thank you for explaining the process. So many times a book really is judged by it's cover so this really helped me appreciate the process.

Kayden McLeod said...

Thank you, Penny and Kristin,
One of the most important attributes to have in graphic design is patience and a never ending sense of dedication to detail. The more time one takes, the more natural it will look and feel. Thank you for appreciating this project :)

Cara Marsi said...

The cover is awesome. I was completely taken by the work you put into it. Very, very interesting. I loved reading this. I had no idea how artists went about designing covers. Congratulations to you.

Debby said...

The cover is amazing. It must take a lot of patience to get it just right.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Michele said...

Very colorful design. Eye-catching.

nikkitrueblue said...

I love your work!!!! You're beyond awesome Kayden!

Kayden McLeod said...

Cara, Debby, Michele, and Nikki,

Thank you all for your lovely comments! They are greatly appreciated.

Good Luck,

Kayden :)

Kayden McLeod said...

Hello All,

It's Friday, and time to announce the winner, Cara Marsi! Can you please contact me at: :)

Thank you all for entering,