Designing book covers in half an hour
January 18, 2013
Matt and I have been sniggering at the Lousy Book Covers tumblr (slogan: “Just because you CAN design your own book cover doesn’t mean you SHOULD”). A couple of evenings ago, he wondered whether we could do better. And whether we could do it in half an hour.
In no time at all, a competition was born. Here are the rules:
- You have 30 minutes total to create the cover from scratch.
- When the time starts, generate a batch of six random titles at the kitt.net Random Book Title Generator.
- Choose the one you like most, and make a cover for it.
- Use your own name as the author.
- You may only use copyright-free or CC BY materials, and be prepared to demonstrate that you have done so.
- The cover must be in the correct aspect ratio for a “B Format” paperback (129 x 198 mm) and in a decent resolution — at least one megapixel.
There are probably better random title generators out there, but we just used the first one we found. It gave Matt these six titles: Silken Magic, The Missing Bridges, Theft of Abyss, The Sorceror’s Slaves, The Year of the Beginning and Cloud in the Petals. And it gave me these: Rough Eyes, The Trembling Spirits, Snow of Eye, The Wind’s Flames, The Names of the Name, and Mists in the Servants. Obviously some of these are completely unusable (“The Mists in the Servants” — I mean to say, what?) but you’re pretty much always going to get at least one that works.
Anyway, here’s what Matt came up with, interpreting his chosen title as non-fiction and sneakily inserting a subtitle:
Pretty sweet work, I think — although Matt was unhappy with the vertical spacing, feeling that the author name was too close to the bottom. The baby-turtle image is by John Winkelman, from flickr, and it’s CC BY. (Matt cut the hand and turtle out so that he could drop the contrast a bit on the background, which accounts for the obvious ‘shoppage around the fingers visible at full res.)
I interpreted mine as a Fantasy novel, and I guess I sort of added a subtitle too, in a way. Here it is:
The background image is cropped and modified from Desert sky scene at dusk by Steve Hillebrand of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is public domain. The parts that work well, I think, are the different capitalisation, size and colour of the “the”s and “NAME”s; and the translucent star underneath the title. If I could do it again, I would swap the two dark reds, but there you go.
I ran out of time to do the author name nicely, so it’s pretty blunt. If I’d had more time, I would also have put a small but clear single artifact in the middle of the cover — perhaps a sword or lantern, or maybe something a bit more left-field like a scroll or a leather water bottle. But since I ran out of time, this is how it stays.
(One important lesson I learned is that I need to figure out how the get GIMP on my Mac to recognise more fonts — it has a tiny selection, and all the sans-serif ones look like they’re straight out of a PowerPoint presentation.)
So now we challenge you: what can you come up with thirty minutes total? If you have a go at this challenge, upload your images and post a link in a comment. (You can upload easily at sites like imgur.com if you don’t have an account on flickr or similar.)