A recent job I completed was the book design for What About Your Saucepans, a dramatic memoir/autobiography by Lindsay de Feliz, published by Summertime Publishing.
I had great fun creating the front cover using a series of photographs and some Photoshop retouching techniques and thought it might be something people would like to get more of an insight into.It was a great example of taking a strong idea and using professional tools and skills to achieve the effects and end results required.
Here’s how I did it…
I knew the scene I wanted to portray on the cover, or at least the main items. The background should be a tropical beach, overlooked by the viewer from a position at a table – preferably with a cocktail/rum drink to add to the ‘paradise’ feel. On the table, alongside the drink (though more subtle), would be a gun – alluding to the corruption and violence that run as a theme through Lindsay’s story and offering a hint of intrigue and a twist to a familiar scene.
I was in luck and found a perfect starting image on Shutterstock. and started by placing this on my canvas in a suitable position.
For the gun I found another Shutterstock image, and imported this onto my document.
Using the pen tool I carefully drew a path around the gun and used a layer mask to isolate it. Using the ‘Distort’ tool (Edit–Transform–Distort) I altered the perspective slightly to help it feel like it sat in our scene more naturally, and using Levels and Hue & Saturation I adjusted the colours to further integrate it alongside the drink.
After adding some subtle shadows beneath the gun, using the Drop Shadow feature and separate colour layers/masks, I felt it fitted in well – adding interest without drawing unnecessary attention to itself.
Moving into Illustrator I now created the type for the book title. I wanted a font that resembled Cuban/Dominican street graffiti and signage. I had a great font family called Public Gothic that fitted perfectly, the Vintage version in particular had a bit of distressing and texture which were ideal for my purposes. With a bit of tweaking I arranged the words in a way that sat well in the central area of the canvas and imported it into Photoshop as a Vector Smart Object. At this stage I also added the author’s name as a Vector Smart Object at the base of the cover. This layer was brought to the very front so that no other editing that came later would interfere with it.
The way the palm leaves overlapped the type gave me the idea to give a bit of depth by having some strands falling above the type and some below. Again using the Pen tool I created a path around the leaves and created a new layer above the type, isolating the leaves from the rest of the background and deleting the parts on the mask where I wanted the text to appear at the front.
I decided I wanted a little more texture to the type, as if it was applied to a wall, so I imported a brick texture and played with the levels to create a black and white texture which I then applied as a mask to the type layer.
The author was really pleased with the direction but the publisher had concerns that the bright colours and beach scene were appearing far too ‘tabloid’ and ‘holiday reading’ than they should, given that the book was a memoir and actually quite hard hitting. To avoid this misleading impression I suggested adding some roughness to the overall layout, implying an element of nostalgia and something less ‘clean-cut’.
Using paper textures from my stock library I layered them over the imagery using layer effects (mostly ‘Multiply’ at different Opacities) to add depth and masks to specify where they affected the background. Building up these layers and tweaking colours meant we ended up with a very different feel to before.
Unfortunately it was now beginning to look much less ‘tropical’! The bright colours had been muted and the clouds in the sky seemed more dominant. Lindsay suggested it now made her want to go and put on a jumper rather than jump in the water to cool off!
This wasn’t right so I searched my stock library for a brighter sky that I could substitute in. With the right shot selected I imported it in as a new layer, placed it directly above the background layer, and used the Pen tool, Brushes and a Layer Mask to blend it accurately with the rest of the scene (cutting out the straw for example, and fitting it against the horizon of the water). Thankfully I already had the palm leaves as a separate layer from step 6 so these already sat isolated over the new sky.
With the textures already in place over all the layers, the new sky blended seamlessly with the background and brought back a clear, sunny disposition to the scene!
The book cover was now complete and the clients were delighted with the results.
Take a look at the end result here
, along with some other books I've designed for the same publishing company.