Photoshop Tutorials: The Lost Letter

As always, please be forgiving of the mistakes. I’m terrible at proofreading my own stuff.

Today we’re going to go over the basic things you need to know to create a full book cover. This is a very long tutorial with 50 images, so make sure you’re ready to spend some time with this one. I was tempted to separate it into different parts, but in the end I decided that would probably be more difficult to follow.  I wish you luck and I hope you learn something.

The first step of creating a cover like this is picking a model that has the look you’re wanting, and making the hair is wide enough to carry over to the back cover of your book. I found mine here. Once I have my image open in Photoshop, I want to create duplicate layer. Now, make the original layer invisible.

We’re going to create a leather textured background. Start out by creating a new layer (Layer>New>Layer). I titled mine Leather Texture layer 1.

Now, I want to choose the colors for my clouds. I want my foreground color to be dark brown (I chose 4c2209).

The background color should be a lighter brown (663814 for me).

Now, we want to render clouds (Filter>Render>Clouds). You should get a really pretty cloudy background.

Now, reduce the opacity to 75%.

It is time to create another layer. I titled mine Leather texture layer 2. Once you’ve done that it’s time adjust our color swatches. First hit the color swap button (double sided arrow on the left toolbar. Next, we need to change the background color to something light (I chose c57a4d).

We’re going render clouds again.

Next, you want to change the blend mode to multiply. You should get the result you see below.

Now, make both of your cloud layers invisible, and then create your third leather texture layer.

Fill your new layer in with black by using the paint bucket tool, pictured above.

Now, we’re going to add some noise (Filter>Noise>Add Noise…). Above are the settings I used.

Next, we want to create an embossed effect (Filter>Stylize>Emboss…) on the layer using the above settings. Once you’ve created your emboss layer, drag it down beneath your first two layers.

This next step is optional, but it makes things easier. Select all three leather textures (hold the ctrl key down while you click on all three layers). Once you have them selected, go to Layer>group layers. Now, they should be group in one group.

Now, drag the group below the model layer.

Now, select the model layer and create a layer mask (Layer>Layer Mask>From Transparency).

Now, make sure you have the mask layer selected and select the gradient tool.

Now, we want to make our model fade into the background. To do this you’ll have to drag from the outside in. Do this all around her head until her background is pretty much gone.

Now, select the background eraser tool and use the settings above to erase the white spots around her neck.

This model’s skin is pretty great but for book covers I like the models to look flawless so I’m going to select the model layer (not the layer mask) and use the smart blur tool (Filter>Blur>Smart Blur). The above settings are the ones I usually use, but you can adjust it if your model needs a little more or less blur.

While this model has beautiful eyes, my character is blue-eyed so I’m going to change the color. I choose a darker blue color so that the eyes will look more natural.

Now, I’d suggest moving in real close so that you can make sure you’re accurate in your coloring of the eyes. You want to use something similar to the settings I have above (small brush, color blend mode).

Now, decrease the brush size and change the blend mode to darken. Now, carefully go around the edge of the eye, to darken the edges.

Now, it’s time to add the scroll. I found my scroll here. First thing I did was erase some of the background using the background eraser tool.

Once you’re done removing the background, crop the extra clear space out. This is one of the rare times I select the Delete Cropped Pixels box.

Now, select the move tool and just drag your scroll up to where you see the image tabs and drag it into your main document.

Now, use the eraser tool to remove the left over white.

Use the move tool to change the direction and size of the scroll to fit the screen like so. Click the check mark on top when you’re happy with the adjustments.

Now, drag the scroll layer behind your model layer so that you get this arrangement.

Now, create a new layer. Select the paintbrush tool. I used this brush set to create the writing. The set is free for personal use but you have to purchase the set if you plan to use them commercially (three dollars, very cheap).

Once you choose the brush you want, make sure you make the brush the right size and angle the right using the tool I used above. Once you’ve create the letter layer you might want to reduce the opacity until it looks like the writing faded over time. For me this was somewhere in the 80% range.

I want to create an Exposure adjustment level (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Exposure). The settings I liked for this image are displayed above.

Next, I want to create a Vibrance layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Vibrance). Above are the settings I thought worked best for this image.

Now, it’s time to start creating our text layers. I used the color picker to choose a light brown color.

Next, choose the font and size you want. I used Trojan Pro and 14 pt.

For the word letter, I create a new text box. I used Respective font at a much larger size. I also choose black as the color. I just like the way those colors worked together.

Once you’ve created you’re text boxes, use the move tool to place them where you want them.

Again, I grouped these layers so that they would be easy to move around.

Now, for my name I used black Respective font again, at an 18 pt. size.

Now that I have good idea of where everything should be, I want to crop the cover.

Creating the spine text isn’t very hard. I used White, Trojan Pro Font set at a 9 pt. size.

Once you’ve created the text box, use the move tool to rotate the image 90 degrees. Now, repeat this process to create a spine text box for you’re name.

Now, it’s time to center the text. The best way I’ve found to do this is to use the crop tool. When using the crop tool you should notice the markers at the top and bottom of your page that mark the center of your cover. I use these markers to make sure my text is centered.

Using the same color I used to create THE LOST text box I created another box for my catch phrase on the back cover. You don’t have to do this, but I always like this on covers.

Now, create the blurb box. Choose a font that works well with you’re cover.

It’s time to bring in our barcode. I DO NOT OWN THIS BARCODE, NOR DO I KNOW WHOM IT BELONGS TO. I’m just using it for tutorial purposes. So, use the same approach we used to bring the scroll over. Create a duplicate layer, and then use the move tool to drag it into our main document.

Use the move tool to change the location and size of your barcode.

I’m not sure whether you’re allowed to change the color of your barcode, so you should check before proceeding with this next step. I read somewhere (and it could have been a bad source) that so long as there is a high enough contrast between the barcode and the background that you can change the color (but not to red).

To do this the first thing we want to do is select the magic eraser tool and click on some part of the white space. You should get something like the picture you see above.

Now, to get rid of the left over white, you want to zoom in real close and use the magic eraser tool to remove the left over white. 

Now, to change the color of our barcode we are going to create a color overlay (Layer>Layer Style>Color Overlay…).

The box that opens up should have a color picker box. Double click on it and choose a color that will stand out on your background.

The last step is to create the spine decoration. I used a decorative brush I found on the internet. I couldn’t find the source I got this one from but just search Google you’ll find hundreds.

First, you need to create a new layer. Next, choose the brush you want and change the size and angle. Now, place the brush in the center of your two text boxes on the spine.


11 thoughts on “Photoshop Tutorials: The Lost Letter

  1. Pingback: Photoshop Tutorials: The Lost Letter | Hallie Chandler | Photoshop |

  2. Another awesome tutorial Hallie! I greatly admire the patience and time you had to invest in this, not only just to make the book cover, but to also put it together in a readable way for novices looking for information.

    • It’s no problem. I’m just learning to do this myself, so I know what a struggle it is trying to find good tutorials. I just glad to help, even if it’s in a small way.

  3. Excellent tutorial! Really taught me a lot. I just followed it with a few of my own images. Ran through a few snags but that’s because I have CS3 and somethings are slightly different such as the Layer>From Transparency. I think I still managed to work around it by inverting the image and all this nonsense (I totally was guessing). My only other little problem was that, I guess your image is much wider than mine, so I essentially didn’t have space for the spine or back cover. Still, I really had fun with this! I’ll be playing around with this some more and maybe try some different things with what you taught me. Thanks, Hallie!

    • I’m glad you liked it, and I’ve run into some of the same problems with tutorials because I have the new version. But I think I know how to fix you’re width problem. Use the crop tool and drag the sides of your image out to make it the size you need.

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