Photoshop Tutorials: The Lost Letter

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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 … Continue reading

Photoshop Tutorials: Creating a Demon

I’ve decided to start with the Demon tutorial for two reasons: it’s one of the easier covers I’ve created, and it also introduces most the important things you need to know to create a great cover.

STEP ONE is finding the perfect face for your demon. I wanted my model to look emotionless. I found her here. I bought the medium size because I have no real intention of actually using this cover for publication anytime soon. If you’re just using this tutorial for practice and don’t intend to share your creation publicly, you can just grab a free picture from the internet.

STEP TWO Once I have my picture open in Photoshop, I want to create a duplicate layer in case I mess up later on. To do this I go to the LAYER tab, and click DUPLICATE LAYER. It should give you the option to title your layer, I used the title MODEL COPY but it doesn’t matter what you choose, so long as it’s something that will help you find the layer later. After doing this, you should see two little icon size copies of your picture on the RIGHT side of your screen. Now, click on the EYE beside the image that is labeled BACKGROUND. And the EYE should disappear making your backup layer invisible and impossible to screw up.

STEP THREE I want to crop the picture into the shape of a book cover.  The CROP TOOL is found in the LEFT TOOLBAR. It’s the fifth icon down in CS6 (the latest edition of Photoshop). Now, just use your mouse to move the sides in until you have the desired size and area. To finish cropping your selection, go to the TOP TOOLBAR and make sure the DELETE CROPPED PIXELS is unchecked. This is a personal preference, because I don’t like to lose any pixels in case I want to come back later and make the cropped selection bigger.

Once you’ve done that, click the CHECK MARK on the top toolbar. It should be located to the right of the DELETE CROPPED PIXELS option.

STEP FOUR I want to create a background layer. It won’t be visible until after we cut out the background in this layer, but when you are using the background eraser tool you’ll be thankful for the black background layer.

First, go to the RIGHT SIDE of your screen where your different layer icons are. Now, click on the INVISIBLE BACKGROUND LAYER. To create a new layer you’ll go back to the LAYER tab at the TOP of your screen, but this time you’ll click on NEW. From there, you click LAYER. A screen should pop up and you want to choose the same settings as the picture below. (If at any time you can’t read what’s on the pictures, just click on them and you’ll see a larger version.)

STEP FIVE Now we’re going to paint our new layer black. First, go back to the LAYER ICONS on the RIGHT SIDE of the screen and click on the EYE beside the MODEL COPY to make it invisible. Now, go to the LEFT TOOLBAR and click the PAINTBRUSH TOOL, it’s the 8th icon in CS6. Then, RIGHT CLICK on the icon and make sure the BRUSH TOOL is chosen. Now, we have to choose our colors. Again, look to your LEFT TOOLBAR and go the BOTTOM where there should be two different colored squares  (COLOR SWATCHES) overlapping each other. If the square on top isn’t black, hit D on your keyboard and that should reset the default colors.

Now, you’re going up to the TOP TOOLBAR and your going to click on the box shown in the picture below. This is the place you want to go anytime you want to change the shape or size of ANY tool you’re using. I call it the BRUSH SETTINGS BOX. You want your brush to be fairly large so it won’t take too long to color the background black. Once the layer is completely black go back to the LAYER ICONS on the RIGHT SIDE of the screen and click on the box beside the MODEL COPY to make it visible again. Your black layer will disappear.

STEP SIX This is probably the most useful thing I’ll teach you in this tutorial, background removal. You want to select the ERASER TOOL found on the LEFT SIDEBAR. In CS6, the eraser tool is the 11th icon. Now, look closely at the eraser and make sure that it has a pair of scissors on it. This the BACKGROUND ERASER TOOL, which is what you’re looking for. If the scissors are not there, RIGHT CLICK on the icon and you should get a drop screen with three options (eraser tool, background eraser tool, and magic eraser). Click on BACKGROUND ERASER TOOL.

Now, when you move your mouse over your image, it should be a circle shape with a plus sign in the middle. You want to make sure that your eraser size is in the right range to erase the background easily but without messing up your model. To start erasing the background move your brush to the side of the models head so that her hair is in the CIRCLE but the PLUS SIGN in on the background color. Now, repeat this until the background is gone. You might see some residue left over, but don’t worry just go back over it with the background eraser tool until most of it’s gone. Now, the next part takes a little more skill. We’re going to erase the fly away hairs using the REGULAR ERASER TOOL. To get back to this tool, go back to the LEFT TOOLBAR, RIGHT CLICK on the ERASER TOOL ICON and select ERASER TOOL. Now, go over the flyaways and edges until the hairline looks smooth and natural. (Tip: this is easier with a large brush, and you should zoom in on the area you’re trying to smooth.)

STEP SEVEN Now, we’re going to create a cloudy background. Start out by going to the LEFT TOOLBAR so that we can choose our colors. Since our top color is already black and we want to keep that color, we just need to change the white to red. First, click the COLOR SWAP button that sits right above the COLOR SWATCHES, it’s a double-sided arrow. Once you’ve done this, click on the white box. A box should pop up. Now, you want to click on the reds and choose the one that will go well with your model, for me that was (# 770606).

Now, to create the clouds we first want to choose the layer that we want to work with, the BLACK BACKGROUND layer. To choose it, just go to your RIGHT TOOLBAR and click on the layer. It should become highlighted. Next, go to your TOP TOOLBAR and click on the FILTER tab, go down to RENDER, and the click DIFFERENT CLOUDS.

STEP EIGHT I want to do a quick touch up of my models skin. Normally, I use the Smart blur to give my models a flawless touch, but my current model has pretty perfect skin so I’m just going to remove her mole.Very easy to do. First, I’m going to select her layer by going back the RIGHT TOOLBAR and clicking on the MODEL COPY. Now that I have the right layer selected, I go to my LEFT TOOLBAR and click on the SPOT HEALING BRUSH TOOL. It’s the 7th icon down in CS6, it’s a band-aid icon. Again, RIGHT CLICK on the icon to make sure the correct brush is chosen. If the brush is either too small or large, go back to the BRUSH SETTING TOOL on the TOP TOOLBAR and adjust the size. Once the setting are right, just place the brush over the mole/imperfection and make sure that all of it is covered. Then click your mouse once and the mole should disappear.

STEP NINE Now we’re going to create the demon eyes. It’s not as hard and you’d think. Start out by creating a new layer like we did in STEP FOUR. Select the MODEL COPY, then go up to the LAYER tab, select NEW, and then LAYER. Use the same settings as last time. I titled mine BLACK EYES.

Now, I want to change my color back to black so I’m going to go back to my COLOR SWATCHES and hit COLOR SWAP (the double-sided arrow). Next, go up and choose the BRUSH TOOL. Once you have your brush tool selected go up to the BRUSH SETTING BOX and make your brush size really small. Once you’ve got your brush small enough, start outlining the inside of the eyeball. You want to cover all the white areas, the iris, and the pupil, but none of the skin.

Once you have the eyes filled in, you’ll want to smooth the edges with the eraser tool. So choose the ERASER TOOL and then RIGHT CLICK on the icon to make sure you have the right setting. Once you’ve selected that, go up to the BRUSH SETTINGS BOX and increase the size of the eraser until it’s very large. Once you’ve chosen a large enough brush, go around the rough edges of the black and barely brush up against the edge. Again, this is a technique that will take a little practice on your part. In the event that you screw it up, and trust me you probably will, go to the EDIT tab and click STEP BACKWARD.

STEP TEN The next thing we want to do is to make the eyes look glassy by adding white spots to the eyes. To get started, create a NEW LAYER like we did in step nine (I titled this one WHITE SPOTS). Click the EYE next to the BLACK EYES layer and make it invisible. Select the WHITE SPOTS layer again, and then hit D to reset the default colors and click on the COLOR SWAP button (double-sided arrow) to make white your primary color. Next, choose the paint brush again and go back to your BRUSH SETTINGS BOX and choose a very small brush. I choose a 6 pt. Now that you have the correct brush, click once over each of the natural highlights in the eye. Make the BLACK EYES layer visible again and you now have your demon eyes.

STEP ELEVEN Now that the eyes are done, the lips look a little too bland so I’m going to try and enhance the color. There are many ways that I do this, but the approach i took with this image was two different adjustment layers.

First, we’ll start by adding a vibrance adjustment layer to the paler areas of the lips. To do this we need to use the QUICK SELECTION TOOL.The SELECTION TOOL is found in the LEFT TOOLBAR. It is the 4th icon in CS6, and it looks like the paintbrush icon only the SELECTION TOOL has a circle of dashes around the head. RIGHT CLICK on the icon and choose the QUICK SELECTION TOOL, it’s the one that looks like a magic wand. Once you’ve selected it, zoom in on the lips and then click on a light-colored area. Keep clicking on unselected light areas until you think you have a wide enough selection.

Next, go the top TOOLBAR and click on the LAYER tab. Go down to NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER, and then go down to VIBRANCE. Slide the arrows until you find a setting that you think will work. Below are the settings that I think work best for this photo.

STEP TWELVE Now, we’re going to enhance the darker areas of the lips. Use the same selection technique as step eleven but this time choose the darker areas. Also, choose a larger area. Once you have your area selected, go to the LAYER tab. Go down to NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER, and click on EXPOSURE. Again, just keep sliding the triangles until you find the setting that works best for your image. Below are the settings I think work best for this picture.

STEP THIRTEEN Now, it’s time to add the blood tears. First, you add a NEW LAYER, I named  mine BLOOD TEARS. Then choose the BRUSH TOOL. Once the you’ve selected it, go to the RIGHT TOOLBAR and click on an icon that looks like a pouch with three brushes sticking out of it. Once you click on it you should see a bunch of different shape brushes. The blood spatter I chose came in the Dried Blood Splatters Pack.

Once you’ve picked out the BLOOD BRUSH you want to use, you should adjust the size and possibly the angle of the brush to get the best results. Next, CHANGE YOUR COLORS to red and black. Once you have all your settings in order, create one blood trail coming from each eye.

Now, hit the COLOR SWAP button and make black your primary color.Next, go to the TOP TOOLBAR and look for OPACITY, and take it down to about 60%. Now, place the brush directly over your last blood trail and apply the black layer. Once you’ve done this to both trails, use the ERASER TOOL to erase the splatters that look out of place, and also you can use it around the tear duct to make it look more like she’s crying blood.

Once you’re done erasing everything that shouldn’t be there, there’s just one thing left to do to really make the tear drops as real as possible (at my skill level). Go up to the FILTER tab and click on LIQUIFY. A new screen should pop up. Go to the BOTTOM TOOLBAR and zoom in until you can see your tears clearly. Now, on the LEFT TOOLBAR choose the icon that looks like a finger pushing a line. Once you have it chosen, start using it to change the shape of your tears so that they don’t go straight down. You’ll probably mess up a few times and that’s okay, if you do just go the RIGHT SIDE of your screen and click RESTORE ALL and you can start over. Once you’re done just click OK and it should take you back to the main screen.

STEP FOURTEEN It’s time to create our text layers. I’m going to start with the title, NOBODY”S HOME. So, start out by going to the LEFT TOOLBAR and clicking on the FONT TOOL, the icon is a T. Now, just draw a TEXT BOX out like you would in any other program. Once you’ve done this, go over to the RIGHT TOOLBAR and look for an icon with an A and click on it. This is your FONT SETTINGS BOX. From there you can choose font type, size, spacing, etc. Below are the settings I used.

Now, its time to add all the special effects to your font. I’m going to be using three different tools for this: Bevel & Emboss, Satin, and Gradient Overlay. To do this go up to the LAYER tab, and go down to LAYER STYLE and then click on BEVEL & EMBOSS. A screen will pop up and this is the box we will be working in to do all our text effects. All of these settings can be adjusted manually to get the desired effect. Below are the setting I chose for my BEVEL & EMBOSS.

Once that’s complete, go the list of effects on the left of your box and DOUBLE CLICK on SATIN. Below are the settings I used.

Just like before, DOUBLE CLICK on the next effect, GRADIENT OVERLAY. Below are the settings I Chose.

You might notice that your text is not where you want it. To move it around you’ll use the MOVE TOOL. It’s the pointer with a plus sign beside it. It should be at the very top of the LEFT TOOLBAR. Click on the LAYER ICON in the RIGHT TOOLBAR, that you want to move and then use the MOVE TOOL to move the text where you want it.

For your name repeat this step, but this time make the font smaller. I used 18 pt. font, but the rest of the settings are the same.

STEP FIFTEEN Now we have to apply the TEXT DIVIDER. The divider I used in this tutorial was found in the Decorative Brushes 1 pack. First, create a NEW LAYER, I titled mine Text Divider. Next, go the BRUSH TOOL and then click on the BRUSH SETTINGS found the RIGHT TOOLBAR (the pouch with three brushes). Now just find the brush you want and make it the right size.

STEP SIXTEEN We’re almost done! Now all we have to do is add the blood splatter layer. First, go to the RIGHT TOOLBAR and select the BLOOD TEARS layer and then add a NEW LAYER. Now, select the BRUSH TOOL and go the BRUSH SETTINGS BOX on the RIGHT TOOLBAR. From there, you should choose the same BLOOD BRUSH we used for the BLOOD TEARS to make the drips on the letters. Now, do this the same way we did the tears. The first brush application should be a red the next should be a black layer that has a lower OPACITY.

For the stray blood droplets I used a very busy brush that is in the picture below. Once I was done applying it, I just used the ERASER TOOL to remove and stray or distracting droplets.

AND WE’RE DONE!!! I hope you all enjoyed the tutorial and learned something from it. For those of you who are familiar with Photoshop, I’m sorry about all elementary instructions but I just wanted beginners to be able to follow the tutorial without getting lost.

P.S. Please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. I’m terrible with that stuff on the best of days, and right now my eyes are seeing double.

Book Cover Design in Photoshop

So, my latest project was learning how to use Photoshop. It was wicked hard, but well worth the time spent. I can do some really cool stuff now, and I’ve only spent a few days learning some basic tricks. I’m thinking about creating a few how-to articles (strictly for beginners), because I know a lot of writers are moving towards self-publishing. Even if you’re not, knowing your way around Photoshop can be extremely helpful to you in other ways.

Below are some covers I’ve created, and some of the things I can teach you to do.

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Writers’ Toolbox: The Ultimate Character Sheet

Fire Eyes in the Dark created The Ultimate Character Sheet. It’s a red link at the bottom of her Writing Aids page. I’m very impressed with the detail this sheet goes into. If you’re looking for a little help getting to know your character this worksheet is for you.

Writers’ Toolbox: Formatting Your eBook (Part 2)

I apologize for my lack of posts lately. Things have gotten crazy around here, but I have a lot of new resources to share with authors when I do find the time. First on the list is part 2 of T.A. Grey’s eBook formatting guide.

Writers’ Toolbox: Formatting Your eBook (Part 1)

T.A. Grey has created an excellent post on how to customize the inside of your self-published ebook. She’d decided to break the instructions up into sections, Formatting your eBook (Part 1) is available now.

Writers’ Toolbox: Word Tracker Spreadsheets

I stumbled across two really impressive word tracker excel sheets created by Svenja. The first word tracker is used to record your yearly word count goals and progress (AMAZING!), Word Tracker 2012. The second spreadsheet is used for editing, Edit Tracker.

Writers’ Toolbox: 10 Checkpoints for Your Scene

Every scene in your book should count, whether its purpose is to further the plot or build empathy for your characters. This is why I liked the article 10 Checkpoints for Your Scene. It’s a neat little checklist that will help you determine if your scenes have all the necessary elements to be, not only important to the story, but complete as well.

Writers’ Toolbox: Links of the Week #20

Writers’ Toolbox: Links of the Week #20

S.J. Maylee

Happy Saturday! What? It’s Memorial weekend? OMG, what am I doing inside. I have weeding to do, plants to put in the garden, roses to train, books to read, a MS to edit…and more blogs to read 🙂 I have a pretty collection for you today and don’t forget to listen to Jeff’s music selection today. You won’t regret this listen, it’s powerful.

Writer Business

Suzanne Rock at Romance on a Budget shares a tip Do you have Business Cards?

Plots

Darcy Pattison at Fiction Notes had some great reminders 5 Plot Fixes for Peace Makers

Alan Chin posted this week Writing Tip #36 Story Starter Questions. Very interesting collection of 12-questions. A quick test to see if your plot is missing something.

Janice Hardy at The Other Side of the Story had a brilliant line at the beginning of her post on plots this week: “The house is story. Decorating is plot.”…

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Writers’ Toolbox: Stephie Smith’s Contest Chart for Writers

Stephie Smith has composed a wonderful chart for those of you looking to enter a writing contest. Her list of contests is current and full of all the important information.

If you are looking for a way to get noticed, or add some credits to add to your query letter, winning a writing contest is a great way to do it. Agents and publishers like to know that your manuscript has already received recognition. Not to mention, it shows that you probably have been networking and that will help them sell you and your book to prospective publishers because you’ve already made a name for yourself.

Saturday Six: Six Reasons I Give Up On a Book

1. MIA Hero – this is the number one reason I will put down a book! When I pick up a romance, I’m expecting to see two characters for a majority of the time. If the hero is missing for a legitimate reason, then the other character must at least think about the hero enough to satisfy me.

2. TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) heroine – I cannot stand these characters. These brass pantied women jump into the action without rhyme or reason.  I’m not talking about a woman who gets backed into a corner and has no choice. I’m talking about the woman who chases the hero/firefighter back into the fire, for no reason other than she thinks he’s being chauvinistic. Is this really necessary? She couldn’t just discuss this with him later, over dinner? NO! She has to follow him into a burning building, to prove she’s as tough as he is.

3. All-powerful heroine – almost as bad as the TSTL heroine, is the impossible to kill heroine. I absolutely hate when authors create these larger than life characters (this usually happens in urban fantasy) and then they put them in life or death situations.

Here is how the scenario usually plays out. The heroine has survived everything from fire to dismemberment. She is super strong, super fast, and usually a capital B. Then suddenly an unlucky chance encounter brings her face to face with the one and only being in the world that can kill her.

Which leads me to….

4. Coincidence – While small coincidences are okay (I need a bar of soap and my neighbor accidentally bought an extra), those big coincidences that bring the villain to a small town in Wyoming, where he finds the heroine, who just happened to meet the hero who can help her defeat the villain. 98% percent of the time, coincidence in writing is a bad thing.

5. Cliche  physical descriptions – I know that not everyone is as picky as I am when it comes to physical descriptions, but this is truly a pet peeve of mine. If I read anything in the blurb about red hair, green eyes, or scarred heroes, I give the book a pass. I know that this has no real bearing on the quality of writing, but my instinctive thought is “if this author can’t even bother to try and come up with unique physical descriptions, will they really bother making their plot original?”

6. The BIG misunderstanding – Most of my favorite authors use this, and the only reason I forgive them because everything else they do is so great. I understand that there are certain times when misunderstandings are plausible, but 70% of the time they just aren’t believable. I will give examples of both….

Acceptable: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost ends on a BIG misunderstanding. While I still think that Cat underestimated Bones, I understood her reasoning behind making the decision she did. She really did have something to loose, which made her dumb move more believable.

Unacceptable: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer. I don’t hate the Twilight Saga like many people do. I believe that it is a very good series for the genre and age group for which it was written. However, Meyer should have worked a lot harder to make the lapse in Alice’s visions more believable.

Writers’ Toolbox: Show Me the Money!

We need to thank Brenda Hiatt for this fabulous resource! Show Me the Money! is survey Hiatt manages to keep readers informed of the average payout with certain romance and young adult publishers. The list includes most of the prominent publishers out there. It’s a good resource for authors looking around for place to submit their manuscripts.

Also, for those of you who are published and don’t mind confidentially sharing your figures, please contact Haitt so that she can keep her survey updated and as close to accurate as possible.

Writers’ Toolbox: How to Stay Motivated With Your Writing

It’s hard to find time to do the things you need to get done, let alone the things you can put off until tomorrow. However, most people can usually make time for the things they want to do, like writing. But when writing starts to feel like a job, it usually gets put on your to-do list–somewhere at the bottom. We just lose our motivation, which is where the article, How to Stay Motivated With Your Writing, comes in handy.