Designing My Angels of Mercy

Designing My Angels of Mercy

 

The FINAL - FINAL version of the book cover for "Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot"

The FINAL – FINAL version of the book cover for the first book in my series “Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot”

 

Sidebar: S.O. to author pal, Kris Ripper who liked the first one I did of these, that I’d thought I shoot her another. Hope you all enjoy it too!

 

So let’s talk book covers, shall we?  I mean, I did it before. So it’s not like it’s the first time, right?

I’ve been busy. Did the NaNoWriMo event for the first time and I was really enjoying it (even if it was a bit of a slog to write on a deadline schedule – but it was good for me).

Been putting small tweaks on Angels of Mercy Volume One: Elliot and fleshing out Volume Two: Marco. Volume One is sorta waiting in the wings because it’s ends on a cliff hanger and several authors said that as a newbie writer I shouldn’t do a cliff hanger – soooooo, since my stories are what they are, I decided to forestall the first book and just get book 2 prepped and ready to go so they can be released in tandem. Book 2 ends on a cliff hanger as well, but I figure I’ll have them decently hooked by then (fingers crossed).

So here’s the small twist in this – Marco’s always been the meat of the entire series as far as I am concerned. Elliot and the third boy (who is our guide in Volume 3) are merely bookends to Marco’s tome. The story has always been Marco’s to tell. I just wanted you to get to know the love of his life first. Elliot in many ways is an extension of myself. That’s why it is a character study.

I’ve had betas read the pre-released work and I get universal high marks on grammar and structure (my author pals have universally praised me on the manuscript being so clean) – and that’s the hubby too. He’s been my sole editor. He’s never done it professionally (still hasn’t cause he’s on the personal payroll – wink, wink), but he comes from a LONG line of educators that specialized in English. So I am solid there. He also used to play football for Clemson back in the day so that’s where all the football motif is coming from (well, that, and I did have a fling in my Senior year with an actual HS quarterback). But as I said, the response from everyone I’ve given it to thus far have really been impressed. I am humbled and grateful more than I can say about this.

Angels has been both an easy work to write and incredibly difficult to write. It is a very personal work. It is a love letter to my husband as much as it is to gay men I’ve been blessed to know and have in my life. Truly blessed.

So why the second entry on the book covers? Because I’ve finally nailed book one AND I’ve completed the work on book two in the process! Yippee!!

And here’s the big reveal on the second book cover in the series (cue drum roll in your head, please):

 

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy - Marco.

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy – Marco.

And as with Book One’s design I’ll let you see how I did it…

First things first – as with all things Foodie, there is a recipe and of course the ingredients. I am a content designer (of sorts – previous life as a graphic designer for a theater company in San Diego (amongst other things)).

Software usedAdobe Creative Cloud Suite (primarily Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2014)

Graphic elements –  images from iStock Photo (photos and vector art)

Fonts UsedScriptina (for “Angels” in the logo) and Copperplate Light for the subtitle and my author byline, and Jackport College NCV font for the football jersey number 7.

 

The original artwork in its raw form:

Illustrator Vector Line Art

The wings (I only used one half of them and duplicated them).

The wings (I only used one half of them and duplicated them).

 

The Footballer (Hi-res Photo JPG)

 

The footballer pic - Hi-Res XXL variety (so I could manipulate it and not lose resolution much).

The footballer pic – Hi-Res XXL variety (so I could manipulate it and not lose resolution much).

 

The fonts and logo work were borrowed from my Book One cover and adapted/modified to suit “Marco” in the title. Recycle whenever possible – it builds brand consistency and also cuts down on the design time and lets you get back to what we all REALLY want to do – WRITE, dammit!

So I’ll start with one element of this new book cover that kicked my ass on book one – the fucking footballer jersey has NO NUMBER! Couldn’t do a simple overlay – that would be too f’d up – it wouldn’t be right. So I hit the net and sorted through Photoshop tutorial after tutorial using crap assed terms to find what I was looking for – only because I couldn’t remember what I needed to really look for until I found it again – DISPLACEMENT MAPS. They are golden in my book now. And they proved a helluva lot easier to do than I thought they’d be – Win-Win in my book!

You can check out the tutorial that solved it for me right here.

So first things first – I knew my footballer needed his requisite wings so I had to separate the background (the troublesome gradient blue/black background) from the (footballer) foreground. Sometimes the graphics come with masked backgrounds so this is rather simple. NOT this time around. Sheesh! So I had to painstakingly (though I did save a small bit of time) using the magnetic lasso tool in photoshop to cut away at the background from around my mysterious “Marco” footballer.

Then slip a solid black background on a separate layer so I could manipulate at will what I wanted to do. Here’s the final with the broken down layers along the right side of the screenshot (click to enlarge):

My photoshop file in all it's naked glory.

My photoshop file in all it’s naked glory.

 

As you can see by the layers in the picture I post above, the background was solid black. The footballer sits just behind the jersey number layer and my author cred. The wings and the logo taking up the layers in between.

So I imported the jpeg I created from the Illustrator file and cropped the blue side of the wings (the ‘water’ wings) and duplicated the layers in photoshop once the first blue wing was imported and then sized them by freehand so while they are an exact dupe, they aren’t sized exactly the same – only a hint a being symmetrical. It was enough for my purposes. I didn’t want an exact dupe this time around.

The "water" wings imported, duped and resized by hand (freeform) so they aren't an exact match.

The “water” wings imported, duped and resized by hand (freeform) so they aren’t an exact match – a way to maximize your dollar.

 

I also angled them so they would be more upright (alluding to the same sort of position from my Art Deco wings from the first cover – see above). Added an adjustment layer above the two wing layers and boosted the hue and saturation to embellish and bring out the blueness of them.

Next up – Slipping my footballer back in front of the newly created wings.

Adding "Marco" back in to flesh out the "angel."

Adding “Marco” back in to flesh out the “angel.”

 

So now we get to the hard part – or what I perceived to be the hard part – the Displacement Map – to add the jersey number. The file I created for the displacement map I ended up using the black channel of the photo (when you get to that step) as it had the most contrast to build the map (I think in the tutorial link she used the red channel – use what looks best and has the highest contrast to work from – it’ll apply the best results).

I typed the number for the jersey (using the Jackport College NCV font) to create Marco’s football number – 7.  And I applied a white to black gradient to the number so it would fade out along the bottom of the cover like his shirt does in the picture.

I used the tutorial just as it is described above in the link I provided BUT I changed the displacement map settings from the default 10 to 5. This was the result:

 

Adding the "7" jersey number with the displacement map setting to 5.

Adding the “7” jersey number with the displacement map setting to 5.

Then I added the duped layers from my original Volume One: Elliot book cover (see above) and inserted the duped layers for the book title and sub-title (swapping out ONE for TWO and Elliot for Marco) so it would be inline with the finished cover I was after. Then did the same for my Author cred.

 

And voila!

 

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy - Marco.

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy – Marco.

But having succeeded in this I immediately was emboldened by my success with the displacement map that I went back to book one and FINALLY put the long missing Jersey number back on it!

 

The final cover artwork. Blood included.

“BEFORE”

 

The FINAL - FINAL version of the book cover for "Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot"

“AFTER”

 

To paraphrase Darth Vader – “The Circle is (sorta) complete…”

 

I do still have to come up with Volume 3 (insert mystery character here – no spoilers this time).

 

Until next time… Happy Writing and Designing!

 


 

Shout Out to my musical muse – JAY BRANNAN! I constantly play his music while I do anything Angels related. He hasn’t steered me wrong yet. He might argue that he hasn’t steered me at all. I love the shit outta his work anyway.

 

BUY HIS SHIT NOW PEOPLE! I need this guy to keep working!

 

Always Then & Now Cover Art

Always Then & Now Cover Art

 

Jay_Brannan_Rob_Me_Blind_Cover_Art

The album that inspired me to write Angels of Mercy.

Comments (4) | Trackback

4 Comments to Designing My Angels of Mercy

  1. Kris says:

    God, I didn’t even know displacement maps existed! (I still don’t know if they translate to the Gimp, but I’ll watch that tutorial anyway, because I always learn something.)

    Okay, then, sir, how the hell do you come up with the concepts? I’m somewhat satisfied with my ability to do a sort of mid-range execution of visual concepts. (I would have, for instance, gone with a straight-up duplicate of the water wing and flipped it, but looking at it after you mentioned not doing that makes it clear that your way is far superior and more natural-looking. Still, I’d’ve been satisfied enough with my resulting cover because I really don’t notice touches like that.) But the actual ideas elude me.

    I also find your title positioning/font choices completely delightful. And man, that jersey number changes the entire thing somehow. Brilliant! Can’t wait for the next cover design post!

    • S A Collins says:

      Actually for Angels it was fairly straight up play on the whole fact that it was Angels in name only – the football mascot being an Avenging Angel (and that choice for the school mascot was deliberate). So the look had to be dark because my story goes hella dark… So I started looking around on the photo sites until I found this series of footballers in blue jerseys (since the school colors are blue/silver or white). Typography has always been a passion of mine (I have literally over 12K fonts in my entire library). I am a total #fontwhore – plain and simple.

      So I had colors (blue/white/silver) and dark as a theme to mirror the books and the footballer. The rest sort of sorted itself out because I knew what my parameters were. That is not to say that if I suddenly saw something out of the box I might take an entirely different tract. It’s more of a – well, here’s what I am going with now and I’ll be vigilant in pursuing that, BUT I am admittedly part crow/raccoon so – “Oooh! Shiny!” can always happen. Be firm but flexible… does that make sense?

      I was going to do one for the other book I have on the back burner (I have a total of 7 books I am writing concurrently) called H’OM,O that is a werewolf story and I wanted something off the beaten track for it. I’ll post that when I am close to pubbing it and explain those choices as well.

      Having done this for years in the theatrical community, you can always hit me up with a “blue” or “pink” sort of choice thing or a general – “Hey, I am sorta stuck here and this is what I’m thinking and am I totally off my frickin’ rocker or what?” I’m good either way.

  2. Lady Jaguar says:

    Thanks so much for putting this up as I’ve been stuck in paint.net hell for the last two years, having no idea how to create a really good, crisp cover. This is incredibly useful.

    I love the “water wings” and the face that you can’t really see the face of the footballer. At first I wasn’t sure but it grows on you, AND there’s the benefit of brand identity, tying in with the first book. Completely agree with the decision not to put naked torsos on the front cover, as both books are far more than that. I’m just about to read the “Marco” you’ve put up on Cubby and will review in due course!

  3. Errata says:

    […] scheme is strong enough that it does standout against the other half-torsoed men on all the other covers. In a way – exactly – if someone thought I was being high browed from the get-go then I […]

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