Let’s get you Covered! Series #4: Photo/Illustration Covers

Let’s Get you Covered! Series:

I’m back!

#4 after some time away. Been having some troubles with the manuscript that have kept me away from the blog, but here we are again to tackle post #4 in our Let’s Get You Covered! series. This time we are going to discuss the most elaborate and also popular type of cover: Photo/Illustration

As you must know by now, Photo/Illustration are the most difficult type of cover to create. Normally, I  always recommend authors to outsource this cover design directly to professionals, because of the high degree of complexity and specialized skills this type of design entails.

However, we are still going to examine it today, just to get a feel of what how the process develops.

And here we go: Photo/Illustration

Type 3: Photo/Illustration Covers.


Definitely top-of-the-line, Photo/Illustration Covers have the professional look, the visual appeal, and that eye-catching quality that makes it stand out from the rest. Is the kind of cover every indie and traditional author dreams of. And exactly because of it, it’s the most complicated to create.

Here are the basics:

Pros: Stunning Imagery. Several different options available. Professional and attractive results. 

Cons: Easy to look unprofessional if created by an amateur. High level difficulty. Requires stock photos ($). Requires a professional design software. 

—- Photo Cover: 

Stock Photos: When you talk photo covers, the first thing that comes to mind are the beautiful models, charming scenery, and striking images that complement your title and font. Most of the times, these images are purchased by the authors or designers from online stock photo sites (shutterstock, fotolia, gettyimages, images.com, etc.), and then they are adapted through photo-manipulation to fit the theme or mood of the book.

Stock photos are a good alternative, because you can purchase exactly what you need, and reuse it several times according to your specific license (more about that topic HERE). They are normally professionally taken, in a controlled environment and lighting, in order to ensure the maximum usability. That said, working with stock photos is probably one of the most complicated things that there are, design wise, and it also comes with several complications:

1) Now you see me… now you see me again. Anybody can buy a stock image, and usually licenses don’t restrict the amount of times an image can be sold and used. With this in mind, you may find yourself in the predicament of having your cover image used by some other artist:

Sing Me to Sleep For Pete's Sake (Piper Cove Chronicles #2)   All over You (Devoured, #0.5) Darkness Awakened (The Supernaturals, #3)

This is never good, especially considering that books with the same cover image normally end up as competitors in the same genre. You don’t want your cover to be confused with somebody else’s.

2) Lack of customization. When you’re working with a stock photo, you have to use exactly what you have on hand. It doesn’t matter if your character has a certain eye color, hair length or body mark. It doesn’t matter that your heroine should have a Regency-era dress instead of an Elizabethan or Medieval dress, or that your highlander hero uses a red-and-black tartan instead of a green-and-blue one. You have to surf through the stock sites trying to find the closest match.

3) DON’T work with stock images if you are not a pro. At first glance, a stock image can  look like the solution to all your design troubles. After all, it is a complete piece, that many times only needs your name and title to look like the real deal, right? No, that is not right. Some of the biggest blunders in amateur cover design happen because of stock photos that are not correctly used. Here are some examples (click to enlarge):


The covers above were the victims of the poor photo-manipulation skills of their authors, and are just an example of what can happen when somebody without any design experience tries to undertake the challenge of creating a photo cover. When working with pre-made images, there are several things that can go wrong, and many factors to consider that amateurs just cannot understand. It’s not good to simply assume it’s going to turn out all-right at the end, because most of the times, it doesn’t.


—– Illustration Cover:
Custom Illustration: 
Illustration covers are probably the most exclusive (and expensive) type of cover design, normally reserved for specialized genres like Fantasy, Sci-fi and Paranormal. These type of cover depends almost exclusively on the author hiring a professional artist. Although you can get some illustrations from certain stock sites, the availability is significantly minor, because illustrator know exactly how much such covers are worth. An illustration cover can go anywhere from $500 to $5,000 dollars depending on complexity, license and specs. It’s not something you can just whip out in a flash, and many experienced artist spend several hours and sometimes days at work in producing a single image. Even though illustration covers are definitely the most any author can aspire to (a completely original, completely custom-made cover), they must be willing and able to afford all the wonderfulness that it entails.

So what to do with this cover type if you don’t have the means to afford having it done by a pro?

Well, my first advice would be: AVOID IT!

My second, third and fourth advice would be to avoid it too. There are many other easier options for covers (that we already discussed) that are far more manageable for amateur designers. Refrain yourself form trying to come up with something if you don’t feel you are qualified, and don’t get tempted by all the amazing cover art your fellow indie writers have, because they most likely hired a designer and almost never did it themselves.

However, if you still definitely, definitely (DEFINITELY!) want a photo/illustration cover that it’s affordable and still look professional, there is but a single option: get a pre-made cover. 

Sometimes, designers and illustrators will buy or create stock photos on their own and design prospective covers for indie writers to purchase ready-made. These covers are simple, elegant, and sometimes creators agree to exclusivity rights for the buying author, so that you won’t have to worry about somebody else having your exact same image.

In my next post we are going to discuss a little bit more about this, and how the average author can purchase a professional looking cover for about $50 dollars.

Here are your resources for today and remember to look forward to post #5.

Simple, FREE photo-manipulation software

Free for commercial use stock photos

Types of Stock Photo Licenses

Deviantart.com: artistic community



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