Thursday, January 23, 2014

Behind the Cover with Jennifer Quintenz

Behind the Cover by Jennifer Quintenz, author of "Thrall" (Daughters Of Lilith: Book 1)

I've gotten some great questions about the making of my covers, so I thought I'd do a quick post that kind of walks you through my process.  Hope you enjoy!

STEP 1: What do I want this thing to look like?

Inspiration.  The Big Idea.  That's the hardest part for me, both for writing a book and for coming up with an image for the cover.  I have to think about the tone I want the cover to set.  What is the mood of my story?  Who is my protagonist?

A lot of times I start (or ask the people whose covers I'm designing to start) by looking at a lot of covers and narrowing down what I like and what I don't like in a cover.  Usually as I'm scanning 100s of covers (one of the best parts of the process - I LOVE beautiful covers!), I'll start to get a sense for what I want my cover to look like.

STEP 2: Find the right source images.  

Some people have asked me if I drew the covers - I wish I was that talented!  I always start by finding the source images that fit my mental image of how I want my cover to look.  Many times that means combining a few different images together to get the desired outcome.

For example, for THRALL, I knew I wanted Braedyn to look kind of scared / self-protective - but also to give off the vibe that this girl can take care of herself.  Okay - seems kind of contradictory, I'll grant you that.

I found the perfect body posture in this stock photo (BTW - I get all my stock photos from, and I've been really happy with the selection they've got over there).

This is the stock image I got to be Braedyn's body for Thrall

I love the graceful way she's holding her arm with her hand, but I didn't want Braedyn to seem so self-assured.  Also, the makeup wasn't right for Braedyn, so I set about finding the right face for the image, and I knew as soon as I saw this image that I'd found it:
teen girl shaking head with long hair

STEP 3: Combine and manipulate stock images into something new.

I realized that I loved the idea of having most of Braedyn's face covered - since this is the book in which she transforms, it lends to the mystery of that transformation.  But Braedyn is described as having dark hair and light eyes, and the model in this photo has light hair and dark eyes.

Thus begins the work, in Photoshop, of taking these stock images and molding them into the vision I'm clinging to of what I want my heroine to look like.  I love Photoshop - even after having to pay the INSANE AMOUNT OF MONEY they charge twice so it will run on my updated OS.  I'm sure there are all sorts of programs out there that offer some of the same tools (hey, feel free to recommend some that you've worked with!).  But for now, I'm happy with Photoshop.

Right, random rant aside... I altered the color of her hair and her eyes.  I blended the two photos together so I got the desired head on the desired body (Frankenstein, anyone?).  Then there's the process of matching skin tones (her hand still looks a bit pale to me in this version below, but you get the idea), making it appear that the hair from one photo is artfully draped over the hand from the other photo, etc - just generally trying to make this look like a photo of a different girl.

gothic girl

Really, that's the hard part.  After that, it's just a matter of dressing up the rest of the cover.

STEP 4: Dressing up the rest of the cover.

I have a set of wings I found that I liked:


They have shown up in all the Daughters of Lilith covers to date, slightly altered from one to the next.

Then comes the fun part.  (Okay, the above is fun, too, but this is the part when it all starts to come together.)  I use a combination of textures that I buy or create and blend them together, fading them in and out, trying to create a weirdly supernatural feel to the background.

Once I messed with this to the point that I liked how it was turning out, I placed all the elements together, did a bit more shadow and mist work, and then added a flourish at the bottom, playing with the transparency until it felt right.

STEP 5: Finishing with the text.

From there, it was just a matter of coming up with a treatment for the title, subtitle, and author name that stood out, and we get the final result:


So there you have it!

I will admit, doing the covers for these books is like the special dessert I get to eat after the hard work of writing the story.  It's nice to get to switch gears and go from communicating with words to communicating with images.

Basically, I'm just so happy I can do both.  It's kind of a childhood dream come true!  Let me know if you have any questions about anything here - I love talking Photoshop and cover creation.  Enjoy!

About the author:

Jennifer Quintenz is an award-winning film and television writer, author, and graphic novelist. She has written for Twentieth Television, Intrepid Pictures, and Archaia Studios Press. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.


Andrea @The Bookish Babes said...

Well, that was very interesting! I've only started playing around with photoshop, so I have a lot of respect for anyone who can do that kind of work.
Thanks for sharing!

Tracy Terry said...

Such an interesting post and one I'm sure will prove inspiring.

Krysten Gautreaux said...

This is awesome, I always wonder about creating cover images.

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

OMG that is so cool to see! I wish I had the talent to do something like that on photoshop!

Liviania said...

Interesting! (And makes me happy that my version of Photoshop has kept working through several OS updates . . . )

Erika Sorocco said...

I absolutely love the way this picture turned out!


Eileen said...

That's such an interesting way to do a cover! my photoshop skills are sooooooo limited that I honestly could never imagine combining two different images successfully and then changing the hair color of one of them. I love the pretty cover though, and the story behind the cover model makes me appreciate it even more :)

Lauren Elizabeth said...

Wow, this is so cool to go behind the scenes of the cover making process. I wish I was that talented in Photoshop!

Candace said...

Awesome post! I always wondered how this all went. The cover looks great!

Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings said...

I am sure it would be highly rewarding to work on the cover after writing the book. I enjoyed seeing how it all came together! Thanks for sharing! The final product is awesome.

kimbacaffeinate said...

Wow this was cool watching you put all of the elements together, thanks for sharing it!

Christy @ Love of Books said...

Maaaan ... I need to learn how to do PS. My 16-year-old it learning some at school this year and has shown me a couple of things. That's a cool process though, switching body parts around.

A Voracious Reader said...

That was very interesting! I have no idea how to do anything in Photoshop. I need a class or something. Or I could just keep bugging my teenager to do stuff for me. :D

Rachel said...

Wow! That's amazing! I have no clue how to work photo other than using it to resize and crop photos! The cover is beautiful and I love the process. You are very talented, Jennifer. Great post here! :)

Cascia Talbert said...

Wow, you are really creative. I've never used photo shop before but I know it really enhances images. Have a wonderful weekend!

JQ said...

Oh my gosh, thank you so much you guys! I just dropped by and I'm blown away by the nice comments!

YES, Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings, it's a great reward after writing the book. :)

For those of you who've got PS - seriously, I had no official training. It's amazing what you can learn from Google videos, etc., for free. Just play around and you'll learn something every time you mess with an image.

Thanks again for the comments, everyone! Hope you have a great weekend!

Sophia Lin said...

For a minute, I literally freaked out and my eyes bugged out with the image of the girl.

Thank goodness it's not in my nightmares, lol!

Melanie said...

Wow, that is seriously awesome!

Thanks for sharing! <33

Julia Swift Andrew Landis said...

Thanks for sharing your process. The next installment looks fabulous. I can't wait to read it!

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...

This is such a cool post! I don't understand photoshop at all and I'm always amazed to see things like this.