Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

DIY book cover design—Part 6: Building the scene

In the most recent entry in this blog series, we sketched our book cover concept and gathered up stock artwork that would help us build the scene. Today that's exactly what we're going to do: assemble those images into one coherent visual setting. When we're done, we'll have converted our pencil sketch into a convincing small town cowering beneath a heavy, ponderous, bloody bank of clouds. We're not going to worry too much about the cover's typographic elements in this entry, or any sort of post-production image enhancements. We'll get to that a little later.

This particular entry is made up mostly of video demonstrating how to achieve simple effects like blending one stock photo with another, using masks and gradient layers, and so forth. There are certainly going to be many different ways that a designer could achieve similar outcomes, but everyone uses Photoshop a little differently. I'll be showing you a variation of my own workflow, made as simple as possible for this demonstration. My assumption is that while you're interested in developing your own book cover, you don't particularly want to become a professional designer—so this post will exploit some shortcuts and tricks to get you to the end result with fewer steps, or with a little less work. Certainly it will get you there without years of practice and design experience. 

Make sure you've got a bit of time on your hands. Ready? Let's get started:

Let's bring back our conceptual sketch from the previous post and compare it to the work we've just done. Remember, it doesn't have to be a perfect match; concept sketches are meant to suggest the work, not limit the work. But I think we've captured our themes rather nicely with this visual design, don't you?


This isn't the end of our design obligations, however; in the next post we'll learn how to apply some simple enhancements to our design, along with some visual trickery that will bring out the design's inner beast, and following that we'll start working on typesetting the cover.

Click here to see all entries in my DIY book cover design series.

DIY book cover design—Part 7: Enhancing the scene

DIY book cover design—Part 5: Concepting and planning