Design a Book Cover in Photoshop (Blend Modes)

I discussed the basics of book cover design in a previous post. Really, a cover is no more than a photo with some words on it. As I discussed in that earlier post, you can truly create a professional looking cover for minimal expense (somewhere in the thirty to fifty dollar range) even without using Photoshop.

I now use both Photoshop and InDesign for my covers. I primarily use InDesign for the print cover layout and Photoshop for the e-book. (The e-book cover is also the image that winds up being on the front of the 3-D print cover.) InDesign is really all about text layout, so it can also give more options when designing your title. I sometimes find it helpful to edit the cover image in Photoshop, then bring it to InDesign to add text–you can save InDesign files as JPEGs.

The main benefit of using Photoshop over another photo editor is that it’s so widely-used, you can always find a post or YouTube video in which a graphic designer explains how to accomplish a task you’re stuck on.

Recently, I’ve been using a basic Photoshop editing trick (blend modes) in order to get some interesting results:

Create a New Project or File

This gives you your blank canvas. Here, you’re going to need to size your cover. If you know you want to offer a print version of your book, go ahead and plug in your paperback or hardback’s trim size. If you’re planning to release an e-book only, I might suggest using a 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9 trim size for your cover. Those are used fairly often in the pub world.

Now Open the Cover Art Image

As I discussed in that previous cover post, the easiest way to get a professional looking cover is to get a professional (stock) image. You’re going to need to do some resizing to get it to fit your nice 5 x 8 or 6 x 9 canvas. The easiest way I’ve found is simply to open the image as a new file, then choose: Select – All, then Edit – Copy. Now return to your blank canvas and chose: Edit – Paste. Your cover image will now be its own editable layer. Your hi-res image will be quite a bit larger than your canvas, though. Select Edit – Free Transform in order to size your image to fit.

Of course, your image doesn’t have to all be on the canvas. It probably won’t be. You’ll crop to get the portion you want on your cover.

Experiment with Basic Editing Modes (Blending)

Here’s where I’ve been having some fun lately. It’s also a great way to easily add some mood to your stock image. Add an image or overlay as a new layer (you can accomplish that using the same cut and paste method outlined earlier), then use Photoshop’s blend mode, usually found in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen:


Head for the drop-down menu set to “Normal.”

You’ll find a ton of options for blending the layers together. By playing with the various settings in this drop-down menu, you can instantly make a stock image look vintage, as I did for my cover for Sentimental Journey:

sentimental journey final 7

I used a stock photo of old paper as a layer to blend with the image of the cardinal. Not only did it add a vintage look, it also gave the book a warped-paper effect at the bottom of the cover, which I really loved.

You can also use overlays to help create mood. I added three different rainbow overlays using various blend modes for the cover of my forthcoming Playing Hurt:

Playing Hurt Cover Final

Yep, that’s three different rainbow overlays: one somewhat blurry rainbow to add color to the entire sky, one round rainbow to add the effect of sun peeking through the trees, and of course, the most obvious rainbow over the title.

Overlays can be purchased affordably as well, through several different digital goods sites. I found my rainbows at The Hungry JPEG.

These additional layers and overlays don’t just offer something fun to look at, either. They can help you convey what the book is about–every bit as much as your main stock image. Sentimental Journey contains several historical (Depression-era) passages, and Playing Hurt is about two broken-down athletes that learn their lives can have light and love again. Hope can spring eternal. I hadn’t planned on a rainbow, but was utterly delighted when I found the overlays. I think they make the cover.

Have you used blend modes? I’d love to see the results! Comment here or find me online: Twitter or Facebook.

I’m looking forward to the official re-release of Playing Hurt!

The book has been updated and includes several new scenes. To be notified of the official release, subscribe to my Steamy Romance Newsletter.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s