Photo Manipulations with Photoshop

This is a gallery of everything I’ve done so far. This is basically my way of procrastinating and not doing the work of writing. This series on Photoshop is wandering a little too far from the goal of this blog.  Most of these are from an up-coming anthology of my best writing in Remember. So here’s the gallery. Enjoy and click through to my Deviant Art page for full resolution.

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Photoshop Cover

Photoshop is the professional standard for book covers. The question used to be if Photoshop CC was worth the nearly absurd cost. For the first time desktop software leasing made sense. 6,000 bucks is unbelievably expense. Adobe’s Photoshop CC is now 19 dollars a single month or 10 dollars every month for a year.


The big question is do you really need Photoshop CC or will the consumer version, Photoshop Elements, be good enough? Photoshop Elements is missing a few things that I think separate something that looks professional and something that looks shabby. What features am I talking about? Blend modes and the opacity slider. The blend modes allow more control in the way image layer over each other. If composting two images is required, blend modes are huge. The opacity slider controls how strongly one image imposes on everything below. Another big one the text kerning or fine tuning the spacing and position of each letter. Almost every single book cover I’ve ever seen use kerning, stretching letter, composting, and blending tweaks.


stock images

Making a book cover requires a few things. Access to Photoshop, a book cover idea, a repertoire of Photoshop effects, and a collection of stock photos that can be used for a cover. The last one is the toughest if graphic design isn’t your day job. Look at this list over on Medium for free stock image sources. Check the usage rights always. Watch a ton of Youtube videos to build a repertoire of Photoshop effects. Look at an earlier blog post for book cover ideas. Now we have everything we need.

Photoshop isn’t a daunting thing to learn. The entire process is basically the tweaking and playing around with sliders governing everything in there. You can be artistic or not. It all comes down to comparing an image before and after every change that’s made. What looks better to your eye and such.

I’ll show something that I stumbled into while trying to do something else. I had this image. I wanted to add another image around the color gradations (one color changes to another). I tried making a highly detailed mask by copying the picture and getting the difference from the original slightly shifted. That got me something strange. It looked like an interference pattern.

I tried removing the color from both. Didn’t work. Then I started playing around. Trying every possible combination of color and no color, each blend mode, opacity level. Something along the way looked interesting. That’s how this happened. More details here.

In two weeks, I’ll post a gallery of everything I’ve done so far, photo-manipulations and book covers. Another fiction post coming up soon.


Later guys.

What Should My Novel’s Cover Look Like?

Book covers are the first thing any potential reader sees. A book shouldn’t be judged by it’s cover, but first impressions are really important. I’m writing this to explore my ideas about how to decide what should be on a book cover.


I learned a lot by watching these videos from Chip Kidd. He talked about a few theories of graphic design. Don’t put a word in text and show a picture of the same thing.

Mystery or clarity. The cover should gently nudge a reader in one direction or clearly show what the book is about. Carefully decide on a balance.

The final video is a collection of book titles, book descriptions, and cover iterations.

Also, keep in mind, the cover should fit the conventions of the genre. The advice I’ve heard is go to a library, find a lot of books in your genre, and identify trends. I’ll give the covers of books I’ve read and what I think are the conventions for each.

Science Fiction: Frequently shows something that’s different in the world that’s created inside. Basically, the story element that’s makes it Science Fiction. Sans-serif font.

Fantasy: The person or object that makes the book fantasy. Frequently a person. Sans and Serif fonts.

Thriller: Person or text. Big font. High contrast. Simple lettering usually.

Young Adult: Sans. One main graphic or image. Background that isn’t too distracting. Clear images.

Romance: Two people together or something symbolizing love. Slightly interesting font.

Literary: Interesting text. Simple background. Setting, object, or overall idea.

Fiction: Person, place, or thing of focus in the story.

Mystery: Something that relates to the scene of the crime, victim, or perpetrator.

Non-fiction: Person, place, or idea the book is about.


I hope this helps. Graham Kar out.

Slapped Together Book Cover

Remember is in need of a new cover. I made one that doesn’t look right. That was before researching anything and based on the covers of other Science Fiction books I’ve read. It was totally free and I made it myself. I used free graphic design software available easily on the web. I used Inkscape, something very similar to Adobe Illustrator.


I went through the built-in tutorials that guide you through the tools available in the app. That was more than what I needed for a simple cover. I knew the results wouldn’t look professional, but it would be close enough. I would first need to find a stock photo. With Inkscape, I would add the title, author, and back description. I already wrote all of that. The best source for free stock images that can be left almost unchanged is They have lots of free images that can be used anywhere including print, physical output, or digital. I looked through hundreds searching for anything that could work. Going the free route without editing the pictures, it was really tough to find exactly what I was looking for. I also downloaded anything that I liked for future use.

silhoutte into space

Remember is about a guy that loses his identity. He tries to regain the person he was. I think this picture shows that. A person looking up at the stars. Stars are up in the abyss of outer space and could be thought to symbolize neurons. Star gazing could be thought of as a form of discovery.

I used the text tool to add the other components. The letter spacing sometimes required adjustment to make everything even.

I discovered a big problem. My protagonist is male and the silhouette is clearly female. I needed to cut out some areas of black and replace it with some part of the background. It’s much easier to do that in Photoshop. I used Inkscape. I drew shapes where the black needed to be removed. I copied the image and everything I drew. I deselected everything. I moved the drawn shapes over a place that matched the area I wanted to replace. Then I selected the image followed by the drawn shape. I went to: Object > Clip > Set. That cut the shape outlines from the background image. I repositioned the cutouts where the black had to be removed.

That got me this. Second attempt but good I think. I didn’t look like a book cover from a publishing house still.

I also made this alternate cover with a picture I found. I counter shaded the text.


Later Blog Readers