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Old 09-18-2013, 07:16 AM   #99
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Tutorial: Creating custom covers using GIMP

Please note that this post is a work in progress. I'm updating it as I go. Don't try to follow along before I mark the tutorial as finished, or you might find yourself stranded with a half-finished cover and a tutorial you can't complete.

NOTICE: Should someone wish, then they can start and follow the tutorial up to Checkpoint_2. The second part of the tutorial will be posted in the next post. That part will (probably ) not change anymore except for fixing typo's or maybe some clarification.


Getting and installing GIMP

First, we need to get the software. GIMP is a free, open-source image editor. While it does not have the power of Photoshop, the program is more than capable to handle many tasks very adequately.

The terminology between programs such as Photoshop, GIMP and Paint Shop Pro is comparable. All three programs can do what will be described in the tutorial. You can try to follow along using a different program, but you may need to go on an "option hunt" to make it do what is needed. Lastly, my advice would be to install GIMP and its help file in English. I do not know the needed terms even in Dutch, not to mention other languages.

You're allowed to try and deviate in any way you wish of course, but it's your own risk

Let's get to it.

- Windows: download GIMP at Don't forget the help file.
- Linux: Install GIMP using your distribution's repository.
- Mac: GIMP for Mountain Lion and Snow Leopard. Make sure you download the correct version: 32-bit or 64-bit (seems to only be a choice for Snow Leopard), and pick the latest 2.8.6. Don't forget to download the ZIP with the help files in it.

Install GIMP as you would with any software for your operating system. Make sure you install everything (including support for old plugins and Python), as you may want it later.

Setting up GIMP

After you first start the program, it opens with a gazillion windows... one of the most dreaded and derided interfaces ever created. Since version 2.8 however, that can be fixed.

Click: Menu->Windows->Single Window Mode

Gimp will now dock all of its seperate parts into one window. After you doubleclick on the title bar, the window will be maximized. It actually looks usable now The toolbox is on the left, with the toolbox options below it; layers, paths, brushes, gradients and so on are on the right. You can leave the layout like that. It's fine for the tutorial; if you have other preferences, you can change it as you wish.

By default, GIMP displays layer borders as marching ants; it looks the same as a selection, except for a yellowish cast behind the marching ants. I find this very confusing, especially when working with many layers, and it's always the first thing I turn off.

Click: Menu->Edit->Preferences
Select: Appearance
Untick: Show Layer Boundary (both for normal and full screen mode)

Also adjust the following preferences in this dialog screen:

Select: Environment
Set: Minimal number of undo levels: 25
Set: Maximum undo memory: 1 Gigabyte
Set: Tile Cache Size: 512 Megabyte
Set: Maximum new image size: 512 Megabyte

You can set these values higher, if you have a 64-bit computer, a 64-bit operating system, and more than 4GB of RAM. Make sure that the total amount of memory you allocate above is not greater than 75% of your installed total memory.

Set: Number of processors to use: 1 for a single core CPU, 2 for dual core CPU's, and so on. Most probably this is already set correctly.

Click: Color Management

If you have a color managed environment, then you will know what to set in this dialog. If you don't know what these options mean, you don't have a color managed environment. In that case, set them as follows, from top to bottom:

- No color management
- None
- None
- None
- Untick the checkbox "Try to use system monitor profile"
- Perceptual
- None
- Perceptual
- Untick the checkbox "Mark out of gamut colors"
- File open behaviour: Convert to RGB workspace

These settings will make sure that you're not going to see any weird or unexpected color shifts or get any warnings with regard to color profiles that may be embedded in images you use later. As said, if you need other settings in this dialog, then you will know; you don't "accidentally" set up color management on a computer.

All other settings in the Preference dialogue can be set to your liking. For now, you can leave them at the default.

Now create a test image:

Click: Menu->File->New

Leave the dialog as is, and click OK. You should see an image without any boundaries. Close it.

Click: Menu->File->Close View

Creating a custom cover

GIMP is all setup, and ready to go. I'm going to walk you through creating a custom cover. I'm going to suggest textures (or how to make them), colors, and ornaments to use, but you can of course deviate. The tutorial obviously won't change if you choose different colors, ornaments or textures.

Here we go...

Click: File->New

In the dialog that appears, enter the following:

Width 1650, Height 2500
Open Advanced Options
X-resolution / Y-resolution: 72 dpi
Color Space: RGB Color
Fill with: White
Comment: Wow. I'm creating stuff...
Click OK

You should now have a very nice white image in the middle of your screen.

The layer palette on the right hand side says: "Background". The background is not a normal layer. Wo don't need (or want) it for this tutorial. Do the following:

Right-click: "Background", select "Duplicate Layer" (this creates "Background Copy")
Right-click: "Background", select "Delete Layer"

OK, so now we have a "Background Copy", which is a normal layer. This will become the basis for our custom cover.

Double-click: "Background Copy", rename it to "Base Dark"
Click: Foreground Color swatch in the toolbox, and select a dark color. I've used 683c00. You can punch that number in the "HTML Notation" box, and click OK. It's very dark brown.
Select the Paintbucket from the Toolbox, and click on the white layer. It'll be filled in with the selected color
Click: Meny->Layer->New Layer
Name the layer "Base Light", and set the Fill Type to "White". Click OK.
Make sure the new layer is stacked on top of the previous one. Drag-and-drop the layer in the layer palette if necessary.
Now fill the layer: Click the foreground swatch, and select a light color. I've chosen HTML b56800. It's an orangy somewhat lighter brown.
Click OK.
Click: Paintbucket in the toolbox, and click on the image. Make sure Base Light is active, by clicking on it before filling.

Now you should have two layers, Base Dark and Base Light, with the latter one on top. We're going to use the light layer to add lighter parts to the dark layer below. To do so, we'll go and create a layer mask. These layer masks are often misunderstood, or perceived very difficult for the beginner, but they really aren't. They're very simple. If you understand them, a lot of new possibilities will open.

A layer mask is effectively what it says: a mask. It works as follows.
- Add a layer mask to a layer.
- When the mask is completely white, it means that it makes the layer it is on block all layers beneath it. Therefore you can only see this layer, and you can't see what is beneath it.
- If you add black to the layer mask, you can "shoot holes" in the layer to which the mask belongs. The layer below the one the mask is on, becomes visible through the black holes.
- If you use shades of grey (yeah, yeah, quit giggling already...), you can reveal the layer below more clearly (blacker) or less clearly (whiter).

Let's try it.

Right-click Base Light, and select Add Layer Mask.
In the dialog that pops up, select "White (Full Opacity)" and click OK.

You'll notice that you can only see the top layer.

Click on the layer mask you just created (the white rectangle just to the right of the layer icon)
Click on the Paintbrush tool in the Toolbox.
Click on the Foregrond Color swatch and set it to Black.
Now paint on the image.

As you can see, the darker bottom layer shows through, everywhere you touch the image with the black color. This black color is not added to the image, but to the layer mask. If you look closely, you can see it it in the tiny layer mask rectangle in the Layer Pallette.

What we are going to do, is blend dark bottom layer and the top light layer, by using a random pattern of black, white and grey for the layer mask.

Right-click on Base Light and select "Remove Layer Mask". This one was just for showing how it works.
Click Menu->Layer->New Layer.
Set the name to Clouds, and make the layer white.
Make sure it is on top of the stack in the layers palette.
Select the layer by clicking on it.
Click Filter->Render->Clouds->Difference Clouds.
In the dialog, click New Seed, and then click OK.

Now you should have a black, white and gray cloudy layer on top. We are going to put this layer into a layer mask for Base Light. This will make Base Light show through the Base Dark layer beneath. It's just an efficient way to create a random Layer Mask, so you don't need to start painting with the black brush for hours.

Right-click Base Light, and click "Add layer mask". Make it white.
Click the "Clouds" layer.
Click Menu->Select->All
Click Menu->Edit->Copy
Click Menu->Select->None (if something such as a brush doesn't work: try this. You may have a tiny selection active somewhere.)

You've now created the layer mask, and copied the clouds pattern into the memory. Now we put it into the mask:

Right-click the "Clouds" layer, and select "Delete layer"
Click the Base Light layer to activate it.
Click Menu->Edit->Paste
GIMP will create a Floating Selection (Pasted Layer) in the palette. This layer cannot exist on it's own. It must be "anchored". If you don't do anything special, this layer will be anchored to the layer mask that is on the layer which was selected when you clicked "Paste". In our case, this was Base Light.
So... Right-click the Floating Selection (Pasted Layer), and click "Anchor Layer".
You'll see the layer disappear, and then reappear again inside the Layer Mask.

Your image should now have some swirly cloudy brownish look to it. See attachment: "CheckPoint_1". If you click the eye in front of a layer, you can disable and enable it. Disable Base Light, and you'll see a flat, dark brown Base Dark. Disable Base Dark, and you'll see a partial, cloudy (because of the Layer Mask) Base Bright.

Some more information about the layer mask is below, which can come in very handy if you want to make specific adjustments to the mask. It's not needed right now, but we (or you) may want or need this later. If you want, you can experiment a bit. SAVE the image, experiment, and then load your previous file again if you wish to do this.

- You can paint on the layer, by selecting the Layer rectangle.
- You can paint on the mask, by selecting the Mask rectangle.
- The Layer rectangle is the left one, the Mask rectangle is the right one.
- The one you select will be outlined in white.
- You can paint ONLY black/white/grey on the mask. if you paint with another color, GIMP will convert this color into its equivalent greyscale value.
- If you wish to see the mask instead of the layer itself while you are painting or adjusting the mask, then press and hold ALT and left-click on the mask. The mask will appear in your image, and will be outlined in green in the layer palette. NOTE: It is possible to make the mask appear, and still have the normal layer active. Left-click the mask to make sure it is active for painting.
- If you want to turn the display of the mask off, ALT-leftclick on it again. The same applies: you can turn the display off, while keeping the mask active. To make sure your layer is active, click on the Layer rectangle.

Now we're going to give this image a bit of structure. No book is completely flat, except when it's made of plastic. Because Base Dark is a complete layer (Base Light is partly obscured by its layer mask), we're going to use this layer to create the texture.

Right-click Base Dark, and select "Duplicate Layer".
Double-click Base Dark Copy, and rename it to Base Dark Texture
(We are making this copy so you can delete it, and create a different texture if you want to, by re-duplicating Base Dark.)
Make sure the layer is directly above Base Dark (but under Base Light), and click on it to make it active.
Click Menu->View->Zoom-100%.
Click the Eye before Base Light to temporarily disable it.
Click Filters->Artistic->Apply Canvas. Choose a direction, and set a Depth between 1 and 5 (certainly not more than 5, or you'll have too much texture), and click OK.
You should see that Base Dark Texture now has a texture. (Like... Duuh ) At least, if you're zoomed in to 100%.
Enable Base Light again by clicking on the Eye (first square icon in the layer).
Zoom out by pressing CTRL and scrolling down.

There you go: a nice canvasy texture. No checkpoint for this, because it's useless: the canvas texture will not show up in a thumbnail image. Next we'll create the top of the spine for the cover. MOAH LAYERZ...

Creating the top of the spine

You could of course skip this entire section if you don't want to have the top of the spine visible, but hey... we're creating a brown canvas hardcover here, not a paperback. If the latter was the case, you don't need to bother with light and dark, details, textures, or anything: just go for a high-gloss, brightly saturated image you like

On to some spinal surgery...

Click Menu->Layer->New Layer. This time, select "Transparency".
Call it Spine (or Spinal, if you're into retro-gaming).
Make sure it's on top of all the other layers, and select it.
Click the Rectangle Select Tool, and select a small strip on the left of th cover, from top to bottom. You'll need to make a guess on how wide the top of th spine would be on a real book.
Select the Foreground Color, and set it to a very dark grey. I used HTML 3f3f3f.
Select the Paintbucket tool, and click inside the selection.
Click Menu->Select->None.
Right-click the layer Spine, and duplicate it. Call it Spine Texture.
Select the layer Spine Texture.
Click Menu->Filter-Artistic->Apply Canvas, and apply quite a heavy canvas texture; around 10or so.
Create a new layer. Call it "Trim", and make it transparant. Make sure it is on top, and selected.
Click the Rectangle Select Tool.
Select a very thin strip, just where the grey spine and brown cover meet. Make sure the selection overlaps a little bit on each. (You can choose Menu->Image->Zoom->100%, to see what you're doing, and stretch the selection left or right.)
Click the Paintbucket tool.
Set the Foreground color to a yellow/orange color, and fill the selection you just made.
Select Menu->Select->None.
On the top right, above the Layer panel, decrease the opacity of the "Trim" layer, until the texture beneath shows through.
Select Menu->Color->Hue/Saturation to tweak the color, brightness and saturation of the trim. Then click OK

See the attechment "Checkpoint_2" to compare where you should now be

The base linen cover is now done, and you could use this to experiment with already, should you wish to. In the next post, it will be detailed how ornaments can be embossed (or rather, on a linen-like cover, braided/embroided).
Attached Thumbnails
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ID:	111503   Click image for larger version

Name:	CheckPoint_2.png
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ID:	111527  

Last edited by Katsunami; 09-19-2013 at 12:01 PM.
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