Cover Design – The Digital Painting

As an artist, I work in several mediums. Pencil, Oils, Genesis Oil Paints, and Digital.

Pencils wouldn’t give me the sharp colors I wanted, much less the translucence of the aurora or the color sharpness for the cover in general. I would need to use a glazing technique and oils would dry too slow to fit in with the limited time-factor. The Genesis Oil Paints were a real possibility, but thanks to my move I no longer had access to my good scanner for scanning in a high quality version of the resulting painting.

That left only one real option for the cover: a digital painting.

I had a mock-up put together in Photoshop (by the way, a mock-up can also be put together in GIMP, which is free.). I didn’t want absolute realistic for the cover, so I chose to use Corel Painter to do the actual digital painting.

Here are a few steps in the process:

Once I’m happy with the overall digital painting, I take it back into Photoshop for a few special effects, and the all-important title and author name.

I’ll be honest. Using clipart, paid photo stock, or image with a loose creative commons license is a heck of a lot easier and less time-consuming than the above. The digital painting took hours and hours. Doing a digital painting like this is not something most Indie Authors/Publishers would want to do or are capable of doing. For most it wouldn’t be cost effective to hire someone else to do it for them.

But I’m also an artist, and the painting does reflect some of the same qualities I bring into the writing of the stories. So, I’m okay with spending a little extra of my time to put them together. That’s okay. For me, it’s very satisfying.

That said, I’m also fully aware that this cover has its flaws. It might be too busy. The colors might not stand out enough.

But it might also be just right.

As with so many things in the Indie world, I will give it a try. If it doesn’t work, or I’m not happy with the attention the book is getting, I might change the cover. As an Indie, I have that power.

And I can’t take it personally. If the cover art doesn’t work, then so be it. It will be time to change it. I still love the results, though, and I learned a few things painting it. Those skills will then be used on subsequent covers and artwork. The work and time invested will not be for nothing.

After all, this is a business. The cover is a main promotional marketing tool for the sale of the book. And I want the book to sell.


“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.

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3 comments on “Cover Design – The Digital Painting
  1. Diane says:

    Good demo! :-)I liked the sky in the second last picture better than the last picture, but as I have never seen aurora except on TV, my opinion is not worth much. I love the space ship in all the layers.

    I think the main test for covers is they are clear in both B&W and colour, postage stamp size, normal size for each site, and larger size. (I checked yours in Photoshop, and still clear in all the different variations. Half tones looked impressive even as postage stamp size.)

    I also have Corel Painter, came with my Wacom. I should practice on it when I get some free time. πŸ™‚

    • JA Marlow says:

      The cover looking good a thumbnail size is highly important. As I’m doing the mockups I’m always decreasing the size just to check. Which is why some designs were thrown out.

      Glad you like it. πŸ™‚

  2. I like this cover a lot. So, for me, it’s just right.

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