Create an Image Background for your Book cover the Smart way


Welcome back,

In my last video, I showed you how to create a solid background. In this video, I’ll show you how to create an image background for your book cover; the smart way. You can use all types of graphics and illustration, as long as they meet Lightning Source’s® specifications.

Planning is important when you compose your book cover. In Zooming Marquees and Backgrounds, I compared building your cover to a painter building a canvas, layer-by-layer; beginning with the background.

Unless you plan to illustrate your cover, or hire an illustrator, book cover design is a process of sourcing images and other types of graphics; preparing them to be imported into the template; altering and arranging them until you’re happy with your composition.

It’s a good idea to know the relationship between pixels and other ways of measurement (inches, cm mm, etc.); working in pixels allow you to work with your images in much more detail and make precise changes, too. Since digital camera images and scanned images are expressed in pixels, too. I’ll focus on inches–pixels.

Digital resolution—whether from an image, a scanned illustrated graphic—is measured in pixels per inch (ppi). Digital images are made up of tiny squares called pixels; together they compose the image. Each pixel is one color.

The more pixels in one inch—of an image—improves, or increases the image resolution. For example, 600 pixels in one inch of an image, is double the sharpness than 300 pixels in one inch, of the same 5×7″ image. The more pixels, packed in one inch, the more detail you see in the composition.

Here’s a quick and easy calculation to figure out the final size of your book cover in ppi.

Your full book cover is 8.5‘’ tall by 11.473’’ wide; the front and back cover are 5.5” wide each and the spine is .473” (5.5 + .473 + 5.5 = 11.473“), 8.5 ‘’multiplied by the number of pixels per inch (300) = 2550. 11.473’’ multiplied by the number of pixels per inch (300) = 3, 429 pixels wide.

Maintaining the aspect ratio of your cover template is important. If you’re following my instructions, it shouldn’t be an issue because the mask—I’m showing you—is the exact size needed for the template file. Aspect ratio becomes an issue when you don’t constrain proportions, or you don’t lock the aspect ratio when you shrink or enlarge an image layer (hold Shift and drag a corner handle).

In another article, I’ll show you the smart way to easily import your images and graphics into your book cover file.

If you have more than one layer, make sure that the template layer is selected.

Select the Rectangular Marquee tool. Since we’re keeping the bar code for the cover, let’s use the tool to cut and paste it to a new layer; draw a rectangular marquee around your bar code (hold-left drag); release the button at the bottom right corner of the white square.

Zoom into the marquee: left-click hold. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool, again. Scroll over the marquee line, when the mouse pointer changes to the rectangular tool, right-click; select “transform selection” from the drop-down menu. Make sure that you don’t mistakenly select, “free transform.” Free transform will stretch, or shrink your selection. If you locked your layer, the transform selection option might be greyed out. Remember, you can’t alter the template.

Click on the handles and drag them up or down and left and right, until the sides of the marquees are as close to the white edge, as possible without touching the pink. Click the check mark on the option bar.

With the rectangular marquee tool still selected, right-click over the marquee and click, “layer via cut.” Layer via cut, cuts out the marquee selection and creates a new layer—in one step. Name the layer “ISBN BarCode” and hide the layer.

Select the zoom tool and click Fill Screen; adjust the horizontal scroll bar so the entire bleed is visible. We’ll use the rectangular marquee tool, again. Drag a marquee around the template bleed.

Right-click in the width box, change the measurement to pixels; repeat in the height box. Enter the book cover dimensions, W: 3429 H: 2550. Note that the marquee doesn’t completely cover the bleed…

…I did this, for two reasons: to show you the general location, where the copy printer trims the book and to point out the importance of the bleed; particularly, the fold bleed—around the spine of the book.

We have to manually adjust the selection, to completely cover the pink area and blue bleed.

Adjust the marquee around the bleed—as you did with the bar code. Zoom in and drag the handles, covering the entire bleed. If you prefer exactness, keep zooming in until you see pixel squares of solid color.

When you’re finished adjusting the marquee, select the check mark in the option bar; select the zoom tool again and click, Fit Screen, on the option bar.

To save the marquee selection, so you don’t have to keep repeating this process, click, Select > Save Selection. The marquee is saved for the template document only, unless you select new, in the drop-down menu. In which case, it creates a new document. We’ll save it for the current document. Select “new” channel and name the Channel: “mask.”

If you need to load the selection/ marquee again click: Select > Load Selection. If the “mask” channel isn’t showing, click the down arrow, select it and click OK. Your marquee loads into the image template file. Save your file.

Prepare your background image: double-click to unlock the background and convert it to a layer, convert to CMYK, increase its ppi to 300 and change its pixels to the size of your book cover W: 3500 H: 2645, or larger. I left the aspect ratio purposely locked, to enlarge the image; it gives a wider area of the image that I can select from.

Drag it into the template file. Select the image layer and move it around until you are happy with the composition. Load the “mask” marquee.

Select the rectangular marquee tool, right-click and click, “layer via cut.” The selection has been cut out of the image layer and pasted on a newly created layer.

You could also, right-click and click, “layer via copy, to retain the entire image on a separate layer. Click Select > Deselect. Your layer should be above the “BC Template” layer, to indicate that it’s in front of the template layer. Hide the original layer.

An advantage to copying, rather than the cut via layer method, if you later change your mind you have the original layer to take another sampling.

A final way is to zoom into the image layer and “free transform” it. Change the opacity of the background, so you can see the template underneath. Select, Edit > Free Transform. Drag the corner handle and cover the bleed. If you forget to click the check mark, an apply changes box prompt will appear; click, apply.

Zoom into the other corner and repeat the steps. Click the option bar check mark, when you’re finished.


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