Using GIMP

As I mentioned the other day, I downloaded a copy of some free photo-editing software, GIMP, and I’ve been playing around with it ever since.

Damned stuff is addictive.  And I can do it at night while watching TV.  (Because I live an exciting life.)

So, first.  Getting a copy.

I did a search for GIMP that led me to some link that looked official but wasn’t. And it wanted to download all sorts of random other crap along with it.  Not being the trusting sort, I cancelled out of that quick.

I then found the official GIMP site, which just confused me with its talk of mirrors and things.  (I’m sure tech-savvy folks know what all that means, but not me.)

Fortunately, I then stumbled across SourceForge and was able to download it from there with no issues.

Yay.

When I opened it, I smiled.  Because it looks very much like the design software they used to use at my dad’s sign shop.  I haven’t played with that in twenty-plus years, but I knew my past experience designing stupid designs to print on vinyl should help.

Now, it’s not intuitive.  I played around with it a bit and then went looking for tutorials.  (And I generally pick up software fast.)

I don’t recommend the ones on their site.  The one I watched was old and they’ve changed the interface since then.

But I did find a Kboards thread with some great links: GIMP tutorials that helped me learn how to do my own covers

I used those first three links to figure out how to take an image and expand it across an entire book cover.

Here’s the new cover for The Price We Pay.  I found an image, cropped it, centered it, and then added color at the top and bottom.

Sunset and mountain

There are a few stumbling blocks to overcome, even using those tutorials.

Like the fact that they assume that you have the Gradients dialog box open already.  (Hint: Go to Windows>Dockable Dialogs to open any dialog box you need that isn’t already open.)

And I’m obviously still bumbling my way through (as you can see), but GIMP really does allow you to do some amazing things within a short period of time.

(For free!  I experimented with the images and photos I have before paying for anything.)

The cover above isn’t the most impressive (I’m still not happy with the font), but I was able to create it with two stock photos and GIMP and could probably recreate it in half an hour or so.

(Although it took me about five hours of playing around to get to that point.)

Here are links to the images I used if anyone is curious: the sunset and the man.

That’s another thing.  Where to get images?  At the conference I was just at they recommended depositphotos.  You can buy images one at a time (with I think a minimum cost of $32 to buy the base level of credits) or you can pay for a subscription.

I went with ten images a day for a month for $99 since I’ll be doing about thirteen covers in the near future and you have six months to use them from when your subscription ends. Plus, I knew I’d just sit there each night and choose another ten cool images to use so would get my money’s worth.

Now we reach the point where I tell you don’t do what I’m doing.  There was a very entertaining post on Kboards the other day: How to not sell books

It’s by one of the very successful authors on there, Russell Blake.  And his point #2 is “Do not hire qualified cover artists. Your limited experience with Photoshop is the equivalent of someone with formal training and a long track record. There might be exceptions to this, but there are also people who have jumped out of airplanes, had their parachute fail to open, and lived. You’re no doubt one of the exceptions. Because you can just feel all that specialness coursing through your veins.”

Yeah, so…I’m doomed to failure.  But there really aren’t enough blogs out there of the people who don’t succeed at this thing.  So, learn from my mistakes.

(And, really, at this point I view myself as the small mom n’ pop shop that caters to a small market as opposed to the Wal-Marts or Best Buys of the world.)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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