Now that we’ve taken care of the nuts and bolts, we’re ready to move onto the serious part of creating a cover.
Open your bare-bones template, then open your cover image. Drag and drop the cover image onto the template. It will immediately be added as a layer on top of the template. (You can now close the cover image file; be sure not to save any changes you might have inadvertently made to it during the drag and drop process.)
Move your picture to the top, left-hand corner of your cover. Photoshop should snap your picture right to those guides, but if it doesn’t, go into “View” and choose “Snap.” Also, look at the next option, “Snap to” and make sure that “Guides” is selected with a check mark.
Your picture will almost certainly not fit the cover correctly. Hit Ctrl + T to transform it. Select one of the corner anchor points, and, while holding down the shift key (so it will stay proportional), drag it until it full covers the width. If you need to reposition it, let go of the shift key, click on the image, and drag it where necessary.
When it’s the way that you want it, double-click on it or press the check mark on the top toolbar to accept the transformation.
My picture came with an arch already built into it, so I went with that as part of my design. But wanted color–not white. And since a gradient always looks fancy-schmancy, I decided to make the trim at the top and bottom of my cover gradient-colored.
So here’s how you do it. First, make a new layer by holding down Ctl + Shft + N. Entitle it “Gradient.” Select the gradient tool (it is one of the paint bucket options). On the toolbar at the top, you can select different types of gradient, but I went with the default (didn’t want anything too crazy, after all).
Next, you need to select your colors. Click on one of the two colored squares (they’re probably black and white) in your left-hand toolbar and change the color of each of them individually. I used the eyedropper on my picture and picked two shades of orangey-brown from the bricks behind my figures. I highly suggest that your border/trim colors come directly from your cover picture–preferably from one of the more dominant color schemes. This is what will tie everything together and keep the colors balanced.
Now that you have your colors, it’s time to make a gradient. Click the eye icon to hide your cover layer and template. You should see nothing but the blank layer (indicated by the gray and white checks). Make sure that this layer is the highlighted layer, which means it’s what you’re working in (yes, you can work in a layer that you have hidden; you don’t want to go there).
Click anywhere on your blank layer and drag out a line. The longer the line, the more gradual the shading in your gradient; the shorter, the more compressed. If you drag it from the top down, your colors will lie horizontally; drag if from the bottom up, they will still lie horizontally, but the top and bottom colors will trade places. If you drag the line from side to side, your colors will run vertically. You can even go on a diagonal.
You can keep redrawing the line and refilling the area as many times as you want to, so play around. If you don’t like the colors, unhide your cover picture and replace one or both of them.
Once you think you have what you’re looking for, it’s time to unhide your cover picture. If you don’t see it, don’t panic; it’s just too far down in the layer pile. Click on it in the Layer toolbox and drag it to the top of the list.
In my case, I had that white section at the top of my picture that I needed to get rid of. So I used my magic eraser to take it out. (Make sure you are erasing in your picture layer and not in any other layer, or you’ll delete the wrong thing.)
Next, I wanted a matching border at the bottom, so I switched to my gradient layer, used the square marquee tool to highlight the top part of my gradient, copied it and pasted it. Flipping it is a bit tricky, because you only want to flip that selection, not the entire image. So you have to Ctrl + T to transform it, then rotate it manually using one of the corner anchor points (holding down shift while doing this makes it easier to get it to level). Now it’s ready to be dragged into place.
When you pasted the bottom gradient, it made a new layer automatically. Link this layer with the Gradient layer (use the little chain link next to the eye on the Layer menu) and then go to “Layer” on the top menu and “Merge linked.” Now your Gradient is all one thing (although you will have to name it again, since the merge renamed it).
Next, I need to erase the bottom of my picture, so that the gradient will show as the bottom border. The easiest way to do this is select the Picture layer and use the marquee highlight tool to select the part you want to delete. (Once the box is drawn, you can move it around, if you need to.) Once you have it where you want it, just hit the delete key.
If you want this cut to be a clean, hard-edge cut, make sure, before you delete, that the “feathering” box on the top toolbar is set to zero. If you want the edge to bleed, though, put a number in the box.
On our next lesson, I will show you how I added the decorative leaves to the edges of my vignette.