The next entry in my weekend book cover experiment is a YA fantasy romance from Rebecca Simkin.


Phew! A lot more photo-manipulation went into this one than usual. Fantasy so often has illustrated or custom-shot cover images (here are some beautiful examples), neither of which I can do, so I’ll have to work with what I have.

The photo is fantastic, but as the author noted, “the image lends one to think of religious experiences or self help books, so beware!” She’s absolutely right. The title makes that correlation even worse. I ask her to think of another, and go ahead with a version of the title as a placeholder. I’m going to have to work hard to make sure the cover screams “YA fantasy romance” as loudly as possible.

The other difficulty is–as it so often happens!–the photo’s very short and wide for a book cover, and worse, the top is truncated in a way I can’t easily extend. It’ll be tough to position this element.

I start off with the given image. To me, nothing says “YA fantasy” like purple, so I isolate the hands and change the background color. There’s just not enough photo to fill up the cover, so I hunt down something (from Unsplash, which is becoming my go-to-slash-crutch) and color it to match.

healinghands1smThat looks amateur, but at least it gets me working with the image and testing what it can do.

I realize the glow in the hands doesn’t say very much, visually. (This is actually the second hands-cupping-magical-glow request I’ve gotten; the other is still pending.) Can I add anything that drives home anything in the book description? I browse Unsplash again. A flower = romance. I isolate it, and use three layers (hands, flower, fingers) to place it. The glow remains almost everywhere, which is fantastic, since it keeps that “magic” element, but now it’s “magical romance”. Getting there! I turn the top nighttime image into a background image and leave the too-short arms floating in space. That leaves me room for a tagline, which I use to emphasize both that it’s fantasy (main character’s name), and that it has themes of love and war. Oh, and can you tell there used to be four figures standing between the trees, not two? Romance!

bluesYou know what, though, I really liked that purple. I change the background color and the tagline color, and in messing around with the background discover I like it in a different place. These are getting really close to decent. (I also try making the flower more purple. Every attempt ends in disaster. It’s fine the way it is.)

purplesBreakthrough: the author has come up with a title that’s much more in the YA vein (the original is practically genre-neutral). I rework the title. I’m not proud of using Harrington, but in lieu of a custom font it gets the job done. I also decide to shore up the magic and romance with some kind of ornamentation. Poking around a vector site nets me one that works, which I use at low opacity as a garnish. I find a better font for the tagline and we’re off.

ungloved1_smDang, y’all. This is a good cover! The author, however, has several tweaks in mind. She doesn’t like the floating arms, thinks the kerning is weird in the C’s of the first name, and sees a street lamp on the bottom left where I saw a debranched tree. Well, fair enough. I manually re-kern the end of the author’s name, turn the lamp into a tree, and–through applied miracle-working–lengthen the model’s arms. This is the exact limit of my art skills. I also tweak the title and add a little transparency to it, which I think is classy. I do like the second version better.


What do you think? Can you tell the genre just by looking at the cover? What tweaks would you make?


  • Century Gothic
  • Harrington
  • Sylfaen



  • About 9 hours plus another hour after the “last” draft to make the “last last” draft

See all my book cover designs here. Inquiries accepted.

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