- The Basics (Part 1)
- The Basics (Part 2)
- Base Images
- Coloring & Contrast
- Advanced Techniques: Masks, Blending, etc.
- Complete Cover Walkthrough
- What makes cover art good or bad? A discussion on composition.
Since there seems to be sufficient interest, I'm going to go ahead with my series of podfic cover tutorials. Note that these same concepts can be applied to a lot of graphics making, although the things I'm going to address are going to be MOST applicable to podfic covers and straight-up fic covers, as well as fanmix covers. (Icons and wallpapers tend to be a little different, but a lot of the technique is the same.)
So you want to start making podfic covers, huh? Excellent! All you need is a little imagination and creativity, and a graphics program. While I can't help with the former, the latter is what this post will focus on.
Obviously there are TOOOOONNNS of graphics programs out there, and I can't possibly cover all of them, so I'm going to cover three popular ones: a free option (GIMP), the industry standard which will break the bank if you accquire it legally (Photoshop), and a middle-of-the-road option from about ten years ago (Paint Shop Pro 7), which is frankly only on here because it's what I use XD
Okay, before I even get into the others, just let me say this: PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU, DO NOT USE WINDOWS PAINT. Seriously you guys, I know it's already on your computer, and it's fine for tiny pixel drawing or making macros, but for purposes of podfic covers? It just ain't gonna be pretty. I promise you. Please take my word for it.
NOW THEN, since that's out of the way, here's a free program that you CAN use: GIMP. It's GNU Open Source and all that other awesome stuff, and thus of course completely free. It also comes in both Mac and PC flavors--handy! (And Linux, too, if that's more your style.) It's obviously not going to be quite as powerful as its paid brethren, but it's probably going to be able to do the vast majority of the things you'll need for cover art creation. I will openly admit I'm not super familiar with the intricacies of it (aka if you have questions about interface-type stuff or "how do I do this?", google will probably be more helpful than I will), but I've heard enough good things over the years that I feel totally comfortable recommending it to my friends who don't want to *cough*ACCQUIRE*cough* Photoshop.
...which of course brings us to Photoshop. I'm sure you've heard of it, Adobe, blah blah blah. There are a squinty jillion different versions, some of which you can get for 20 bucks on eBay, and obviously some of which retail for like $700+. It is, of course, going to be the most powerful program on this list. It is also going to be the easiest to find support for on teh interwebs, if that's a big concern for you. (Although, of course, this depends on which version you get.) If you're not squeamish about that sort of thing, I'm sure you can, uh, ~find the files you need in nearby Pirate-infested waters (hint hint)...*looks the other way* ;) I actually have a *legal* version of CS2--gasp!--because my dad knew a guy who worked for Adobe and got it cheap. However, I don't really use it, because I use...
Paint Shop Pro 7. Ahhh, PSP. Version 7 is literally from a decade ago, and was one of the last major releases before Jasc, the company that made it (and local for me, actually) got eaten by Corel and the whole program went to shit. You can still buy the newest version from Corel (although it's called "Paint Shop Photo Pro" now, and they started renumbering the versions after 9 with Xs--X, X2, X3--just like the X-Men movies actually! Now when are we getting the First Class edition? XD), but I wouldn't really recommend it. HOWEVER, back when I was a baby graphics maker (kind of literally--I was 11! XD) who had just gotten into Dolling, it was considered the really excellent "budget" option for those who wanted more than what GIMP had to offer (which at the time was basically Paint with layer suport), but didn't want to shell out for Photoshop. So I convinced my dad to give me like six monthes worth of allowance advances, and shelled out $80 for it. I have never once even come close to regretting all of the movie theater and mall outings I missed because of this. The fact that the program is ten years old and I still use it and love it to pieces is partially me being stuck in my ways and liking what I know (and I know it WELL--like I said, been using the program for a decade!), and partially a testimate to how good a program it is. Unfortunately, because it's so old, about the only place it's still available is on eBay for $50-100, depending on the day (although as of 8/07, there is one used copy available to "Buy It Now" on eBay for $30, if anyone's interested!). (Seriously, not even the friendly Pirates are helpful on this one, last I checked.) It's also Windows-only, so Mac users are SOL. (But if anyone in the Twin Cities wants me to come install it on your computer, I've got a disc! XD)
"So Bess," you may be thinking, "if you're using this outdated version of a program I don't have, how will your tutorials be helpful to me?!" I am so glad you asked.
These tutorials are going to be more guidelines for techniques. Specifics are going to vary from program to program. So, when I say, "use your freehand selection tool set on point-to-point mode, with anti-alias checked", you're gonna have to be able to figure out that if you're using Photoshop, that means "use your lasso tool set on polygonal mode, with anti-alias checked". It should be fairly obvious what I'm doing, but you're gonna have to get to know your program a little bit. I'll try and specify these differences where I do know them, but I won't always know. Find a basic tutorial that explains to you what all your basic tools do, if you're not already familiar with them. (If you just downloaded GIMP or Photoshop, googling should turn up roughly three dozen of these in under 2 seconds.) Play around a little bit! Trial and error is the best way to get comfortable with your program.
So, I'll leave ya'll to play around with your graphics programs, and hopefully see you tomorrow for "The Basics (Part 2)", featuring discussion on layers, anti-aliasing, and other helpful tricks! :)
(Also, if anyone has any specific questions about how I achieved a specific effect with one of my podfic covers, now's the time to ask, so I can work it into a future tutorial!)
ETA: Continue on to The Basics (Part 2) ->