During the course of my MA in Publishing one of the assignments was to create a cover for the book “Just So Stories” which is currently in the public domain. We also had to keep a blog talking through the process of designing the cover – here is the post I wrote walking through the design process of my cover for Just So Stories.

From the start of receiving the assignment I really liked the idea of featuring the leopard from “How The Leopard Got His Spots” because of how interesting a creature it is.

I initially put the below cover together using art in an African style from Deviant Art and a “brush” like font to add to the painterly feel. However I didn’t want to pursue this idea as I thought it would look better if I could create the work from scratch – this would also allow me to test myself and put my skills into practice so I decided to move on and create my own work.

Just So Stories Cover Design 1

Staying with the leopard theme I sourced some royalty free images of leopards from Pixabay.com and settled on the below images to use in a cover that would be a composite.

leopard collage

I edited out the backgrounds of these in Adobe Photoshop and the one that worked most was the leopard lying on the log due to it allowing room on all sides to be cut out and have space to work with.

I sourced an image of some grass and colour corrected this before adding a blur to create some depth. I then added in the African plain landscape followed by mocking up my own sun and sky using a gradient which resulted in the below.

My next steps would have been to make some of the spots on the leopard disappear and then make it seems as though spots were coming from the sky and landing on its back. I was very keen on this idea however I wasn’t happy with how the image was looking. I’m still relatively new to complete composites like this in Photoshop so whilst I liked the idea, the execution wasn’t how I wanted it to be so I thought I would try another cover design.

I returned to Pixabay.com and found the following image:

What I like about this image is the colours as the orange and browns really match the African feel which the books setting demands as well as an elephant featuring in another one of the stories in the book.

I decided to use this image to create the following cover:

Other than removing the child on the elephant’s back I still wasn’t satisfied as on first glance I liked the cover but it didn’t really push my skills – plus I still wanted to use the leopard as the main focal point and this idea of the spots falling across the book to land upon its back.

I returned to Pixabay and after searching some more I came across this illustration:

What was great about this find is that due to it being a black and white illustration I could easily manipulate it, but still hopefully produce something great from this.

My first step was to erase a section of the leopards spots and then create two different brushes using the leopards spots as a basis. Then after changing the settings for spacing, shape dynamics and scattering I could draw the spots as if they were landing onto leopard and filling in the gap.

I used the text and template I had created for the elephant cover and placed a brown/green gradient in the background after researching an African colour swatch.

I conducted a focus group on Facebook using the elephant cover and my initial leopard cover and the consensus was that people preferred the leopard cover but the colours of the elephant cover which resulted in this:

I placed the sun in the top left of the front cover as I felt this would match the colours of the gradient and give the scene a reference however I eventually decided this didn’t work how I wanted to and removed it in future revisions.

In the above image you can see the result with the sun being taken out and I have also made the text black to match the leopard. Adding a paper texture to the background really made the cover stand out and gave it an artistic printed feel to match the illustration.

By this point I was very happy with the design and thought it could be in a submittable state but I wanted to keep working at it and push it as far as possible so I decided to print it out and see how it looks on paper and I’m glad I did.

After printing it out there were two thing I wasn’t happy with and they were the spine and the size of the text on the back cover – the text was massive! I placed it against two books I had to hand to compare and they have fit so much more text onto their back covers but kept it legible.

The reason I didn’t like the spine is because after folding the print out so all I could see was the spine (which is all potential buyers would see in a bookshop) it was quite underwhelming as it just had the author name and title but didn’t catch the eye (although the bright colours do help in this respect.)

After changing these two things I came up with this final version which I am very happy with now:

In terms of typography, the font I decided to use for the cover was “Mrs Eaves” which was available in my Creative Cloud plan through Adobe Typekit.

I really like Mrs Eaves because it is easy to read but also has an air of authority to it. I chose a serif font due to the “classic” nature of the work and it being for an older audience, if I had used a sans-serif font I think this would have made the book cover more “modern” and this isn’t what I wanted for this piece.

All in all I have learnt a lot in creating this design, from my person design tastes but also the technical aspects of putting the cover together.