Thursday, October 4, 2012

A chat with an AWESOME Cover Artist - Alicia 'Kat' Dillman

Where here it is, my cover artist for Purgatory Reign, The Pack - Retribution, The Pack (book 1 new edition) and Explorer X - Beta

And guess where we met? Twitter! Yep, online meetups with any possible talent you need to get the job done. I love twitter.

Since it led me to Alicia 'Kat' Dillman.


-What do you think indie authors or aspiring cover designers should focus on when selecting important elements of their story for the cover design? Should it show the main character, important imagery? What is that balance between showing what is important and giving too much away?

Stay true to your story, don’t do something just because it’s popular or currently trending. I’m attracted to covers like the one I designed for Daemons in the Mist so that’s what I created. But some readers are attracted to high concept designs like those on the Hunger Games, so you also have to know your audience when creating covers as well.

I would suggest featuring a character on the cover and if you can a place from the story. It doesn’t have to be from an important scene, actually it’s better if the location itself evokes some kind of visceral feel or emotion. You should never give too much away on a cover, like the ending for example (yeah crazy I know but I have seen covers that do this). If the fact that Nualla was a daemon was a surprise to the reader I would not have put her horns on the cover, but because she tells us what she is in the first chapter nothing was ruined.

What types of programs do you use for your covers? Give us your best advice for those who want to learn the art of making beautiful covers.

First off I have to say I didn’t learn this all overnight. I have a BFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art and have studied book design for the past four years as well.

For my art (the painting part) I use Corel Painter, my custom designed brushes and a Wacom Intuos3 tablet. For the actual design of books I use InDesign since I design both the cover and internal pages of books. I also use it to design and format eBooks. For the Marked Ones mark that appears on the back cover and inside the book I used Illustrator.

My advice to aspiring book designers: Study books, not the stories in them, but the books themselves. The way they were constructed, the way they were laid out. Half of being an artist is learning to observe and analyze things. Look at some of your favorite covers and analyze why you like them, why they caught your eye. Why they said, “buy me, I’m awesome!” You can’t teach someone to be an artist, you can only teach them how to use the tools to become a better artist. For this reason I’m currently working on a series of informational eBooks for inspiring indie authors and designers.

Could you tell us about your process in creating the cover?
First, I decide what story I’m trying to tell; what I’m trying to get across in the image. Sometimes I sketch out a quick thumbnail in the computer or on a scrap of paper. The thumbnail is nothing to look it, more like visual shorthand because I can see the image I want in my head. But most of the time my design work and sketching is done in my head, it’s a skill I developed during art school.
After that, I hit the books, analyzing what’s out there. Trying to design something that’s true to the story while at the same time something that will stand out from the pack of other new releases.

For the base of Purgatory Reign’s cover, stock photography was used as part of a newer art form called Enhanced Photo Imagery. I head on over to the stock photography sites and browse for what I need. I then download their mock images and jump into InDesign to start mocking up a cover based on the template generated by the book printers. When I get the cover design the way I like it, I send it to the client and they purchase the chosen images.

Next it’s on the Painter where I take my custom designed brushes and go to town. Once the painting is complete, I head back over to InDesign and import the final art before exporting the file and sending it off to the printer. And that’s how my covers are born.

Alicia Kat Dillman
Creative Director of KatGirl Studio

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