Making a Blurb Art Book

As many of you know by now I just self published an art book. This isn’t my first go round as I had to get books printed for multiple college photo projects, and used the same platform for felan. I made books for my Italy Souvenirs series, my senior project, the Toy Photographers 2017 yearbook, and a fourth that I can’t quite remember. However, this is the first I’ve produced for my work in my professional life, and I’d like to think it has more substance to it.

I received a couple questions as to how I produced the book, so I I hope this post will give those of you curious your answers, but I’d also like to use the opportunity to explain my thoughts and concept behind what I included, and what I did not.Continue reading “Making a Blurb Art Book”

Cover Illustration Package: 100 Dreams and their Biblical Interpretations

A recent cover commission by the wonderful Jacob Makaya. I created both Swahili and English versions of this cover and believe the results are quite nice. Check out the links below to get your own copies or to learn more about my cover design.

100 Dreams and their Biblical Interpretations// Tfsari Zs Ndoto 50 Kibiblia Na Hatua Zuchukua by Jacob Makaya. Published 2017.


Life of Toy Photographers, 2017

There’s a brand new book that I’m happy to announce! – Life of Toy Photographers, 2017

It’s a look back at the artists of over the last year. I was part of the team that brought it to fruition, designing the print version of the cover and interior layout. You can also find a spread of my images inside.

Check out the announcement post and find purchase links here –

20 Ways to Source Images Online for Free

In part 1 of this series I discussed the ‘6 Do’s and Don’ts of Using an Artist’s Work.’ But, if you need to source an image for your website, blog, book, etc. and aren’t quite up to the task of approaching an artist, here are 20 more ways to find images you can use online for free.


  • Royalty Free – a royalty is a fee paid for the use of a piece of art, royalty free = free to use
  • Attribution Free – when using an image an artist has made, you often need to give credit to that artist by listing their name and possibly their website, or whatever information they ask you to list, attribution free = no citing your sources
  • High Resolution – big images, good enough quality for large header image, printing, zooming into, etc.
  • Open Content – images that are free to use, but fall under a variety of other categories – some require attribution or license listing, instructions are typically listed next to the image download button


Before using images from any of these websites make sure to read and understand the copyright information on the website as a whole or on each individual image. Some sourcing rules vary per image, especially regarding personal v. commercial use and attributions. More on copyright in my next post.

Image Websites:

  1. Pixabay – royalty and attribution free vector images, illustrations and photography
  2. Unsplash – high resolution, royalty free, gorgeous artist made photographs, some require attribution – searchable online, but can also be used as a subscription service where they email 10 photos to you each week
  3. openclipart – just like the clipart that used to be in the Microsoft Office Suite, these are little illustrations and drawings, royalty and attribution free
  4. Pexels – beautiful, royalty and attribution free photography
  5. Wikimedia Commons – open content images, videos and audio files sorted by category
  6. Flickr Creative Commons – royalty free, user uploaded images, sorted by license type (licenses determine how an image must be attributed, whether the user can edit the image, etc.)
  7. freerange – high quality, hand selected, royalty free images – you must have an account to download
  8. Little Visuals – very similar to Unsplash – high quality, royalty free images, subscribe to have 7 sent to your inbox weekly or go online to download the 7 each week
  9. New Old Stock – copyright free, vintage photos from public archives
  10. Visual Hunt – royalty free, high quality photos and illustrations – licences vary
  11. Super Famous – royalty free, attribution required – these images are very pretty, but not searchable, a great database for textures
  12. Startup Stock – royalty free technology related photographs
  13. Travel Coffee Book – royalty and attribution free travel photographs
  14. Gratisography – an impressive range of royalty free images all from one photographer
  15. refe – technology and travel based royalty and attribution free photographs
  16. Jay Mantri – high resolution, royalty and attribution free photographs
  17. Magdeleine – a new, free, high resolution photo daily
  18. Moveast – images from Portugal by one photographer free to use
  19. Barn images – a compilation of the work of 2 photographers, royalty free, attribution requested, with new images added each weekday – some photos on the site do require payment, so make sure to stay in the free section if that’s what you’re after
  20. The Stocks – a compilation of quite a few royalty free image sites all in one place, be careful, some listed do charge per image


A few more sites added since the original posting.

  1. NYPL Digital Collections – New York Public Library Scans of images, maps, etc. all free for use
  2. Stock Up – an index of images from a variety of other free stock photo sites
  3. DesignerPics – royalty and attribution free, high resolution photographs

But don’t forget, while stock photos are great, sourcing an image straight from an artist, helps support the artist’s career and guarantees you get something original and the artist can grant you exclusivity. This last part can be especially important when creating book and album covers or advertisements. When using stock photos, there’s always the chance of selecting the same one someone else did.

Is there another site you’d add to the list? Let me know in a comment below.

Which site is your favorite?

6 Do’s and Don’ts of Using an Artist’s Work

And by Artist I mean anyone who created something.

In this post I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of copyright, that’s for another day – today is simply about having respect for creators.

  1. Do not use any piece – whether to post on your blog, social media, get printed for your wall, etc. without prior permission from the artist. Yes, for every single piece you need individual permission. Just because an artist gives you permission once, does not mean you can use whatever whenever.
  2. When you do share an artwork around the internet, or show it off to your friends in person, give the artist credit. Proper credit typically includes the artist’s name and website, or if not website, some other way that the viewer can find more of the artist’s work.
  3. Along with this, be clear in how you give credit for work. If you’re using a piece for your book cover, but someone else overlayed the text, clearly separate those two attributions – i.e. cover illustration by so and so, cover design by another so and so. If you’re not sure how to distinguish between types of credit, ask the artists how they would prefer to be listed.
  4. If you are publishing or sharing the artwork in any way – on your book, in your magazine, on your blog or even if you’re simply sharing on social media, do not crop or edit the image in any way with out permission from the artist. An artist creates a piece to be a specific way for a specific reason – if you change that you are destroying their vision. Think of this like defacing a painting at a museum by drawing all over it – just don’t do it.
  5. Unless you are going to offer adequate payment, do not ask an artist to create or modify something for you. Understand that creating something takes a lot of time, frustration and patience, and can cost the artist money in materials, etc. If you wouldn’t do your job for free, don’t expect anyone else to. If you’re not sure what an adequate payment would be or even if you think you are sure, ask and expect a back and forth with the artist in regards to their fees.
  6. Don’t be offended if an artist asks you to sign a contract or agreement before they begin creating a piece for you. An agreement is beneficial to both you and the artist, clearly outlining timelines, payment, how the work will be used, etc. It’s not the artist saying they don’t trust you, its them saying “let’s make this a good business partnership, where both our interests are clear and we both come out happy and maybe even willing to work with each other again.”

Artists love having their work spread far and wide on their terms. And what good does it do them if no one knows who created that viral piece? Help out artists and treat their work with the utmost respect.

Are you a visual artist? What would you add to this list?

Are you a writer, musician, or any other kind of creator? How would you rephrase the above to suit your work? What else would you add to the list?

Hope this is helpful. Leave your thoughts below.

Coming soon:

Part 2 Finding Royalty Free Images

Part 3 The Artist and Copyright

Designing a Book Cover in Photoshop

You don’t need the whole Adobe Suite to design a cover. Photoshop will do the trick just fine. Have Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and know how to use them super well? Go for it. More comfortable with Photoshop? This guide is for you.

When I go to design someone’s cover I ask them for the following information. You will need to ask yourself the same. I recommend typing #1, 2, 3 & 6 out in a Word document so that you can copy it over to Photoshop when you’re ready. Photoshop doesn’t spell check for you, Word does.

  1. Book title & subtitle
  2. Author(s) name
  3. Back cover copy
  4. Publisher
  5. Book dimensions and print requirements (paper type, color v. b&w, etc.)
  6. Additional information (other text, images, ideas, etc. to be included in the design or illustration)

Create a New Photoshop Document

If you’re using CreateSpace to publish your book click here:

For lulu, click here:

Other publishers probably have cover templates as well- google ‘[your publisher’s name] cover template.’ Can’t find one? Leave a comment below with what you’re looking for and I will try to help you locate it.

If you’re going to use a template…

Fill out the information that is specific to your book in the above links and download your template. Open your downloaded template in Photoshop.

{The dimensions/ specifications I’m going to use for this tutorial}

Don’t have a template…

That’s okay, you can make your own document in Photoshop. You’re just going to have to do a bit more math than the rest of us. Find your publisher’s cover specifications.

Download the ‘CreateSpace PDF Submission Specification here’: (visit pages 51 – 55)

Using these specifications with my book information (in the screen shot above):

Cover Height = Bleed + Trim Height + Bleed

     Height = 0.125 + 8 +0.125

= 8.25″

Spine, with White Paper = page count * 0.002252″

Spine = 500 * 0.002252″

= 1.126″

Cover Width = Bleed + Back Cover Width + Spine Width + Front Cover Width + Bleed

Width = 0.125 + 5 + 1.126 + 5 + 0.125

= 11.376″

Create your document

If you’re using a template, skip this section.

Open Photoshop. Select File – New. Enter your calculated dimensions. Make sure your resolution is set at a minimum of 300 pixels/inch. Click OK.

Set Guides for your Bleed and Trim Marks

With a Template

Crop your image down to the edges of the cover. Click View – Rulers. Click on the rulers and drag the teal guide lines to the edges of your trim and bleed marks, as well as the edges of your document.

Without a Template

Click View – Rulers. Click on the rulers and drag the teal guides to the edges of your document, 0.125″ inward of each edge & 0.25″ inward of each edge. Mark your spine this way as well. The 0.125″ is your trim edge- this part will most likely get snipped off when your cover is printed. The 0.25″ is your bleed – to be safe, it’s best not to put anything essential in this area.

I also mark the center of my document, to make creating the guides for my spine easier.

Try to get your measurements and guides as accurate as possible. However, since you are doing this yourself, when you upload, you will be able to see if there’s an error. Then you can tweak accordingly. Designing for someone else? Be sure they tell you if something looks off after they upload, or ask to see a screen shot of the trim.

Insert your Image Elements

I recommend you edit/ design your cover image illustration in another window. Crop it to size, then drag it into your cover document. This way, you can edit layer by layer, without effecting your text and other cover elements.

For the purposes of this tutorial I am going to make the back cover and spine all 1 color. To do this, I’m going to draw a rectangle to size.

Personally, I think color blocks are pretty boring, so I’m going to add the sky from my front cover image as an overlay. You can try out a lot of different things for your cover though. In the past I’ve used shapes and symbols that represent different aspects of the book. I’ve also created horizontal images and wrapped them all around the cover. Be creative, just don’t get too distracting. (Click here and here for examples of back covers with overlayed symbols. Click here for a cover with a wraparound image.)

{Here I flipped the sky and overlayed the image using ColorDodge at 100% opacity}

Add Text

Breathe a sigh of relief, because the hard part is done. Yes, choosing and spacing your text can take absolutely forever, but at least you’re done with math…kind of.

Typically, I add some more guides at this point. For the front cover, there needs to be a space for the title and author byline. The back cover includes the description of the book. You can include other things here too- an author bio, critic quotes, a list of prequels or sequels, artist credit, etc. Try to lay out block sections using guides for where you want to place each item. Make sure to also leave room for your barcode.

In my covers, since I rely pretty heavily on the illustration, I like to leave my text simple and somewhat centered. If you’re doing a cover that relies on typography, you might lay your cover out a bit differently. Check out this link to see some covers that rely on typography

{Here I’ve marked the verticle center of the front cover, spine and back cover to help me align my text}

Create a new text box, type your text, adjust sizing, spacing, font, color, etc. as you see fit.

{For the title I used Banbridge Bold font. ‘The’ is at 55pt and “Awakening is set at 60pt with 48pt spacing in between the words. The font color is a very light blue grey selected from the waves in the image. I then edited the layer properties for Color Burn with 100% opacity. ‘Kate Chopin’ is in Banbridge Condensed Regular, set to the same light blue grey as the title font, but with Normal rather than ColorBurn layer property.

I wanted a little more oomph to the title, as well as a separation between the title and author byline, but I didn’t want to go too modern, considering the time period of the book. So I downloaded the simple clipart flourish you see here, faded the edges a bit using the eraser, to get rid of some of the pixilation, selected the outline and filled it in with a dark brown using the paint bucket tool and then changed the layer property to Soft Light.}

Note: You must understand the copyright for anything you use on your cover. If you did not create the images or the fonts, you must either own the rights, or use ones that are under a Creative Commons license. Ever some CC images have restrictions, such as required attributions, etc.

Get in touch with the feel of your book to determine what imagery, font and colors work best. This may sound easy, especially if you’re the author, but try to think about it from your reader’s perspective. What will make them want to pick up the book and read it? What will tell them just enough about the book without giving too much away? What kind of person are you trying to attract?

Now for the back cover…

When you are placing a large block of text, especially on something that is visually driven, it is best to use a sans serif font. Take for example the text in the image above, the lines at the base of the ‘A’ or the top of the ‘w,’ those are what defines a serif font. You want to choose a font that doesn’t have those. Put tiny font all mushed together in a paragraph and add all those extra dashes and it just gets crowded and harder on the eyes.

{Here I used Halifax set at 18pt font. I used the light blue grey from the author byline, but lightened it even more so that it would be more visible against the background, and yet not as bright as white would have been. I chose Halifax because it’s still reminiscent of the roundness of Banbridge. You can see that I moved the textbox inward from the edge quite a bit and justified to the left. I also made guide lines and a white box to signify the placement of my barcode and left room under the text for any acknowledgements I might want to put in. i.e. the name of the artist who’s illustration I used for my book cover or for my interior spot illustrations. Source: This back copy is copied directly from here}

Spine text

Create a text box, type your spine text, then rotate the text box so that the bottom of the font is facing the back cover. Adjust your textbox size and your font, making sure to keep the text centered on the spine, to avoid any printing issues.

{I used Banbridge Bold at 24pt for the title and Halifax Bold at 18pt for the author. Then simply spaced using the space bar between the title and author until the author lined up with the opposite edge of my text box.}

Save for Print

Once you’ve added all your text and image elements you are ready to save your document. Be sure to save your Photoshop file first so that you can return to it to make edits, or pull from for ebook covers and promotional imagery.

When you’re ready click File – Save As and choose ‘Photoshop PDF’ from the drop down menu. Click OK on the dialogue box that pops up. In the next box ‘Save as PDF,’ choose [Press Quality] from the drop down menu. I typically uncheck ‘Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities.’ Leaving it checked increases your file size, and you saved a Photoshop file of your document already.

And there you have it. Now you’re ready to upload the document to your publishing site.

Want someone else to design and illustrate your cover for you? I’d love to help. Click here to learn more about my illustration services.

Click here to learn about image editing with Photoshop.

Need more of an explanation on something, have a question, or have a tip to share? Leave a comment below.

Cover Illustration Package: Project Management 101

Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management by Lew Sauder (cover illustration by me). Published July 10th, 2014.


Cover Illustration Package: Torn Lace

Torn Lace by Jack Bruns (cover illustration by me). Published March 30, 2014.

Torn Lace ebook Cover
Torn Lace ebook Cover