Creating the Portrait’s Cover

Creating the Base

The work required to create professional looking covers is surprising. While our parents told us not to judge a book by its cover; that adage ill applies since people predominantly decides what to pick-up based on nothing more than a glance.

This tutorial is not designed to teach someone on how to create the perfect cover. There are a myriad of resources in both digital and print form that cover this topic.

Instead, this tutorial covers the process of taking a picture of a portrait and transform it into a usable cover for a novel using Corel PaintShop Pro X8 Ultimate. Users following this tutorial should be able to follow the process and gain familiarity with concepts like:

  • Effects and adjustments;
  • Familiarity with tools in the Tools Bar; and
  • Making use of the clone brush.

Skills learned in this tutorial will enable you to experiment with and prototype your own covers. While it may be advantageous for the author to outsource the final design; it serves as useful a stop-gap for posting on sites like Medium or Wattpad.

Note: While Corel PaintShop Pro X8 Ultimate was used to make this tutorial people employing previous version including X should have no trouble following along. However, some screens may may differ and require more experimentation.


Creating the Base

The First step is to find an image that will form the basis for your cover. For The Portrait, I rummaged through my photography collection and came across this picture featured below.

This shot suited my needs since it fit in roughly with the era one of the character’s was based in. For more information on the featured painting, you can visit the Susan Apthorp (Mrs. Thomas Bulfinch) painting found through the Boston Museum of Fine Arts website.

Copyright law can be difficult to interpret and varies from country to country. While this painting falls outside normal copyright laws, in some jurisdictions the picture can be copyrighted as a new work. The referenced work is likely copyrighted, so I used my own picture as a precaution.

The picture is unfortunately low-resolution (5 MP) compared to modern cameras, even when compared to high-end smartphone. In addition, noise was introduced due sensitivity (200 ISO) of the light sensor to avoid using a flash.

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with the noise and we will deal with the limited resolution later. From the Adjust menu, select the Digital Noise Removal.

This will bring up a new window which shows a Before and After shot along with various options. One of the more important features of this capability is the ability to adjust the sampling locations.

In my case, I found that the defaults were sufficient. Click on the OK button to remove residual noise in the shot and generate the result shown below.


Fill Light and Clarity

Now we need to adjust lighting, contrast, colour and clarity since the original portrait was featured in a sombre room. Fortunately, the Boston Museum of Fine Art provides us with a sample to compare with.

Let us begin with Fill Light and Clarity, from the Adjust menu, select Brightness and Contrast then Fill Light/Clarity.

I find it easier to Preview on Image so I can monitor a change over the whole work. To make use of this capability, click on Preview to hide that feature then select the Preview on Image checkbox.

Fill Light will brighten while Clarify brings out details in the picture. The settings shown above worked well for me; however, you may find alternate settings that better suits your palette.


Hue, Saturation and Lightness

Based on our reference, there seems to be residual colours that produce a purple hue, especially where her legs shift the fabric of her dress. This can be corrected by adjusting Hue and Saturation levels.

From the Adjust menu, select Hue and Saturation then Hue/Saturation/Lightness.

Saturation will either enhance or wash out colours. To get us closer to the reference image, Saturation and Hue were both reduced.

Replicate the settings shown above then click on the OK button to get the following result.

Red, Green and Blue

The image above lacks green when compared to the reference image and can be corrected by adjusting the Red/Green/Blue balance. From the Adjust menu select Color then Red/Green/Blue as shown below.

A new window will appear, enabling you to adjust the balance of Red, Green or Blue. By increasing the Red and Green balance by 10% achieved the desired result.

Once the adjustments are set, click on OK generating the following results.


Extracting the Frame

Now that we have an image that more closely resembles the reference image in terms of lightness, saturation and colour balance, we need to correct the Perspective. This photograph was taken at a slight angle, skewing the shot.

Click on the Arrow besides the Straighten icon on the Tools Bar and select Perspective Correction. If Perspective Correction is already selected, then click to select.

This will switch the Icons and display an adjustable square area on the image. Move the corners of the box to match the inside of the picture frame, which serves as a reference to correct the Perspective.

You will probably need to zoom in to accurately fit the section within the frame. Once satisfied, click on Apply to get the result below.

To this point we have maintained the full image, meaning portrait’s frame and surrounding wall are still in the shot. Start by choosing the Selection Tool from the Tools Bar, as you have done with the Perspectives Tool previously.

Select the same area used when the perspective was adjusted.

From the Image menu, select the Crop to Selection option.

Unlike previous menu adjustments this one has an immediate effect. Cropping of the image generates an image similar to the one below.


Finishing Touches

Unfortunately, there are artefacts left over from the original photograph. Some of these have been circled in the image below and can be corrected using the Clone Tool.

From the Tools Bar, select the Clone Tool.

This tool is useful for copying, moving or removing parts of the image. In this situation the Source and Target are the same, however this need not be the case.

To correct this error, right-mouse click near the offending artefact to select the Source. Be sure to select from an area that has similar characteristics (i.e. colour and tone) to blend.

Once the Source is selected, left-mouse click over the artefact to paint over the Target as shown.

Experiment with Brush Sizes and Source points until you get the desired results. Repeat this process for all other artefacts to get the following end-result.

Unfortunately, the ability to change the face on a whim is not an inherent feature Corel PaintShop Pro. The program that I used was FaceFilter3 by RealIllusion which came bundled with Corel PaintShop Pro X7 Ultimate Edition.

FaceFilter3 is a mixture of intuitive and black voodoo magic, enabling you to adjust any facial feature such as the location of the eyes, makeup and overall shape. After some fiddling I narrowed the face, shrank the nose and added definition for the eyes/lips.

For those who are adept at image manipulation and have a steady hand, you can use the Clone Tool; a complex process which involves trial and error. The completed base with facial reconstruction shows up as follows.

While the above forms the base for The Portrait’s cover, additional modifications are needed to make this a reality. Some of these changes are featured within the Digital Alchemy tutorial.

Originally published on evelynchartres.com on November 7, 2015.

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