Digital Alchemy

Creating the Portrait’s Cover

The work required to make a professional looking cover is surprising. While our parents told us not to judge a book by its cover; that adage ill applies as people decide to pick-up a book based on nothing more than a glance. There are expectations related to:

  • Font style;
  • Font placement;
  • Cover image;
  • Wording; and
  • Much more.

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

This tutorial takes us from the image created during our Creating the Base Tutorial then give it that Gothic Horror feel using Corel PaintShop Pro X8 Ultimate. Users following this tutorial should be able to gain familiarity with concepts like:

  • Layers and blending;
  • Tools bar;
  • Gradients; and
  • Transformations from the Effects and Adjust menu.

These skills will enable someone to experiment with and prototype covers. While it may be advantageous for the author to outsource the final design; it may serve as useful a stop-gap for posting on sites like Medium or Wattpad.

While version X8 Ultimate was used to make this tutorial anyone who has up to and including version X should be able to follow along. However, some of the screens may be different, which will require more experimentation.

On Cloning and Layers

These steps will separate the Lady from the rest of the painting. This enables us to process the image individually on her vice the rest of the background.

The first step is to create a new layer. Within your Layers Palette, you will notice a little button on the lower left corner. Click on the New Layer button then select New Raster Layer.

This will bring open a New Raster Layer window. You can put in a name to identify the layer, or you can opt to use the default. Personally, I find providing a meaningful name makes finding layers with greater ease, especially if they are not visible.

The rest of the defaults are fine, so click on OK and a new layer will appear within the Layers Palette. Now select the Background then use CTRL-C to copy the Background layer.

The next step is to create a new image from the background as shown below. From the Edit menu, select Paste as New Image.

This will create a new image, click on this new image tab then select Clone Brush from the Tools Bar.

The key to using the clone brush is selecting the appropriate Source and Target. This selection is critical when copying parts of an image onto another layer. A shift by a few pixels will result in the entire image being shifted in lock-step.

In this situation, we are using the copied background to populate the new layer we created, so we need a focal point. An ideal point can be readily identified, as in glint in the eyes or a key feature in the flower on her chest. Zoom in on her flower and you will see a cluster of pixels that are easy to identify.

Here we have a zoomed-in view. We hovered over a cluster of identifiable pixels then clicked on the right-mouse button. This will select the source image on the copied image.

Now Select the image we are working with on then select the Lady — Normal layer we created. Zoom-in similarly, to how you did for the copied image, then left-mouse click over the same area you selected within the Lady — Normal layer to start cloning.

For now, keeping the Background layer visible is important for the initial alignment. You can select visibility be clicking on the little Eye Icon besides a layer within the Layers Palette. Once the Source and Target are aligned, left-mouse click over the layer to transpose the lady.

Initially select a large Brush Size and Shape to cover more area then switch to a smaller size to fine tune. Later, it may be beneficial to toggle Visibility of the Background layer. This outlines areas that needs work, such as holes in the copy.

If at any time you have gone over where you expect, you can undo quickly by pressing CTRL-Z.

Use short and concise changes for your detailed work. The Undo function reverses whatever was committed when you last clicked.

As long as you do not switch tools, the Target and Source points will remain intact. When content with the bulk of the work, you can use the Eraser Tool from the Tools Bar to make any additional corrections.

Erasing will work the same way as it did for Cloning, remember to use an appropriately-sized brush and Undo when necessary.

When complete, you end up with a copy of the Lady that can be manipulated independently from the rest of the image. We do not want to cut her out of the background completely so that we can use blending effects later.

You can opt to create a duplicate layer of Lady by duplicating the background then removing the excess using the Eraser Tool.   It is up to you on how you want to complete this step.

Isolating the Rose

One visual element identified early on in the development process of the cover was to manipulate the flower on the Lady’s dress. Steps outlined below will be reminiscent of those we employed On Cloning and Layers.

From the Layers Palette select New Raster Layer.

A pop-up will appear, matching the settings below. When complete, click on OK to create the New Raster Layer.

Use the Clone Brush from the Tools Bar and select a Source from the copied image. As done previously, select a Target point on the Rose Layer to make a copy of the Lady’s Rose.

Isolating the Lips

Another visual element that one can change the overall feel of the portrait is the Lady’s lips. The steps outlined below are reminiscent of those employed in On Cloning and Layers and Isolating the Flower.

From the Layers Palette select New Raster Layer.

A pop-up will appear; follow the settings below. When complete, click on OK to Create the New Raster Layer.

Use the Clone Brush in the Tools Bar then select a Source from the copied image. As done in the previous section, select a Target point on the Lips layer, in order to make a copy of her lips.

Do not worry about accuracy at this point; use the Eraser Tool to correct any problems later. In fact, it may be beneficial leave in a buffer.

Let There be Night

A colourful painting with a sunny background will probably not evoke a sense of dread and horror. The best way to achieve that is to turn the background into the night and we can do that with some basic features of Corel PaintShop Pro and a gradient layer. Since we are dealing with the Background Layer for now, hide all other layers.

The first step is to transform the Background Layer into a Black and White image. While there are a myriad of ways to achieve this step; the easiest is by clicking on the Effects Menu, then Photo Effects and selecting Black and White Film.

Converting the image to grayscale converts all layers to grayscale as well.

The Black and White Film window will appear and enables you to fine-tune the process. The BW Normal setting had the desired effect.

When satisfied with the settings, click on OK and you will have the following effect.

Now we have an image that has no colour whatsoever and lacks elements to make it appear as a night scene. Now its time to apply an Infrared Filter, from the Effects Menu, select Photo Effects then Infrared Film.

The Infrared Film window will appear and enable you to play with the pre-sets or select one that achieves the desired effect. In this situation, the Strong pre-set from Settings was used as seen below.

When satisfied, click on OK to get results similar to the image shown below. Now the shot has gotten darker with some elements emitting a silvery hue, a nice effect that provides a haunting look.

Now we need to create the effect of a night sky. Night skies are not uniformly black, especially when light sources like the moon are present. Gradients will add transitions along with varying transparency.

From the Layers Palette, click on New Layer and select New Raster Layer.

For moment we will not play with Opacity; provide a Name such as Night Gradient as shown below.

The new layer may appear at the wrong level. Corel PaintShop Pro layers have precedence based on their level; layers nearer to the bottom are overridden by content from higher up.

Prior to this moment, all new layers were placed one atop the other. Now we want to make sure the Night Gradient does not affect layers other than the Background. We need to shift it down, select the Night Gradient Layer by clicking on it then move it just above the Background.

Now it is time to play with gradients, from the Materials Palette click on the Icon on the lower-left of the colour selector (either will do). Select the second option called Gradient, after which you need to hover over the Colour Selector (a dropper icon will appear) then click to select.

This brings up the Material Properties window. Setting up gradients can be daunting at first; to gain some insight, scroll through existing pre-sets available and see how their settings are applied. When you create a New Gradient, it will have no transitions at first.

To add colour transition, click below the bar and a new Transition Point will appear. You can add as many as you want and removed by sliding them off either edge.

New transition will come with two components, the first of which looks like a House and a Diamond. When one clicks on the House, select the colour it will transition to, whereas the Diamond dictates how gradual the transition will be. In our examples, we begin with Black to the middle then transitions to a Dark Blue towards the end.

The top of the bar adjusts transparency. Similarly the colour transitions, clicking above the bar to create a new transparency and in out situation we create one then set its Opacity to 75%. The transition will create an area unaffected by the gradient, which coincides with the background body of water and adjourning trees.

If you create a gradient that is the inverse of what you want, click on Invert check-box to correct the alignment. Alternatively, modify the Angle to achieve the same.

From the Tools Bar, select the Flood Fill Tool and then left-mouse click (right-mouse if you used bottom selector) on the Night Gradient Layer. This will fill the layer with the gradient and cover over the Background.

If you encounter a situation where the Flood Fill Tool only fills a portion of the layer, make sure the Use All Layers option is NOT selected.

To blend the Night Gradient layer with the Background, adjust transparency from the Layers Palette. Set the Transparency to 60% to get the desired results.

If you want fine-grained control over the transparency settings of a layer, double-click on the layer then adjust it from the Layer Properties Window.

With that the gradient is in place, the background looks more like a night scene. This forms the basis for the future modifications applied to higher layers.

Lady Shade Awakens

Lady Shade is a variant which has some effects normally associated with the undead. Duplicate Lady - Normal layer to switch back-and-forth as necessary. Select the Lady - Normal Layer, right mouse-click then select Duplicate.

Rename the layer by double-clicking on the layer then providing a new name such as Lady - Shade.

First, strip colour from the Lady Shade layer. From the Adjust menu, select Hue and Saturation then Hue/Saturation/Lightness.

When the Hue/Saturation/Lightness window will appear, set the Saturation level to about -50 to get the desired effect.

By adjusting saturation, we end up with the Lady not matching the background. She does not blend in with the night background and sticks out like a bad paste job. We can use the Blend mode option for a layer to smooth out transitions.

Double-click on the layer that opens the Layer Properties window. From here, adjust the Blend mode and set it using the Soft Light option.

When experimenting, you can set the Blend mode to the first option then cycle through using the arrow keys. This way you can preview differences in the Blend modes until you find the desired one.
Soft Light. Combines the Burn and Dodge blend modes. If the color channel value of the selected layer is less than 128, the Burn blend mode is used. If the color channel value is greater than or equal to 128, the Dodge blend mode is used. You can use the Soft Light blend mode to add soft highlights or shadows.

Select Soft Light, click on OK and the following effect will be shown.

Give the Lady a Flower

Lady Shade is washed out as she has no colour to make her stick out. In previous sections, we created layers for her lips and the flower. Now is the time to bring some colour back to the Lady, so let’s start with the flower adorning her dress.

Make sure the Rose Layer is visible prior to selecting it. From the Adjust menu, select Color followed by Red/Green/Blue. When the Red/Green/Blue window appears set the options as follows:

This above imbues the Rose Layer with a pink hue. If you are interested in having the Rose Layer take on more of a blood red colour, use the settings shown below instead. It is recommend you place these variants in separate layers so you can transition from one to the other.

Now that the colours have been changed, we will enhance the shadows within that layer. From the Adjust menu, select Brightness and Contrast then Highlight/Midtone/Shadow.

From the newly opened Highlight/Midtone/Shadow window; set the options as you see them below or select Intense color under Settings.

When done, click on OK to apply this effect to the layer. Now adjust the Blend Mode by selecting Soft Light. Note, you can experiment and see how the different filters apply.

Lips to Die For

Modifying the lips follows the same procedures used in Give the Lady a Flower.

First, adjust Red/Green/Blue using the settings below:

Next adjust Highlight/Midtone/Shadow to match the following:

Lastly, adjust the Blend Mode to Soft Light. In this case you will need to use the Eraser tool from the Tools Bar to clear out excess material. Once satisfied, your image should approximate the one below.

Green with Envy

Now it is time to add a bit of colour to her eyes. This process can be accomplished using the Brush tool from the Tools Bar. Select a colour you wish to use from the Materials Palette (in this case a bright green), then zoom-in on Lady Shade’s eyes.

Use the Brush tool to paint over the iris. Cover them as best you can, we can fine-tune during the next step.

There is no need to create a New Layer since one will be created automatically when you use the Brush tool.

Select the Eraser tool from the Tools Bar to adjust the iris fill as necessary. Using the Eraser tool will convert the layer to a Raster Layer; this feature is desirable since it enables setting Blend Mode to Hue.

Taking a Bite Out of the Lady

Lady Shade may share the undead’s skin-tone, but lacks something linking her with vampire lore. Early on in the cover’s design it was decided that the effect should be subtle to provide the viewer with a clue. This made fangs too obvious, however puncture marks hidden in the shadow of her neck seemed appropriate.

Using the Brush tool from the Tools Bar, place two marks in the appropriate area as shown below:

A new layer was created when those brush marks were made. From the Adjust menu, select Brightness and Contrast then Highlight/Midtone/Shadow. When you select Highlight/Midtone/Shadow, you will be requested to convert to a Raster Layer, agree and continue.

Set the elements as shown below or select Intense colour pre-set from Settings.

Double-click on the Fangs Layer then click on the Layer Styles tab. We are going adjust the Emboss settings to add shadows and depth. Either replicate what you see below or experiment to add a unique flare.

Double-click on the Fangs Layer then click on Blend Ranges tab. Select Soft Light as the Blend mode for this example.

From the Tools Bar, select the Soften Brush. This feature smooths-out elements within the affected area, a useful feature for removing the jagged edges.

Hover over the area then click to apply the effect, continue until satisfied. Remember to use CTRL-Z to Undo when necessary.

When complete the effect should produce an image that looks like the one below. Not only is the end result subtle, but should make this clue worth finding.

Removing the Lady’s Glow

In the process of creating an eerie night scene, a glow was introduced on the left side of the Lady’s face. This glow detract from the overall effect, so best to remove it!

From the Tools Bar, select the Lighten/Darken Brush to address this problem.

Since the Soften Brush is already selected, click on the arrow besides the icon to show tools selectable within that group. 

Select the Background then zoom in on the area. Since this is a combination tool, the left-mouse click will Lightenen the area while a right-mouse click Darkens. Darken the area on the background while with the Lady Shade layer remains visible to gauge the effectiveness of the correction.

Once pleased with the results, you should end with the following end-result.

Ethereal Night

Lady Shade in the previous section fits in well with an eerie scenes. Now we will experiment with a variant that creates a ghostly background; one which may be might encountered when a fog rolls in. We need to use Radial Gradients to achieve this effect.

These new layers must be be located above all others for them to be effective.

First, create a New Raster Layer then provide the settings shown below. Set the Blend mode to Darken then reduce the Opacity to 50%.

Definition - Darken. Displays pixels in the selected layer that are darker than the underlying layers. Pixels lighter than the underlying layers disappear.

Using the Material Properties window, click on the + button to create a New Gradient. The mechanisms discussed in Let There be Night are still in play.

However, with the Night Sky Layer we did not care about Centre Point or Focus Point, as we wanted a linear and gradual transition. Now Radial Gradients are used (select the third from the top), these settings will play a large part in how the gradient will progress and from which point.

These layers may seem counter-intuitive, since this layer aims to maintain lightness in certain areas while they darken those covered by a gradient we will creat next. Replicate the settings shown below then click on the OK button.

When prompted to save; provide a meaningful name. Gradients cannot be sampled using the Dropper Tool, so saving your gradients is the only way to create or modify them later.

Once the new gradient is complete, use the Fill Tool from the Tools Bar to populate the Ethereal — Trees Layer.

Now create a New Raster Layer then select Screen as the Blend Mode vice Darken from the previous layer.

Definition - Screen. Lightens the colors of underlying layers by multiplying the inverse of the selected layer and of the underlying layers. The result is a color that is the same or a lightened version of the selected layer. This blend mode produces the same result regardless of the order in which the layers are stacked on the Layers palette.

Using the Material Properties window, click on the + button to create a New Gradient then reproduce the settings below.

Because of the Screen Blend Mode, this gradient will lighten many areas in the field including Lady Shade. This is why the Darken Blend Mode was created previously to counteract some of these effects.

Once you use the Fill Tool from the Tools Bar to populate the Ethereal - Field Layer you will end up with something that looks like this.

A Mild Dose of the ‘Eat Me’ Cake

The base resolution for this picture is barely within the guidelines set out by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Obviously, we cannot create additional pixels where none exists. Modern programs have gotten far more effective at increasing image size without leading to a dramatic loss in quality, however there are limits and artefacts will be introduced.

Fortunately, the original shot was a painting and we have the option of using Corel PaintShop Pro to the image in brush strokes to simulate a painting. This will smooth out errors and leave us with a high-resolution image.

From the Image menu, select Resize.

From the Resize window, you can resize based on Pixels, Percentage, Print Size and Based on One Side. Select By Pixels, then set the Width to 9000 pixels.

When you switch to By Print Size, more options become available. Namely, you can set the Resolution (density) in pixels per inch (Pixels/Inch) also known as Dots Per Inch (DPI).

This measurement is important for printing an image and should be considered when self-publishing through CreateSpace or similar. We want to set the Resolution to 300, which is better than the 96 DPI used for screens.

Switching from one resize method to the other maintains settings; so set the Resolution then return to Pixels to find your selected pixel intact.

This multiple section Resize window is new with Corel PaintShop Pro X8. Earlier versions had an all inclusive window instead. However, the capabilities is the same between versions.

Now we have a larger image than the original, flaws an all. From the Effects menu, select Art Media Effects then Brush Strokes.

Brush Strokes is powerful and yet slow effect, especially at high resolutions, so selecting the Preview on Image check-box is not recommended.

Select Factory Defaults from Settings then change the Color under Lighting to introduce purple with the brush strokes. To learn more about these settings, click on the Dice button to observe how changes play a role in the effect.

When satisfied with, you end up with an effect similar to the one shown below. To showcase the effect, a zoomed in portion of her head is shown to highlight the introduced purple plays a part in colouring her crown.

Lastly, this is a full version Lady Ethereal is shown below:

Instead of using Lady Shade, use the Soft Light blend on the Original version of the Lady. This version has more skin tone and is a better suited for some covers.

Originally published at on November 12, 2015.

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