Disclaimer: This is an entirely sensible and utterly professional overview of how to design a book cover and is not in any way meant to be taken with a pinch of salt. Any actual practical tips you may receive from this blog post are entirely accidental.
Testing Colour Palettes
Step One: Create a mood board of all the Amazon bestsellers in your book’s genre. Use this to determine colours, fonts and styles for covers that will look good in your genre. Discover that the colours that look great in your genre are purple, blue and green, and are not at all the yellows and oranges you usually design with.
Step Two: Have a minor panic about the fact that you don’t do digital art. (Digital art, by the way, is art created on software like Adobe Illustrator, rather than hand-painted the old-fashioned way). Decide to have a go with the skills and equipment you have (i.e. the old-fashioned stuff), rather than spending months and lots of money into skills and equipment you don’t have.
Step Three: As soon as this decision is made, fall back on your worry about digital art and watch a Youtube video tutorial about how to make a parchment background in Photoshop (the one piece of art software you have). Make said background. Feel very proud of yourself for having taught yourself this skill so quickly.
The Initial Sketch
Step Four: Sketch out some conceptual design ideas. Decide on the basis of your cover research to abandon the parchment idea and go with a background of a scene instead because this is better suited to your genre. After all, in book cover design, genre comes first. (This is because the whole aim of a cover is to communicate what kind of readers will enjoy this book, so that the 'right' readers will decide to read it. Otherwise, you end up with unhappy readers who got a romance when they wanted a thriller.)
Step Five: Finalise a sketch design inspired by your favourite book cover in your genre. Then transfer it onto high quality watercolour paper. Next, start painting the background the dark, luxurious, warm blue that you took from your research.
Step Six: Have a major wobble about the fact that the cover background looks hand-illustrated rather than digital. Cry a bit, chat with your ever-patient partner-in-laughter about it into the wee hours of the morning, and send a text to a close friend about how wibbly you are feeling about the whole creative thing. (Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that if one project in your business is going 'wrong', then all of the rest of it must absolutely also be a failure!)
Step Seven: Decide, with help from your friends and partner-in-laughter, that there is nothing else for it but to have faith that your hand-illustrated cover will work out. Plus, there will always be a backup plan if Plan A fails. One which will hopefully involve cake. Your plan is now to finish illustrating the cover design you already have, apply the final ink layer and then digitise the painting. Tell yourself it will all be fine and just to have fun with it on a regular basis!
Continuing the Painting is an Act of Faith!
Step Eight: Write a blog post about your process for designing a book cover before you know whether your process has actually worked. Who'd want to do things the conventional way?
I hope this article has been illuminating, instructive and entertaining!