Hello and welcome to another edition of Monday Blogs, the Twitter forum where writers share our ideas, styles and methodologies on independent writing and publishing. This soapbox should not be used to publicize our own works, but if our moderator will forgive me, I’m going to use some of my own advertising to illustrate where some writers may feel they’re deficient, but shouldn’t.

I steered clear of graphic programs for the longest time because I didn’t feel artistic or proficient enough to produce a professional product. The Twenty-First Century changed that with the advent of GIMP and a thousand YouTube tutorial videos. I was able to produce quality graphics after about twelve hours of practice and study. I’m still a beginner, so frame my advice accordingly. If you know a better way of doing business, correct me! Please make me a better GIMPer!

(You could also watch videos, you know, but some writers love to read, so here we are. And here we go.)

Download GIMP. It’s free, easy to use, and there’s a lot of help to be had for the newbies like myself.

Train your brain to think in layers. The background layer is the foundation of your image. The text layer is your message, and the other layers can be pretty pictures to add POP. For this picture, I’m using three layers.

Here’s my background layer from my book cover. I cropped it in Microsoft Paint (don’t laugh) and imported it into GIMP as a layer. (“File” -> “Open as Layers…” -> Click OK)

panoramic view of dark clouds in death valley national park, nevada, usa

Gaussian Blur seems to be the industry standard, so I blurred the background so the foreground sticks out. (“Filters” -> “Blur” -> “Gaussian Blur”)

I shrunk a copy of my final book cover using MS Paint (I told you not to laugh) and imported it as a layer like Step 3 above. After I had jumped through the “MS Paint” hoops, I learned to scale my layers. You can figure that out on your own. Use the “Move” tool to…uh…move your cover to where you need it (“Tools” -> “Transform Tools” -> “Move”).

The text layer was the easiest to add, but the hardest to learn to manipulate. Draw your window and start typing, then use the floating menu to change font and text color. This is a potential time suck, especially if you are new to graphic software. Consider stopping here and go watch tutorial videos (but you be you). (“Tools” -> “Text”)

You can pretty up your graphic with a border which will act as a fourth layer (“Filters” -> “Decor” -> “Add Border…”), and a supernova to draw the eye (“Filters” -> “Light and Shadow” -> “Supernova”), plus a dozen other special effects. I wanted to go crazy here, but there comes a point when you can overwhelm your message. I recommend that you look at what other writers are doing and copy them.

All done! GIMP is a great tool, and you’re only limited by your level of energy and the depth of your involvement. Take a leap! Cut yourself loose and have some fun!

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