2011-04-16

The making of, Part 3:The cover

I created the cover for this book using a tool called The Gimp. I chose this tool because it is fairly powerful and it is Free. Free Software (capital F) is software that has source code available and a license that gives users certain freedoms. One of those freedoms is the freedom from corporate meddling. I value my freedom and so I try to run Free software as much as possible; my computer runs Fedora Linux and all the tools I used to create The Mouse and The Bean are Free Software.

The Gimp has many features in common with Photoshop and I learned about many of those features by reading Photoshop websites. It was through those websites that I learned about layers, transparencies, masks, paths, and other important graphics-editing concepts. With some practice I was able to whip up a cover for the book.

The cover is composed of several key layers. Bottom-most is the brown texture which is actually a tea-stained paper that I scanned. I had toyed with the idea of using this texture for all the pages in the book but it didn't really work for the inside pages. I then put it on the cover and started adding elements such as the mouse and the bean.

After a while it became clear that the brown texture wasn't really textured enough, and the cover looked like the brown craft paper we used to use in elementary school to wrap our textbooks. At this point I decided that I needed more. I browsed through the artwork that LeBinh had provided and thought that the picture of the mouse's dream would be the best one to use as a backdrop. I desaturated it and made it transparent, giving a see-through grey outline of the dream image. Then I experimented with different layouts for the main elements.

My trusty illustrater told me that she preferred a layout with some curving text, to give the cover a bit of distinction over the title page of the book. I had to learn how to make curving text in Gimp: you have to make a path, then expand and shrink the path in order to create outlines. It took some practice to fit the path along the curve so that the text wasn't all squished to one side. With the circular title text we finally had our winner.

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