Behind the Design ~ Grace Be a Lady

Posted By Roseanna on Apr 22, 2015 | 6 comments

I love firsts–the challenge of something new, looking up images I’d had no cause to look up before, working to please a new client and get to know them…and I just finished up a first for me. My first Western cover–that’s right, the first cowboy I’ve ever put on a cover! And I was pretty happy to learn that the heroine should be wearing a ball gown. I lLove pretty-dress covers. Love them. =D

But as I crafted Heather Blanton’s Grace, it occurred to m that y’all might be surprised to realize that the heroine you see on the cover is actually made of 3 models. Namely, these three.

I don’t always start my searches in the same place. Sometimes I begin looking for a model, sometimes for the clothing, sometimes I luck into finding a good model actually dressed in correct clothing, LOL. I was hoping for that this time when I started my search at, because I knew they had some lovely dress photos with lovely ladies wearing them. Knowing that Grace had strawberry blond hair and needed an 1890s dress with a bustle, leg-o-mutton sleeves (that’s seriously what they’re called) and that it should be purple, I set about browsing.

This one drew my eye. The dress was gold, but I knew I could change that. Her hair was the right color, though. And the dress was fairly true to the styling of the day. I’d have to lengthen the sleeve, but otherwise…not bad!

As it turned out, the model herself didn’t fit Heather’s image of Grace, and she wanted one with the girl looking happier…which didn’t exist in this series of photos. So I figured, eh, we’ll just find a new face, no biggie, LOL. But first, I had to make the dress lavender. And it also needed to be lower cut–a crucial plot point. So I deleted all we didn’t need and changed the color.

Coming along just fine, right? As it happens, I was working on this while watching TV with my husband, and he piped in with some nice commentary as I was working. Like, at this stage, “Agh! She’s headless! You’re so cruel!”

Yep, that’s me. Roseanna the Head Hunter. Laughing maniacally, I headed (ha ha) to to look for a picture of a blond with her hair up. As usual, I searched for brides, this time in profile to get the right angle of the body. While hockey continued on the TV, I paged through the options. Pretty soon I had snagged this lovely lady.

(Let’s all take a moment to notice how much like Princess Grace she looks…and hey, the character is Grace too! How perfect is that?) The angle looked really close, so I dropped her into my file, deleted what I didn’t want showing, and earned a “Whoa!” from my husband. Who leaned over my shoulder to say, “You just put those together. And they work. And it took you, like, three seconds.”

Oh yeah. I’m that good. 😉

I didn’t want her sparkly headpiece in the shot, so I did get rid of that with the help of the smudge and clone stamp tools (ignore the fact that part of her head is missing in the above–it isn’t really, LOL)

Feedback from Heather and the fans to whom she showed early versions of the cover showed me some things that needed changed, though. I decided to tilt her head down. I half-lowered her eyes. Made the sleeve smaller. And then the tricky part–she needed more of a, ahem, chest. Both models I’d been using were rather, er, flat. The dress I could reshape with my oh-so-clever Photoshop skills. But skin tones can be tricky, so for Grace herself…well, I went back to Shutterstock. And that’s where she comes in:

This happy bride had more of what I was looking for in that department. So yes. I copied her chest and pasted it onto the existing image, LOL. And hey, the result was pretty good!

Being happy with Grace, I then turned to cowboys. I found an image that was promising of a guy in a duster.

His face wasn’t right, so I actually put a new one in, LOL, but based solely on his outfit, there was potential…but Heather had another cover with a cowboy in a duster, so I kept looking. I ended up at iStock, where I found this gunslinger.

Not that I wanted the guy reaching for a gun on the cover, but he was half-behind Grace, so no biggie there. The bigger problem was that he was kinda missing his legs…so I had to fix that for him. Here’s an early version of the cover that had him behind her, on their background.

Early viewers agreed that they liked them…but that it looked like he was staring at her tushie, LOL. So I ended up tilting his head back the other direction.

No more staring at her tushie. 😉

Now for the background! You can see in the early cover above what I was going for. We needed Wyoming mountains for sure, and after looking at Heather’s covers for her current series, I decided to continue with the drama in them that comes of bold skies. So I started with this one:

Which was the correct perspective for behind my people…but the color in the sky didn’t really end up on the page once the photo was enlarged to fit behind them. So I also found this one.

The mountains and sky were perfect on this, but the foreground was all wrong. So, you know me. I combined them.

Not that it was quite as simple as it might sound, LOL. I selected the mountains and sky from the second photo, put it over top the first one, copied the treeline from the first to overlap those mountains…and decided the building looked funny peeking out from behind them, so I also used the Clone Stamp tool to borrow the texture from the grass and put it over the building to make it disappear. The new image was still too short, so I also just duplicated the grassy area and brought it down lower on the page, hence why you see identical patches in this photo…which wouldn’t be visible behind the figures. So that means we have this.

At this stage I’d also added a purple layer at the bottom, faded out, just to set off the eventual title

Overall, I really liked this, and so did Heather. Another slight change we made here was widening the cowboy so he wasn’t so rail-thin. To do that I quite simply widened the image, all but his head, which stayed the same. Just gave him a couple more inches of girth. =)

So then. Time for the words! This can sometimes be aggravatingly tricky, finding the perfect fonts. As you can see in that early cover I posted above, my first thought was an elegant script. But Heather wanted something more blocky and bold, so I eventually found that ParmaPetit gave me what I was looking for–a bold, rather standard serif font, but with a bit of a flair here and there.

Just a few things missing then–Heather had a tag line for this one that she wanted on the cover: Think like a lady. Act like a man. I also had to incorporate that. She’d mentioned she was okay with pretty flourishes behind or setting off the title (in our discussion of fonts), so I found this one.

I took just the top part, put it just behind and under the title, and then added a purple block at the bottom where the tagline would go.

The only thing missing now was the series title! It was rather long: Love and War in Johnson County. So I split it up, put that flourish behind it again, and made the book number large but at a lower opacity behind it.

And there we have it! Heather’s name went onto the top, and voila! My first Western romance cover with a cowboy. =)