Behind the Design ~ Keepsake Legacy Series

Posted By Roseanna on May 9, 2016 | 1 comment


A few months ago, I had one of those heart-racing moments. On an email list I belong to, a well-established author mentioned that she was re-releasing some of her backlist and asked for cover designer recommendations. Obviously, I offered my services. And was beyond thrilled when she hired me.

Because this is Stephanie Grace Whitson, whose books I passed many a teenaged weekend with. I have quite a few of them on my shelf to this day. So to get to help breathe new life into some of those older titles . . . well, that’s just pretty darn cool. =)

The first series up for new covers was The Keepsake Legacies Series: Sarah’s Patchwork, Karyn’s Memory Box, and Nora’s Ribbon of Memories.

First, of course, came the first one. Steph had sent along some photographs she had of the house she based the one in the book on, so I started there.

Of course, that’s just a little tiny photo, and it’s a scan of a paper photo, so I couldn’t enlarge it too much without losing quality. So I kept it small, and added in a big blue sky with some white clouds. Since this picture also ended rather abruptly, I also found another picture of a house with more of the surrounding area and stole some trees and yard and sidewalk. 😉

That seemed like a pretty good background to get me started; which meant it was time to tackle the model. This can be tricky for a historical. And especially tricky if you don’t just want to use the same stock images that everyone else is using. I do that sometimes, but I wanted something really special because this is Stephanie Grace Whitson. 😉 So I decided to build the models. Ahem. Just like Legos. 😉

I started with a model who I thought matched her character rather well.

I liked her hair, the way she was looking down . . . of course, the dress wasn’t right. And I wanted to get rid of that flower in her hair. So I copied some other hair from another pose of the same model in to get rid of the flower, and off I went to hunt for costuming.

I ended up choosing, in part, a public domain image of a dress from the appropriate era.

The styling was right, and I liked the white for this innocent young heroine . . . but it was way too frilly and over-the-top for her to be wearing on an everyday basis, and Steph had stressed “nothing fancy.” So I decided to turn it into a shirtwaist and use another image of a plain skirt.

Of course, I had to do some copying and pasting to get the sleeve to fit around the model’s arm, and paste the hand on top so it was interacting with this garment. Also fit the high collar around her face better with some copying and deleting. Love how it turned out.

I liked the composition of this, but I wanted a softer look. First I ran a Photoshop Action, which is pre-set list of steps taken to change shading that you can overlay over a work with a single click. I also added a texture, to get this.

Then it was time for words. I started with Stephanie’s name, at the top and attention-grabbing. It’s in a standard font (one of my favorites, Linus Libertine), arranged so that the last name is as wide as first and middle together. To get it stand out, I faded a layer of cream out behind it, just a bit.

Now the series name. I knew this would have to be consistent across all the books, and I wanted to make it simple and elegant, but also easy to read in a thumbnail. I decided to put it at the bottom, with some elegant scrollwork behind it (and another faded layer to make it stand out). The font is the same as the author name.

Now, of course, the title. I wanted to combine the elegant Linux Libertine font with a beautiful script. so I went with Maphylla for the name and made it large. In typical me-fashion, I wove the two words together a bit, and also added a texture to “Sarah’s.”

I sent it to Steph, expecting the usual requests for tweaks and changes. To my surprise and delight, she absolutely loved it just as it was. =) Here’s how it turned out when I did the full cover.

Of course, the rest of the series wasn’t quite so easy. 😉 But I love how they eventually turned out too.

In these cases, the titles were simple, since I already had the fonts and positioning chosen. I just had to worry with main images. For #2, we were dealing with a sod house. Steph had sent a photo she had of one of those too, but I ended up using a stock image of the same one, from a slightly better perspective. 😉

She’s also sent me this image, as who her heroine was based on.

So off I went in search of a match. As I browsed model images, this one grabbed me right away.

There were similarities in the face shape, eye shape, etc. Of course, her hair was the wrong color, and she was a bit more glamorous than that black and white, LOL. But hair color can be changed, makeup can be digitally toned down, and I just loved the expression on her face. So I plugged her in, in front of the sod house.

But obviously the wedding dress wasn’t “it.” I put the same skirt on her as was on Sarah, changing the color, and debated what to do for the top. I decided a shawl might be cool, so I searched for images of woman with a shawl. This one seemed promising, so I gave it a try.

Darkening the redhead’s hair to match the color in the shawl picture (which was the correct color for Karyn), I ended up with this.

Of course, I needed a background, and I decided to try a stormy sky. I put that in and then I put on the words and sent to Stephanie.

She wasn’t sure about this one. She definitely didn’t like the stormy sky (too brown–which I can certainly see), and was concerned that the model was too beauty-model and not “ethnic” enough. Changing out the sky was easy.

And I tried some other models.

Looking at them all side-by-side, Steph decided there was something about the expression on the first model’s face that called to her, too, so she asked to see that model on the brighter background. And we ended up with our final.

And the full cover…

And finally, book 3.

This one promised to be a bit trickier. Steph wanted the store in the background, which meant I’d be hard-pressed to have any sky in there, as there aren’t many pictures of buildings like that with sky behind them. But Steph found this storefront image that she really liked, aside from the incorrect words on it.

And she suggested this model for the clothing.

Now, I love this series of this model–so much in fact that I’d already used it for WhiteFire’s Austen in Austin. I really don’t like to use the same images for multiple covers, so I decided I’d just make it so different you wouldn’t readily be able to tell it was the same. 😉

To start with, I tweaked the building as needed, and even took photos of some hats and hatboxes lying around my house (ahem) to fill the window and put the actual name of the shop in the story on it. Then I put in this model picture and changed the dress to a deep red. (And deleted the poor woman’s head, since she didn’t match the description.

I considered a version of this model with a parasol, but the parasol would have completely obscured the building, that idea had to go bye-bye, even though I knew this one’s spyglass wouldn’t be able to stay either. Then I went searching for a face that would match her description of Nora. I fell pretty quickly in love with this lovely lady for my purposes.

She fit the image perfectly in terms of body positioning, etc.

Interesting tidbit–Stephanie wasn’t sure at first that she matched the description of Nora, so went back to find a paragraph in the book describing her. As it turned out, my wild guesses matched the description perfectly! Full lips, perfectly arched brows, honey-blond hair. Yay! Always cool when that happens, LOL.

But of course, this woman’s makeup was Too. Much. Especially that red lipstick. I found someone with a a natural looking mouth…

…copied just that mouth, and then actually manipulated its shape to exactly match the model. Voila.

The final step was to get rid of the spyglass in her hands and replace it with something more appropriate. I found an image of a closed parasol and worked that in there.

Which gave us our final front.

And of course, the full. =)

So there we have it! The complete Keepsake Legacies Series. I love how these turned out, and I was so glad to know that Stephanie was pleased as well. Soon we’ll be getting started on the second series she’s re-releasing, and I’m excited to see where that one takes us. =)