PP guide to cover pages

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The problem...

You are PPing a book and do not have a suitable cover page. You have looked and asked around, but it doesn't seem as though you will be able to get one from the correct edition, or perhaps the cover is blank or plain.

The solution...

You can create your own cover image, include it in your images folder, and tell ebookmaker where to find it. The first wave of details and discussion are in this forum thread. More recently, it was suggested that the public domain disclaimer text could be included on the cover. This has been given official approval.

But, how do you actually create the cover image? Below are two possible methods, using different tools. The first (by charliehoward) uses PhotoShop Elements; the second (by windymilla) uses XnView (version 1.99 for Windows). If you have access to PhotoShop Elements, it is easier to use and to adjust your layout; with XnView once you have placed text, etc on the page, you will not be able to adjust its position, except by un-doing and re-doing. However, XnView is free.

These blank book cover images may be useful as a base when creating your own cover image.

DP policy

It is DP policy that, when we create a new cover for a coverless book, we confine ourselves to images that are found within the book itself rather than images found in other versions of that book or other possibly public-domain images. PG also requires that covers include "The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain." either within the cover image itself or in text below it.

It is preferable to also add the pgdp.net URL to the cover image; however, the decision on whether or not to do that is left up to the individual PPer.

Information for all types of cover
  • You must include a cover image in your images folder called cover.jpg (or, much more rarely, cover.png, if the image is appropriate as a "png") with your project.
  • It is desirable and recommended for cover images to be at least 1600x2560 pixels (width x height). The approximate aspect ratio should be approximately 1 : 1.6. Generally, dimensions should be no greater than 5000x5000 pixels. There is no specific file size limit, but please use judgment so the size is not larger than it needs to be. If your original cover image is less than 1600x2560 pixels, please submit the best resolution available without scaling them up, since upscaling does not improve image quality.
  • If you also display the cover in your HTML version, specify image dimensions there using em or percentage units rather than pixels.
  • Tell ebookmaker where to find the cover by adding the following line into your HTML header, just below <title>...</title>
<link rel="icon" href="images/cover.jpg" type="image/x-cover" />

It is DP policy that, when we create a new cover for a coverless book, we confine ourselves to images that are found within the book itself rather than images found in other versions of that book or other possibly public-domain images. PG also requires that covers include "The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain." either within the cover image itself or in text below it (within the text of the book itself), or in the Transcriber's Note.

For French books the wording would be -- "La page de couverture, créée expressément pour cette version électronique, a été placée dans le domaine public."

For German books the wording would be -- "Das Umschlagbild wurde vom Bearbeiter gestaltet und in die Public Domain eingebracht." The above sentence, however, is useful only in the context of US copyright law and could therefor remain in English should the PPer wish. If the book is "gemeinfrei", the text would be: "Das Umschlagbild wurde vom Bearbeiter geschaffen. Ein Urheberrecht wird nicht geltend gemacht. Das Bild darf von jedermann unbeschränkt genutzt werden."

For Spanish books, the wording is "El transcriptor ha creado la imagen de la cubierta y la sitúa en el dominio público."

It is preferable to also add the https://www.pgdp.net URL to the cover image; however, the decision on whether or not to do that is left up to the individual PPer.

Title-pages from the book may be used as a cover and, since they are a part of the original book, may be used without stating that the cover was created and placed in the public domain, etc.

If a book has a cover image but it is blank and contains no images or text, it is preferable to treat the book as coverless and arrange to create a cover for it following the guidelines expressed above.

Custom Covers created by other volunteers

If you would like to have another volunteer create a cover for you, simply post on the We've Got You Covered team area. You'll be asked to provide images from the book if they're available or possibly a copy of the title page.

Tasks common to all tools

When you have finished creating your cover image, possibly using one of the checklists below, there are a few tasks to ensure that your image is displayed correctly, and that we meet PG's requirements on created cover pages.

A) Copy the cover image you have saved into the images folder you will upload. You should name it cover.jpg.

B) Don’t forget to add the following line to your HTML file - it needs to be within the <head> section - just after </title> is a good place. This is to tell ebookmaker where to find the cover image:

<link rel="coverpage" href="images/cover.jpg" />

C) You also need to mention that you created the cover and place it in the public domain. This is a requirement from PG, who have stated that such a note should be somewhere "in the frontmatter".

There are two ways to do this. The simplest is to include a suitable statement (e.g. "Cover image created by transcriber and placed in the public domain") on the cover itself. Alternatively, you can include the statement in a Transcriber's Note at the start of the book, as described below.

Something like the following will ensure that the note about the cover appears in the epub versions, but won’t show in the HTML version (since the created cover isn’t usually shown in the HTML version either). Firstly, you need a bit of CSS. This defines what you want your Transcriber Notes to look like, e.g. gray background, etc. Use whatever you normally do for TNs. Then it defines a covernote class which will make your note hidden and not displayed. The @media block then overrides this for handheld devices, so your note will be displayed on them.

div.tnotes {background-color: #eeeeee; border: 1px solid black; etc, etc} 
.covernote {visibility: hidden; display: none;} 
@media handheld {
  .covernote {visibility: visible; display: block;} 

It may be that your main TN is at the end of the book, and the epub cover TN is the only one that is required at the front. In this case, you can use the covernote class on the whole div (immediately after <body>), as follows.

<div class="tnotes covernote"> 
  <p>The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.</p> 

However, if you have other notes that you want to appear at the front of the book, you will want the div to be displayed, but just the cover image paragraph hidden, something like this:

<div class="tnotes"> 
  <h3>Transcriber's Notes</h3> 
  <p class="covernote">The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.</p> 
  <p>Other information readers require before reading the book...</p> 

To view in your browser what the TN will look like in the epub version, temporarily change "@media handheld" to "@media all" in the CSS above.

Using PhotoShop Elements

Note: The size of the covers mentioned in the paragraphs below is no longer appropriate for cover images.

Here is a rainbow assortment of generic blank covers: blankcovers, with an appropriate size (584x784) for use in epubs. The zip contains .tif's not .jpg's, and is 7.5 MB in size. Download it and unzip the files to a folder that'll be easy to access when you are preparing a project.

The covers are derived from part of the cover of a project I pp-d in late 2012, so it definitely has clearance. I cleaned it up a bit and added a shadow to simulate the binding crease, then changed the colors to make several variations.

If you are using PhotoShop Elements (PSE), this is the procedure I use to create a cover when the project does not contain one. These instructions refer to "coverblank.tif", but you can use the name of whichever one you choose to use:

1. Drag "coverblank.tif" onto the PSE shortcut to open it in PSE, or start PSE and find/open "coverblank.tif".

2. To change the color (other than selecting one that's already the color you want): press Ctrl-U to open the Hue/Saturation/Lightness menu, then drag the first slider (Hue) left or right slowly, until you like the color. If you want a grey or black color, drag Saturation all the way to the left and drag Lightness until it's as dark/light as you like. When satisfied, click OK.

3. Optionally, add a picture from the project's higher-res illustrations: open the cleaned-up picture you've already prepared for the book, copy/paste it into the coverblank pane, and resize it so that there's enough room for the title and author to be large enough to read easily (see below). It'll be a Layer, and you'll want to leave it that way, at least for now.

  • Optionally, put a frame around the picture: select the picture, go to PSE's Edit menu, select "Stroke/outline selection," then choose the width (just a few pixels will suffice), inside/center/outside (probably outside, but you'll want to experiment), color, and blending (lots of room for creativity here). Click OK and if you don't like it, Ctrl-Z to undo, then try something else. PSE also has a library of fancy borders, but it's harder to use.

4. Select a font for the Title and Author. At the recommendation of a post much earlier in this thread (last Fall), I downloaded and installed "Gentium," as it's a Public Domain font. In fact, this does not matter, as you can use any font you like, without violating any copyrights or trademarks. (I sold fonts in a past life; what you cannot do legally is convey the underlying font file [.ttf etc.] to someone else, unless it's a Public Domain file.)

  • Use as large a font size as will fit: 96 point generally works for me, or 72 if necessary; and perhaps much smaller for "By" above an Author's name. Choose "Centering."
  • Recommendation: use a font color that is complementary to the book cover's color.
  • Recommendation: make the Title and the Author separate layers, so that, when done, you can move them around.

5. Recommendation: when you are happy with the cover, save it as a PhotoShop file (.PSD) to preserve the layering in the admittedly unlikely event you may want to improve it later on. Call it "cover.psd" and save it in one of the project's folders, but not in the "images" folder.

6. Use "Save As..." to save "cover.jpg" into the project's "images" folder with medium-to-high-quality ( 7 or 8 ), depending on how large PSE thinks the resulting file will be. I think our Guidelines suggest that covers be no more than 150KB or maybe 200KB, but don't recall for sure right now. Using "Progressive jpg" will make the file a little smaller and let it seem to load a little faster.

7. You're done, and since you haven't altered "coverblank.tif," you can use it in future projects. The reason for starting with a TIFF is to avoid the degredation of the lossy-jpg compression.

Using XnView

Note: The size of the covers mentioned in the paragraph below is no longer appropriate for cover images.

1. Download the blank covers that Charlie provided.

2. Unzip the file coverblank.tif into the folder you will work in.

3. Open the blank cover with XnView. You may be able to do this by right-clicking coverblank.tif and choosing Open With… If not, then start XnView and use File | Open.

4. Now save it as a jpeg file with a suitable name. Use File | Save As… to do this. Make sure that the “Save as type” near the bottom says something like “JPG – JPEG / JFIF”. Click the Options button and make sure the Quality slider is set to about 70 or 80. Click OK to close the Options window, then type in a suitable filename (e.g. cover.jpg) and click Save.

5. At any point you can use File | Save and click Yes to overwrite this file, or use File | Save As… if you’d rather save under another name (e.g. when you are experimenting with something and would like to be able to get back to your original).

6. Next, choose your colour. You can do this using Image | Adjust | Hue/Lightness/Saturation…

7. Slide the Hue slider to pick the colour (e.g. 60). Slide Lightness to make it lighter or darker (e.g. 10). Slide Saturation to strengthen or dilute the colour (e.g. -30). Those example values will give you a pale blue. If your computer is not too slow, you can probably tick the “Apply to image” box and see the changes directly in the image, rather than just in the thumbnail. When you are happy, click OK.

8. In order to get text and/or images nicely aligned or centered, you might find the Grid helpful. Use View | Grid Settings… to choose the grid spacing (e.g. 40), thickness (e.g. 1) and colour (e.g. grey). Then choose View | Show Grid to overlay it on your blank cover – it won’t appear in your saved cover.

9. If you want to add an illustration, then see below. If not, carry on.

10. You will need to place each piece of text separately. For example if your title is “The Best Book in the World” and you want it on 4 lines like this

Best Book
  in the

with "The" and "in the" in a smaller font. then you will need to place 4 pieces of text. This is where the grid will come in useful.

11. Now begin to add text using the Image | Add Text… option. There is a keyboard shortcut for this, Shift+T, which will save you some time.

12. In the Add Text window, you can choose the font (e.g. Gentium Basic, Bold, Size 36), and the Text colour. You can experiment with a different Outline colour, and the Opacity (e.g. 50% to allow the cover texture to show through). Alignment Center is easiest for placing centered pieces of text one below the other. You might want to use Alignment Left or Right if you are placing several lines of text in one go.

13. Add the title, the author and the date by referring to your title page (check carefully for typos!) If you are like me you will probably make frequent use of Edit | Undo (shortcut Ctrl+Z) when you place it slightly wrong. You can undo several steps, then Redo them (shortcut Ctrl+Y) if you want to.

14. Zoom out to 20% or 25% size to see what your cover will look like as a thumbnail – most importantly, can you read the title?

15. Use File | Save and click Yes to save your final version.

Additional XnView information on adding an illustration to the front cover

Insert these at point 9 above.

16. If you have a hi-res image that you want to include on the front cover, load the hi-res illo into XnView. Crop it to remove any border you don’t want – you probably don’t want a white border, so depending on the type of illo, you may well crop right up to the picture. Look in the status bar to find the aspect ratio of your illo. It should say something like “1148x1752x24, 0.66” Your aspect ratio (0.66) is the ratio of width to height and is important to retain or your illo will look stretched or squashed.

17. Now go to the cover you have prepared so far. Decide how wide you want the illo to be, e.g. 150 pixels. You can get an idea of the size you want by clicking and dragging a rectangle on your cover in XnView and looking in the status bar at the bottom. The size of the area you have selected appears to the right of the other numbers, and will say something like “150x226, 0.66” Note that the aspect ratio 0.66 shows that you have judged the ratio of width and height to approximately match the illo you will be pasting. From now on, each time you switch back to the cover page, take care not to click accidentally in the graphics area, or you will lose the selection area you have set up, and it will be a bit fiddly to get it exactly right again.

18. Now go back to the illo. Use Image | Resize… set the width to the size you chose (150). Make sure that “Keep ratio” is ticked so the image doesn’t get squashed. Click OK to resize it. Note that you do not need to save this resized image - you will just copy and paste it in a few minutes. If you do save it, make sure you don't overwrite the original illustration file. In the status bar you can now see the actual height of your resized image (e.g. 150x229), which will be close but not necessarily identical to the height you dragged on the cover page in the previous step.

19. Go back to the cover page. Carefully grow/shrink the height of your selected area to make it match the illo (in this case 229). Drag the whole selection rectangle around on the page to choose exactly where you want it.

20. If do not want/need to add a black border to your illo, then omit the next three steps.

21. To add a black border of 2 pixels, carefully grow your selection by 2 pixels on each of the 4 sides – you can zoom in to make this easier, and there is a little grab box in the middle of each side of your selection. The selection will now be 4 pixels larger in width and height than before (e.g. 154x233).

22. Now use Image | Adjust | Hue/Lightness/Saturation… and slide Lightness to -100. This will make the selected rectangle go black.

23. Now shrink the selection back by 2 pixels on each of the 4 sides, returning it to its original dimensions, but it is now surrounded by a black border.

24. Now go to the illo, and use Edit | Select All (Ctrl+A) to select it all, then Edit | Copy (Ctrl+C)

25. Return to the cover and use Edit | Paste (Ctrl+V) – your illo should now be on the cover page.