Wow, we are really nearing the end of this series, aren’t we? When we started, you likely had photos spread across a bunch of media types, nothing was organized, and even thinking about starting this process seemed overwhelming. However, now that you have an organizational system in place (which is the biggest job in this whole thing), you can knock out a gorgeous custom family photobook in no time.
Last week, we looked at how to upload and arrange your book using the Shutterfly Photo Story app. Again, this is only one way to print your pages, but it is my favorite, so it’s what I’m sharing. Today, I’m going to teach you more about how I create a cover for my books.
One thing I love about our photobooks is that they are completely customized. They aren’t a premade theme with cookie cutter boxes for you to slip photos into. There is a very, very slim chance that anyone’s photobook will ever have the same style and layout as mine. I can personalize it as much as I want – which is something you don’t get with the standard photobook printing themes. Everyone who looks at my photobooks can’t believe it’s a Shutterfly book – and you can have the same results.
Now, this lesson is going to seem a little more advanced than the others, and to a certain degree it is, because it deals with photoediting software. It is also a lengthier post, because I included photos for every step so that you can feel confident in being able to do this. If you still feel uncomfortable, however, go ahead and look through the Shutterfly book styles and see if one matches your book theme and colors, and go for it. There are some really nice options available in Shutterfly. However, I like to completely customize mine, which is why I create my own, and why I’m going to show you how to create your own as well.
If you don’t have photoshop, that’s okay. You can download a free photo editing software called GIMP. I used GIMP up until recently, when I finally invested in Photoshop, and I created all of my covers using it. I’m going to share the tutorial using this product, since most people who pay the big bucks for Photoshop know how to use it anyway.
After downloading the program, download these three templates:
We’ll look at the pieces one at a time. First up – the front cover, which is also the bulk of the job. The back cover and spine will be super fast and simple once you get the front accomplished.
Open the front cover document that you just downloaded. To do this, double click on it, or right click and choose Open with –> GIMP. When the file is opened, you will see this:
Next up is to decide what background you want for your cover. Sometimes you can find papers that digital scrapbooking designers have created and offer as freebies that will match your theme, but I find the easiest way to get a matching paper quickly is to search and purchase it directly from the Digital Project Life site. (Note: Not the app, that we were previously using, the digital site. If you’re looking for more clarification on the differences betwen the app and digital Project Life, check out this explanation.)
Once you visit the Digital Project Life site, look for the search bar on the left hand side. Type the name of the kit you used into the search bar and hit search to see all of the available products for that kit.
I used the Playful kit for my 2015 book, and the search result came back with two paper packs available for that theme. Now it’s just a matter of personal preference, but I try to look for a paper that has a subtle, all over pattern. (If you like the pattern but think the color is too bold, don’t worry, we can fade it out later.) I generally use papers that catch the eye but aren’t too busy – and again, this step is totally personal taste. Oh, and I also try to pick a pack that has more than one option that would work – that way, if I don’t love my first choice, I can try another.
Once you have purchased and downloaded the item, locate the file, right click on it, and choose Extract All. When completed, open the new extracted folder (it should have the same name) to view your papers.
Click the paper you like best, and drag it into your GIMP program, onto the front cover document that you opened.
Your paper should be underneath the grey strip but over the white background. If it is mixed up, use the arrows in the layers area to adjust them. The grey strip should be on top, then your paper, then your white background.
If you want to adjust the opacity of your paper (i.e. make it fade out), use the slider at the top of the layers bar. Make sure you have selected your paper layer though – it will be highlighted as mine is in the image below. Adjust the transparency to whatever level you like – I usually find between 60-75% works well.
Now it’s time to add text. Choose the “A” icon from the toolbar – this is the text tool.
In the text tool that appears, you can click on the “Aa” button to change the text. I use the same font on all of my books to keep them consistent. I use Gardeny and KG All Of Me. You can obviously use whatever fonts you like best, but if you are going to use one font for all of your books, make sure it is universal and classic, and that you really love it.
Once you have selected your font, click on the cover and start typing. You may have to increase your size just to even see it, so don’t panic if you can see it at the default size of 18. Also, your text may be under another layer. Check the layers toolbar and make sure it is the top (or second to the top) layer. You can adjust the size and color in the same area where you changed the font.
Create a new text layer (so click on a new spot) for each piece of text. For me, I have four text layers: (1) hello, (2) 2015, (3) The vertical bar, (4) Our year in photos & videos. It doesn’t matter where you type, because once they are all typed, you can move the layers into place and size accordingly. To move a layer, click the move tool (circled below) and select “Move the Active Layer” from the options box that pops up. Make sure you have selected the layer you want to move (it will be highlighted in the layers box). To resize the text, click on the text tool again (the “A” icon) and click the text box you want to adjust, then increase or decrease the size.
Ta-da! Your text is complete. Now you just have to decide what else you want on the cover of your book. I usually choose one image that really captures the year, and add it to the front page. I love this 2009 album, and if it had been the first one I made, I would have created all of my covers like this one!
To do this, find the photo you want to use, and drag it into your cover project in GIMP. I chose a picture from our visit to my home province of Newfoundland, because it was one of my favorite times of 2015.
If your photo appears behind the background, simply use the arrows again to move the layer up.
If you wish to resize the picture, choose the scale tool, then click your image and drag to make it smaller. I wouldn’t advise you to increase the size, as this will make your image blurry.
Drag until you have the size you want, then release or click the scale button on the pop up.
To crop your image, use the rectangle select tool, and follow these steps:
- Draw a rectangle around the portion of the image you wish to select by clicking on one corner and dragging the rectangle box across your image.
- In the top menu, select Edit –> Cut.
3. Choose Edit –>Paste As –> New Layer.
4. Right click on the old image and choose Delete Layer.
5. Reposition your new, cropped image in the layers box.
To create a mat for your photos, follow these steps:
- Select the white background layer.
- Choose the rectangle select tool.
- Draw a rectangle around the outside of your photo, the same size as you would like your mat to be.
- Choose Edit –> Copy.
- Choose Select –> None.
- Choose Edit –> Paste as –> New Layer.
- Adjust in your layers box so that it is right under your photo.
- Right click on your photo layer and select merge down.
If you want to create a mat for your photos, you should create it AFTER any cropping and resizing, but before any rotating!
To rotate your photo, select the rotate tool.
Click your image, and drag it to rotate to your desired degree. Release and hit the Rotate button.
If you want to add more than one photo like I did for the 2014 cover, simply repeat the process above for each photo.
Once you have finished, hit File –> Export As.
Make sure the file type is set to .jpg, and enter the file name with .jpg at the end.
Set the quality to 100 and then hit Export.
And that’s it for the front cover! The spine and the back cover will be easy peasy now – it’s just simple text.
Open up the back cover file that you downloaded, and repeat the process of adding the paper. Fade to match the front cover.
Next, add text if you would like. Follow the same process as the front cover to add, size, recolor, and change fonts. As you can see in the layers box above, I have three text layers – (1) 2015, (2) the vertical bar, and (3) The Desjardins. Once you have them as you like, export the image again like you did for the front cover.
Now, open the spine file you downloaded.
There will be two layers – a white strip and a grey background. The white strip will be deleted, but it is to show where the boundaries of your text should be, to stay within the boundaries for the printing. Note: The spine height will vary, depending on how thick your book is, so make sure you adjust it to the size of your book on the shutterfly website.
Add your text and resize it to make sure it stays within the white strip. Once you have it how you like it, delete the white strip by right clicking on the layer and selecting “Delete Layer”.
Lastly, change the color if you want, and then export as you have for the front and back covers.
Once your photos are all exported, upload them to the Shutterfly website, and place them into the cover and spine spots. (Make sure that if you uploaded your pages through the app, you click Sync so you can edit the photobook on the website.) You can also email the photos to yourself and just upload them through the app.
And then, your book is complete! Isn’t that crazy?! Isn’t it beautiful?! I just love looking through the previews of the finished books.
All that’s left to do now is order. Shutterfly always has amazing deals on – to view their latest, check here. Also, check out my facebook page, I often share affiliate only specials that aren’t available to the general public.
Also, check out my latest photobook tutorial – how to add video (YES, VIDEO!) to your photobooks!