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Color Theory 101 for DIY Authors

Color expresses emotion, variations in temperature, it can also invoke reactions from its expression. Red can be angry, wild, danger, love, death. Colors can cause us to think and feel an assortment of things so you want to choose the colors of your designs with care.

Understanding how colors relate to one another and how they are created is the necessary place to begin. Color theory is something every designer and artist must know in order to create aesthetically pleasing designs in the software available to them.

Color theory is fun. Once you know how the colors relate to one another you can start building and designing with your own color palettes. Making those color palettes is fascinating because you can pull colors off of pictures and scenery in life, or you can build your own based on how colors work in relation to each other. Seeing your design grow from these beginnings to completion is remarkably satisfying.

Inside your design software, you will have a color picker and color wheel that you can choose colors from either by sight or by number. Colors by number are called HTML color codes and every color has one, see this table. You do not have to choose a color by its number, but knowing its number is a great way for you to build color palettes for your design projects.

I have a paper color wheel at home that I always refer to and it’s handy to have because I’m hands-on and a visual learner. You might want to get one too to play around with, it’s a great interactive way to learn the concepts of color theory and to start coming up with some artistic ideas of your own.

To purchase a color wheel for use at home you can find them at this link from Amazon.

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 A painter mixes all of their colors beginning with only the three primary colors. Mixing the primary colors will get you secondary colors, and mixing primary and secondary colors will get them tertiary colors. The artist can then add tints tones or shades using black and white to create all of the additional hues they might need.

Your job is to set a scene and appeal to the viewer’s senses by using combinations of the colors found in the first three phases, primary, secondary, and tertiary.

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These are your major colors that, when used correctly, can entice the viewer to investigate further. Rather than choosing a random scene for the cover of your book, which often only serves to confuse your audience, you can begin the layout of your graphic with a strategic color plan that can speak volumes about your book. When done correctly, color has more effect than most subject matter.

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Even with a good starting point, you’ll still typically need variations of hues to create your overall design. And no worries, hues are relatively simple. The following is a simple breakdown of color samples and how to create them.

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Hue: Hue is pretty much synonymous with what we actually mean when we say the word “color.” All of the primary and secondary colors, for instance, are “hues.”

Shade: You may recognize the term “shade” because it’s used quite often to refer to light and dark versions of the same hue. But actually, a shade is technically the color that you get when you add black to any given hue. The various “shades” just refer to how much black you’re adding.

Tint: Tint is the opposite of shade, but people don’t often distinguish between a color’s shade and a color’s tint. You get a different tint when you add white to a specific color. So, a color can have a range of both shades and tints.

Tone (or Saturation): You can also add both white and black to a color to create a tone. Tone and saturation essentially mean the same thing, but most people will use saturation if they’re talking about colors being created for digital images. Tones will be used more often for painting.

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CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black).

CMYK works on a scale of 0 to 100. If C=100, M=100, Y=100, and K=100, you end up with black. But, if all four colors equal 0, you end up with true white.

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RGB color models are designed for electronic displays, including computers.

For computers, RGB is created using scales from 0 to 255. So, black would be R=0, G=0, and B=0. White would be R=255, G=255, and B=255.

When you’re creating color on a computer, your color module will usually list both RGB and CMYK numbers. If you’re designing digital images, RGB is best to use. But remember to design in CYMK for your book covers or they will come out much darker than the original design when they are printed.

Creating Color Schemes

Now that we’ve got all of the basics out of the way, let’s talk about how to actually use this newfound knowledge.

You’ve probably noticed before that some colors look great together and others … just don’t. The colors we choose can help enhance a design, or it can take away from a design.

When you’re figuring out how to design a graphic, it’s important to remember that how we perceive colors depends on the context in which we see them.

Never use black or white as they aren’t true colors and can often blend with the background color of many websites and platforms. You’ll find that a tint of most hues will work just fine as white, and shades of many hues work perfectly to achieve a black appearance.

Color context refers to how we perceive colors as they contrast with another color.

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Analogous structures do not create themes with high contrasting colors, so they’re typically used to create a softer, less contrasting design. For example, you could use an analogous structure to create a color scheme with autumn or spring colors.

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Using a monochromatic scheme allows you to create a color scheme based on various shades and tints of one hue. Although it lacks color contrast, it often ends up looking very clean and polished. It also allows you to easily change the darkness and lightness of your colors.

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Triadic color schemes are great if you want contrast, but they can also seem overpowering if all of your colors are chosen on the same point in a line around the color wheel. To subdue some of your colors in a triadic scheme, you can choose one dominant color and use the others sparingly, or simply subdue the other two colors by choosing a softer tint.

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The complementary color scheme provides the greatest amount of color contrast. Because of this, you should be careful about how you use complementary colors in a scheme.

It’s best to use one color predominantly and use the second color as accents in your design.

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The split-complementary color scheme can be difficult to balance well because unlike analogous or monochromatic color schemes, the colors used all provide contrast (similar to the complementary scheme).

Adobe Color

This free online tool allows you to build color schemes based on the color structures described above. Once you’ve chosen the colors in any scheme, you can copy and paste the HEX or RGB codes into whatever program you’re using.

It also features hundreds of premade color schemes for you to explore and use in your own designs. If you’re an Adobe user, you can easily save your themes to your account.

Once you find the color “themes” of your document, you can open up the preferences and locate the RGB and HEX codes for the colors used.

You can then copy and paste those codes to be used in whatever program you’re using to do your design.

Things to Remember

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I hope this helps you on your DIY journey to amazing author graphics!

Why Authors Need to Understand Color Blindness

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When it comes to cover design and graphics the last thing most DIY authors will think to consider is color blindness. With almost 10% of the world having some form of color blindness, an amount nearly equal to the population of the United States, this affliction is something everyone should consider when it comes to graphic design. If you suffer from color blindness what comes next can help you create great designs too.

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Types of Color Blindness

It’s good to know the different types of color blindness in order to appreciate what your colorblind viewers will be seeing in your designs.

Color blindness doesn’t mean that you only see in black and white; that is one form of color blindness, although it is very rare.

Color blindness is most common in reds and greens and then less commonly in blues and yellows. This is where color blindness relates to the difficulty in distinguishing between certain shades of certain colors. Some colors tend to blend into one another.

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Some Rules for Designing

  1. Avoid the following color combinations: these color combinations are difficult for people with colorblindness: Green & Red; Green & Brown; Blue & Purple; Green & Blue; Light Green & Yellow; Blue & Grey; Green & Grey; Green & Black.
  2. Make it monochrome: Take the design you’ve made in your design platform and switch it to grayscale mode. When you are seeing it in only black and white and shades of gray, you can easily spot where colors may blend together for someone with colorblindness.
  3. Use high contrast: High contrast is something to consider in design because people affected by colorblindness can usually distinguish between colors when there is a high degree of contrast.
  4. Colors won’t signal emotion: color for most people symbols mood and evokes emotion, but it won’t for people who are color blind. Make sure you are adding good design elements beyond color to relate mood or stir emotion.
  5. Use texture instead: in maps and infographics you can try using texture in addition to color to differentiate between objects.

For designers’ it will help to see what a person who is colorblind might be seeing when they’re viewing their designs. Some of these links are also helpful to designers who suffer from colorblindness. If you are wanting to get it right, here are some links to help you do just that.

  • Colorblind Web Page Filter: here you can just type in a URL and choose which type of colorblind filter you’d like to apply. Now you can see your design in that form of colorblindness.
  • Coblis: another great colorblind simulation application.
  • Color Laboratory: this will help you choose which colors will work well together for a colorblind viewer.
  • Color Oracle: color blindness simulation for Windows, Mac and Linux users.
  • Color contrast visualizer: this will help any designer choose good color combinations.

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Design Help for the Colorblind

There is no reason why you can’t create great designs even if you’re colorblind. All you need to get started are some great color pallets. Below is a link to a site that will help you whether you are colorblind or not, to create pallets that will work in every single design you create.

Coolers: this sight will help you create beautiful color pallets that you can then use in your graphic design software.

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Are You Color Blind?

Many people have some form of color blindness and aren’t aware of it. Here’s a link to a test to find out if color blindness affects you:

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I want to thank my editor for reminding me that I hadn’t included this section in my cover design book! He’s the best! I recommend Dennis to all of my clients:

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Thanks Dennis!

 

 

It’s Easy to Design Your Own Graphics

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You really can design your own book covers and author graphics:

With a bit of training, you can start designing almost right away.

You can get the right software if you know what to look for.

From all my talks with indie authors I’ve had over the years, the biggest turnoff to designing for themselves is the software. Either they can’t find good software or it is too hard to learn.

I normally would tell people to leave the designing to the professionals, but not everyone has that in their budget.

Here are some basic design principles you should know:

Before you go purchase software, let me introduce you to some basic design principles. This way you can see that you will be capable enough to give it a go.

Balance

Most of us can tell what looks well balanced and what doesn’t. What you may not know is that there are different forms of balance.

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  • The visual weight of your design elements can be evenly distributed on either side of the design in order to be symmetrical.
  • Asymmetrical balance is the balance achieved through color, scale, and contrast to achieve flow. Most of your designs will be asymmetrical.

Start looking at book covers and graphic designs and point out the flow. Notice how design elements are chosen for their color, scale, and contrast. How each element works with the others to draw the eye to focal points. The design flow will draw your eyes through the elements of the design and to those focal points.

In a matter of seconds, you can decern the mood, the genre, and the theme of the design, hear its message visually. In those few seconds, a reader will decide whether or not you’ve piqued their interest.

Proximity

Proximity creates a relationship between similar or related elements. These elements are visually connected by way of font, color, size, etc. Basically, the things that are related should be nearer to each other.

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Proximity can create relationships between the visual elements in a composition. It can create relevance, hierarchy, organization, and structure. Or, there can also be no relationship between elements, by breaking organization and structure.

Alignment

You will want to be sure that the elements of your design are in alignment. You might center all the text to the centerfold of the design. You might zigzag the flow by centering the top and bottom text, but then staggering a blurb that you want to stand out. You can align elements across a design or diagonally. Watch for different types of alignment and what appeals to you.

Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is important because it can help lead the viewer through the message of the design. The viewer’s eye will follow this visual hierarchy.

Each element of your design will carry more or less visual weight. More important elements are given extra visual weight to move them up the hierarchy. You can use larger or bolder fonts to highlight the title, etc. What color you use can determine hierarchy. Large to small, bold to soft, bright to dark, top to bottom, left to right, etc., these all are part of a visual hierarchy.

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Repetition

A large part of graphic design is branding. As an author, you will be developing your own visual brand too. Repetition in design is fundamental, but essential when it comes to branding.

Repetition creates a rhythm, it ties together the consistent elements and strengthens the overall design. There are certain elements that will make viewers instantly recognize your brand. These design elements include your color palette, fonts, and your logo.

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Contrast

The contrast will guide the viewer to key design elements. Two opposing design elements create contrast:

  • dark vs. light
  • contemporary vs. old-fashioned
  • large vs. small, etc.

Organization and a hierarchy can be established with contrast. Using contrast is useful in creating visual interest too.

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Color

Color is basic in design and is also used within other principles of design. Color expresses mood so what palette you choose is very important. As a graphic designer, it’s always helpful to have a basic knowledge of color theory, take the time to do a little research. This will pay off hugely in the long run. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a color wheel for easy reference.

Amazon.com: Cox 133343 Color Wheel 9-1/4"-

Negative Space

The space that is left blank in your design is called negative space. And just like dark matter in space, it’s an area that contains nothing flashy, or no design elements. No design elements except for maybe some background color. If used creatively, negative space can help create a shape and highlight the important components of your design.

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by Brian Caldwell

Typography

Typography is a key element in graphic design. It can speak volumes. Typography can set the mood, establish it’s own hierarchy, and even express genre. It’s important not to use overly used fonts in graphic design. Overly used fonts are most of the font’s that come with your common word software. You are better off purchasing your fonts.

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Rules

The only real rule in graphic design is to not use true black or white in your designs, they won’t transfer correctly in printing or on the web. Other than that you are free to design in your own style, whatever that may be.

These principles are your guide to creating great graphics and building a solid brand.

Now to get your software:

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Before you continue to the next section, you should know that I am NOT affiliated with the software listed below. I won’t earn anything if you purchase one of them from any of the links posted.

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Here are the top graphic design platforms:

Affinity Designer: You can get this platform for a one-time payment of $24.99. (2020)

This is awesome software for the price. It will give you all the tools you need to create great graphics and is easy to learn. This platform is smaller in size than others and won’t bog down your computer. You will have access to free updates and Affinity Designer also runs very smoothly and quickly, even on older machines. Here is the link to the tutorials.

Adobe Photoshop: You can get this platform for $20.99 per month. (2020)

I use Photoshop, I like that you can use it for photo editing and compositing, digital painting, and graphic design. It works for all of my design needs when it comes to creating book covers. Photoshop is an excellent program used for creating images, photo editing, and graphics design or to add special effects to images. Vector graphics are not used in photoshop because it is pixel-based software. Here’s the link to their tutorials.

Gravit Designer: This platform is a free full-featured vector graphic design app.

With this platform, you can design from anywhere on any machine. You won’t have the versatility of Affinity or Adobe, but you can make graphics on the fly for blogposts. Gravit is mostly vector-based software, but has image manipulation and editing, and is a good cheap alternative to Affinity. Here is the link to their tutorials. This would be the software I would use if I couldn’t afford Photoshop and Adobe Suites.

Inkscape: This software is free and is a great substitute for Photoshop.

Inkscape is a free open source vector-based software because it does not take the resources of RAM nevertheless you are under MS Windows or Linux Distribution like Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, OpenSUSE, RedHat, etc. Inkscape is better because it has own plugins for bevel and emboss, image manipulations, some times it behaves like photoshop. Here is the link to Inkscapes tutorials.

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These basics will get you started and headed in the right direction. Just remember that learning how to create great designs is a process. You will improve over time. But there’s no reason you can’t create some pretty great graphics right out of the gate.

Good Luck!

 

 

Why You Need a Book Poster

By Jessica Kane

Independent authors are faced with many unique challenges, and one of the most daunting is promotion.

Seeing your book in print for the first time is a special moment that soon gives way to the sobering reality that now you must market it properly.

One of the most effective ways to do this is with a book poster.

There are a few reasons why you need a book poster copy

  • A poster is a highly-portable and visual way to draw attention to your book that can be used in variety of methods and places.
  • Aside from book blogging, which is a great method of promotion for independent authors, a book poster that is professionally designed lends a certain amount of credibility to your status as an author.
  • While the number of self-published authors has grown in recent years, there is still something of a stigma attached to independent publishing. Many readers have a perception that the writing of an independent author cannot be as good as that of an author with a big publishing contract. This is patently false, of course, but it is still something you must overcome. One way to do that is to mimic the promotion methods used by mainstream publishing houses, and the book poster has long been used to generate a buzz for new releases. Just check the window of your local bookstore the next time you visit.

The thing is, any old poster won’t do. Too many independent authors make the mistake of trying to design their own or of using a cheap online printing service. A poorly designed poster can actually hurt your chances for sales rather than improve them. If you are going to use a poster, having it professionally designed offers significant advantages. A designer can bring their creative skills into play in order to capture the essence of your book in a way that others cannot.

Think about it. If you are an independent author, writing is what you do. It is far more efficient to spend your time book blogging than to spend it designing a poster or banner. The money you spend on hiring someone to design a poster for you is well-spent because it frees you up to do what you do best–write.

Getting a book poster designed is actually one of the most cost-effective methods of book promotion because a poster has a wide variety of applications.

  • Posters can be bundled with pre-order offers to enhance the chances that people will make a purchase. Be honest. How many times have you purchased a book because you liked the cover art? You’re not alone. The importance of graphic presentation is something the big publishers have always understood. If you sign some posters and include them with a pre-order, there is a chance that you will make more sales.
  • If you are promoting your book with signings at local book retailers, using posters to promote the event and having some on hand to sign is a plus. Once again, the quality of the poster is all important. You only have one chance to make a good impression with it.
  • Posters are an integral part of the press kit that you should assemble and send to media outlets and reviewers in advance of your book’s publication. Critics are just like anyone else. They, too, can be swayed by slick presentation. If you include a poster with your marketing materials you are sending a message that you are a serious player. The absence of nice graphics in the form of a poster or banner will often sound the death knell for an independent author. If a reviewer takes your book out of the envelope and it looks like a self-published work, expect it to be shuffled to the bottom of the heap where it may or may not get a review.

Overall, book posters are a wise investment. They should be a part of your marketing budget for their ability to increase exposure in a way that is effective and economical when weighed against other methods of promotion.

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unnamedJessica Kane is a professional writer who has an interest in graphic design, marketing, and printing. She currently writes for 777 Sign, her go to place for banner signs, custom flags and custom signs printing.

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Why Authors Should Hire a Professional Copywriter

Do you need copy written for your website or blog that will market your books or your product? Thinking about doing it yourself? You may want to think again. While most everyone knows how to write, that is, put ideas down on paper. Most people don’t know how to sell through writing. And that’s what copywriting is all about: effectively selling a product or service through the power of words.

Quality.

A writer writes. Period. That’s all they do. They know how to write persuasive copy that packs a punch, gets attention “and sells more.

Positioning.

Yes, it’s true, some people have a knack for writing. But developing copy for marketing materials (things like brochures, websites, and campaigns) goes beyond good grammar and spelling. It’s about knowing how to properly position your book so that it stands out and motivates your target audience to take action. A professional copywriter knows how to do that.

Perspective.

You’re in the middle of preparing for a new book launch, scheduling a meeting with your editor, hiring a new assistant and a myriad of other tasks. Sometimes you get so busy that you lose perspective about your business as an author and about what makes your book unique in the eyes of your customers and prospects. In essence, you can’t see the forest for the trees. But a professional copywriter can bring fresh eyes and fresh ideas to the table. They are not caught up in the day-to-day inner workings of your business as an author and can therefore, many times, do a better job of communicating big picture concepts about your books.

Clarity.

Even if you are a good writer, you may not understand how to write for your target audience. A professional copywriter can take a complex concept one that you may easily understand, but your customers may not and turn it into easy-to-read copy.

Brevity

Let’s face it. In today’s too-much-information age, everyone is deluged with more then they can possibly read. But a professional copywriter knows how to get ideas across using words economically. They can take all the information you provide and translate it into succinct and relevant points. With the help of a professional writer, your copy will take on a new energy, crispness, and focus.

Convenience.

Your time is valuable and effective writing is a time-consuming task, constricting your already tight schedule. By hiring a professional copywriter, you’ll be able to focus on other tasks, while the copywriter does what he or she does best, writes.

Supporting the design.

A well-designed website, brochure, or direct mail campaign requires strong copywriting. If you have eye-catching graphics, you’ll invite your audience to begin reading. Compelling content will keep them reading. A professional copywriter can ensure the success of your design efforts by holding the attention of your audience.

The Bottom Line.

In today’s economy, selling books is as cutthroat as ever. You need copy that will get your books noticed. You need every tool in the box to stand out and persuade your target audience to act. A professional copywriter may just provide the edge you need.

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