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How I Created the Cover for The Only Boy

// Author: Jordan Locke // 31 Comments

At the risk of demystifying the illusion, I’m going to reveal the process I went through while designing the cover for my novel. As I mentioned, I’m an artist by trade and went to school for graphic design.

For the longest time, when I thought of how the cover might look, I pictured rows of females and only one male. I drew this in Illustrator, a program for making line art and logos:

only boy cover1

The graphic image was too modern for a post-apocalyptic novel, and I thought a weathered look would give it the feel I was looking for. There were plenty of pictures of old paper on iStock to choose from. The textured type was created by heightening the contrast in Photoshop, selecting the fragments from the design and removing them. With the old paper added as a background, this is what the original design looked like:

only boy cover

I liked it well enough, but I figured adding an actual boy might give it a more human touch. I searched iStock again for a photo, but the boys were either too young or too old or not the look I’d envisioned. Then I found this guy:


In the beginning of the book, Taylor has a tan, but as you see, the boy in the photo is awfully pale. I tried darkening the skin, but he looked a bit odd, so I ended up deepening it and saturating it just a bit. This boy has hazel eyes, while Taylor has blue, so I changed the eye color and slightly enlarged them:

side by side

I needed a pair of hands, but the boy in the picture had them in his pockets, so I found a different iStock image of someone holding a piece of paper:

young man holding a blank billboard isolated on white background

I carefully cropped out the hands, adjusted the color to match and added them to the image. Finally, the background was changed to black (which involved a lot of masking). All in all, I’m happy with the result.


Tell me in the comment section: what do you think of the cover for The Only Boy?

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  1. Jordan Locke - January 17, 2014 12:07 am

    Please post a comment.

    • Lauree Jean Morris - January 29, 2014 6:05 am

      The creative process never ceases to amaze! I think I have found my next read.

  2. Michael J. Bowler - January 17, 2014 5:42 am

    Love how you did this cover and the final version will get me to buy the book, and I don’t even know what it’s about yet. Ha! If you check my blog, I wrote a whole post on cover art and how important it is to a book. I did the covers to my first two books myself. You can see them at Looking forward to your book. Great post.

    • Jordan Locke - February 1, 2014 6:29 pm

      Thanks, Micheal. I think the cover is very important, myself. It’s the first impression readers get of the novel.

  3. RK Logan - January 20, 2014 9:59 pm

    I don’t even know what the book is about but the work that you put into making the cover inspires me to want to know what the heck is going on. It’s a very intriguing and captivating cover and it looks realistic and tasteful. Good job and I’m looking forward to hearing more about your book. -RK

    • Jordan Locke - February 1, 2014 6:29 pm

      Thanks, RK. Glad you like it.

  4. Virginia Ballesty - January 28, 2014 3:41 am

    So I’m just gonna go ahead and say I’m pretty jealous of your graphic design skills. I know just enough about design to point out the 8-million things about my wordpress site that drive me crazy, but not nearly enough to fix any of them. I know I’m supposed to be reading the words on your blog (which I also really like), but the first thing I noticed was how beautifully designed and easy to navigate it was. I’m guessing you had a hand in that, as well as making the book cover (which looks great, by the way).

    Looking forward to reading it :)

    • Jordan Locke - February 1, 2014 6:35 pm

      I think your site looks good. Nice clean design. For my site, I started with the Glare wordpress template and customized it with photos from iStock. I’ve designed websites before, but this was pretty much figure-it-out-as-you-go.

  5. Heather Rigney - January 29, 2014 1:37 am

    Your cover is fantastic. It stands out and does not look home-made/cheesy/like-everyone-else’s. That’s hard to do!

    Also, I LOVE how you broke down the process. As an artist, I appreciate the time you took to visually explain your process. As a writer/reader, I am impressed with the way you articulated your thought-process. All this equals me wanting to read your book!

    Kudos to you! I wish you lots of luck, fellow Indie Word-Farmer!

    • Jordan Locke - February 1, 2014 6:37 pm

      Thanks, Heather. It sure helps to have an art background if you’re self-publishing.

  6. Kimber Leigh Wheaton - January 30, 2014 8:45 pm

    I love your cover. The design is simple, and yet something about it just really draws the eye. I’m clueless when it comes to graphic art, but I do know what I like. Thanks for breaking down the process for us laypeople. I can’t wait to read your book!

  7. Jordan Locke - February 1, 2014 6:39 pm

    So glad you like the cover, Kimber. I can only hope you like what’s inside just as much.

  8. Lilia Fabry - February 1, 2014 7:44 pm

    I love it! Very creative. It’s great when authors do their own cover cuz we’re the best at knowing what the heart of the story is. Can’t wait to read it!

    • Jordan Locke - March 31, 2014 1:44 am

      Thanks, Lilia. It does help to know your book inside and out.

  9. Bella - February 16, 2014 10:42 pm

    The cover itself is unique, the same as the novel. I am drawn to the the simplicity and yet mysterious lay out, which is neither serving a pro or con suggestion. Great job.

    A reader’s interest methodology: The title was suggestive. I was thinking it could be about family, lifestyle, death. The cover drew me in to read the first paragraph, skipping the synopsis and I was locked in by the last line.

    • Jordan Locke - March 31, 2014 1:40 am

      Thanks, Bella. The title is meant to have a dual meaning: the only boy in the world and the only boy for me.

  10. Kodi Ross/Kara Barbieri - February 17, 2014 1:31 am

    I think the cover is absolutely AMAZING and I’m astonished it came from all stock photos. I’ve always wanted to be able to make graphic art and I’m usually very terrible at it, but I seriously think this cover is awesome. To me, it looks highly professional and not out of place in a bookstore which I think is a lot different compared to other self-published novels. (I think this is self-published, correct me if I’m wrong.) So yeah. When I first saw it, the cover immediately drew me in and I would’ve bought it on Amazon but ATM Amazon is being mean to me and won’t let me buy things for some reason. But yeah. I loved the cover and the sample. :)

    • Jordan Locke - March 31, 2014 1:43 am

      Yes, the book is self published. I’ve designed a fair share of covers in my line of work, so I’ve have a bit of practice. (although never for novels). Hope you and Amazon work out your differences.

  11. Katarina - February 17, 2014 5:48 am

    I love that you explained how you created your cover! I really enjoy digitally editing images and this has really helped me for future ideas.
    The design of your cover is simple yet effective and it really draws me in. If I saw this on a shelf I would definitely grab it. In fact I have actually added it to my wishlist because I’m currently on a book buying ban (I buy waaay too many books) and hopefully my parents will give in and get me it for my birthday!

    Good luck with future writing projects!

    • Jordan Locke - March 31, 2014 1:46 am

      Thanks, Katarina. Keep reading, and best of luck to you, too!

  12. Jackie Cartwright - February 20, 2014 4:02 am

    This is the first time, I’ve enjoyed and understood a writer’s technical explanations and for that Jordan I’m extremely grateful and it makes book covers seem just that little bit more possible in the future. The cover looks very professional and like any other Barnes and Nobles title. That’s impressive. Thank you so much for your honesty and generosity in your art. Great karma will come your way. Best Jackie

    • Jordan Locke - March 31, 2014 1:47 am

      Thanks, Jackie. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  13. Victoria - March 27, 2014 11:37 am

    Haven’t read the book yet, but the cover really brings you in to want to read it. The fact that you made the cover makes it more unique and I find connects to the actual novel.

    Can’t wait to read your book!

  14. Jordan Locke - March 31, 2014 1:53 am

    Glad the cover drew you in, Victoria, and thanks for checking out the book.

  15. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction - April 7, 2014 3:04 am

    I’m so impressed! This cover is definitely what drew me to this book first. I am running a promo for the book on my blog tomorrow and requesting a review copy from XPresso and I’m really looking forward to reading it! Thought I’d come check out your site and I’m really glad I did because it’s really interesting to see the process that you went through for the cover!

  16. Red - April 8, 2014 5:08 am

    Thank you so much for including this process! The cover came out amazing, and you are clearly very talented with your art. I am really excited to read this book, and anyone that knows me knows that I DO judge books by their cover and will genuinely influence when I get around to reading them. This is going higher up on my list.

  17. Cresta McGowan - May 1, 2014 11:03 am

    I love this cover – well done. You are quite tech savvy!

  18. Shannon (Giraffe Days) - May 3, 2014 11:18 pm

    It’s a fantastic cover, I love it! I would have liked the earlier versions too, but seeing the progression and how you spliced together the different images is so interesting, and makes the end result even more impactful (I don’t think that’s a “proper” word but it works!).

    Also, am very curious now about your post-apocalyptic story. There’ve been plenty about diminishing numbers of women etc., but I can’t think of any where boys are hard to come by. Intriguing!

  19. Sarah - May 14, 2014 12:59 am

    Love the cover! Absolutely looks professional :) Thanks for sharing how you created it for us aspiring authors. I’ve have to check out iStock if and when I have to create my own cover.

  20. Jessica Van Rooyen - May 22, 2014 6:40 am

    This is really well done! I too am a designer and still currently completing my BFA. This cover really caught my eye!! And I think I’ll be ordering this because self published/own cover design?! That is more than enough for me to pick this up!

  21. Lil - August 9, 2014 1:15 am

    Was that a trick question? Whatever… 13.

    Back to my comment: That was brilliant. Thanks for the lesson.


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