Illustrating a Book Cover One: Setting Up the Canvas

How to Illustrate A Book Cover Part One: Setting Up Your Canvas and Workspace

The ArtRage Five - Nick Harris Book Cover - ArtRage 5 Tutorial

An ArtRage 5 tutorial by Nick Harris


In this three part tutorial, Nick Harris uses ArtRage 5 to design a book cover from scratch and share some of his experience and techniques.

This tutorial assumes that you are somewhat familiar with ArtRage 5 and covers customising the canvas resolution and interface, guides, toolboxes, the Custom Brush, filters, layers and advanced layer properties, standard painting tools (Pastels, Pencil, Palette Knife, Watercolor Brush), symmetry, text, stencils, transform and tool presets. If you need help understanding any of the tools mentioned, see the online manual or browse the tutorial section for a more introductory tutorial.

Nick Harris is a professional illustrator and long time ArtRage user. See more of his work at nickillus.com.

The Book Cover Tutorial

This tutorial is broken into three sections and is available as a single video. You can also watch a video of the process of creating Custom Brushes for this tutorial.

Watch the entire tutorial as a video

You can watch the complete tutorial series as a single 40 minute video. The canvas and interface set up covered in part one continues until about 4.18 minutes into the video.

Part One: Getting Set Up

Part one covers setting up the document and interface ready for a book cover design that needs to be printed.

Canvas Size

Set the canvas resolution for printing before beginning to paint.

Just for fun, we’re going to tackle a book cover. All that means is that we’ll be leaving space for some type and bearing a few other things in mind. This is going to be an A5 portrait format image (approximately 210mm high by 150mm wide). Cover sizes vary according to various factors, but this is only an exercise, so I’ve gone for something that should conveniently fit your printer, but not use up all your ink in one go. Many of us have an A4 printer lurking round the house, and A5 is half A4 in size.

Go to the new canvas screen or Edit > Resize Painting and enter the size you want. Remember to untick the ‘Preserve Original Aspect’ box or you won’t be able to input both measurements. Don’t be put off when the dialogue doesn’t precisely stick to the measurements input either, certain internal adjustments are made to accommodate for screen pixels and it will be close enough.

Edit Resize Painting menu in ArtRage 5 with Preserve Original Aspect unticked
Set the canvas to A5 size in the Print Size tab. Untick ‘Preserve Original Aspect’ to edit height and width independently.
Tip: Save settings as a canvas preset or use the included default presets.

An optional extra is to go back into the dialogue again after you’ve set up the page and (ticking the Preserve Original Aspect box this time), bump up the size to 125% or 150%. This is something that print publishers often ask for as it affords them more wriggle room to move the image and type around.

Edit Resize Painting menu in ArtRage 5 with Preserve Original Aspect ticked
Increase the canvas size proportionally by leaving ‘Preserve Original Aspect’ ticked.

Guide Lines

Add Guides around the canvas to mark out the composition and bleed areas.

ArtRage 5 now offers guides. These are lines you can place around the canvas that are visible while you work on a piece, but won’t show up when you export for print. They are really useful for marking out areas like ‘bleed’ and text areas – that kind of thing. They’ll remind you where not to put details you want to be seen. Nothing is more annoying than having important areas of the image hidden behind type or cropped off the edge!

ArtRage 5 Classic Mode interface screenshot with bleed area Guides
Classic Mode with Guide lines added to the canvas to define the layout.
Adding Guides
Guide icons ArtRage 5 screenshot
Quickly add Guides from the shortcuts in the top left (click and drag to position, or doubleclick to frame existing paint on a layer)

Simply drag them out to where you want them from the small icons in the top left of the work space.

Learn more about Guides and other graphic design tools in ArtRage 5.

Edit menu screenshot guides ArtRage 5
Go to View > Layout Panel to access editing options for Guides.
ArtRage 5 Layout menu
Click the hash (#) symbol in the upper menu bar to quickly access the Layout panel. Switch to the second tab for Guide options.
ArtRage 5 Layout menu guides
The Guides menu in the Layout panel.

For precision placement you can use the ‘Add Guide at Point’ option. You can access that through the Layout Panel as one of the options under the ‘Guide’ tab.

ArtRage 5 add guide at point menu
Use ‘Add Guides At Point’ to add lines at specific pixel distances along the edge of the canvas.

Interface & Tools Set Up

Classic or Docking Mode?

Set up the interface the way you want it to improve your personal efficiency or comfort.

ArtRage 5 offers both the standard ‘Classic’ mode and a more customisable ‘Docking’ mode. I prefer to work in ‘Docking Mode’, so I select that through View > Interface Mode.

ArtRage 5 View menu screenshot
Go to View > Interface Mode to switch between Classic and Docking Mode interfaces.

I then dock the layer panel to one side, and a custom palette (Toolbox) to the other.

ArtRage 5 Docking Mode interface screenshot with bleed area Guides
ArtRage 5 Docking Mode with menus docked on right and left.

The custom palette has a few of my favourite tools in it, with preferred settings. It saves time having them to hand, rather than having to go back to the tool panel and/or presets each time.

Now I add a new layer to draw on and am ready to start.

Custom Brush Creation

A number of Custom Brushes were made specifically for this tutorial and you can watch the creation process in the video below. Most of them were used to add texture, grass, and patterns in part 3 (colouring and special effects), but you can stop and create new brushes at any point.

To learn more about using the Custom Brush Designer to make your own brushes in ArtRage 5, see the custom brush online manual or the ‘Designing A Clumpy Wool Custom Brush’ tutorial.

Canvas Colour

I add a colour tint to the canvas layer with the ‘bucket fill’ (Fill Tool) to take the edge off the stark white. In this case, I use a very light yellow tint.

Note: You can also simply change the colour of the canvas by going to View > Canvas Settings..

artrage 5 banner nick harris Nick Harris Book Cover ArtRage 5 Tutorial It is now ready to start sketching in Part Two of this tutorial.

Continue This Tutorial

[fp_carousel width=”940″ height=”200″ items=”5″ num=”-1″ speed=”600″ tag=”book-cover-tutorial” orderby=”date” order=”ASC” post_type=”post”]

Other Tutorials

[fp_carousel width=”940″ height=”200″ items=”5″ num=”-1″ speed=”600″ tag=”tutorials” orderby=”rand” post_type=”post”]

Find more ArtRage tutorials.