All posts by robertkurland

Ebook Art on the Cheap with SketchbookPro

All those emails, “How to make money being an independent author,” I put into the trash. My metier is discussing science and Catholic teaching, and as editors have told me when they reject my submissions, “sorry–no market for that sort of thing.” Accordingly, I’m going to frame my first royalty check ($0.56 from Smashwords) and invest future royalties in do-it-yourself software for my ebooks. It will not be cost-effective to hire an illustrator for my book covers (the forthcoming royalties from the Kindle editions might just cover a stock cover).

So, I’ve explored software for graphics, and based on web reviews, decided to go with Sketchbook Pro, yearly license, $29.00. (There’s a free version with more limited function, Sketchbook, also available.) So far it’s worked well–I’m not an artist, nor a designer, but I’ve been able to use it for covers, illustrations and animations, all of which are useful in an ebook that deals with scientific stuff.

Here’s an analogy–someone skilled in computer graphics could really make Sketchbook do tricks, as you can see if you go to the YouTube demonstrations, like a lion tamer in the circus; my status is more like that of the guy who finally housebreaks his Pomeranian, after a month of cleaning-up.  (In other words, if I can do it, you can do it too and probably better.)


This is not going to be a how-to post; I’m not that expert and there are all the YouTube videos that can be explored. Rather, I’ll try to show how it works for  the cover of my forthcoming ebook, Top Down to Jesus, Book 3: Truth Can Not Contradict Truth, which discusses the non-existent war between science and the Church.   I’ve also used it for animations in the iBook edition of The Quantum Catholic.


Sketchbook works in layers, which is good for the tyro–you can goof up one layer and delete without having to scrap all the rest. The starting point is then a background layer. Here’s the one I chose for the third book of my series, Top Down to Jesus. 

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Background Layer for Cover

It uses several of the tools available in Sketchbook: color palette, radial gradient fill, cropping and image sizing.


Since I’m not an artist, I use free images, ones in the Public Domain, available either from Wikimedia Commons, obtained by doing a search, Wikimedia Commons image ???? (replace the question marks with the image subject).

My third book is on science and the Church,  so I wanted a cover that would show that God comes first–whence the hand of God creating DNA.   I took as one image Michelango’s “The Creation of Adam”…


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Michelangelo’s :The Creation of Adam”


and the other a DNA molecular model image of DNA.


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DNA Model from Wikimedia Commons


Each image is  put into a separate layer, placed, sized, cropped and trimmed with the Sketchbook tools to get a superposed image


The final step is putting title and author onto the cover.  Sketchbook has a number of font styles and sizes available, so there’s an embarrassment of riches… what to choose from!    I’ll show below two different styles;  I’ve not yet decided which I’ll use.



Any comments?

So, here are some very simple examples from a not-too-talented amateur.  I’m sure there are many of you readers who can train this dog (Sketchbook Pro) to do many more tricks.



Robert Kurland blogs at Reflections of a Catholic Scientist. His previous books in this series are Pascal Was Right! and The Quantum Catholic. He is a retired physicist, Extraordinary Minister of Communion, lector, and musician.He has also written for Catholic Stand.