Saturday, April 19, 2014


From time to time, historical and Regency romance authors complain to me they can't get good, accurate covers for their historical romances. Well, I can't blame them. I write historicals, and I love history so I want my covers to look like real history, not a staged scene. But also being a romantic, there are those parts of history, like chamber pots and men's drawers that I'd just as soon not show for what they were. I'm also a cover artist, and I know I can't even give myself truly accurate covers.

But why can't we get accurate covers? Well, it's darn hard. BUT there is a way And today I'm going to show you how and why.

I made up a very simple but pretty reasonably authentic historical cover for a non-existent novel called LET HONOR PREVAIL. Then I'm going to show you its original parts and how they were altered.

Let's face it, there was nobody running around in 1812 with a camera taking lots of pictures for me to use in the 21st century. There were fshion plates and scenic engravings  and the like. But they don't necesarily fit with today's tastes, especially romantic tastes.You can probably tell the model's face, despite my cartooning of it, still looks a bit too real for the rest. I'd have to work on that. (Several hours' worth. Remember that-time is money.) Because that's a high quality photo of a real man, and the rest is low quality images of early 19th century engravings.

First, I need a handsome contemporary model. Gorgeous guy, and I've used him several times (in an artistic sense) because he's so versatile. But this time all I need is his head, and need to reverse that as well: But it is important to try to line up the posture of both the contemporary model and the "clothes you intend to fit on him if you want to make it look like he's really wearing the garments.

The man's clothing comes from a 19th century French fashion plate. The first thing you'll notice, I'm sure, is the man's appearance is clearly not fashionable today. Look at the sleeves over the gloves. Look at his proportions, and his rather large head. In this case I didn't have to do a lot of morphing but I did wan't to give the man a more long-waisted look because men don't wear their trousers waists as high these days as they did back then. I manipulated color a bit by cranking up the contrast and cranking down the brightness. But this is essentially an ink and watercolor drawing. The man in my design is real. They''ll have to be matched up better. That's where rendering the man plus costume into a "sketch" overlay comes in handy. Reducing opacity lets the original composite man show through, but sometimes not enough and I have to highlight and erase until I've got it right.

Now I have something about like this:

But what about the background? Well, this one isn't done right, at least not for a print book, because the engraving I have is only a small, poor resolution copy of the original. Oh sure, it's in the public domain so I can use it, but on anything the size of a printed book, it will look too grainy. And not only that, I only took a very tiny part of the whole engraving, which meant it had to be blown up even more. It would likely be much too blurry for a printed cover.  I could do things to re-render it, but again, that's really hard, time-consuming work.

So why not just paint a cover? Wouldnt' it be easier? Well, I'm not a painter, but I can assure you even just using Photoshop tools, "just painting" is no small task. And I'm frankly not good at painting anyway. So take photos of models in costume? Okay, but costumes are made of modern materials and so far I have seen very few that really emulate
their historical period. They're machine made and dyed in modern colors. Then there are those telltale zippers and elastic. The models --sorry, they're often gorgeous. But show me even one model who is willing to appear in a shoot without her makeup. Even the men come combed and curled and almost air-brushed before the session begins. And their hair is always wrong. Repainting hair? Well mostly I give up and let them have their makeup and modern hairstyles. Just try painting out makeup. It's sure not a matter of washing the face!

And remember that little bit about time being money? Well it is. Someone has to pay those models and photographers and arrange the setting. Now you're up into the hundreds of dollars brackets. Not too many authors want to pay that. They can, of course, and that's all right with me. But most of us have tighter budgets.

Some historical covers require even more than the simple techniques I've shown above. Someday I'll tell you all about morphing or warping clothes to fit the modern figure. That's actually fun. Kind of like dressing Barbie dolls.


  1. Delle, your covers are always gorgeous. And thanks for the look at how you create them. I have no artistic leanings, so how they are done is amazing to me!

  2. Very nice Delle! Thank you for sharing technique!

  3. Fascinating, Delle. Thank you for this post! Even in covers that are historical inaccurate, there's still plenty of work and time that goes into them. One truly doesn't appreciate it until they attempt to undertake the task them self. :)

  4. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your weblog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing on your feed and I am hoping you write again very soon!


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