Hello. This is a fairly common discussion thread, so you can search back and read some thoughts. I have 3 novels, and have used self, friend, and professional methods. The pro way is the only way! I get covers from Laura Givens rapidly and they are inspired. There are many sources out there. Look to spend maybe $100. I've seen posts here for covers as cheap as $25, but, one gets what one pays for, for the most part.
I do the covers for Who Dares Wins Publishing. I use mostly stockphoto and then a program called InDesign which is a part of CS5 Creative Suite by Adobe (which includes photoshop). It is also what I use to create ePub files.
I generally use Photoshop for the digital version, and InDesign for the paper cover.
I finally went and bought Corel Painter, because I'm doing more at work with it, and it is SOOOOOOO much better for the art/illustration side. I don't know that I would do the whole cover in it, because it's a persnickety program which is not good for production work, but I'll likely do the art and manipulation there, then send it over to Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign for the layout and production side.
I use some clip art and stock photo elements, but mostly just my own photos and art. I try to stick to design elements more than the illustration aspects, but I'm working on my illustration skills this summer.
At the moment I don't us a consistent style for anything because my writing is scattered, but soon I hope to have a signature look for each type of book I write.
I do most of my own covers so far. However, as I'm terrible at abstracts, and felt abstracts the only way to go for several science fiction novels, I made a deal with my nephew-in-law to do those.
For the ones I do, once I have a firm title for the book, I brainstorm as many different ideas as possible for the cover. Sometimes I come down to two I can't decide between, and make them both. If I still cannot decide between them, I email them to a few relatives and friends and ask their opinion. Sometimes this results in some tweaks to the winner, too.
As for the logistics of creation, those can be quite messy. That is, it all depends on what the cover's going to be. For instance, will it merely be a line drawing, or graphic pattern? Or have a lot of photographic elements? Will it need to be a wholly Photoshopped creation?
Sometimes I'll sketch something and scan it in, and play with it in Photoshop Elements. Sometimes I pull in photos of various sorts. Sometimes I use the vector program Inkscape for some items. I often use the Irfanview utility to help out, too.
Once the main cover image is done, I try out lots of different fonts for the cover text.
I get mine done professionally my illustrating skills are only good for stick figures. If I see cover art that I really love usually I'll try and contact the author and see who does their work for them. Best of luck.
I did 3 of them myself - the 2nd, 3rd and 4th you see in my sig line. The others I got professionally done. My design and technical skills are limited which is why those ones are very simple. I used stockphotos from fotolia.com and the free program Paint.net to arrange the images and add text. I'll be using a professional from now on though. I love the results for A Secret Life which was done by RazzleDazzle Design.
I've made my own so far, except for the cover for my free short story "Butterfly Boots", which is a modified version of an image drawn by a fan.
I tend to have specific ideas for what I want the covers to convey, which often ends up difficult to accomplish, with my design limitations. The cover for A Fistful of Fire started with 2 photos.
My Mac computer is old and slow, so I start my cover stuff in Seashore (a neutered Gimp, runs faster, but handles fonts terribly). When the time comes to do some tweaks that can't be done in Seashore or to add the title, I pull out Gimp. I've also used the web app BeFunky.com before.
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