by Corina Koch MacLeod
Did you know you can design an ebook cover in Word 2010?* I’d have hardly believed it unless I’d tried it myself. Until now, I’ve been limping rather awkwardly in GIMP. But creating a cover in Word has blown things wide open for me.
Graphic designer Derek Murphy is responsible for inspiring me to create a cover in Word. Please know, I am not a designer (it’ll be obvious), but his tutorial is so good, my attempts were less of a fumble than usual. Following his steps was akin to peeking over the shoulder of a design master. If you have Word 2010 on your computer, and you’d like to try your hand at designing a cover just for fun, give Derek’s tutorial a try. It’s so much easier than designing a cover in GIMP. You can also subscribe to Derek’s template program at CreativIndie Covers, and choose from soon-to-be hundreds of templates to get you started.
From docx to PDF to JPG
After I created my cover in Word, I saved it as a PDF as instructed by Derek in his tutorial. From there, you need to convert it to a JPG. This is where things get interesting. Derek recommends a couple of workable options but also states that he’s open to other options if anyone has discovered them. So, in the spirit of discovery, these are the results of the various tools I used to get from PDF to JPG.
Troubleshooting Conversion Options
Zamzar is a PDF to JPG converter recommended in Derek’s tutorial. It did a great job of keeping the lines in my design clean, but as you’ll discover later in this post, the colours have been altered. My cover background was originally orange, and less brown. The stripes at the top and bottom were orginally putty, not gray.
|Cover converted with Zamzar|
Zamzar also converts a PDF to a PNG or a TIF (Amazon accepts covers in JPG and TIF formats). I was unable to upload the TIF onto this blog (I got an error message), but the typeface in the TIF isn’t as sharp. The colour holds, though.
Derek Murphy’s Conversion Tool (free)
As if providing a free tutorial isn’t enough, Derek Murphy has created a free PDF to JPG conversion tool, making him the new champion of cash-strapped self-pubs everywhere.
|Derek Murphy’s free conversion tool|
Derek’s tool does a decent job of converting my PDF, but my typeface isn’t as crisp as it is with the Zamzar conversion (at this size, the differences don’t show too much). But man, the guy wrote a piece of software that he’s allowing self-pubs to use for free, and it does an acceptable job, so no one’s judging here.
PDF to JPG (free)
Next, I tried PDF to JPG, a downloadable piece of software with a respectable rating on CNET. The interface is simple and fairly easy to use. The typeface came out fairly fuzzy around the edges, putting this conversion software behind Zamzar and Derek Murphy’s tool.
PDF XChange Viewer (free)
My editing colleague, Carla Douglas, suggested that I try PDF XChange Viewer — PDF mark-up software that many editors use for proofreading digital documents. Of course! As per Carla’s instructions, I right-clicked on the cover and exported to a JPG. Again, some of the colour is lost, and the conversion wasn’t on par with Zamzar or Derek Murphy’s tool.
PDF XChange Viewer, saved as JPG
I then right-clicked on the cover in Word once again, and exported it as a PNG. The original colour is retained.
|PDF XChange Viewer, saved as PNG|
Windows 7 Snipping Tool (free with Windows)
Windows 7 and 8 comes loaded with a Snipping Tool that allows you to take screen captures. I took this screen capture right in Word, where I created my cover. It retains more of the original orange colour, but introduces a bit of background “noise” when you save the cover as a JPG.
|Windows Snipping tool, saved as a JPG|
The background is cleaner if you save this cover as a PNG (see below). Remarkably, most of the colour of the original Word cover is retained and the typeface is crisper. This makes sense because JPGs tend to work better for images, while PNGs work better for line drawings (a nice little trick I learned from Aaron Shepard’s book, Pictures on Kindle.).
|Windows Snipping tool, saved as a PNG|
The only trick in working with the snipping tool is to ensure that you’re as precise as you can be when you capture the cover (you might have noticed the gray stripe on the left and right sides of the cover, where I’d inadvertantly captured Word’s background). You also need to remember to capture the cover at 100% of it’s original size (I enlarge the cover when I’m working on it).
Like the Window’s Snipping Tool, Snagit allows you to take screen captures. Its results were surprisingly not as crisp as Window’s Snipping Tool.
In the end, the PDF to JPG conversion tools didn’t retain the colours of the original cover in Word. This may or may not be too much of a problem if your cover has a background image instead of a solid colour. If you’re design-savvy, you may be able to troubleshoot any potential colour changes. So, it’s a trade-off: do you sacrifice colour for clean lines? What do you think?
*I use Word 2010 for Windows. Consult the Microsoft website for the capabilities of your version of Word.