The first (and so far, only) two book covers I designed were done with GIMP. I got great help from Joleene Naylor on the first cover, and managed to flounder my way to solo completion with the second, but along the way I noticed some recurrent problems, particularly with regard to text, curves and anti-aliasing.
What I have learned over the past year or so is that all graphics software breaks down along two main lines: vector graphics and raster graphics. GIMP is commonly and accurately categorized as photo-editing software, but also belongs on the raster side of the graphics software divide. While photo-editing software can be incredibly powerful in its own right, because raster graphics are based on pixels, resizing raster graphics can also get you into serious trouble.
That’s not true for vector graphics, which are defined by mathematical relationships. Put together a snazzy logo in a vector program and you can scale that logo down to a business card or up to a billboard with no loss of detail. Yes, it is a miracle.
I have a few covers to design in the coming months — or years, at my current pace — and I plan on doing so, at least in part, using a vector graphics program called Inkscape. Like GIMP, Inkscape is open-source freeware and incredibly powerful. Also like GIMP, Inkscape is incredibly obtuse and difficult to learn, even if you’re otherwise comfortable with all things computer.
For example, suppose you want to combine two simple shapes as follows, using Inkscape:
After reading up on the program, following tutorials and learning about the power of nodes and paths, and playing with snazzy features like combine and union, to say nothing of delete segment, you might think the proper solution would be to overlap the two shapes, join them at nodes, then remove the line across the middle of the circle:
And you would be one hundred percent wrong. [ Read more ]