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Creating Cover Designs with Bamboo (and a Chance to Win One for Yourself!)

When we’re pitching a cover concept, we like to bring our ideas as far along as possible, and we like to have a LOT of options to choose from. It’s great to have choices, but it can also be incredibly time-consuming, which is where Bamboo comes in. This convenient handwriting-to-text tablet is an incredible creative tool, and makes it so that I don’t HAVE to refine my ideas before playing with them onscreen.

A major component of cover design is something called a vector. Here’s a super quick explanation: vectors are like a regular Photoshop image’s math-loving cousin. They’re shapes made from any number of points—basically, a super complicated “connect the dots.” Unlike Photoshop images, they can be made infinitely smaller or bigger without losing their crispness or clarity, which is essential for getting clean, crisp lines in a final design.

However, sometimes transferring handmade drawings into vectors is a downright nightmare. Sketching an image, inking it, scanning, using Adobe Illustrator… the process is incredibly time-consuming, and requires you to have a really refined idea. But publishing moves FAST, and using Bamboo helps to make the whole process way easier.

Here are some thumbnail sketches I created for Airplanes, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over. I decided to sketch on the train while traveling, and then directly import the sketches on my phone (I know! AMAZING!). Then, I can just directly import everything to my computer when I get to my office, saving so much time.


 Train rides are always agonizingly long. I get SO frustrated when I'm hit with a spark of creativity mid-transit, and I have no way to just jump right in. The Bamboo slate is small and discreet enough that I can take it with me wherever I go, and also has software that I can download right to my phone and begin editing WHEREVER I am. Gone are the days where I have to be next to a bulky scanner and desktop. You just draw out your idea, press a button, and BAM! Your drawing is right on your phone! Here’s a screenshot from my phone. You just pull down the dropdown menu, and export that sketch into the setting of your choice (For me, I chose vector and emailed it to myself)


Travel aside, here are the thumbnails for "airports" after I placed the vectors into Illustrator. They're rough and small, but EXACTLY what I need to get started on clear color sketches. Everyone’s cover design process is a little different, but this is exactly what I need to get started visualizing my ideas.


As you can see, one of the COOLEST features is that the linework is transparent!! This means that I can place colors beneath the linework and they’ll show through! Another cool thing about making these thumbnails into vector format is that you can change the color of the linework with the press of a button. You can see in the pink option, I changed those lines to white. Part of the sketch process is trying out different color options before you move to really fleshing out your idea. These “color comps” are roadmaps to creating a full-scale design. This process makes it easy to try out a million different ideas before you narrow it down to a few.

As a vector artist, it tends to be challenging to create organic shapes in Illustrator. As I mentioned before, vector artwork is math based, so shapes can have a harsh, mechanical quality to them. It’s possible to tweak these manually using the pen tool, but it’s incredibly time consuming. The Bamboo slate will save you SOOO much time fussing with the pen tool. Check out this cloud I drew in Illustrator with the pen tool. It’s got all sorts of wonky sharp edges. No good! That’s not what a cloud looks like!


But with this Bamboo slate I can sketch out the cloud the way we draw shapes naturally.


Here’s my fluffly cloud shape. It’s rough around the edges, but you know it’s a cloud. Next I fill it with a color so that I can see the sillhouette of the shape, and I clean up the edges with my smooth tool... 


….. and voila!!! Super easy! All you’d need to do is fill this with white and place it into your document! An easy fluffy cloud and it took me maybe five minutes total!!! (Check out what my final cover concepts looked like here.) I can’t even imagine the possibilities this could have with hand-lettering… oh wait!



Bottom line: I'm obsessed with the new Bamboo slate. I've got a crazy, busy New York life, and the Bamboo slate is making sure nothing is in the way of keeping the creative juices flowing!!!

We can imagine you brainstorming on the go for YOUR next cover, or designing a cool map for your fantasy novel. Tell us what you'd use the Bamboo slate for in the comments below, and two commenters will be randomly selected to win a brand-new Bamboo slate of their own! 

This sweepstakes is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Author spotlight

Becca S.

I'm a designer for Swoon Reads!

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