• naimahaviland

Book Cover Basics: Create Blurs to Enhance Text

Updated: Aug 19

Continuing on topic from my last blog post, I'm posting today to relate my experience designing blur effects and a transparency mask to add emphasis to book cover text.

Pictured here is a cover concept I designed for my steampunk romance novel, The Name I Chose.

Cover Design Concept

The novel's adventure leads Philomena (and readers) through choices that define an identity that is hers alone, rather than the identity her family and society assigned her. This culminates in the ultimate claim: the right to choose her own name. Notice the word 'Chose' in the title of this cover concept. It's got some blur treatment behind it to emphasize the importance of the heroine's choice.


I'm going to lead you through my process for creating these text effects in Adobe Illustrator.


I selected the 'HOSE' portion of the word 'CHOSE'. Under Illustrator's Type menu, I selected Create Outlines to turn the text into a graphic outline. Then, I found the Blur filter and chose the Gaussian

screenshot of Blur filter accessed in a dropdown menu

blur option (as shown in the nearest screenshot graphic).


A Gaussian blur is so soft. It's gorgeous. This next screenshot shows what the Gaussian blur palette looks like. In this palette, you can choose the amount of blurring applied.


screenshot of Gaussian Blur palette


After treating the black text, I decided to create a white blur behind it, to add emphasis and to separate that part of the title a bit from the image behind it.


I selected the entire word 'CHOSE'. I copied and pasted the letters, filling them with white and placing them behind my black instance of the word. (Placing an object behind another is done either by Layers or by right-clicking the selected object and moving through the Arrange option in the resulting drop-down menu. If you're at this stage of newbie-ness, no worries! YouTube has many starter tutorials.)


I applied Create Outlines, so the white letters are now graphic objects, rather than text. I enlarged the graphic word by expanding the selection as an option provided under Illustrator's Object menu item. Once expanded, I applied a Gaussian blur, as shown in this next screenshot.

screenshot of Gaussian blur effect applied to text

Isn't that blurred white effect delicate and pretty? My next screenshot shows how this white blur pushes the black text forward in your vision.

screenshot of blurred white drop shadow behind text

Now, let's talk about the golden overlay of the script letter 'C'. That effect was created with a transparency mask. I covered transparency masks (a.k.a opacity masks) in my last blog post. I'll review the process here.


I copied the black 'C' and pasted the copy on top of the original, moving it up and to the left. I selected Create Outlines to make the 'C' an object, subject to further effects.

transparency mask effect applied

So, to sum up: I filled the 'C' outline with a gold-ish color. I created an overlaying shape filled with a gradient. I cut the gradient-filled object. I selected the gold 'C' and chose Make Opacity Mask from among the options in the colors palette. This created linked items represented by mini icons in the colors palette: the 'C' and an unspecified opacity mask. Selecting the opacity mask icon, I pasted that cut gradient into it. Bam. There's my gradiated gold 'C'. Now, I know that's a lot to take in. Reference my last blog post, if you need to. Let me show this process in a graphic snagged from that last post.


linked object and opacity mask icons

And here's that effect over the black 'C', shown in this next screenshot.

Effect of script highlighted by an opacity or transparency mask effect






In closing, I'll just reiterate how fun this all is. If you're an indie author with an interest in graphic design, or a designer who'd like to create book covers, play with blurs and opacity masks to add depth and emphasis to elements. It really does feel like play!

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