How to Make a 3d Digital Mock-Up of Your Book

Adding Depth To Your Covers

You've got your kick-ass cover design.  You might have even gone that extra step and created a wrap around cover like the ones in this post on cover make-overs.  But flat images aren't ideal when it comes to marketing your book. Instead, what you'll normally see are photographs of books in elegant piles, or books standing on a nice reflective surface.  

The intention with this type of image is to show the product aesthetically framed "in the real world."  Apart from looking nice, this simple trick subconsciously lends credibility to whatever you're marketing: "Look it's real!  I have photographic evidence!"  Ironically, these types of "photographs" are almost always digitally recreated (ie: fakes), and anyone with basic photo editing know-how can pull off the techniques.

Side by side of flat cover art vs a 3d book render

What You'll Need:
All you need to make your own 3-dimensional book mock-up is your book's cover art, a 3d book template (available for free or for purchase at websites such as covervault.com), and any photo editing software that allows you to crop, resize, distort, and adjust the opacity of images in layers (such as Adobe PhotoShop, or gimp.org which is available free of charge).

NOTE: this post assumes you know the basics of using your photo editing program.  If you need a touch-up, there are plenty of YouTube videos out there that can help you.  I've highlighted the tool and/or action names in bold to help you google tutorials as required and even suggested a few tutorial videos.

animated gif of aligning cover art to 3d template

1. Choose a book template and open it in your photo editing program. The easiest kind of template to start with is one where the book's spine is out of sight, so the only surface that needs to be edited is the front cover. Make sure you choose a template for a book that is the same size as your book (in terms of height vs width and rough number of pages).

2. Open the image of your front cover in the same photo editing program and pull it in as a separate layer on top of the template.  Adjust the opacity of the cover art layer so you can see the details of the template behind it. Move the cover art layer until it lines up the top-left corner of the book in the template.  Scale the size of the cover art until it's similar in size to the template.  

NOTE: Since the book shown in the template is at an angle, its dimensions and angles will be distorted.  For example, the width may appear "too thin." This is normal. Making your cover art fit the template will be an exercise of deliberately distorting your image to conform to the perspective of the 3d book.

3. Use the program's transformation functionality (specifically the perspective tool in PhotoShop, or the shear tool in Gimp) to slide the right-most edge of the cover art down until the top-right corner of your cover lines up with the template.  

4. You'll see that this right-most edge will likely not be long enough to reach the bottom-right corner of the template's book. Use the distort function in PhotoShop, or the perspective function in Gimp to stretch the individual corners into place all around.  A good YouTube tutorial for a similar transformation using Gimp can be found here.

Bring the opacity of the cover art layer back to 100% and you could well be done at this point.  

animated gif of aligning cover art to 3d template

OPTIONAL (darken the edge of the back cover)
If your template featured a light-colored book and your cover is dark, you might need to darken the edge of the back cover. To do this, use an appropriate select tool (ex: the polygonal lasso tool in PhotoShop or the free select tool in Gimp) to outline the edge of the template book's back cover. Then add a new layer just above the template and use the paint brush tool to paint the selected outline darker around the top and right sides of the book.  

For a tutorial on using the various select tools in Gimp see this video here.

OPTIONAL (adding a reflection)
If you want to add a reflection below your book, duplicate your cover art layer, reduce the opacity of this copy (so you can see through it), and use the scale function to adjust its height to -100% (to flip it vertically). Move the reflected image down until you line it up with the bottom-left corner of your book.

7. As with the front cover, use Photoshop's perspective/distort functions, or Gimp's shear/perspective functions, to transform the reflection until its uppermost edge lines up just beneath the book.

8. Adjust the opacity of the reflected layer to suit your needs (dimmer, for less reflective surfaces, and brighter for highly reflective ones).  If the template leaves lots of room for the reflection beneath the book, you may also have to apply a mask to the reflection layer so that the reflection fades to nothing a short distance away from the book.

9. Don't forget that the spine will have a reflection as well. Use your program's selection tools to outline a large piece of the spine and duplicate it into its own layer.  Reduce the opacity of this layer and move this copy of the spine down beside the cover's reflection, applying any transformations (perspective/distort in PhotoShop or shear/perspective in Gimp) that are needed to have it tucked up against the front cover's reflection with no gaps. Use a mask to remove any overlap of the spine's reflection and the template's book itself.  And if you used a mask to fade the cover reflection to nothing, use a similar mask to fade the spine's reflection in the same way.

animated gif of aligning cover art to 3d templateOPTIONAL (changing the background)
Some of the templates available at covervault.com have appealing settings that you can use "as is" but in my example, the background is very plain. These last few steps show how to swap out a plain background for a nicer one.

10. First, duplicate the template layer so you have two of them, stacked one on top of the other. Outline the book using the polygonal lasso tool in PhotoShop or the free select tool in Gimp. NOTE: You can ignore the shadow in this step. 

11. With the book still selected, apply a mask to the topmost template layer to hide the background. (You'll still see the background of the original template layer underneath it). Add in a blank layer between the two template layers. This new layer will be used to create your own shadow.  Select an outline that is slightly larger than the edges of the actual shadow. Be sure to slightly overlap the edge of the book. Fill this outline with solid black on this shadow layer.  

12. Deselect your shadow, and use a blur filter to dramatically soften the edges of the shadow.  To further soften the effect of the shadow, reduce that layer's opacity.  

13. Hide the original template layer. You should be left with just the freestanding book, its reflections, and its shadow.

14. Find an image for your background. You can use a picture of a well-polished table, or a hardwood floor, etc.  Paste that background image onto its own layer beneath all the others.  Try to pick a background that will work with the lighting of the template. In the case of the example above, I dimmed down the highlights in the cover art layer to mute the lighting on the book to match the surroundings (in both Photoshop and Gimp this is done with the Levels adjustment). I also reduced the opacity of the reflections quite a bit, since the table (even if polished) would not have a bright reflection.

NOTE: If the background you're trying to remove is pure white (as in the example here), there's a shortcut that you can use to remove it.  Isolate the book structure on its own layer (as described in #10 and the first part of #11). Then, instead of recreating the shadow on its own layer, simply change the blending option of the lower template layer to Multiply.  Doing so will make the white of the template's background transparent when you add another image behind it, it will also blend the template's shadow seamlessly into the new background.

And that's it.  If you choose a more complicated template, you would use the same techniques for each of the surfaces that you have to edit (whether it's several different front covers, spines, or back covers).

So browse covervault.com for some great templates and go have fun!

How to Make a 3d Book Mock-up

[Special thanks to Eric Thomson, who was gracious enough to once again let me use his books as the cover models for this "how-to" post.]



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three Responses to "How to Make a 3d Digital Mock-Up of Your Book"

  1. Peter
    Peter on 31-01-’17 07:27

    While I have NO skills in this area, I certainly appreciate seeing those of you who do have them, make use of it to showcase your work. Very instructive post.

  2. Eric Thomson
    Eric Thomson on 03-02-’17 09:33

    Lovely work, as usual.

  3. A. Lee Ripley
    A. Lee Ripley on 04-02-’17 19:15

    Thanks, Peter. Glad you liked it. :) And a huge congratulations to Eric as his Dunmoore Book #1 (shown in the example in this article) just earned that oh-so-glorious “Bestseller” tag on amazon.ca!!

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