We have lost the resolution: cover woes


Because they can.

Every beginner has to make a certain number of mistakes, commit a certain number of sins (which everyone else already knows are sins), has to stub toes and fingers on obvious prominences.

It is de rigeur.

Maybe someone can learn from my mistakes.

Never give up resolution: it is the high ground

In graphics, picture quality goes one way: down hill.

If you start with a high resolution picture, and reduce that resolution (squeezing the picture into a smaller space so it will fit on a blog post is an example), you can NEVER get it back.

It is possible to do a pseudo-fix, manipulate a low resolution image into giving you one with higher apparent quality, but it is never easy, and is incredibly labor-intensive – just to get something adequate.

Why? Because sampling down takes information from neighboring pixels, creates some kind of an average. But increasing resolution must INVENT data pixels. Out of thin air.

Which is why images which have been edited to ‘increase’ the resolution usually look pixilated: you had one yellow pixel – now you have FOUR yellow pixels.

Increasing resolution requires knowledge of the image

And it’s still going to be imperfect. If you know something is smooth and continuous, you can use graphics tools to smooth out harsh lines with algorithms which use nearby data – and how the tool is used – as their input. I did some of that for the image on the cover of the Pride’s Children ebook.

It matters less when the final product will not usually be seen at the higher resolution (your screen gives you 72 dpi images).

But it matters a whole heck of a lot when you print.

So why the talk of images, resolution, and high ground?

Because I started the print cover with an image of a template from CreateSpace of where the lines and boundaries are on the print cover: you tell them what size your book will be trimmed to, and how many pages it has, and they make a downloadable frame that shows where to put everything.

And I don’t know how, SOMEWHERE along the path of creating a whole cover, and without me consciously choosing it, the size of the image I was working on in Pixelmator went from 11 x 14 – to 5.5 x 7″. At the same resolution – 300 dpi (required for print).

Which means that I will have to redo EVERYTHING.

If I’m lucky, I will find out during the process what the heck I did, so I can avoid making that mistake again.

If not, I have become extremely sensitive to image size and resolution of images (something I though I had mastered). I sincerely hope I will never have to do this again.

And yes, backups save your life

NEVER work on your only copy of anything. When a computer forgets, it usually forgets very completely – by overwriting your data with whatever else you told it to write. Very stupid and very fast, are our computers – which we couldn’t live without.

The second time around, I will take everything I learned in the course of the disaster – and repeat things much more efficiently. I learned which color adjustments to make, made decisions about fill, and how things might look, and which of my images were good sources for the material I need.

But I’m going to be VERY careful this time around.

I’m slow – it takes time and energy to reverse errors, making me even slower.

Fortunately, not less determined. Just slower.

And slower to get back to writing.

It’s probably going to save me a lot of time somewhere down the pike.

What has been YOUR most useful mistake lately?


8 thoughts on “We have lost the resolution: cover woes

  1. donnainthesouth

    not even sure how I got my cover so right, except I had some help but when I ordered my “proof” copies – did you? and was recommended to make one particular change – to make an explanation into a footnote – though not sure now I really want to do it that way – kinda liked the way I had it but anyway – totally forgot and was thinking “footnote” – “footer”, which of course is where the page numbering is so totally loused that all up and especially so since I’d done the left margin/right margin thing so may have made it worse by it only messing up the one side pages but thanks to open library days the wonderful guy got it all fixed up for me, now just to go back and see about the original issue – but not until after I get my sink unclogged 🙂


  2. Widdershins

    I don’t think this qualifies as a useful mistake, but I upgraded my OS from W7 to the freebie W10 … tried for a couple of weeks, didn’t like it, and went back to W7 … and the whole process really screwed up some of my programs. I’m going to have to pay my tech guy to come in and create order where chaos now reigns. le sigh.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I feel your pain.

      Sorry to hear W10 didn’t work for you. When I upgrade my Mac software, I assume it’s an irreversible process – I’m not tech savvy enough to reverse things myself, and NOBODY touches my machine.

      I’m holding off on El Capitan until this book is finished in ALL its forms. Scrivener is already telling me it is updating my files.

      Time marches on, but I didn’t need any of the changes, and I would rather be back on the older version of everything.


  3. Alice Audrey

    Backing up is huge. I lost a thousand words during NaNoWriMo because I thought automatic backup had it covered. It was during a write-in, and the number of words put me over the 50,000 mark. I had even announced it. Then Open Office crashed, taking all the new words with it. It put me back under the 50,000 mark, and I ended up with a different set of words when I tried to re-type it from memory. Ugh.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I am SO sorry – losing words I’ve worked hard over is my worst nightmare. Especially AFTER they’ve been polished.

      No one has mentioned I seem to have lost something – but I almost don’t dare read. It is so easy to select a piece of text in a word processor, and accidentally hit Backspace – and delete it.

      I even hate losing words I carefully put in italics – I use italics deliberately, and it looks wrong to me if they’re gone – but certain fonts and certain processes strip the italics from text that already had it, and that drives me nuts.

      Hope you were able to get most of your words back – and it makes your future backups safer. Once burned…


  4. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Oh, no!

    I hate re-doing things. I am sorry to hear that you must. But I fully agree with your take on resolution. I did my first few covers at 600 dpi, just to give myself some wiggle room, if something went disastrously wrong. Nothing ever did, so then I moved to 350 dpi – still a little wiggle room.

    But denser pixels means a larger file size which means more storage space and longer processing times – all exponentially so. And I’m talking about my end of it, not CreateSpace’s end. I always reduced the copy I sent to CS to 300 dpi (their standard). But now I’m down to 300 dpi at my end also.

    One consolation… the re-do usually goes faster, because it utilizes the experience one already has with the image, and often one discovers a way to do some small piece better. Although you had already managed to create amazing effects with the light in PC’s cover.

    Wishing you all kinds of luck on your re-do.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      When I couldn’t sleep at 3AM, I started reassembling some of the pieces.

      I expect to have a much cleaner result for the new version – though none of it matters at the end: pixels by pixels is what you get.

      But it WAS disheartening. And the worst part is I cannot figure out how it happened yet. May never figure it out. I hope I never do it again! And I WILL be watching.

      It’s Apple’s fault: they do such a bad job of driving large exterior monitors, that I can’t see the tiny white letters and numbers on the rulers, etc. which Pixelmator (I hate their choice) insists on using on a black background.

      I might have noticed it earlier. There is not much point in complaining about choices made by software companies and hardware companies – it isn’t going to change RIGHT NOW which is when I have to deal with the problems/features/choices. So I adjust. Fortunately, what I have to recreate is mostly the spine and the back, not the ‘real’ part of the cover.

      Another thing learned: PLAN the whole cover, including the images you will need, from the beginning. It is discouraging to find that the image which was perfect for the front doesn’t go far enough around the back to work. Or that it isn’t big enough.

      And last thing learned: if you do the whole cover at the same time, the COLORS will be consistent. It is the very devil trying to match colors which are NOT in the original photos – because you photoprocessed the original images. Oops.



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