Cover Art: The Other Vietnam War

Updated: Feb 13


The shot on the cover is one of many that Marc Cullison provided me to work with.  One of the hardest things about working with his photographs was going through them all to find just the right one or should I say just the right portion of one to use.  There were so many great ones to choose from. The photograph of the helicopters that I used was originally a wider vista that I plucked the choppers out of.


Looking at this cover it looks pretty basic and really very simple but there is more to it than meets the eye.  The photograph on the cover was a full fledge color photo that had to be desaturated to use it the way I wanted to.  I had tried placing the color photo on the cover; it looked okay but it was lacking something, or at least I felt it was lacking something. So what did I do? So glad you asked. I created a green camouflage pattern that is the lowest layer of this photograph.  Layers, for those of you who don’t know, mean that each item on this cover is physically located on it’s own layer in the original artwork file for me to work with.  Think of a book, the camo layer would be the very last page or bottom layer.


I then placed the photograph on the layer above the camo and turned it into an overlay layer, this allowed the background camo pattern I had created to bleed through the black and white photograph replacing the grey and black hues with the greens from the background and color it as I wanted with the pattern.  I also messed with the opacity of the photograph a little to fade it out just a bit more to let the pattern show through even better.  You may notice there is also a camo pattern filling the text. This was achieved again using two layers but instead of doing an overlay I did a mask.  A mask allows me to take a rasterized (flattened) image that would normally be filled with a solid color and fill it with whatever I have placed on the layer below it, in this case more camo, without losing any of the sharpness of the font I used.


The bullet holes came about due to a battle I was having with myself.  Not only do I talk to myself, I fight with myself too.  It’s really not pretty to watch. Originally I really wanted to have a soldiers gun hanging from the title.  I just could not get it to fit well.  So, as I’ve said before if I feel something just doesn’t fit…don’t force it, it still won’t work.  So I forced myself to let go of that idea and tried a helmet.  Once again, no go.  Not a bad idea but too bulky, instead it ended up on the back cover.  Then it dawned on me…bullet holes! I can make those in different sizes and move them around to where they need to be. Yes, I know it was an obvious solution but I was a bit slow getting there.


I finished this one off after adding the bullets by adding a simple white to transparent gradient layer between the text and the photograph for a smooth segue along the cover. This is a cover that didn’t need much to make it speak, the photograph did that for me.

That’s it, that’s how this cover came to be.  Any thoughts?


By the way, this is a really unique story about a soldiers experience as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, it’s really worth the read and quite surprising.  I am not typically a fan of this genre but I really enjoyed it.


Here’s a little peek at the whole cover.  One of the little touches I particularly like is the dog tags on the spine.


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