Designing with Becky Chilcott

Every week, we learn so much with Becky Chilcott, a freelance graphic designer who’s had over twelve years of experience in publishing. This Monday was a challenge as our MA class had to design a cover to a brief.

The above covers are my attempts at creating an alternate cover for Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson, published by DoubleDay Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Jane Johnson also writes as Jude Fisher and I remember being fascinated by her world building.

We had to keep to the brief when creating our covers, meaning:

  • designing a cover that would reflect the genre: historical fiction
  • designing a cover that is commercial, eye-catching and also works well as a thumbnail image and at full size
  • listing and linking to all the images used in the cover
  • using images are legal to use, either creating them or using stock libraries like Shutterstock or Flickr
  • submitting the covers as RGB 300dpi jpegs
  • using a defined Trimmed Page Size (TPS): 198 mm (high) x 129mm (wide)

I think only one of my covers really works as a thumbnail image, but it was a lot of fun searching for free images that allowed for commercial use and modifications and a challenge to make the covers look nice.

While working on the covers, I got to play around with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, applying clipping masks, using overlay layers, importing brushes in AI and making different patterns … All in all, it was great to be able to practice with a specific goal in mind.

This was the original cover for Pillars of Light:

Pillars of Light cover by Jane Johnson Doubleday Canada


The cover reads as more romance than historical fiction to me and there were similar comments on Goodreads, so I decided to try making covers that were more sober. I’m looking forward to getting Becky’s feedback.

Here are all the images, brushes and fonts I used when making the covers. All of these are free to use commercially or for personal use, so feel free to download and play around with them.

Design 1
  • I used the image deep forest by Petras Gagila (CC BY-SA 2.0) (Commercial use + mods allowed, credit)
  • Fonts: Copperplate and Centuar came with PS font, but I found Aierbazzi on and it can be used for personal and commercial use
  • The floral vector art floral came with AI
Design 2
Design 3
  • I used two images, the castle from here (CC BY-SA 2.0) and the sky from here (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • For the title I used King City from
  • I desaturised the sky image, applied a rocky texture to the castle with a free rock stone brush pack, and used pattern brush 3 on AI to make the floral vector art

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