If you're writing for Wattpad or similar online sites. you know the importance of good covers. A professional, bright cover with a provocative image and the title can draw in readers immediately.
Wattpad uses a blurred image of your avi if you don't put up a cover. It's not bad at all, but I still think that a cover adds a certain layer of mystery to your work, the one you've slaved over for so long. After all, it's the first impression readers will get of your writing.
My own book covers are created by Lisa Daly (and just wait until you see what she's cooking up for The South Sea Bubble!) It's important to have a professional artist design a cover for Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, or Lulu, since as books move to print the covers must fit the specs with spine width and allow for image bleeds....
I'm already getting a headache. Lisa is incredibly good at all of that, and I happily hand her the rights to produce all my print covers in the future.
However, if I'm putting up a different story every few weeks on Wattpad, I need to have the ability to quickly post simple, attractive and covers with text for story and poetry collections, as well as books. In order to avoid the generic Wattpad blurred-out image, here's what I did:
1. I found cheap images to use on canstockphoto.com. They are great quality and cost, for the most part, two dollars for an image that's sized to fit Wattpad (small jpg size.) I usually buy the larger image in case I do want to use it for a print cover later, but that's just me. The standard license covers Wattpad, since readers aren't downloading anything and I'm not selling the image.
If that's out of your budget, you can do a search for free images on Google. Just be certain that Free means available for use in digital publishing, and do look for good quality images that are at least 256 x 400 dpi (a Google image search should tell you what the size is.)
2. Once you have your image, download it to your desktop. Please don't do this illegally: that's not cool.
Now you can begin to work with the image. I discovered picmonkey.com - it's a fantastic site for working with jpg's, especially if you're CLUELESS, like me. Drag your jpg to the edit photo box and it will pop up in a screen with a bunch of basic edit options. You can crop, resize (useful to get the pic down to 256x400) etc.
3. Add your text. Click on the P on the left side of the screen. An Add Text menu will pop up.
Select your font and click add text. A box will appear on your image; type in your title and move the box to where you want it on the photo.
As you move it, you'll see color and size options for the text. Play with them until you have a nice title that is legible and stands out for your cover.
I found all of that really intuitive, and as I said - I am CLUELESS when it comes to Photoshop and InDesign.
One important thing - leave a healthy margin on either side of the text or it will get cut off when you put up your new cover on Wattpad.
Repeat the above for your name and drag it to where you want it on the image.
4. You can also play with the image itself, using the other buttons above and below the P. You might want to do a few test covers, to find what settings you like. There are options to add spider webs, fire, and sparkles, among other things. Feel free to add them, although I would caution you not to get too crazy with it.
5. Once you're happy with your cover, click the Combine Layers icon above the image. It's the one that looks like two floating sheets of paper with an arrow, next to the little gear. The text will "attach" to the image, as well as any alterations you made to the picture.
Click Save, and the picture will be downloaded to your desktop.
6. Now you just need to go to the My Works section on Wattpad, click the edit button under the story of choice, and upload your gorgeous new cover. If it doesn't upload right away, it's probably too large. Go back to picmonkey and resize it from the Basic Edits button (the top one, which looks like a molecule.)
Another place to resize images is this one: www.shrinkpictures.com - it's very basic and the results are great.
These online tools can be used for blog images and banners as well.