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The Assassination Game Book Cover

By Charlene-Art
19 Favourites
Lol I'm at a point where I don't care anymore. I will probably come back and edit it a bit but for now I consider it done. However considering my last photomanipulated pieces was about 3 years ago, this ain't bad.

Entry for :iconcathleentarawhiti:'s Book Cover challenge: Book cover challenge - Couple fighting poses

Models: CathleenTarawhiti
Moon: My own stock
Cloud Brushes: CelticStrm-Stock…
Wall: AGF81

Book Mock Up:…

Constructive criticism on the fonts, general layout of the book cover accepted as well as how to paint lighting and shadows in photoshop. I find that the skin and stuff tends to look soft and lose it's sharpness and texture when you paint shadows and highlights on it. Any ideas how not to do this?

Book Cover available to buy here:…
Image details
Image size
2476x3749px 4.72 MB
© 2018 - 2021 Charlene-Art
anonymous's avatar
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TriciaS's avatar
Wonderful!!!!!!! :heart:
3wyl's avatar
Congratulations on being a finalist!

Regarding the fonts, I'm not a fan of the ornate first letters, though I think the rest of the font depicts the atmosphere of the piece well. The type is such that it feels straight and solid, what you would expect of assassins. I like how you've accentuated the "Anonymous Reviewer" part by adding a bit of shadow there, so that it looks like the quotes are leaping off the page.

The symmetry of the moon on both covers works very well and keeps the design tight in terms of concept. While the moon seems like just the right size for the blurb, that is somewhat skewed with the main title. I feel the main title could be lowered a bit, and if that would conflict with the people featured, the people could be lowered in turn, if you get what I mean. The ninja's weapon could be placed lower since most of his arm bodypart is off the cover. This would free up some room so "Game" does not conflict with the weapon.

It's awesome that you used a reference for the people to good effect, and how it doesn't appear to be a photograph, but drawn. With the people in such a particular position, I wonder if they could be moved more to the left so that it feels more centered. Right now, the woman takes up more space... but if she is the main character, that would make sense in a way.

Overall, I would say you've captured the allure in the mystical feel of the clouds. Such a dynamic pose attracts the eye, and there is good contrast in the lighting and colors. Nod

Commented on behalf of ProjectComment
Charlene-Art's avatar
Awe thanks 3wyl!

Ah yes I see what you mean! I'll keep all these things in mind for later :)
Charlene-Art's avatar
Wow thank you! I've sent you my large jpeg.
CelticStrm-Stock's avatar
Thank you for using my stock! :heart:
Charlene-Art's avatar
Thank you for providing it!
HazelRose3637's avatar
I really really really like this cover! :D Nice choice of font, the poses show movement, and I love the synopsis in the back! ^^
Charlene-Art's avatar
Thank you so much! So pleased you liked everything :)
StephOBrien's avatar
Hi, I'm here from  ProjectComment icon by StephOBrien .

This cover makes a really strong first impression - the colors, layout and poses pulled me in right away and made me want to know more.

I'd like to give some feedback on what looks good, and what I think could use improvement.


I like the font you used for the majority of the text. It's got some flourish to it, and it complements the rest of the cover very well, but it's still clearly legible. Using the moon as a word balloon to enclose the description was a really cool touch, and it made the text feel smoothly integrated into the cover.

The initial/drop cap letters, on the other hand, are sometimes nearly unreadable. I could read the A and B, but the rest I had to guess by context rather than actually being able to read them.

I like how the reviews cast a slight shadow - it makes them look more like they're part of the cover. Using different fonts for the quote and the attribution helped to differentiate between them; aside from the drop cap font, you seem to have a strong grasp of how to use different fonts to accentuate different parts of the cover without making it look cluttered by having too many fonts.


As lepidolitecharolette mentioned, there are some grammatical errors in the description. Since you asked for specifics, here they are:

1. "Assassinator" isn't a word. It's "assassin".

2. The spacing between the words is inconsistent. Sometimes it looks like there's a single space between them, other times it looks double-spaced. I recommend keeping it consistent.

3. There are several errors in the third sentence; here's a rewritten version, so you can see what I'd change:

"But his target has a few tricks up her sleeve; after all, you don't get to be on the world's best assassin's hit list for nothing." I changed "the girl" to "his target" to keep it from being repetitive.

I had trouble working "Darren" into that sentence in a way that wouldn't make it look awkward; it would probably be easier to slip his name into a later sentence, like "she speaks to Darren in a way no one else can".

The line "Perhaps that's why she has been nicknamed the Cobra, hypnotising their prey before striking for the kill" adds a welcome extra level of intrigue. I was never fond of the whole "these two professionals are so uncontrollably attracted to each other that they'll endanger themselves and their mission for their lust" angle - it tends to make me roll my eyes at their crappy self-control - but this puts a twist on that overused plotline by making it sound like his attraction is a calculated strategy on her part, and it raises questions about whether she's working her way into his heart due to soul-level compatibility or ruthless skill.

One problem with that sentence is that it changes gender in mid-sentence, and the transition from talking about her to making a metaphor feels awkward. I think it would have been better for to say "Perhaps that's why she has been nicknamed the Cobra - she hypnotises her prey before striking for the kill".

I'd also suggest putting a comma after "Can he carry out his task" to suggest a slight, ominous pause. Otherwise the sentence feels rushed.

Lighting and shadows:

Conveniently, I also use Photoshop. To keep the texture while changing the shade, I recommend using the brush tool's "multiply" mode at partial opacity for shadows, and "screen" at low opacity for highlights.

You already seem to have a good grasp of how light, shadows, mood and surrounding objects affect the color of shadows and highlights; just be prepared for the fact that 'multiply' will often make colors more saturated than you expect (at least in 7.0, which is what I use), so you might need to use a less saturated tone than you would if you were using "normal" mode.

Speaking of shadows, don't forget that some elements in a picture will cast shadows on others. In this instance, Cobra's arm should cast a shadow on Darren's arm, but while the inside of his arm has a shadow that roughly corresponds with her arm's position, the outside of his arm doesn't. That said, you seem to have remembered this with Cobra's hair and most of her lower body, so maybe the lack of shadow on Darren's arm was just a brain fart.


While you're adding light and shadows, be careful not to erase parts of the subject's anatomy. There should be a dip in the Cobra's armpit, and probably a bit of muscle definition where her shoulder meets her bicep, but instead it's a smooth cylinder. 

Here's a picture you can use as a reference:…

While some angles and lighting can make it hard to see, there's generally a line running from the outer edge of the breast/chest muscle to the top of the arm where the shoulder meets the bicep.

Speaking of biceps, her arm on the viewer's right looks skinnier than the one on our left, and the bicep looks kind of concave. That makes it look like her upper arm would taper to an unnatural level of thinness at the elbow - either that, or its upper edge would have to curve upward between the elbow and the point where it vanishes behind Darren, which would place the bulge of her bicep too low on the arm. This is probably a product of the shoulder being too long; the distance from the lower tip of the shoulder muscle to the elbow is generally about equal to the length of the shoulder muscle itself.

Darren's left arm also looks slightly too thin compared to his right one, though it's a bit hard to tell for sure. I would expect the world's best assassin to be physically strong, especially if he fights in melee range as this cover implies, but his left bicep looks a tad small compared to his shoulder and the other arm.

Maybe this is me showing a lack of knowledge about combat, but I feel like their non-weapon arms are a bit too limp and inactive, like they're just trailing in their owners' wake instead of doing anything. I think the scene would look more tense and convincing if their arms were raised a bit more, and seemed ready to block or strike.

I like the ambiguous expression on Cobra's face, and the way Darren's blade is ALMOST aimed at her head, but not quite, as if he's hesitating. The picture really does convey that he's uncertain and hesitant, while she looks focused, ruthless and ready to strike.

All in all, this is an awesome start, and I hope my nitpicking helps you do even better on your future projects.
Charlene-Art's avatar

Hi! Thank you for the in-depth critique it was really helpful! I’ve tried to adjust the spacing in the text – I think the font used just doesn’t space very well so I’ve manually attempted to adjust each space. Hopefully it’s better. I’ve decided to keep the drop caps as they are simply because I feel that people can understand the words due to context and it’s an excuse for me to use them – because I’ll never get to use them otherwise :P.


Thank you for your thoughts in the text! In truth I haven’t actually written anything in a long time which is why my sentence structure and grammar are quite poor. “Assassinator” does not show up as an incorrect word on Word :P. I have changed some of the sentences accordingly :). I’ve eliminated Darren’s name for the time being because it doesn’t really fit in anywhere but I do recall reading somewhere that blurbs generally contain the character’s name so you care about the character and feel enticed to get the book. Not entirely sure where I could slide it in but I suppose the most important thing isn’t necessarily being called Darren :P


Ha ha I tried to make the line interesting and not as clichéd and cheesy as possible so I’m glad that worked out :).


I’ve tried switching the blend modes to the highlighted areas and shadowed areas to screen and multiply respectively. Hopefully that looks better. The main reason Darren’s arm still had the highlight on it is because I was using this Drop Shadow technique I saw in a tutorial. I’ve tried to knock it back a little bit.


In terms of the anatomy I was mostly just working with in terms what I had with the model stock provided. Here is the photograph I cut out in Photoshop: Couple fighting poses 20 by CathleenTarawhiti. I don’t think I’ve shaved off  any parts of their arms accidentally but I believe that’s just how the models arms and things are. I have managed to pump up Darren’s left arm a bit using the liquefy tool in Photoshop. I completely agree that their other posing arms could be more dynamic but I was simply working with what I had available in terms of that particular stock image. I could figure out how to modify them later.


Thank you again for your critique! I’ve made a few modifications based on your suggestions and I hope you think it’s improved J

StephOBrien's avatar
You’re welcome! I’m glad you found it helpful.

The font spacing does look better now. It sucks when a font’s natural spacing looks off – that makes a lot of extra work! As for the drop caps, fair enough – they do look very pretty, and I can see why you’d want a chance to use them.

I think having the character’s name in the description is a good thing; it’s just a matter of sliding it in naturally. Better to leave it out than to shoehorn it in at the expense of making the sentence look weird, IMO. But as I mentioned in my original comment, you could say “she speaks to Darren in a way no one else can”, if that looks good to you.

It’s a bit hard to say whether the new shading and highlighting looks better without a “before and after” picture; it’s been around a week since I saw the original version. But this new version does look good. Tools like Drop Shadow are very handy, but as this experience shows, not always an adequate replacement for using one’s own judgment.

If your Photoshop works like mine, here’s one technique you could use to add shadows or gaps in the highlight in situations where you’ve used effects like Drop Shadow:

Have two layers, one with the pre-Drop Shadow version on bottom, and the other with the Drop Shadow on top, perfectly aligned with each other. Create a third, blank layer between the two, and merge the Drop Shadow layer down onto it so the Drop Shadow effect becomes a static part of the image instead of an effect that will change shape when you erase things. Then erase the part of the Drop Shadow layer where you no longer want the glow or shadow, leaving the Drop Shadow-free layer below it visible. That way, you can use Drop Shadow where you need it, but erase the parts of it you don’t need. I hope that explanation made sense and helps.

Hm, it looks like I was wrong about some parts of the anatomy; it’s sometimes hard to judge a piece of anatomy like a shoulder by itself without being able to see the rest of the arm. Same for stuff like the “empty” limbs; now that I’ve looked at the original stock photo, I realize they are holding weapons, but of course we can’t see that in the cropped version. Though, the female model does have a bit of a shadow defining the shoulder and armpit of her raised arm, which was lost in the reshading.

The new version does look like an improvement – good work! You’re welcome again for the critique.
Charlene-Art's avatar
Thanks! Yeah it was a pain in the ass to do each space individually but oh well. Free fonts I suppose.

Ah nice! That name thing could work, lol. Why didn't I think of that? :P

Thank you for the ideas on Photoshop too. Will try them next time :)
StephOBrien's avatar
You're welcome. Writing's kinda my thing - I've been writing fiction as long as I can remember, and I also do a lot of writing in my marketing/copywriting business, so figuring out how to work information into a smoothly-flowing sentence is something I do a lot.

Hopefully the Photoshop ideas work out well for you.
Charlene-Art's avatar
Nice. We will see how it goes :)
lepidolitecharolette's avatar
There are a few spelling and grammar mistakes but he cover looks nice.
Charlene-Art's avatar
Really? May I ask where the spelling and grammatical errors are?
lepidolitecharolette's avatar
JustAnotherGirlyGirl's avatar
This is really nice! 

The only thing I feel a little "meh" about is the font. I've never liked those where I felt it was hard to read it. That's just my opinion, though! The rest is really nice! Meow :3 
Charlene-Art's avatar
That's fair. I did bear in mind to keep it mostly legible, especially for a book but I've always liked fonts with a little bit of flair to them and thought the other font might be ok for the drop cap. 

Thanks for your opinion!
JustAnotherGirlyGirl's avatar
anonymous's avatar
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