Steampunk cover for Wired Love

The second book I illustrated and released as an ebook in my “tech joke” series was Wired Love by Ella Cheever Thayer. First published in 1879, it’s about a female telegraph operator who falls in love with a male telegrapher over the wire.

Yup, chat room romances existed in the telegraph days.

My tech joke series consists of illustrated coves I recreate for classic books in the public domain. Then I assemble them into ebooks and release them for free. My first release was Moby Dick illustrating the whale as the Twitter Fail Whale on the cover.

For Wired Love, I went for a steampunk design since I couldn’t find a suitable related tech joke. Plus, steampunk covers the telegraph era.

The look I had in my head required real 3D software. Since I was using Adobe Illustrator, it would have taken way too long for me to achieve a photorealistic 3D look. So I went for a 2D cartoony style instead.

The drawing combines steel (or is that pewter?), brass, wires and wood. That’s morse code running through the wires. I’ll leave it up to you to decode it ;)

How I created the cover

I consulted a few tutorials on creating the metal look. I won’t reinvent the wheel by including a tutorial on that here since you’ll find plenty on Google (I highly recommend the Vector Tuts site). However, I had to come up with my own method of creating a heart shaped piece of metal.

Google (or Vector Tuts) search for blending objects as well and then you’ll see how easy it is to create a heart shaped metal thingy. Any shape for that matter. It just takes a little time and patience to get the photorealism right.

Really, all I did was create two circles side by side, overlapping each other.

I then made a copy of them in another layer above, shrunk them a bit and then blended them together.

Then I used the pen tool to create the rest of the heart and made a copy of that, too. Guess where I pasted it? Yup, on the other layer with the larger circles. And yes, I increased the size of it, too.

Back on the layer with the smaller circles and rest of the heart – I blended that with the circles. I added a texture to make it look metallic (that’s another search for applying textures to vector art).

Back to the layer with the larger circles: I applied a radial gradient to each circle (at opposing angles for each) with many colours (in shades of grey. You’ll see why in the tutorials you searched for).

I also added a gradient for the rest of the heart.

The straight lined grooves

Just two lines on top of each other with a film grain effect applied to the bottom line. Same with the nails. They are simple circles with a gradient and a film grain copy underneath.

The bright morse code effect

Same method as the grooves except the bottom dots have a blur and glow effect applied to them. Like I did with the other objects throughout this non-tutorial, I kept playing with the settings until I achieved the effect I was looking for.

The joy of creative challenges

This is what I enjoy about creative challenges. Especially when using a challenging program like Illustrator. You have to plan out how you will achieve the look you are trying to achieve. Then achieving it!

One word of warning

You will need lots of RAM when using all these gradients and effects. I didn’t even get into shadows (just for the wires and to separate the heart from the wooden background) and font (another search for 1900s fonts. At the time, I forgot that Wired Love was published way before that).

Wow, after writing it outlined is, the cover totally doesn’t seem the hours and hours and hours and hours of work that it took to perfect it.

You can download my ebook for Wired Love in ePub format viewable in most e-readers or mobi for the Kindle.

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