New cover art for "Scarlet Sails"

mini.version.jpgI had an artist lined up but she vanished (also, I got scared she’d do something I didn’t like) so I started putting together something else. My current drafts are at … g-a-cover/ with some other thoughts and several very cool images that were discarded. The pic above is representative of my current front-runners. Feedback is most welcome at this stage!

(And, for those following the editing saga, it seems to be finally coming to a close as dead pirates have stopped showing up willy-nilly. You are still most welcome to play it at … mp/mygame/ and tell me whatever’s still wrong with it.)

I have yet to play the game, but have read reviews and therefore have an impression feel about it, so I have an outsider’s take on your WIP.

I gotta say I don’t like it. My first reaction is against the style. It looks like a linocut - and I read your blog after, where and you describe it as woodcut, which is a very similar aesthetic. To me they both convey a static, ornate and not very piratey feel. Woodcuts and linocuts can convey details like wood and water well, but even so I think their look is more suited for portraits and still lifes.

When I think of your game, based on what I know, it’s rollicky and adventuresome, which is not the vibe I get from the current pics. I get a heavier vibe that we’d be dwelling on the character(s) of the two people presented. That’s the ideas that portraits tend to sell, plus the dark/dour colours assist that vibe. I’m not getting a fun feel.

In composition, the frame shape and composition aren’t complementary. If you go for a widescreen composition, splitting in the middle makes it look like 2 squares rather than a united cover image. Putting the title entirely in one of the squares reinforces that sense. If nothing else, I’d have the title centred so it crosses both characters.

The woman has realistic colouring, which makes the man (yellow) hard to interpret. He needs to move into the same colour space as her for both to be interpreted correctly and in relation to each other.

But that’s accepting this image. I mean, my inclination is to return to the original idea (the 2 sailors, in opposition to each other? I haven’t played the game but that’s the story I get) but then come up with an entirely new take. The colours are too dour, fun is not conveyed, I don’t like the woodcut aesthetic as a match for the ideas (though that could change if the colours brighten), the composition problems, message not clear.

Sorry if this is dispiriting for the amount of work you’ve already done, but it’s very tough to get good results in graphic design without a lot of experience. Have you considered commissioning a title page from a pro, or do you know anyone yourself with more experience? Or hitting up someone whose output you like on deviantart, etc.?

(PS I’d offer you my own services ( but I’ve zero time for anything like this at the moment : ) )

By the way, on these forums there’s a collaboration topic, which also has some good advice on other DIY solutions -


My decidedly non-expert opinion–this isn’t working as a composite. The man, especially, doesn’t fit with the rest of it. If it were me, and I wanted to work with what I already had rather than starting from scratch, I’d stick with just one of the original pictures (ship, woman, man) instead of trying to combine them. And I wouldn’t choose the man, because I like that picture least of the three–the coloring is odd and the style is not as attractive, in my opinion. I’d pick just the ship or the woman. And yeah, maybe play with the colors.

I think it’s two separate images side by side, one or the other. I could be wrong.

Ohhh. In that case I like the one on the left better than the one on the right.

Hm, okay. How about this? I’d have to muck around to make her rectangular (eg putting the title next to her) but she certainly conveys fun and piracy (and a lack of realism).stock-vector-pirate-girl-a-beautiful-but-dangerous-pirate-girl-195079586.jpg

Overall - yes, she’s a way better choice, conveying a lot of things right, and it’s a good drawing.

On a far more subjective topic, we’re used to being bombarded with sexual imagery that is disconnected from the thing it is trying to sell. This lady is skewing very sexual. My question, as someone who hasn’t played your game, is - is this right for your game content?

What I can say is that when I figure in the title, ‘Scarlet Sails’ (a sexy title in my opinion!), the pic and title together are compatible. It’s not like the game is called ‘Pirate Adventure’ but has a pic of a sexy-looking female pirate under it, which would make me suspicious that the game was using sex to get me in. It’s called ‘Scarlet Sails’, which evocatively speaking, can fit this picture.

Shape-wise, this pic is a problem. It’s very self-contained and self-satisfied in its square. It’s too busy with detail to put words over it. You could make it a vertical poster with ‘Scarlet Sails’ sitting underneath. I think that going horizontally (ie adding the words beside it) is not gonna work. I can tell it’s gonna look weird or badly composed unless the title gets so huge that the girl is only 1/3rd of the width.

Of the other things on your blog, I like the middle of the three Redheads matches type pics. I probably like that best of all. It looks stylish and classic and still leaks fun. And I think what would be really cool is if the title was under it in the same curlicued red style as the woman’s wavy hair. (A vertical poster - again, probs with horizontal).

I don’t know how it fits with your skin-colouring ideas, though. What I can say about those designs is they’re pretty much designed to be right already. EG The negative space is white. If you go changing colours on them, I expect the images will become weaker.


Content wise, although the final picture is drawn very well, I don’t think it fit the game at all. Theme-wise I preferred the first two, even if they have problems of their own.

I mean, if you want to make the romancing the selling point, yeah, go with the last one. Me, when I played the game, I was glad not to be bombarded with romance, for once, and my choices reflected that. I still formed an attachment, and it was all the sweeter for it not having been forced upon me.


Vertical isn’t an option, unfortunately.

There’s very mild sexiness in the story (and everyone’s super attractive, because fantasy) but it’s certainly not the main focus.

I’ll spend more time on this, definitely. This lady might work better with the title next to her to make it rectangular. Either that or a LOT of white space. Or an unusual border, with wide sides. I’d probably alter the text so that Firebird had red hair (via magic, since everyone is dark-skinned - it’s possible for dark-skinned people to have red hair, but not generally in that wavy style without a lot of artificial alteration) and an eye patch, so the pic could represent her.

There’s always the drawing board, of course.

God bless people who have played the game!

You may get somewhere if you keep going, but so far you’ve been offering images that people who’ve played it are finding off base, and others find aesthetically troubling. And one group can’t vet 20 idea changes.

My conservative first rank advice remains - collaborate with or outsource to someone who does art/design. I think about 80% of IF covers have something obvious wrong with them that designer types would knock out in 5 seconds. Even if it’s just ‘those words are too close to that edge’, etc. And it’s because 80% of IF covers are done by the author, who is a writer and programmer of various merits, but who may not have any visual design experience or instinct.

My second rank advice with what you’ve already shown is - maybe you can go horizontal with that redhead matches girl, but I vote against anything like Weird Wide Borders to solve problems.


I kinda like the last one, but then, I’ve always had a taste for the anarchic. The Captain herself is clearly a sexual creature (even if I choose not to play that way), and the last one does provide allure without shoving it down my throat. I like its lack of definition, because that’s what the game is like - somewhat fixed content, but the contour and the exact details are not fixed, because they’ll be up to the player.

But until you post someone that makes people go “Good God, that’s it! I love it! Keep it and hold it and never let it out of your sight!”, I’m not sure this’ll be all that useful to you! The odd person jumping in and making vague comments, without various (lack of, in my case) artistic backgrounds… is this helping much?

That last image with the three color art is perfect. In fact, the left part of her hair is already making the S for you. If you blank out some to the right to make “carlet Sails” extend a ways to the right and zoom out a bit you can make a square (or any shape) image.

Here’s a rough example.


I sincerely do like that one. Though I somehow would prefer the font had no shading - to match the rest of the art.

I also wonder what it would look like if the S in her hair did not have to be darkened - would the shape be suggestive enough to work?

Of course a professional illustrator would do a much better job with this (making the hair integrate into the font better) but here’s what Peter’s changes would look like.

Wow. Those images are really interesting. Thank you.

I ended up putting the words where she was looking (which, apart form anything else, was easier).

I commit to this being my last comment in this topic, due to backseat micro-manager’s frustration.

First, it’s hard to like this one too much after suggesting, and seeing quickly executed by Hanon, that wittier design with the same elements.

Looking at this - it looks ‘OK’ large, as you’ve presented it, and looks considerably weaker when viewed at smaller sizes.

The game title words are dragging on the head. I’d give white space around the head at the edges, or more radically, blow it up so it goes outside the edges. Both of those options look like decisions about space and framing. The ‘just touching the edge of the frame’ option always looks like what it usually is the result of - someone tried to juuuust fit the graphic or font into the frame.

This is my big secret about IF covers revealed. When I said something like ‘90% of IF covers’ have one thing wrong with them, this is that thing!

The smaller you view this graphic, the more the head overwhelms and the title is lost / unintegrated.


Let me at least give you the lettering in a fancier font so you have the option.
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I’ve submitted all the files now, but for interest’s sake here is one version of the final cover (confession: one of the covers is such an extreme rectangle that I had to use the separated title or it looked odd). The icon for the game is an extreme close-up of her face. I’m thrilled with this final result and glad I didn’t go with my original version.