Creating a Lulu Book Cover with Pixel
Last month, I dove into LyX, a graphical LaTeX typesetting program for Linux. Because LyX produces commercial quality documents, it's an ideal match for the Lulu.com self-publishing Web site.
I'm reasonably certain most authors send material that comes from a standard word-processing program, such as Microsoft Word. Look back at the article in the December 2006 issue of LJ where I show you some output between a word processor and LyX to see what a difference it makes for your final product.
This time, I finish our book publishing tutorial. Publishing to Lulu.com is a two-step process. First, you need to upload your finished text files to Lulu. Then, you need to design a cover for the final product.
After Lulu accepts your text file, it asks you to format or upload a cover for the book. You have two choices: use one of Lulu's predesigned cover backgrounds, or upload a custom book cover that you created.
The sample book covers Lulu provides vary and may suit your publication just fine. If you decide to use one of those, the on-line system will help you add text to the image. Lulu's on-line program will place the author, ISBN and copyright notice for you as well. However, creating a book cover yourself is a great opportunity to examine Pixel.
In my estimation, Pixel is not a direct competitor of The GIMP. Pixel is a commercially produced application that runs on many operating systems. The Pixel Web site (www.kanzelsberger.com/pixel) notes at least six different operating systems, including Linux, Windows and Mac OS X.
By its own description, Pixel seems suited for advanced graphic artists. In fact, the first non-beta version of Pixel should include Photoshop plugins and .psd import and export. See www.kanzelsberger.com/pixel/?page_id=60 for more details and a list of features for the next release.
Pixel is not free. It is available as a demonstration software package, and users can buy a license for $32 US. This fee includes unlimited support and all updates until the next major release.
The demonstration copy does have a significant drawback. Any image created with Pixel contains a Pixel watermark. There is also a small “nag” screen reminding you to buy the product to get full use of the software. So, you can't use any graphics produced with the demo version.
I don't find this objectionable. Pixel's author intends to steer the software to compete with the leaders in the graphics industry. Although the expected version 1 price is around $100 US, it's still less than the competition. I like competition; it helps keep prices down.
Because Pixel is not open source or free, it's not likely you will find it in a major distribution's repository. So, download a demo copy from www.kanzelsberger.com/pixel/?page_id=4. Installation is straightforward. Download the Linux .tar file, unpack it and click on the file to start program installation. Follow the instructions on-screen to finish the setup.
Once complete, start Pixel from the command line or your system menu, and the home screen appears (Figure 1). At first impression, Pixel looks similar to other top-line commercial software. It's also different from The GIMP, because it covers your entire screen. In addition, many tools are in full view by default (Figure 2).
The screen layout is clean. Some of the icons are a bit troublesome to identify due to their size. But, trying to find hundreds of unique pictures for tools must be challenging for any programmer.
Now you're ready to begin. Because Pixel is still in beta release, documentation is scarce. In March 2006, the Pixel support forum explained that no documentation is ready as the focus is on product development. There is a help system available by pressing F1 (Figure 3), but currently no embedded tutorial exists. Even without much documentation, Pixel's layout is somewhat intuitive. If you know Adobe Photoshop, you're in luck—it's nearly the same.
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