Self Publishing for Guitarists Part 5- Illustration

By: James Martin

A guitar book is not a novel. It is a multimedia presentation, utilising pictures, diagrams, music notation and audio (which we’ll look at separately). Getting the graphic element right is a key part of putting together a professional looking package. Let’s start with pictures.

Google image and stock photos can be a godsend here, but make sure that you’re clear on copyright issues. Many times this can be as simple as allowing a credit in the corner of the picture, or acknowledging the original photographer in the text – often a small price to pay for a quality image.

For some people, having each photo professionally taken may be feasible, but for Zero Point Guitar I took the DIY approach and purchased a tripod and remote control for my iPhone camera, as well as a white photographer’s background.

All available on eBay, total cost around £35 (Don’t forget to log these as expenses). This lets me get the right shot I need and allows me to redo anything I’m not happy with, and also let me do the shots for Zero Point Bass as well as any other subsequent books.

A well–lit shot at a decent megapixel rate with no clutter in the background gets the point across nicely – we’re not after artistry here, just clear and simple instructions.

Once taken, I ran each photo through Photoshop Elements (which came free on my PC – Mac users will have something similar in the shape of iPhoto) to crop, enhance, and add text where necessary.

A good tip here is to try and size the photo as accurately as possible to the size you want it to be in your publication, as resizing it in the DTP package often leaves pictures looking fuzzy and ill-defined. I also found the ability to “fill” the background with white and then use the blur tool to smooth over edges that looked too contrived made for a much clearer picture.

For diagrams – Photoshop to the rescue again! I used this package to create the Preparation/Performance diagram to try and explain how efficient practicing works.

Try and keep things simple here – text fonts should replicate what you’ve used elsewhere and most image processing software has a library of pre-installed symbols that you can manipulate. It’s easy to get carried away with special affects like bevels, shadows, etc. – avoid the temptation and keep things simple.

As for fretboard diagrams, I created my own in Photoshop using lines and dots (I’d advise taking the time to learn about layers if you take this approach, check out the “Help” menu for tutorials on this subject) – but you could also check out for some purpose-built software.

In terms of notation, there are three freeware packages commonly used – Guitar Pro, Tux Guitar and Powertab. I plumped for Powertab, partly because I simply like the interface and the look of the notation it creates, but also because it lets me export sections of tab as a Bitmap (.bmp) file. This is a high definition graphics file that can then be manipulated in Photoshop, turned into a JPEG (.jpg) or higher resolution PNG (.png) file, which is a far smaller and more manageable file that can be imported straight into your DTP publication.

I’d advise anyone starting out to spend a little time learning the ropes of image manipulation, as it will pay off in creating a professional package. Don’t overlook the graphic element of your project – we need to be able to show as well as tell!

Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4Part 6Part 7, and Part 8 of this self publishing for guitarists series.


This article has been independently supplied by the author and expresses the author’s own views and opinions; the article does not purport to represent RGT’s views or policies.

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