CreateSpace covers and Pixelmator for Mac

NOTE: This is old advice, and I haven’t deleted it for historical purposes. CreateSpace no longer exists, and I don’t use Pixelmator anymore. Don’t follow any of my instructions  here. Don’t even read this.

I ran into some problems when doing a wraparound cover for CreateSpace using Pixelmator on the Mac. This is one of those “note to self” posts so I remember how to do this six months or a year from now, but maybe it’s helpful to others that run into this, because I couldn’t find much in my frantic last-second google searches on this.  This is also sort of a capture of me trying to figure this out, so sorry about that.

Background: 6×9″ cover, wraparound, 186 pages, spine text. After the book was submitted and it ran for 12-18 hours in the queue, it got kicked back saying the cover was sized incorrectly, and it was resized with the front of the book offset by a half inch or so, screwing up the centering.

Potential issues:

  1. First, this cover was on a white background with white bleeds. I’ve heard this can confuse the process.
  2. There’s some confusion (and I don’t know the real answer) on the size of the PDF you use for the cover. If you download a template, the crop/bleed lines are on a PDF with a page size of 19×13 or 18×12. With that, it appears you lay out your cover in the zone in the middle and at the bottom of the page, with this giant blank spot above and on either side. I did that, and it didn’t work.
  3. The other alternative, and something I’ve seen with lulu and others, is to make your cover the size of the cover plus bleeds. So .125 + 6 + .41 + 6 + .125 by .125 + 9 + .125. I did this, and it didn’t work.
  4. I think I may have had some issues with 72dpi vs 300dpi. If you ask experts, they’ll tell you “a PDF doesn’t have resolution” which is semantic bullshit, because a PDF is a two-dimensional object, so it has to have something.

The PDF size thing: I don’t know if this was Pixelmator’s fault or mine.  But when I clicked the PDF and did a Get Info, it said it was 3798×2775, which is 12.66×9.25.  I open that PDF in Preview, do a Tools > Inspector, and there’s no “resolution” shown, but the document size is 52.75 × 38.55 inches.  Divide that out, and… 72 DPI.

I reopen my Pixelmator image, do an Image > Image Size…  52.75 × 38.55 inches at 72 DPI.  I don’t know if I just didn’t notice this and it’s a relic of me opening up the PDF template and Pixelmator assuming it’s a huge 72 DPI image, or if I just screwed it up at some point and set it to 72 DPI, or if Pixelmator automatically flip-flopped it.  All of these would be an issue, and I don’t have the patience to test all three.

Here are a number of fixes.  TL;DR: the first one works.  The other ones, well, read on.

  • Use the Cover Creator and put an image of your whole wraparound cover in it.
    1. Instead of doing an “upload your cover” click on the thing to use Cover Creator.  One of the covers (I forget the name, it’s on the second or third page) is one that lets you upload your own wraparound cover.  It’s set up to overlay spine text in the wizard, but you can shut it off and keep your own text.
    2. Take your cover in Pixelmator.  Image > Canvas Size and resize the canvas.  The cover creator wizard tells you how big it wants it.  In my case, it was 13×9.5. Center your cover in that.  You’ll basically end up with a cover with more bleed than before on each side of it.
    3. Export as a TIFF, and you’ll need to turn on compression, because there’s a 140 MB maximum file size, and it’ll be bigger than that unless you’re doing a book version of Smell the Glove.
    4. Upload that into Cover Creator.  Make sure to shut off the options for title and author spine text, and your text will show up with nothing on top of it.
    5. Done.  This worked for me.
  • The obvious way to do this would be to make your cover 300 DPI in the first place.  Or barring that, do an Image > Image Size, clear the Resample Image box, and change the 72 DPI to 300 DPI, which would change the document size accordingly.  BUT, if you export this to a PDF in Pixelmator, it downsamples to 72 DPI.  Export it as a TIFF, and it’s 300 DPI and the right page size.  In Preview, make a PDF of that, 72 DPI.  Thanks, Apple?  Sure, but thanks CreateSpace for only taking a PDF for covers.  If you bought a full copy of Acrobat Pro for your Mac, you could potentially output a PDF at the right resolution, but it would take you five times as long, because it would stop and make you download updates to all of your Adobe software 14 times during the process.  And Satan forbid you accidentally hit F1 and launch the help – that will straight-up lock your computer for an hour while that stupid Adobe help opens.  Also, $321, unless you have a student ID or otherwise hustle the ed discount.
  • My backup plan was going to be outputting a PSD from Pixelmator, then taking it to my work machine running Windows and use Photoshop and Acrobat Pro to resize from 72 to 300 and output the PDF.  For kicks and as a backup, I tried this, and it did produce a PDF that was the correct resolution, but I didn’t try submitting that, because the CreateSpace 12-796 hour delay for approval is unfathomable.
  • I tried using the Abracadabra filters to output the PDF, but it insisted on outputting to a 8.5×11 page with the PDF resized to fit.  I screwed with making a custom page size, and that worked, but the output was 72 DPI.  There might be some way to edit these quartz filters to change it, or maybe something something ColorSync Utility, but I don’t have time to screw with it.

Anyway, there.  This all probably could have been alleviated by CreateSpace taking a TIFF cover, some better instructions, and some sleep.  I need to investigate how to do a 300 DPI output of PDFs using Mac tools, but I’m done for now, so screw it.



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