In the Mood

Design and share your ideas visually with a mood board you can create yourself.

Get inspired with visuals.

Nothing works better than a mood board. It’s a great way to organize your thoughts and draw inspiration, and an ideal way to share your ideas and get some feedback, No matter what kind of design you are working on, start by playing with color and pulling ideas from photos that relate to your content. If you don’t have your own, there are lots of places online where you can download images that are free to use for commercial purposes, but be sure and check the license if think you may want to use elements from them in your design. I’ve listed some of my personal favorites at the end of this article.

If you are designing your own book cover, chances are you are fairly comfortable with Photoshop or Elements. If not, Canva is a great place to play with mood boards because you don’t need special software. You can do everything online and it’s free. Caveat: This may not be the best idea if you are doing work for a client or are using copyright-protected materials. You have better control when things are kept securely on your own computer. Anyway, on with the fun!

If you are familiar with Pinterest, then you already know how it works. The idea is to put together your own collection of ideas and keep them in one place for easy reference.

It’s a great way to put together ideas for marketing.

Let’s suppose your book cover is finished, and now you need to brainstorm ideas for getting the word out on social media, YouTube, a press release, or your website. Each of these will require a slightly different approach and a mood board can help keep your central theme intact. Think of it like a family where each person looks different from the rest and has a different job, but they all share an overall resemblance. Colors and fonts may remain the same or complementary elements may be added, Points of focus will probably change. What stands out on Facebook will not necessarily work on YouTube or on a poster and so on. Mood boards help you create a flow that works.

Color is more than a pretty face.

One of the tools I use the most in both Chrome and Firefox browsers is ColorZilla. It allows you to identify the exact colors on any web page, which means you can pull from photos, graphics, or anything else on the page. There are lots of options to explore—even a gradient generator—so click buttons and play! You can’t hurt anything and you can learn a lot.

Want to experiment?

If you have Photoshop or Elements, you can download the free mood board template below and start playing. You can also scroll down this page and get Photopea for free. You don’t need to be an expert so don’t let the layers scare you. Open the file and save it as something meaningful. I’ve color-coded in green all the layers where you paste your images. At the top is the instruction layer. To see it, click the little eyeball to the left of it.

  1. Paste your image on the layer above the shape where you want it to appear.
  2. Right-click the layer and choose Create Clipping Mask.
  3. Move the image around or scale as you need. If you do, remember to make it a Smart Object first in case you change your mind.
  4. Save often.
  5. When you are finished, flatten the image, resize if you want to, and save it in any format you want.

This is a zipped PSD file. It’s a large size (1000 x 654 pixels) but you can resize as needed. It will work in Photoshop, Photopea, and Elements. Instructions are on the top layer. Click on the image below for your free blank template.

Some great sites with free-to-use images:

These sites have gorgeous images and most are free for personal and commercial use. However, do your due diligence and make sure you are fully protected against copyright violation before using any image you did not take yourself!
Life of Pix

More Free & Free-ish Resources:

Design Tool Colorzilla Label
100% FREE
Free only for basics
100% FREE with Ads

I love mood boards!

If you make some mood boards, I’d love to see them if you care to share. And please let me know how the template works for you. Have fun!

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