Design 101: Budgeting? Build Your Own eBook Mockup in a Few Easy Steps

Best Practices, Design 101

They’re everywhere, an eBook mockup that makes regular PDF files look like awesome tangible books. Sure you could buy a mockup from the web if you had the money, but maybe you can’t afford one right now. The good news, your graphic designer can make one for you in just a few easy steps. Don’t want one from scratch, but you have a great picture of a blank book on a desk? Your designer can display your eBook on that too, easily.


Let’s Begin with Understanding Photoshop Smart Objects

The best explanation I’ve found comes from a Bjanjo article, “Smart Objects are layers that contain image data from raster or vector images, such as Photoshop or Illustrator files. Smart Objects preserve an image’s source content with all its original characteristics, enabling you to perform nondestructive editing to the layer.”

Smart Objects are different than shape layers and images. If you scale the Smart Object, it will bitmap scale, which has a rasterizing effect making the edges blurry and having interpolation occur. Basically, you have to format your object the way you’d like it to appear before converting it to a Smart Object. When you create a Smart Object, you’ll notice a little icon in the bottom corner of the layer style in the layer menu. When you double click this icon, Photoshop will open up the extension file to allow you to edit the contents in the Smart Object without damaging the object itself. When you finish editing a Smart Object, you will simply click the “X” on the tab to close it and select “save” or just select save manually and close the tab. All changes you made to the Smart Object in the extension file will now be applied to the object without losing quality.


Making a Quick Mockup From Scratch in Photoshop

Open Adobe Photoshop and set the canvas size to your desired proportions. I prefer setting them to 1000px (minimum) x 1500px (minimum) so the object can be scaled down with good quality. Start by drawing a vertical thin rectangle, then skewing the left corners for perspective (view my photo at the end of this paragraph for reference).

Next, label the layer “Spine” and select Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. Do the same to create a cover. Skew the right corners and convert this to a Smart Object, as well. Next, draw a thin vertical light gray rectangle over the cover of your eBook mockup that lines up with the spine and set the opacity to 15%. This gives the cover some dimension and reality by looking like the indent at the edge of the cover and spine. After you finish the indent, create a rectangle and select the black and white gradient default color.

Drag this to the bottom of your book, and use skew to pull it and create the shape of the shadow. When finished, give it a Gaussian Blur of 10 pixels and set the opacity to 40% for a realistic shadow. Finally, double click on the Smart Object icon in each of the layers for “Spine” and “Cover.” Drop the cover of your eBook in the “Cover” extension window of the Smart Object and save it. Open up the “Spine” Smart Object and place your desired design for the spine of the mockup, select save and your mockup is finished! You can turn off the background and save this as a PNG to be implemented in email, ads, CTAs, etc. Here’s how the book looks in an email (last portion of image).



Making a Mockup From a Stock Photo

This method is similar to making a mockup from scratch. Instead of drawing your own book, you will create a shape for the cover and spine and skew it over the book in the image to match it. Convert these to smart objects and place your cover and spine the same way as before. If it looks too out of place, you may need to add a low-opacity white gradient over the top for lighting effects or adjust the image settings if needed. Here’s a video tutorial.

If you’re short on money, there are easy ways to display your content with spending virtually no money (assuming you’ve already paid your design software and image subscription fees). If you don’t have to purchase a mockup, then don’t. These methods will get the job done until you have the extra money to spend. Plus, when you’ve finished creating these files you can use them as a mockup for other content you may have created! Now go out there and present your great content without letting your budget get in the way.