Really, the web is pretty damn-fine cool. In addition to lots of sources for stock art and commissioned artists, there are also a tremendous number of sources for free materials, tutorials, etc. out there. For instance that amazingly cool header image. Can’t you see that on a Sci-Fi book? Well maybe not exactly that, but something similar? If you have Photoshop, you can learn how to do that effect with a step-by-step tutorial on the PSD TUTs website. They have both a free and a Premier site, and a great Facebook page where they post tutorials all the time. Links to free filters, tons of great tutorials, and more.
Here’s another amazing Photoshop tutorial site, called, simply, Photoshop tutorials. Breathtaking stuff here, including this tutorial on how to create a beautifully moody atmospheric effect.
Oh, and in case you want Vector tutorials for Illustrator? There’s a Vector.Tuts site too.
Don’t know what a vector is? In English, a vector file/illustration is one which can be sized to any dimension without losing sharpness or resolution. Vector files are created in Illustrator, Corel, etc. That’s in contrast to bitmapped files, created in programs like Photoshop, which will lose resolution when enlarged and become jaggy/fuzzy/blurry and just flat ugly. As a quick tip; illustrations should be vector, photos bitmapped.
See a really cool text effect you’d love to replicate? Or want to try to create a cool text look but aren’t sure what you want? Try cruising through these 100 different text effects by Designrfix.
Background textures? Available, high resolution, by the hundreds. I use a couple of sites but most often to to Texturemate.
How about Bokeh, random light patterns that can make gorgeous cover backgrounds? Try Dezignmusings.
Also, be sure to keep good track of sites like Istock, Fotolia, Shutterstock, etc. Some of them offer free backgrounds of excellent quality (some are marginal). I always save any free stock as high a resolution as it gets, in case I want to use it later.
I’ve found that in many cases, if I want to do something odd like, say, put a metal effect on a sword, if I just type what I want in google “silver sword effect photoshop,” I can usually come up with something pretty useful.
Happy hunting, and if you come up with another spectacular tutorial or resource site, let me know!