Making A Retro Children’s Book Cover With Midjourney AI

Is it possible to art direct the Midjourney AI art generator? If you’re new to Midjourney, see my lengthy post on how it works.

Today I’ll try an experiment. I’ll make a retro children’s book cover, starting with art generated by artificial intelligence. Will the Midjourney algorithm give me something that could pass for a retro classic children’s book?

This is the sort of thing I’m going for: Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and other middle grade mystery adventures published in the 20th century.

I’ve decided to make an Alfred Hitchcock Three Investigators book cover like The Secret of the Haunted Mirror. I’ll call mine The Haunting Of The Invisible Magician.

/imagine [ENTER] the haunting of the invisible magician, retro children’s book cover

Let’s see what Midjourney does with that. Not surprisingly, it throws me the easily identifiable ‘Midjourney palette’ of reds and blues with a bit of yellow. Sure enough, I’ve got something that looks like an old children’s book, but not the kind you see above. These covers seem drawn from paperbacks of the 1970s and later.

I want to get away from that palette. I tried this:

/imagine [ENTER] the haunting of the invisible magician, in the style of a alfred hitchcock three investigators cover

But I’m pretty sure it’s given me a back view of Alfred Hitchcock. Midjourney doesn’t recognise The Three Investigators series as an entity in its own right.

I found out who illustrated the Three Investigators covers. Unfortunately, these guys aren’t very well known. Especially Harry Kane. Their art is known, but their names are not. So using Harry Kane doesn’t help Midjourney at all.

I’m trying psychedelic hoping for that green vibrancy.

/imagine [ENTER] the haunting of the invisible magician, retro, psychedelic color, low angle, cinematic, oil painting, in the style of harry kane

It gives me this. I really like the composition. (I even like the hand! Midjourney is not known for generating great hands.) But there’s nothing psychedelic about the colour scheme. I love this, but it looks very ‘Midjourney’ and is nothing like any of those retro book covers I’m going for.

If I want green, I’ll have to tell it.

/imagine [ENTER] the haunting of the invisible magician, retro, children book cover, psychedelic neon green glow, tilt angle, perspective, cinematic, oil painting

Now we’re cooking with gas. (Specifying the angle does nothing, I think.) Midjourney has even given me markings for a cracked spine. I’m taking this into Affinity Photo (non-subscription plan Photoshop). Unfortunately it’s given me a cousin of Harry Potter, which I definitely don’t want. (Guess it’s the word magician. Probably also children's book.)

I also want a few more details. I could paint them in myself, or I could see what Midjourney comes up with. I was actually after a spell book, but it gave me this thing. Might as well use it.

/imagine [ENTER] pen wizard spell book, retro, children book cover, psychedelic neon green glow, tilt angle, perspective, cinematic, oil painting –q 2

Midjourney is as gender stereotypical as society, so if you want a ‘magician’ you always get a man. I asked for a Victorian magician because Midjourney kept giving me some strange hat.

/imagine [ENTER] magician, victorian era, psychedelic neon green glow, cinematic lighting from behind, oil painting –q 2 –ar 2:3

I like that a lot, so made it the main graphic on the book cover.

Font choice makes all the difference. I’m using a font called Irish Grover. I’ve adjusted the tracking and kerning (spacing and up-and-down-ness) in Affinity’s Text > Character panel.

The final product. If this were for a real thing I’d spend longer on the face but I’m satisfied with this experiment. (And faces take me for freaking ever to get right.)

(I made up the name Mildred Price.)


If you’d like to give this a go, I have some ideas for your title.

Long Title Random Generator

First, pick a number between 1 and 24.

Now pick two numbers between 1 and 55.

1.The Mystery Of TheOldBungalow
2.The Secret Of TheSpookyHouse
3.The Clue Of TheBrokenParrot
4.The Case Of TheBlackCave
5.The Crime Of TheHiddenPuppet
6.The Curse Of TheDancingCat
7.Intrigue Of TheMoonlitScarecrow
8.The Haunting Of TheDarkDragon
9.Sign Of TheInvisibleGhost
10.What Happened To TheFireMagician
11.The Story Of TheShrinkingFootsteps
12.Adventures Of TheCrookedCipher
13.Night Of TheDoubleLabyrinth
14.Day Of TheSkyMaze
15.The End Of TheThirteenthWitch
16.Crusade Of TheUndergroundWizard
17.The Tale Of TheTwinDungeon
18.The Crime Of TheDisappearingPearl
19.The Search For TheBlackTreasure
21.The Disaster Of TheDangerousIsland
22.The Time Of TheMurderousCrow
23.The Final Hours Of TheGreen-eyedSpider
24.Sabotage Of TheDoggoneHand
25.The Tale Of TheLivingJungle
26.Revenge Of TheCliff-topStranger
27.The Enigma Of TheFlamingProfessor
28.The Conundrum Of TheUndergroundThief
29.The MysticScarredClaw
30.Quandary Of TheSecretEscapade
31.The Plot of TheMusicalButterfly
32.The Open Secret Of TheApril Fool’s DayCat Burglar
33.Wedding DayTrain Robbery
35.Flower ShowLighthouse
37.Art GalleryMess
54.HeadlessSmoke Screen
Short Title Random Generator

Pick two numbers between 1 – 55.

2. Ringmaster’sSapphire
3. Crocodile’sMother
4. Joker’sSilver
5. Spider’sWedding
6. Werewolf’sRevenge
7. Viper’sKey
8. Monster’sMansion
9. Stalker’sSummer Camp
10. Ghost’sCircus
11. Vampire’sTrumpet
12. Zookeeper’sBlues
13. Librarian’sFright
14. Substitute Teacher’sLast Resort
15. Rogue’sTarget
16. Stamp Collector’sGames
17. Dog’sTrail
18. Wolf’sFootsteps
19. Station master’sIsland
20. Whale’sCavern
21. Pigeon’sLake
22. Master’sMine
23. Shark’sDeathtrap
24. Mermaid’sCreep-show
25. Witchmaster’sCabin
26. Scorpion’sSplutter
27. Phantom’sTale
28. Skeleton’sMirror
29. Owl’sShadow
30. Warrior’sTwin
31. Pirate’sBrother
32. Professor’sLaugh
33. Shop keeper’sKnee
34. Monkey’sFather
35. Raven’sScar
36. Chum’sGiggle
37. Wildcat’sWail
38. Detective’sHelmet
39. Dinosaur’sSister
40. Serpent’sPyramid
41. Devil’sMark
42. Apeman’sSiren
43. Millionaire’sFreighter
44. Zombie’sArrow
45. Outlaw’sBridge
46. Demon’sFlight
47. Kennel-keeper’sJourney
48. Smugglers’Sting
49. Criminals’Sock
50. Psychic’sTunnel
51. Robot’sRansom
52. Renegade’sCrime
53. Candy Striper’sChallenge
54. Rhino’sVision
55. Trick-o’-treater’sSeven

On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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