Designing your own book cover is not for everyone, but in some situations, it can be a good idea. It can make sense if you are on a tight budget and working with a good cover designer is not something you can afford at the moment. Of course, there are positives and negatives to the process which you should consider before you get started. If you haven’t read my previous post “Should I Make my Own Book Cover?”, I suggest you do it first. This post is something of a follow-up to that.
In this article, I’m not going to describe the step-by-step process of cover design, but I’ll provide you with some guidelines so that if you do decide to design your own book cover, it’s going to be the best book cover that it can be.
The first thing which will probably come to your mind is software. Photoshop, Illustrator and other creative programs from Adobe can be quite complicated and they are not necessarily what I’d recommend for a beginner. They can also be quite expensive. However, if you’d like to try them out, they often come with a 30-day free trial. This software is the industry standard, and it is widely used among graphic designers. If you know your way around it, it can be a great way to create a sophisticated design. Although this can be complicated, you gain access to all of the software’s functions. It is also possible to get a cheaper version of this software to get started – Photoshop Elements. Elements doesn’t offer the same amount of functions as the full version, but it’s not as difficult to use and it can be a perfect choice if you’re new to graphic design programs.
If learning how to use Adobe programs sounds too complicated to you, you can try free open source software which can be a good option for creating a less complex design. GIMP is similar to Photoshop and although it’s a little tricky to use, once you get used to it, it’s a great start for beginners. If you’re looking for more flexibility, but less complexity, try PIXLR – a free online image editor from Google.
Canva is a great place to create your designs online. It offers a lot of cool templates which are very easy to use. It also offers a “design school” where you can learn more about the specifics of graphic design. If you can’t choose between all of these, I would start with Canva.
Once you have your software up and running, the next step is creating the cover itself. If your biggest reason for making your own book cover is your budget, you might need to spend some time looking for free images. Designers usually buy their photos from big photo banks like Shutterstock, Bigstock or Depositphotos. But these sites can be quite expensive, especially when you need to buy just a few images.
Instead, I’d recommend looking for public domain or creative commons images. These can be found by doing a Google image search. When doing this, make sure that the photos are “free for commercial use” and do remember that you’ll usually need to credit the images in your book as part of the Creative Commons license conditions.
Another great place to get free images is Pixabay. What you need to keep in mind, is that when you work with free images, it’s highly likely that you’ll see your chosen images being used elsewhere.
The next thing you’ll need to do is to select fonts which will work well with the images on your cover. These days computers come with so many fonts you’ll probably find something you like—there is a lot to choose from. If you’re looking for something more unusual, though, try some online font libraries like Fontsquirrel or Dafont.
Making your Cover
When you have your images and fonts selected, you can start working on your cover. The best way of putting everything together is to look at what books in your genre are already successful and what elements are used on bestselling covers.
Study the details: What colors are dominant? Do they use filters or textures? How about a gradient or a vignette? How do they use text? Is there a drop shadow, stroke or a glow? Write down everything you notice and try to find a pattern among the bestselling covers. Then apply that pattern on your own cover.
If you don’t know how to make some of these things, use YouTube. There are thousands of free tutorials on each specific topic which explain everything, step by step. One of my favorites is Phlearn.
Finally, my last tip when you have your cover ready is to create realistic 3D mockups. These can make your cover look very professional and they are great for social media promotion. The site PSD Covers has a lot of amazing templates that you can use if you own Photoshop.
Those are my recommendations for getting started with your own cover design. As always, let me know if you have any comments or questions in the comment section below.