The (very) basics of design

(aka, the most common questions we get in book cover design 101)

what programs do i use?

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP

Pros: More features than any other program, industry standard, cutting edge of technology, includes access to Adobe's extensive font library.

Cons: Subscription-based and pricey which makes it a difficult investment for some designers just starting out.


 

AFFINITY DESIGNER

Pros: Lots of features, second only to Photoshop, has a similar interface, one-time only cost to purchase.

 

Cons: Still not as robust as Photoshop, and not all Photoshop tutorials translate as well as others.


 

CANVA, GIMP, and other FREE PROGRAMS

Pros: Free, good for people just starting out with design who are on a strict budget.

 

Cons: Very limited features, some (like Gimp) have a heavier learning curve, difficult to achieve effects and high-quality covers.

 

WHERE DO I GET IMAGES?

First, be aware: unacceptable image sources include Pixabay, Unsplash, Pinterest, Google Search, etc. If you did not pay a reputable stock site for the image, don't use it. Why can't you use them when sites like Pixabay say that you can? Because they have a lot of illegally uploaded images. If you need a longer explanation than that, go here.

 

That being said, here are a few of the legitimate stock websites out there:

Deposit Photos

Shutterstock

iStock

Period Images

Servian Stock

Neo-Stock

We advise everyone to familiarize yourself with the licensing terms of each site. They're similar, but not all the same. For book covers, the Standard License applies.

 

HOW DO I MAKE PRINT WRAPS?

 

First, you need a few things before you can think about print wraps.

  1. What is your trim size? (The print book needs to be formatted to this size to get #2.)

  2. What is your final page count after formatting?

  3. Are you using white paper or cream?

  4. What print distributor are you using?

 

KDP (Amazon), Draft2Digital, IngramSpark, Lulu, and other POD presses have their own specifications and templates. For practice, or to have a basic template to build premades from, we advise downloading a template from KDP to familiarize yourself with how margins, trim, and bleed work. It's easier to set up your artwork in a full layout rather than begin with ebook sizes and try to expand it later.

RGB vs CMYK

In the printing world, you would ordinarily always convert an RGB file to CMYK before printing. However, KDP will accept RGB files and convert them on their end and, weirdly enough, their conversion process tends to be more accurate than Photoshop's.

However, if working with other presses, you likely need to flatten your print wrap and convert to CMYK before submitting. This can cause colors to alter, especially bright, vibrant neon shades, so you should adjust brightness/contrast and hue/saturation to accommodate for this. Some printers (such as IngramSpark) also request a specific PDF profile to be used, so make sure you know the rules for whatever press you're working with.

where do i get fonts?

 

Like images, fonts are not free. (Well, a lot of them aren't.) There are plenty of fonts out there free for commercial use, but make sure you are checking the licensing on anything you download from free sites to ensure credit isn't required.

Also note that some fonts are okay for use on the book cover, but require a separate license/fee to be embedded inside the eBook. CHECK YOUR LICENSING!

Some sites you can purchase fonts (and find free ones):

Font Squirrel

Creative Market

Envato Elements

Font Spring

Font Bundles

Adobe Fonts (with your Photoshop Creative Cloud subscription)

where do i sell my premades?

 

There is no shortage of premade cover markets on Facebook, and it remains one of the best means of getting your work seen. Note that each group has its own set of rules, and in some, if your quality isn't up to par, you're likely to not get accepted. Premades are not easy money. Premades still require a great deal of time, patience, learning, and effort. They are not about slapping text onto an image. Because you're the only one creating this (as opposed to working alongside an author and their vision) a premade should be the best example of your creative skill.

Cover Designer Directory (for Directory members only)

Affordable Premade Cover Marketplace

LGBTQ+ Book Covers

Kidlit Cover Marketplace

POC Cover Market

Book Cover Design Marketplace

Book Cover Gallery - A Place for Authors and Artists

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketplace


Some designers are having great luck on TikTok, posting progress videos and making fun and creative content to garner attention and pull in new clients! 

Remember that social media is just a tool to draw new people in. Ultimately, your goal should be building a clientele that will recommend you to others in their author circles, author groups, etc., and hopefully build a mailing list interested in seeing your work. Social media platforms come and go. Facebook especially is well past its golden era where selling premades and getting our work seen was easy--now the algorithms are constantly working against us.
 

Lastly, if your work is at a professional stage, consider applying to become a member of the Cover Designer Directory. The CDD vets all of its applicants. Although there is a fee associated, it's money well spent (in my opinion). The CDD runs ads for its designers, puts out newsletters advertising upcoming designer events and open availability, and more. Plus, being listed on their site is a good way to draw traffic to your own website and portfolio.

 

This page last updated 10/5/2022.