10 easy steps to create a stunning book cover using Photoshop
(This is an old post I’m reposting with some minor updates. The book cover for Hate to Love has since changed, but these are still the steps I use to create a new cover. Enjoy!)
I know many of you are struggling to create appealing book covers for your self-published novels. Today I want to share 10 easy steps to help you create a fab ebook and print cover from scratch using Photoshop and a stock photo from Adobe.
One of the biggest benefits of being a self-published author is the freedom to make decisions on everything: the timeline, the plot, the price, the cover, the distribution channels. At the same time, this freedom can be overwhelming. Especially, when it comes to doing things outside our comfort zone like designing a book cover. These easy to follow instructions can help you with the process and give you the best chance at success.
Choose your Tools (Step 1)
For this tutorial I'm using Adobe Photoshop CC, a stock photo from stock.adobe.com and a couple of Google Fonts. I've decided on these tools mostly because of the previous books in the series. I wanted to keep the same look and feel to show that the books belong together.
For your own cover choose the tools you feel most comfortable with. If you're just starting out, or want to try a book cover for fun, there are a number of free image manipulation tools, CC0 stock photo sites and standard fonts on your computer to make a smashing cover.
Draw your cover (Step 2)
(Full disclosure: I used the previous books in the series as a template and skipped this step for Hate To Love.)
Diving into creating a cover without a sketch is like writing a book without an outline. If that's your thing, go ahead. But if you are more of a planner (*raises hand*) you may want to get a pen and paper now.
Don't worry, you don't have to be an artist to complete this step. Draw a stick figure, by all means. This step isn't meant as a competition on who can make their hand drawn cover as realistic as possible. This is about placement of your items (pen name, title, series title, blurb, etc). It is also about your color scheme and the elements that will communicate your book's genre.
Beware: The more intricate your design the harder it will be to make it look good. For beginners, I suggest keeping your cover as simple as possible. If your cover was a wedding, think understated elegance rather than opulence gone wrong.
For my Pole Dance series I decided on a basic grey scale front with a pop of color for the title. The man/woman combo says "romance novel inside", the emphasis on "love"reinforces the genre. The bright pink color is to keep the cover from looking gloomy and to convey this is a fun, lighthearted story.
Make your ebook cover first (Step 3)
This is a personal preference (read: skip if you disagree).
As a self-published author, I tend to digitally publish my books first. This has a number of advantages for me. As a young mommy I usually get an hour a day for book related 'stuff' (read: plotting, writing, blogging, website updates, social media, marketing, cover design, the list goes on...). Ergo I don't get to format my book for digital and print at the same time, especially, as the print formatting for Amazon's print on demand service takes me ages and the proofs take forever to get shipped to Australia. In the meantime I can get on with the ebook and I have a second release date with another sales spike a month or two later.
For beginners, this strategy can work well, as it gives you a smaller canvas to work with. Think, writing a short story vs. a novel. A word of warning, though: digital covers are often in RGB color scheme, while print covers usually use CMYK. If you intend to use your ebook cover for your print cover front you may have to convert the color scheme.)
For my Hate To Love cover I used the stock photo and placed my pen name, title and series title. I adjusted the fonts, font effects, and colors. As a last step I darkened the top and bottom of the book to make the writing stand out more
Tip: For any writing on your covers, try to stick with two fonts max until you get a better idea of what works and what doesn't.
Look at your ebook cover in different sizes (Step 4)
Once you're happy with your ebook cover look at it in thumbnail size. If you're using a 1410x2250 pixel ratio 20% should do the trick. This is approximately the size Amazon and other retailers show their covers in search results.
If you can't make out your title or other important information, go back and revise.
Looking at your cover in a smaller size will also give you the chance to take in the whole cover at once. This will allow you to reevaluate the placement of your title and other info.
Once you're happy with your thumbnail, look at your cover in a bigger size. Check if there are any inconsistencies or small blemishes that need sorting out.
Get a print template (Step 5)
If you're looking to publish in print as well as digital you may want to get a print cover next. For this step you will need to know how many pages your print book will have as this affects your spine width. Once you know the number of pages and your preferred book size you can calculate your print template or—if you intend to use Amazon's print on demand service—download a print template from the KDP website.
Draw your 'guides' cover template (Step 6)
This is a Photoshop specific step, although some other image manipulation programs may have similar features.
Once you have calculated or downloaded your print cover template convert it to a Photoshop guides template. At first, this may look like a total mess, but it will save your sanity while you are working on your book cover. The guides show your print area in front, your print area in the back, your spine and bleed. The bleed is the (pink) zone that is outside of the area where the book will be cut. There can be a small margin of error, especially in on demand printing. Your bleed will make sure you don't end up with a strip of cover that doesn't have any color.
Drawing guides in Photoshop has a number of benefits. They always stay on top no matter how many layers you create. Placement of your items is easier as they snap to the guides.
Fit your print cover items (Step 7)
You may want to start by filling the entire area of your book cover (front, spine and back) with the base color. In the example of Hate to Love I used black.
Fit your ebook cover to the front area of the book or redesign a new front cover. Make sure you allow your image to cover the bleed. This way, if the book is not exactly cut on the trim line your cover will still look complete.
Create layers for your spine (title, series number, jewel picture).
Make sure you place a white rectangle in the area for the barcode on the back. Fit your blurb and any other information you need.
Refine your book cover (Step 8)
Check all items are aligned as you wish. Blend the front of the cover with the base color of the spine. As with the bleed at the top, the front of the book may bleed into your spine. In this case, you don't want a razor sharp cutoff but a gentle transition.
(Click the pictures to open full size.)
Ask someone whose opinion you trust (Step 9)
Getting feedback on your book cover is one of the most crucial steps. You want the book to sell. Make sure your readers (not you!) like the cover.
Release your book cover into the wild (Step 10)
This is the nail-biting conclusion to your hard work. It's normal to be nervous thinking about other people judging your cover. Try to keep calm. Some will love it, some will hate it. As long as the majority likes it and you hit your sales goal, you're on a good path.
Did you find this tutorial helpful? Do you want to see more like it? Let me know in the comments.