Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

Designing a Book Cover in Photoshop

You don’t need the whole Adobe Suite to design a cover. Photoshop will do the trick just fine. Have Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and know how to use them super well? Go for it. More comfortable with Photoshop? This guide is for you.

When I go to design someone’s cover I ask them for the following information. You will need to ask yourself the same. I recommend typing #1, 2, 3 & 6 out in a Word document so that you can copy it over to Photoshop when you’re ready. Photoshop doesn’t spell check for you, Word does.

  1. Book title & subtitle
  2. Author(s) name
  3. Back cover copy
  4. Publisher
  5. Book dimensions and print requirements (paper type, color v. b&w, etc.)
  6. Additional information (other text, images, ideas, etc. to be included in the design or illustration)

Create a New Photoshop Document

If you’re using CreateSpace to publish your book click here:

For lulu, click here:

Other publishers probably have cover templates as well- google ‘[your publisher’s name] cover template.’ Can’t find one? Leave a comment below with what you’re looking for and I will try to help you locate it.

If you’re going to use a template…

Fill out the information that is specific to your book in the above links and download your template. Open your downloaded template in Photoshop.

{The dimensions/ specifications I’m going to use for this tutorial}

Don’t have a template…

That’s okay, you can make your own document in Photoshop. You’re just going to have to do a bit more math than the rest of us. Find your publisher’s cover specifications.

Download the ‘CreateSpace PDF Submission Specification here’: (visit pages 51 – 55)

Using these specifications with my book information (in the screen shot above):

Cover Height = Bleed + Trim Height + Bleed

     Height = 0.125 + 8 +0.125

= 8.25″

Spine, with White Paper = page count * 0.002252″

Spine = 500 * 0.002252″

= 1.126″

Cover Width = Bleed + Back Cover Width + Spine Width + Front Cover Width + Bleed

Width = 0.125 + 5 + 1.126 + 5 + 0.125

= 11.376″

Create your document

If you’re using a template, skip this section.

Open Photoshop. Select File – New. Enter your calculated dimensions. Make sure your resolution is set at a minimum of 300 pixels/inch. Click OK.

Set Guides for your Bleed and Trim Marks

With a Template

Crop your image down to the edges of the cover. Click View – Rulers. Click on the rulers and drag the teal guide lines to the edges of your trim and bleed marks, as well as the edges of your document.

Without a Template

Click View – Rulers. Click on the rulers and drag the teal guides to the edges of your document, 0.125″ inward of each edge & 0.25″ inward of each edge. Mark your spine this way as well. The 0.125″ is your trim edge- this part will most likely get snipped off when your cover is printed. The 0.25″ is your bleed – to be safe, it’s best not to put anything essential in this area.

I also mark the center of my document, to make creating the guides for my spine easier.

Try to get your measurements and guides as accurate as possible. However, since you are doing this yourself, when you upload, you will be able to see if there’s an error. Then you can tweak accordingly. Designing for someone else? Be sure they tell you if something looks off after they upload, or ask to see a screen shot of the trim.

Insert your Image Elements

I recommend you edit/ design your cover image illustration in another window. Crop it to size, then drag it into your cover document. This way, you can edit layer by layer, without effecting your text and other cover elements.

For the purposes of this tutorial I am going to make the back cover and spine all 1 color. To do this, I’m going to draw a rectangle to size.

Personally, I think color blocks are pretty boring, so I’m going to add the sky from my front cover image as an overlay. You can try out a lot of different things for your cover though. In the past I’ve used shapes and symbols that represent different aspects of the book. I’ve also created horizontal images and wrapped them all around the cover. Be creative, just don’t get too distracting. (Click here and here for examples of back covers with overlayed symbols. Click here for a cover with a wraparound image.)

{Here I flipped the sky and overlayed the image using ColorDodge at 100% opacity}

Add Text

Breathe a sigh of relief, because the hard part is done. Yes, choosing and spacing your text can take absolutely forever, but at least you’re done with math…kind of.

Typically, I add some more guides at this point. For the front cover, there needs to be a space for the title and author byline. The back cover includes the description of the book. You can include other things here too- an author bio, critic quotes, a list of prequels or sequels, artist credit, etc. Try to lay out block sections using guides for where you want to place each item. Make sure to also leave room for your barcode.

In my covers, since I rely pretty heavily on the illustration, I like to leave my text simple and somewhat centered. If you’re doing a cover that relies on typography, you might lay your cover out a bit differently. Check out this link to see some covers that rely on typography

{Here I’ve marked the verticle center of the front cover, spine and back cover to help me align my text}

Create a new text box, type your text, adjust sizing, spacing, font, color, etc. as you see fit.

{For the title I used Banbridge Bold font. ‘The’ is at 55pt and “Awakening is set at 60pt with 48pt spacing in between the words. The font color is a very light blue grey selected from the waves in the image. I then edited the layer properties for Color Burn with 100% opacity. ‘Kate Chopin’ is in Banbridge Condensed Regular, set to the same light blue grey as the title font, but with Normal rather than ColorBurn layer property.

I wanted a little more oomph to the title, as well as a separation between the title and author byline, but I didn’t want to go too modern, considering the time period of the book. So I downloaded the simple clipart flourish you see here, faded the edges a bit using the eraser, to get rid of some of the pixilation, selected the outline and filled it in with a dark brown using the paint bucket tool and then changed the layer property to Soft Light.}

Note: You must understand the copyright for anything you use on your cover. If you did not create the images or the fonts, you must either own the rights, or use ones that are under a Creative Commons license. Ever some CC images have restrictions, such as required attributions, etc.

Get in touch with the feel of your book to determine what imagery, font and colors work best. This may sound easy, especially if you’re the author, but try to think about it from your reader’s perspective. What will make them want to pick up the book and read it? What will tell them just enough about the book without giving too much away? What kind of person are you trying to attract?

Now for the back cover…

When you are placing a large block of text, especially on something that is visually driven, it is best to use a sans serif font. Take for example the text in the image above, the lines at the base of the ‘A’ or the top of the ‘w,’ those are what defines a serif font. You want to choose a font that doesn’t have those. Put tiny font all mushed together in a paragraph and add all those extra dashes and it just gets crowded and harder on the eyes.

{Here I used Halifax set at 18pt font. I used the light blue grey from the author byline, but lightened it even more so that it would be more visible against the background, and yet not as bright as white would have been. I chose Halifax because it’s still reminiscent of the roundness of Banbridge. You can see that I moved the textbox inward from the edge quite a bit and justified to the left. I also made guide lines and a white box to signify the placement of my barcode and left room under the text for any acknowledgements I might want to put in. i.e. the name of the artist who’s illustration I used for my book cover or for my interior spot illustrations. Source: This back copy is copied directly from here}

Spine text

Create a text box, type your spine text, then rotate the text box so that the bottom of the font is facing the back cover. Adjust your textbox size and your font, making sure to keep the text centered on the spine, to avoid any printing issues.

{I used Banbridge Bold at 24pt for the title and Halifax Bold at 18pt for the author. Then simply spaced using the space bar between the title and author until the author lined up with the opposite edge of my text box.}

Save for Print

Once you’ve added all your text and image elements you are ready to save your document. Be sure to save your Photoshop file first so that you can return to it to make edits, or pull from for ebook covers and promotional imagery.

When you’re ready click File – Save As and choose ‘Photoshop PDF’ from the drop down menu. Click OK on the dialogue box that pops up. In the next box ‘Save as PDF,’ choose [Press Quality] from the drop down menu. I typically uncheck ‘Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities.’ Leaving it checked increases your file size, and you saved a Photoshop file of your document already.

And there you have it. Now you’re ready to upload the document to your publishing site.

Want someone else to design and illustrate your cover for you? I’d love to help. Click here to learn more about my illustration services.

Click here to learn about image editing with Photoshop.

Need more of an explanation on something, have a question, or have a tip to share? Leave a comment below.

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