Designing Your Own eBook Covers
Like many people, you have decided to write your own e-book. While the idea of purchasing a custom cover is nice, the price tag can be very high. If you publish often, especially if you publish short stories and novellas, having an inexpensive way to create covers is important.
This will help you get started in making your own book covers in Photoshop. I recommend creating some practice designs and obtain feedback from your fellow authors in writing groups and other forums. This will help you hone your craft so that when you are ready to publish your next short story or novella eBook, you have a great cover that will catch a potential reader’s eye.
Making It the Right Size
When it comes to eBook covers, size matters. Fortunately, because Amazon has almost completely cornered the market on eBooks, size also tends to be universal for almost all eBook publishing platforms. So, if you decide to publish on, say, Amazon and Smashwords, you can use one platform’s guidelines and know that you will have a cover that will work for all of them.
Since Amazon is the most popular, and Kindle still sets the standard for eBook formats, these guidelines follow Amazon’s suggestions for image uploads and customer satisfaction.
Amazon requirements for cover images are as follows:
- Dimensions should be between 625 x 1000 and 1562 x 2500 pixels.
- Image file size should not be more than 50 MB and should be .TIFF or .JPEG files. Use smaller compression for JPEG and no compression for TIFF files (compression affects file size).
- Save should use 72 dpi minimum (I recommend 300 dpi if you decide to move from eBook to Print later).
- Images should save in RGB color.
When you go to create your file in Photoshop, it is important to set the correct dimensions and setting to begin. I also recommend saving the base file as a .PSD file, so that you have a template for creating future covers.
When you go to create a new file, this window will appear first. Be sure, when you set your Width and Height that you set it by Pixels.
I keep the resolution here at 300 Pixels/Inch. This will give you a nice resolution for the image if you decide to use it for print later.
Be sure to set your Color Mode to RGB color if it is not already set there. You will also need to go under Advanced and set the Color Profile (this will be important when you save later). I use Adobe RGB to ensure I can save in RGB color later.
Choosing an Image
Choosing an image is the next important step in creating your cover. No hard and fast rules exist for choosing images; however, a few guidelines will help.
- Look at other covers in your chosen genre, focusing on bestselling books. This will give you an idea of the type of imagery that tends to catch the reader’s eye and give you ideas on your own cover image.
- Choose an image that relates to your eBook’s theme. Avoid images that are too busy. An image should have one important element that is the focus of the page.
- If want your cover image to stretch top to bottom across your cover, make sure it has enough “white space” – that is space that has little or no elements over which typeface can go – to accommodate a title or that the image itself will accommodate typeface over it.
- Make sure you can download the highest quality image possible. You can crop and size down as you need to fit your image into a 1562 x 2500 cover (the size I recommend working with to ensure the best quality image).
- Be sure you can use the image commercially. Be wary of “free stock images” and read the Terms and Conditions of the sites carefully. Many do not allow free images to be used for commercial purposes. If you pay for rights, ensure you are paying for the rights you need and shop around for both images and reasonable prices. You can also search for Creative Commons images on Google. When you go to Images, click on Search Tools and select Usage Rights. You want “Labeled for Reuse with Modifications.” Be sure to check the Creative Commons License for the image and collect the site and creator information so that you attribute the image properly in your cover (on the same page you place your Copyright information for the book). The Creative Commons license only applies to the cover image, not to the book itself.
We have several tutorials to help you in sizing your images and adding effects to images. If you find two images and think to yourself “I would love to combine them,” we can help you with that as well.
Choosing a Font
The Font type of your title is also important for your cover. You can find a lot of information for choosing fonts, with as many suggestions as there are fonts to choose from. What you choose to use will ultimately depend on your tastes and your genre. Fantasy covers will call for different fonts than Romance and Science Fiction.
Here are a few things to bear in mind when choosing your Cover Font
- Your Font should be Clean and Professional.
- Clean fonts are those that the eye can flow over well without being distracted by unnecessary embellishment or decoration.
- Professional fonts can be Serif (with the minor flag embellishments on the end of letters – think most fonts in Print Books) or Sans Serif (with no minor embellishments – such as the font on this page). If you use Script Font (okay for Romance and Children’s stories), be sure the font is clear and readable.
- Take note that while choosing your font, they are also subjected to licensing and all that jazz. YES, you NEED to pay for fonts if you are going to use them and make some money. Yes it’s highly unlikely you’ll get caught or penalised, but if you want to be safe, pick a font that is free for commercial use. One good source I frequent is Font Squirrel.
- Make sure that your font works well in normal type, all caps, and bold face. You may want to adjust between these as you play around with the title effect.
- Avoid Italics for Important Words in your title unless you also need to draw attention to that word in a title that is otherwise ALL CAPS or/or Bold Face (and be sure to keep the bold and/or all cap that you have for the rest of the title).
- Stick to one or at most two Font types for your cover. If you blend font types in your Title, be sure the two fonts are very different, for example blending a Sans Serif font like Verdana with a clear Script font such as Edwardian.
- Avoid Comic Sans on your cover. Many new authors creating their own titles are tempted to use it because it is fun and very readable. It is also over-used and unprofessional.
Putting It All Together
Here is a quick cover that I created in Photoshop for a hypothetical book. I chose a Creative Commons Image (Nanotechnology, courtesy of jurvetson, used by Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0) and adjusted the Pixel dimensions so that I would be able to use it in a 1562 x 2500 cover.
I went with White for the font color on the title Infinity Strain. I discovered quickly, though, that with limited white space, it was difficult to read the title. You are not seeing that now because of a great trick Photoshop has: Styles.
Make sure that you select you layer for the title and go to your Styles window to the right of your image. To help the title pop out, I gave it a drop shadow, which is the square that I circled. This lets the Title stand out over the image without diminishing the image.
This cover was quick to create, and since I have the template saved as a .PSD file, creating new covers later is simple, since my needed dimensions are already in place.
Saving the File
Last but not least, remember to save! Save your .psd template first by just saving your file. Then go to Save As. I recommend saving as .jpeg because you will be able to make adjustments as you save to the file size (important for Amazon).
You will notice that since you already set Adobe RGB as your profile in your image settings, it automatically selects RGB for your save.
Click Save and a second screen appears.
This is important for our file size. Under Format Options, Progressive and setting your scans to 3 will give you a smaller file, which is ideal for uploading. Your image options will set your image quality on the save. By setting your Format to Progressive, you can set a higher quality while keeping your file size small (857K is less than 1MB).
Experiment and have fun with your cover ideas. Remember to seek out feedback on cover samples, even if you are just playing around with Photoshop to practice. The feedback will tell you how the image is received so that you can create the best and most attractive images possible to get attention for your eBook.