I know that sometimes, despite wanting too, you might not have enough money to set aside for a good book cover. Which takes you to the only other available option – making a cover of your own. However, most self-made book covers look like crap, which means that even though you have written an amazing book that is sure to captivate your audience, it never does. The simple reason being that your reader has already been turned away by the poorly put together cover.
‘If the cover looks so unprofessional, what would the writing be like?’
While I still recommend going for a custom cover or a pre-made cover, if you don’t have the budget for one, here is how to make a romance cover using free resources like Pixabay and Canva. I will be doing separate tutorials for other genres. Let me know which one you want first.
Making a cover involves three steps:
1. setting the background with the right images,
2. choosing genre appropriate typography and
3. colour grading.
These are all pretty easy to do. Let’s get right into it.
Setting the background
*Make sure you have the images you need downloaded or have an idea of what kind of images you want.
Make an account on Canva. They have a helpful guide on how to use their features, which you can choose to skip or read through.
This is what the home page looks like. Click on Custom dimension on the right upper corner.
I am entering the dimensions as 1600 for width and 2400 for height. The dimension type is px which stands for pixels. Click on the lock icon and then on Create new design. 1600*2400 is the standard dimension across most platforms but if you are just going to publish on Amazon, then the ideal size would be 1600*2560.
Now, this is what your work space would look like:
On the left side, you will be able to see a menu with options for Templates, Elements and so on. Click on Elements (like in the screenshot above). Following this, you will be able to see an option named Grids. Select the third grid (the one with two pictures, one top and one bottom) and it will appear on the white canvas in the middle of your workspace.
If you wish to resize the grid, click on it. Small white icons will appear on the edges which you can then drag to change the size of the grid according to your requirements. Since I am going for a romance cover and I want my female protagonist to be the focal point, I will be placing her on the first grid and then increasing the size of the grid so that it’s much bigger than the second.
Now, to add images. I don’t have the image downloaded but I know what kind I want. Therefore, my next step would be to log on to Pixabay.com and search for ‘girl portrait’.
Once you find an image that you like, click on Free Download and choose the largest size available. To download a picture, you have to have a pixabay account(don’t worry, it’s free). Click on the Download button and once it’s done we can go back to Canva.
On the same left side toolbar there is an option to upload your own picture. Select it and upload the picture you downloaded previously. From there, select the picture and it will appear on your work space. Drag it onto the first grid. When you double click on it, your screen will look like this.
Drag the small white bars around the picture to change its size. I am moving the girl a bit to the right side because I want some empty space on her left to add the tagline. Resize and move the picture around till you are happy with it.
Now for the second picture, I am going to choose a golden field from the pictures available from Canva itself. For this, go back to the Elements. Click on All above the free pictures. This will take you to the Canva gallery of free pictures. Choose a picture that suits your story as well as the colour of the first image. Select it and then drag it to the second grid. The picture I have chosen features humans, which I don’t want. So, I am going to double click, expand and reposition it to get just the fields. Once I click enter, this is what my cover looks like.
I am going to add a small rectangular box where the two pictures meet. In the Elements, there is a section labelled Shapes. I selected a rectangle with rounded corners and dragged and dropped it on the cover.
Click on the rectangle to make the white bars appear and then drag and resize it till it’s around this size.
Notice the colour box on the top white bar to the left. Click on that and choose a colour that matches the other colours in the cover. I am going to go with a shade of yellow. There are some default colours already given in the colour box but if you don’t want them, click on the plus sign which will allow you to choose from a wide range of colours.
The colour I have chosen is #face5b. You can manually enter colour codes too, if you like. On the top right side, we have a transparency box, which is a square made of up small dots(almost like a chessboard). Make sure our rectangle is selected by clicking on it once and then reduce the transparency.
I am putting it around 67. Play around with it and choose a transparency level that looks good to you.
Choosing Fonts and placement of text
Most romance covers have more than one word in the title. For example, I am using the title In The Moment, where Moment will be the focal point and will have a bolder text. The In The part would have a more calligraphic or handwritten type of font.
From the same left side bar we have been using, select Text and click on Add a heading. This will give you a tiny text box in the middle of your cover, which you can see if you zoom in the above screenshot. I am going to do the title texts separately.
I am going to write In The in the box and use the white bars which appear (on clicking the box) to elongate the text box. This is required because we will be using the tool box on top to increase the font size. If the text box isn’t long enough, the text would not appear properly. You can elongate even after you have increased the size.
This is the text tool bar. And the specifications for my fonts are;
Now my text looks like this. I have placed it right above the yellow rectangle.
Now I am adding in Moment as well as the rest of the text. Let me know if you have doubts regarding how any of it was added. I am writing the specifications for each below.
Font colour: #440101
Book 1 in the Moment series
Font colour: #440101
Font colour: #540303
Font effect: Italicized
Initially, I was going to go for a calligraphic font like Allura but it wasn’t very legible so I chose Arapey instead. Make sure the font you are choosing is legible as a thumbnail. I also italicized the font to make it more aesthetic.
So after repositioning all the texts, the cover now looks like this. You can use the position tab on top right to align your texts.
Now the last step is to colour grade. If you click on any of the pictures, the top bar would have options like Filter, Adjust, Crop etc. But these will only adjust the colour of that individual picture. You can use it if you want but I want to colour grade it as a whole since all of the colours in the cover are in the same group.
Click on the download arrow (top right) as shown in the above image. Choose the file type as jpg and click on the Download button.
You can stop here if you want and use the downloaded cover, but if you want to add a bit more of that oomph! factor to your cover, stick on.
Since you might want to make further changes later, keep the tab you were working on and open your Canva home page in another tab. Give the same custom dimensions that you used earlier and click on the Uploads button on the left tool bar to upload the cover you had just made. It will appear on your blank white canvas.
When you click on this cover, you will get Filter and Adjust buttons. I won’t be using the Filter button for this cover because I want a pinkish/magenta-ish shade and I don’t think any of the filters suit it. You can try each filter and see if any one fits.
So now, I am going to play around with the Adjust button and add colour to this cover.
You can add a bit of brightness and contrast to it, but be careful not to go overboard. I reduced the saturation because I was going to tint it and I think unless you are making a fantasy cover, it’s better to not stray too far from the zero mark. Stay within -20 to +20 range. Initially, I had reduced the saturation but after adding the tint it made her skin look dead, so I upped the saturation. I didn’t add any blur but it’s really useful if you are making a thriller cover.
Again, play around with the x-process. I added a bit of vignette, nothing too noticeable but just enough to darken the edges so that her face becomes the focal point.
So, the final specifications are these:
And that’s it.
Download it in jpg format. My final cover looks like this:
Which one did you like more?
Let me know if this tutorial has helped you. If you have any doubts, feel free to ask in the comments section and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
About the Author
Amala Benny is an avid reader and professional book cover designer who has designed for multiple award winning and bestselling authors. She spends her free time Fangirling over Ilona Andrews and Leigh Bardugo.