Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Designing Book Covers - Part 4

Every day this week, we welcome graphic designer and author Suzanne Williams, who shares some excellent information in a special series on designing book covers.

Part 4 – The Basics of Design: Color and Fonts

You have decided to create your own book cover. You’ve looked at graphics and considered the composition. The next and perhaps most important consideration is choosing a color scheme and selecting fonts.


There are two types of color in graphic design – RGB and CMYK. Without getting into a complex discussion of what each of these are, let me simply say they are VERY different. Photographs are taken in RGB. Most vector graphics are CMYK. One does NOT translate into another. Printing companies usually specify which they prefer. Know this ahead of time. If you need CMYK designs, then working only in CMYK will save you headaches.

That said, color imparts a mood to your cover. Look at books of horror stories. What colors do you typically see? Similarly, what colors are used for westerns? Romances? Different colors affect viewers in different ways. Think about your particular story in deciding on your final scheme. Stick with a color theme, a set of colors, and don’t range too much. Too much contrast might blind your viewer. Too little might make it boring. Sometimes, if you are unsure, mocking-up several choices will help you decide.


Fonts are the style of your text. Your choice of font should also reflect the subject of the book. There are many choices out there, yet one word of caution – don’t overdo it. The general rule is to use two or at the most, three types of fonts. A simple print font is often better for smaller text. Leave the fancy ones, the scripts for titles or author’s names. Keep in mind that these days, most books are marketed online, so the cover will be a thumbnail image. Are the fonts legible when that small?

Consider the size of the font relative to the font itself. Some are much smaller. You want the letters to be readable. Another good rule is to use only one script font at a time. Too many scripts and the viewer will be confused. When choosing a script font, decide who would be writing. Is it a book about an older woman or a child? This thought should affect the style of script.

Layers, which we talked about previously, also work great with fonts. Don’t be afraid to use more than one line of text or to overlap them, and choose your font color wisely. The color of the font should work well with the graphics to make it readable. Again, look at best-selling books in your genre. What did they use? You often cannot tell the precise name of the font, but it will give you a general idea of what worked.

Lastly, when saving your final book cover design, be sure to embed any unusual fonts. This will prevent your printing company from using standard fonts and thus changing your design. (Note: If creating a PDF, Adobe Acrobat, file. Use the “Commercial Press” option for best quality. PDF files automatically embed fonts. Word Documents do not.)

Once you have your front book cover design, the last task is “Creating the Back Cover and Spine.”

Read more about Designing Book Covers:

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, Christian, dachshund owner, spelling whiz, wildlife enthusiast, photographer, graphic artist, and writer. She designs book cover art for independent publishing companies and self-publishing authors. She writes a regular column on digital photography for Steve's Digicams, as well as in her personal blog. Her book, Fearless, is her personal testimony of how God freed her from crippling fear. Her novel, Missing, debuts in April.


Darla Sue Dollman said...

Great information--very important. Thank you!

scw1217 said...

I'm glad it was helpful, Darla. Thanks for commenting!