Author Topic: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design  (Read 2305 times)  

Offline E.B. Roshan

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Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
« on: May 29, 2020, 06:00:29 am »
Does anybody else here design their own covers? If so, what programs do you use? (I'm currently using Canva for the actual design process and getting images/graphics from Pixabay.)

 Do you think your "homemade" covers can stand up in a "professionally-designed cover" world?

To be honest, I'm happy with the covers I've done so far, but I'm interested to hear about other people's experience with this.

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    Offline anotherpage

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #1 on: May 29, 2020, 06:42:18 am »
    Does anybody else here design their own covers? If so, what programs do you use? (I'm currently using Canva for the actual design process and getting images/graphics from Pixabay.)

     Do you think your "homemade" covers can stand up in a "professionally-designed cover" world?

    To be honest, I'm happy with the covers I've done so far, but I'm interested to hear about other people's experience with this.

    I hire a pro but I have done a few covers in the past.

    There are many folks who create their own and do well. It depends on your proficiency with a program like adobe, photo manipulation but more importantly - having an eye for design.

    The danger today is some people know just enough to be dangerous and some folks can't recognize good designers from amateurs and so we have a number of services online offering covers which are horrendous.

    Ideally, if you can swing the expense ( invest in your business ) hire a pro who has proven themselves with covers on books that have sold.

    Offline RBC

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #2 on: May 29, 2020, 07:11:48 am »
    It is possible to make good DIY covers. But it takes a lot of practice. And, most importantly, not tricking yourself to believe that learning Photoshop or any design program is the same as learning Design. Esp. learning to design in a month.

    Anyone can learn how to do things in Photoshop and make some cool effects. Tons of tutorials for that. But learning design principles and rules is what separates amateur from someone who can communicate why design works or doesn't. It takes years of practice to make amazing covers, even if designer starts at 'very good' level. But somehow DIYers think that spending a month designing here and there will make their design good. It's not that simple.

    Not that it's hard or impossible. We all start not knowing design at all. So just don't get carried away thinking design is fast skill to pick up and you will be on the same level as designer who does full time covers for 5 years.

    I started learning Photoshop as a 'cool thing' because I saw some amazing basketball wallpapers (visuals on your computer desktop screen) and thought 'oh wow I wanna make that!'. Then I learned to make some cool effects on Photoshop but really didn't learn anything about true Design. I couldn't communicate why something works or doesn't. Learning that allows one to be really good at design no matter what program used.

     There are plenty of authors who do DIY covers and claim their covers are good. Many even go on to design covers for other authors. But you can see they haven't yet learned. Putting together effects doesn't make an effective cover since they need to work cohesively.

    So anyone DIYing should focus on learning design rules first. No reason to worry about what program to use because if you have design skills, you have skills that are program-independent. Photoshop or Affinity or Corel Draw, all programs will work fine enough.


    And please don't fall in love with your own designs and avoid criticism from professional designers. You can just gain knowledge from that, not lose. Most of us are quite comfortable not trying to sell you on making a new cover with a pro. We can help out with no intent of selling and most aren't afraid of competition. Because frankly, DIY designs could be a lot better, but seems DIYers don't take criticism from the pros and work to improve it. The way to know you make 'good covers' is when other designers are saying your covers are good, not when other authors are saying it. Designers judge covers better than authors. And it's not a criticism of authors, it's just reality of technical knowledge. Authors are million times better at judging writing quality then readers. Same analogy here.


    Some resources:

    www.diybookcovers.com is a great resource for covers
    Canva.com Design School is great for learning design rules
    Skillshare.com is a must for learning design rules and cool tricks


    Good luck!

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #3 on: May 29, 2020, 01:32:01 pm »
    I do. They seem be doing fine - good engagement on Facebook and conversion.  Could they be better, sure, but so far I'm doing OK.

    I use Affinity Designer (love it) + licensed stock images.

    Offline Nick G

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #4 on: May 29, 2020, 02:12:14 pm »
    I think it's entirely possible for someone self-taught to create a design that communicates genre well enough to sell.

    The only possible pitfall I can see for someone willing to put in the time and effort is whether or not they have trouble stepping away and seeing the cover objectively as a means to sell their product rather than a faithful display of it's exact contents or the contents of a pivotal scene.

    What you get with a pro designer (in addition to a base knowledge and skill level) is similar to what you get with a pro editor (fresh eyes unencumbered by bias and personal connection). Of course, skill level and education matter more with increased complexity, but for some this is possible and maybe their best option financially.
    « Last Edit: May 29, 2020, 02:24:58 pm by Nick G »

    Offline Gessert Books

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #5 on: May 29, 2020, 03:57:18 pm »
    Folks interested in design dabbling can find a welcome home in anything related to books. Evolution in book design is glacial and much of it is fairly absolute. You do not have to be a particularly well-rounded or advanced designer to prepare a competent cover. My advice: read up on basic design principles like proximity, hierarchy and balance. And supplement this with some study of typography. This plus an ability to identify design tropes in your genre will take you far.

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #6 on: May 29, 2020, 05:35:51 pm »
    Folks interested in design dabbling can find a welcome home in anything related to books. Evolution in book design is glacial and much of it is fairly absolute. You do not have to be a particularly well-rounded or advanced designer to prepare a competent cover. My advice: read up on basic design principles like proximity, hierarchy and balance. And supplement this with some study of typography. This plus an ability to identify design tropes in your genre will take you far.

    Yep, all this. ^^^  Try googling 'C.R.A.P. design principles'.
             

    Offline jvin248

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #7 on: May 29, 2020, 07:32:27 pm »
    .

    There are quite a number of Amazon authors hitting million dollar sales that use Gimp to self make their own covers. They are also likely using Libreoffice.org to write and format their books too. Both software packages are free to use, open source, and run on practically every operating system you may have.

    Get Gimp.org image software and use youtube for 'how to' videos to get the cover you want, start with something like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeABb8cwdUg

    While you'll agonize over the image, the most important parts of the cover are the fonts for the title and author. Make sure your favorite graphics software can handle all the font choices you want to look at and has tools like 'kerning' to manipulate character spacing and any distortions you may want like stretching wider or taller to make the title fit best and most readable on the cover.

    Make sure the font style signals what market the book is targeted at. A Horror title font is completely different than a Romance title font, Western, or Science Fiction. Keep your author font consistent across all the books in a genre. Keep the title fonts consistent within a series. Split the title and author fonts so that one might have 'serifs' and the other 'non-serif' to clearly differentiate. Make the title much larger than the author, unless you are already super famous.

    Search the kboards threads for font sources (free and paid). In the past the favorites were Squirrelfonts and Google web fonts but there may be new ones now.

    Make sure your title can be easily deciphered at thumbnail size on Amazon's search pages. Shrink your cover image down and walk ten feet away from the computer screen and verify you can still read the title. Search youtube for photoshop and gimp tutorials on how to make text 'pop' if not (shadows, shades, fades, double images shifted a pixel off each other, and others).

    After you determine for sure what your book genre will fit in, search the top 100 books in that same genre or keywords, and write down the trends of all those books for images and fonts. Then create yours to either fit in (but still stand out) or reverse something so it stands prominently out from the others.

    Remember there is a time cost to making covers ... can you write enough salable words in the time you'd spend making a cover to 'cover' the cost of outsourcing the cover design. Perhaps a 'premade' can work out as a good option from one of the many cover image designers.

    Good luck!

    .
    « Last Edit: October 13, 2020, 05:37:40 am by jvin248 »
           

    Online Patty Jansen

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #8 on: May 30, 2020, 01:44:51 am »
    I use Photoshop for the composition and a program called Procreate on iPad where I draw with the Apple pencil. It's magic!

    You can also use fairly simple stock images as long as you know a bit about composition. Read about this and compare with books that sell in your genre.

    I also tend to buy all my fonts because the free ones often have kerning and adaptability issues. Once you've imported a bought font into Photoshop you'll know what I mean.

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #9 on: May 30, 2020, 12:04:55 pm »
    If you don't want to pay the subscription fee for PS, you could try Affinity Photo. I've heard that it's almost on par with PS, but you can buy it outright, and right now it's 50% off.

    https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/

    Oh, also, it's best to stay away from free image sites like pixabay, because a lot of stolen images, and images using someone else's IP, get uploaded, and people who use those images could get into trouble.
             

    Offline breese45

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #10 on: October 26, 2020, 09:43:36 am »
    Just saw the trailer for the new Dune movie. And then popped into Kboards and saw this post. Man its got a cool logo. They show it at the end of the trailer. Just saying.

    Offline baldricko

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #11 on: October 26, 2020, 02:34:12 pm »
    A lot of good suggestions on this thread.

    But particularly this.

    There are quite a number of Amazon authors hitting million dollar sales that use Gimp to self make their own covers. They are also likely using Libreoffice.org to write and format their books too. Both software packages are free to use, open source, and run on practically every operating system you may have.

    Get Gimp.org image software and use youtube for 'how to' videos to get the cover you want, start with something like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeABb8cwdUg

    While you'll agonize over the image, the most important parts of the cover are the fonts for the title and author. Make sure your favorite graphics software can handle all the font choices you want to look at and has tools like 'kerning' to manipulate character spacing and any distortions you may want like stretching wider or taller to make the title fit best and most readable on the cover.

    Make sure the font style signals what market the book is targeted at. A Horror title font is completely different than a Romance title font, Western, or Science Fiction. Keep your author font consistent across all the books in a genre. Keep the title fonts consistent within a series. Split the title and author fonts so that one might have 'serifs' and the other 'non-serif' to clearly differentiate. Make the title much larger than the author, unless you are already super famous.

    Search the kboards threads for font sources (free and paid). In the past the favorites were Squirrelfonts and Google web fonts but there may be new ones now.

    Make sure your title can be easily deciphered at thumbnail size on Amazon's search pages. Shrink your cover image down and walk ten feet away from the computer screen and verify you can still read the title. Search youtube for photoshop and gimp tutorials on how to make text 'pop' if not (shadows, shades, fades, double images shifted a pixel off each other, and others).

    After you determine for sure what your book genre will fit in, search the top 100 books in that same genre or keywords, and write down the trends of all those books for images and fonts. Then create yours to either fit in (but still stand out) or reverse something so it stands prominently out from the others.

    Remember there is a time cost to making covers ... can you write enough salable words in the time you'd spend making a cover to 'cover' the cost of outsourcing the cover design. Perhaps a 'premade' can work out as a good option from one of the many cover image designers.

    Good luck!


    And this.

    I use Photoshop for the composition and a program called Procreate on iPad where I draw with the Apple pencil. It's magic!

    You can also use fairly simple stock images as long as you know a bit about composition. Read about this and compare with books that sell in your genre.

    I also tend to buy all my fonts because the free ones often have kerning and adaptability issues. Once you've imported a bought font into Photoshop you'll know what I mean.


    Offline J. Tanner

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #12 on: October 26, 2020, 03:13:01 pm »
    Does anybody else here design their own covers? If so, what programs do you use? (I'm currently using Canva for the actual design process and getting images/graphics from Pixabay.)

     Do you think your "homemade" covers can stand up in a "professionally-designed cover" world?

    To be honest, I'm happy with the covers I've done so far, but I'm interested to hear about other people's experience with this.

    You can't trust Pixabay for properly licensed and non-infringing images. I went there and with one search found obviously infringing items with an inaccurate commercial use license attached. Unless you're willing to do the legwork to verify the license of an image, stick to legit stock sites and pay the small fee per image. It's way cheaper than the amount of work required to determine the license is valid, or deal with infringement claims later.

    Home-made covers absolutely can compete ... if you have design skill. Never trust your personal opinion about whether that's true. Get outside feedback, preferably from designers. There are a number of threads here that show authors going through this process. At minimum, you should review those threads and see the kinds of issues non-designers frequently struggle with, but best case, just post your covers and see what kind of reaction they get.
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    Offline BellaJames

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #13 on: October 26, 2020, 05:48:24 pm »
    I think genre and sub genre matters. It might even matter if the books a short story, novella or novel.

     I was speaking to a successful author last month (PM on reddit) who told me she makes her own covers and spends very little producing her books. (I'm not saying her name on here).

    She writes borderline steamy romance/erotica. Her covers are quite simple and can be produced on Canva or any of the free sites like Pixabay and Picsart. She makes five figures a month and is often in the top 100 of the Amazon romance short reads chart. I have not seen any negative reviews regarding her covers.
    « Last Edit: October 26, 2020, 05:50:27 pm by BellaJames »

    Offline Sheri LHP

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #14 on: October 26, 2020, 09:14:34 pm »
    For many new authors, or people doing it as a side gig, that professional cover designer is way out of reach financially. If my options are 1) compromise on cover perfection or 2) not publish, my choice is going to be 1. I am trading services with an author friend who does really good covers. That's what I can afford.

    My peeve right now is atrocious, illegible fonts on romance covers. To the point a shopper has to squint and try to work out the title as though the words are a puzzle. Impossible on a small phone screen.  ;D
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    Offline jdcore

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #15 on: October 26, 2020, 09:20:54 pm »
    I did all of my covers but one, and I'm guessing you can figure out which one.

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #16 on: October 26, 2020, 10:11:51 pm »
    I do my own covers. When you have ongoing series it can be a real issue keeping the same cover artist and/or paying for a refresh.

    One of my series consists of 10 books plus 5 different omnibus editions and 3 shorts/novellas. Imagine a redo on that, even if you could get hold of 18 similar/matching premades.

    Every now and then I pick a series of mine and come up with a fresh look for the covers, sometimes refining and sometimes starting from scratch.
     

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    Offline Doglover

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #17 on: October 27, 2020, 01:44:45 am »
    I did all of my covers but one, and I'm guessing you can figure out which one.
    Actually, no, I can't!

    I do my own covers and I often get people asking me to do one for them. I only do that for close friends and people whose book I've helped them with. It depends whether you have a flare for it really. The word 'Photoshop' used to send me running for the hills, but I am on friendly terms with it now, although I doubt I'll live long enough to learn it all.


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    Offline Doglover

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #18 on: October 27, 2020, 01:45:28 am »
    PS The only two of my books that didn't sell were the ones that had professional covers!


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    Offline KendraHenderson

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #19 on: October 27, 2020, 05:58:20 am »
    I use GIMP plus Depositphotos.

    Oh, and this book is rather handy for learning GIMP:
    The Book of GIMP
    https://www.amazon.com/Book-GIMP-Complete-Nearly-Everything/dp/1593273835/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+book+of+gimp&qid=1603803440&sr=8-1

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    Offline Louise Bates

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #20 on: October 27, 2020, 06:09:50 am »
    I hire a designer for my novels, and do my own covers for short stories/novellas. I pay for stock photos from shutterstock or istockphoto and then work through both Canva and PicMonkey to manipulate them to what I want. I've also done some research into what makes a cover look more professional so as to avoid the more common pitfalls--wrong font, poor placement of elements, insufficient blending, etc. And perhaps most crucially, I get feedback from different people so as to see what works and what doesn't work for potential readers.
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    Offline Blerg et al.

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #21 on: October 27, 2020, 06:46:01 am »
    This is a great zombie thread because it was revived before it got too old and the info in it is still relevant. Kudos on timing.

    Personally, I use Inkscape alongside Gimp. It has certain capabilities that Gimp does not and they compliment each other well.
    Ultimately I went with a designer for my covers, but learning from doing it myself allowed me to work with designers more easily and keep my costs down. Also Gimp was really useful for making mockups and illustrating changes during the revision process.

    Libre Office is great and in a few cases is even better than Word when you're working on outdated or obscure file formats. It WILL mess up your tab stops and formatting if you're hopping back and forth between word processors. Just make sure to update the software regularly because the developers are constantly updating their software to maintain compatibility between the various file formats. And fixing bugs. (Always report bugs when you find them. The developers will thank you.)

    One note about freeware. I have seen what it looks like when I piece of software I love stops getting updates. (Open Office  :( ) So be appreciative of the people keeping it functional. If you can afford it, you should donate to the development team when you download it. There's usually a button on the download page. I do when I can. It's not much but I'm sure every bit helps. That goes for Wikipedia, too.
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    Online Simon Haynes

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #22 on: October 27, 2020, 09:48:31 am »
    This is a great zombie thread because it was revived before it got too old and the info in it is still relevant. Kudos on timing.

    It was revived by a spambot, which got reported. But when the spam was deleted, the thread was still revived and so here we are.

     

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    Offline Drakon

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #23 on: October 29, 2020, 05:47:10 am »

    So far all my covers have been professionally done but I enjoy graphic design and would like to do my own covers. I've been working with CANVA and liking it. The problem I have is with the very average and uninspiring FONTS that Canva offers. I have bought fonts from other sites but most of them won't load or work on Canva.

    Any suggestions for a source for fonts?

    And yes I've seen beautiful covers designed by authors that are as good or better than those by graphic designers. You as an author have poured your heart an soul into a work. You're going to make a cover the best you can because you will reap the final $ reward which will (hopefully) keep on giving. Whereas a designer has to think about getting more covers done ASAP for a flat fee. 


    « Last Edit: October 29, 2020, 05:57:14 am by Drakon »


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    Offline MalcolmJWardlaw

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    Re: Do-it-Yourself Cover Design
    « Reply #24 on: November 01, 2020, 04:42:34 am »
    Unless you have a lot of money, I don't think a pro designer actually adds much you can't learn for yourself with patience. Most cover designers expect you to choose the image (or give examples of very close to what you want), which is 90% of the intellectual/creative content of a cover, leaving just 10% for them to do for their fee of $300 - $500.

    With GIMP and a hell of a lot of persistence, most people can probably learn how to create decent covers. I think getting the right font is probably the hardest bit. Get images off Shutterstock and keep the design as simple as possible. Derek Murphy has written a good book on cover design, worth a look. His mantra is "Be clear before you're clever" and I think that's the best basic advice there is. Use cliche to communicate sub-genre.

    The downside is that the investment in time required to reach a decent level of design is large, probably the equivalent of writing at least two books.

    Note that the covers presented under this message are not the current ones.






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