DIY Book Cover Design, pt. 2

DIY Cover Design (1)

Hey! You’re back. Today we’re going to begin work on the front cover.

If you’re not “back” but showing up for the first time, check out my post from last week before you get too far, as I cover some pretty important questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to make your own book cover.

First things first, please remember this is my design process. This is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, though. I can only share what I have tried and what works well for me.

Anyway, as promised, we’re going to start at the ground floor of this, meaning we need to start with the first thing you need to figure out once you’ve decided to take on this task:

Size Matters

You’ve got a revised, edited manuscript and you are itching to hit publish. Have you formatted your manuscript into a book? Of course you have! (If you haven’t, then you really need to. Page count determines spine width, after all.)

The most popular trim sizes for fiction are probably 5×8, 5.5×8.5, and 6×9, though you can choose many other sizes from 4×6 to 8.5×11.  The fewer words in your book, the smaller you may want to make your trim size in order to make it appear bigger, but that’s really up to you.

Keep cost in mind. The most common sizes will be advantageous to your POD company and may be cheaper for you in the long run.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll use the trim size I use which is 5.5×8.5. How did I decide this was what I wanted? Easy. I went to Barnes and Noble and looked at books in all kinds of sizes and decided on what I liked best. As a bonus, this is half the size of a piece of standard copy paper, so I am able to print portions of my manuscript for a pretty decent preview of how my formatting looks.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about Amazon’s processes. I know they just switched from CreateSpace to KDP and there are many people doing posts and videos on the changes that’s brought. I use IngramSpark as my POD (print on demand) company, and can only speak to how it works with them. That said, there should be some universal truths and many similarities.

Once you’ve formatted your manuscript into a book and you’re sure your page count is not going to change, then you’ll want to get your POD company to generate a blank template for you so you’ll know precisely the width of your book’s spine.


This is the template generator for IngramSpark, this shows you all the information you need to have before they generate your template. (I assume at this point you can request Amazon to provide you with one of their free ISBNs if you choose to go that route.)

The reason they ask you for your ISBN and your book’s price is because they are going to automatically include the bar code for the back of your book. (I think with Amazon you have to tell them the position you want for your bar code, whereas with IS and depending on your imaging software, you can move the bar code wherever you want.)

For the purpose of this series, I’m going to use the size and page count for Alabama Rain: 5.5×8.5 and 352 pages (despite what Amazon says, this book is not 434 pages.)

IS will email you the PDF of your blank template. It looks like this:


Not to scale, of course. 😉

Now, this is where my method may differ from many others. I have a dear friend, fellow author Vania Rheault, whose method is very different from mine in many ways and her covers are great!

I put this template away for a while. I’ve got my dimensions (which, oddly I largely ignore) and I get started designing.

Canva, yo

love, love, love Canva.

I’ve been using it for a few years now, and I’ve been a Canva For Work member for probably a little over a year now.


If you haven’t used Canva before, I thoroughly suggest exploring the Design School they provide.

Not only will it give you a great crash course into how to use Canva, its purpose is to give you some design basics.

(Oh, and do you see where it says Use Canva 1.0? That’s because I’m doing a trial of Canva 2.0…and, well, yeah. It’s amazing.)

Now, direct your attention to the blue button at the top of the list. We’re going to click that and get started on designing our front cover.

You might think that since our cover is 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches, that those would be the dimensions we’re going to use to get our design started.

But, you’d be wrong.

You want to make sure to accomplish a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch). You do not want to stretch your finished image onto your template, that reduces your dpi.

You might also see that Canva has a template for Kindle books—which is awesome! But we’re working on our paperback, so the Kindle template isn’t useful to us right now.

Using NinjaUnits you can see that to achieve 300dpi, we need to generate our cover at a minimum of 1650 pixels by 2550 pixels.

Now that we know that, we can tell Canva and get started. (Finally, right?)

If you aren’t sure of your design-savvy, I highly recommend sticking to stock photography. Luckily Canva has a vast library.

[I’m just realizing I never decided on a title for this tutorial’s fictional fiction nor a genre or anything at all. But let’s pretend that isn’t a big deal right now…let me look around the room and see what I can slap together…how about a historical romance with minor fantasy elements called…The Watchmaker’s Regret…? Yeah. I can work with that.]

For the sake of my current work-in-progress, I’m going to attempt to keep the design process for today to less than a half-hour. This is a fraction of what I would spend on a real project of mine…good grief don’t let me fall in love with this too much.









You can filter your image searches on Canva by photographs, illustrations, or all not to mention being able to show only free images.

Never fear, the paid-images are $1 each (and if you’re a CanvaForWork member, many images free-users have to pay for are free for you) and you can always download things with watermarks so you can try-before-you-buy.

I’m going to set this to photography and free images only and see what I can come up with.

[a little over a minute later…]

Okay, so I couldn’t decide on a free image (granted, I set my timer to only browse through this for ninety seconds. I am actively writing another book, after all.)

But that’s okay. Like I said, the other images only cost $1. I have already paid to remove the watermark, otherwise you’d see a series of lines and Canva’s branding across the image.


The image is already stretched, and I decided not to have the pocket watch completely centered. I don’t want to get into a deep tutorial on using Canva as it is very simple to use, so I trust you’ll be able to navigate filters and cropping, etc. etc. I’m going to play around with this for a few minutes and see what I can come up with.



By using the Nordic filter, adding a vignette, and utilizing a soft black gradient, I am relatively pleased.

This took a total of about 6 minutes to situate.

Let’s be honest, no one is going to look at that cover and believe I spent a ton of money or time on it.

But by using a simple piece of stock photography and elementary enhancements, I was able to create something that no one would accuse of being bad. 

It’d translate decently to thumbnail, too.

What else could I do with it, though? It doesn’t have anything that suggests fantasy elements might play a role in the book.

I don’t know. Let’s see. See you in another five minutes.










The difference is subtle, but it has a little more magic to it.

I also made the title font larger.

But, I swear it can be even better. This time I’m going to set my timer for four minutes and see what I can come up with. (Please, please do not time yourself. I’m only doing so because I don’t want this blog post to take me all day.)


It has more fantastical elements to me now. I like the larger font size.

It’s interesting have something more focal than the watch face—though I worry that particular image may be lost to thumbnail size.

I could have toyed around with this for more than my allotted four minutes, for sure. (And yes, I’ve already been daydreaming of what the plot of this story might be. Kill me now.)

There are multiple images layered on top of one another here, and the only way to learn to do this successfully is to play around with it.

Regardless, this cover only cost me the original dollar I spent on the image of the pocket watch. Not shabby if I do say so myself. (I had to smack myself when I started to explore different font options—I adore fonts and would have lost myself and my entire day to it.)

Homework Assignment

Wanna play? I’d love to see something you’d come up with for The Watchmaker’s Regret. Spend some time tinkering in Canva and let me see what you create—no pressure. Either way, I highly recommend you create an account with Canva if you haven’t already and familiarize yourself with it. It’ll save you a lot of headache in the long run.

Anyway, what do you think? Which one of those covers is your favorite?

Next week, we’ll continue on with this cover by working on the spine and the back cover.

Until then, happy reading! ♥

Interested in reading a real book of mine? My latest novel, Alabama Rain, has resonated with all its readers…maybe it will with you, too.






4 thoughts on “DIY Book Cover Design, pt. 2

  1. Meka James says:

    I liked the second one. The watch got a little lost in the 3rd. I’m still learning to play around in Canva, but I’m no where near ready to trust in my skills to make my own covers. I will have to keep contracting out for a while, but I’m loving these tutorials. Thanks for sharing!


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