DIY Book Cover Design, pt. 2.5

DIY Cover Design (2)

Happy Monday, folks!

Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? If you haven’t seen the first two posts in this series, please direct yourself to them first.

Part One

Part Two

Now, I know last week I said we were going to move on to spines and back covers today…but I’ve had a few private messages on Twitter from people asking for clarification on a few things from last week. I think their questions were extremely important and need to be covered before we move on. ♥

Let’s get on with the questions!

Why go with no-attribution images?

The reader was concerned with the potential negative feedback they would receive by using images without giving attribution. They felt crediting the photographer was only fair, and wondered why I would advocate for anything else.

It isn’t about not giving credit, it’s about legality. Using an image that does not require attribution negates most legal issues that might arise—so long as you’re getting the image from a reputable site such as Pexels. (Be super careful getting images from Google Images, even with the proper filters on.)

Pexels calls this Legal Simplicity. Learn more about their no-attribution licensing here.

If you get an image that is free (or even some that you have to pay for) and it requires attribution or there are any stipulations on using the image at all, it might come back to bite you. Some images, for example, are only free for you if you distribute less than X-number of copies (that number changes depending on the image’s owner). Take my friend Vania, for instance. She just saw over 5000 copies of her latest novel downloaded, and if she had used a cover image that had that sort of stipulation on it, it would be possible for the photographer to come after her for a large sum of money.

Using images with a creative commons license or no-attribution license takes away your struggle with such matters. Before you publish anything: a book, a blog post, etc. you need to make sure of your rights with someone else’s photography or artwork. There are certain rules with a company even as liberal with their photography as Pexels is. For instance, you cannot sell photos you source from them without modifying or adding value to them first. (i.e. don’t slap them unedited onto a mug and sell them on Redbubble.)

»»» Don’t get yourself embroiled in a legal mess out of laziness «««

If you still want to credit the photographer or artist, that’s fantastic. Go ahead. I’d do that on the copyright page. There’s nothing stopping you from doing that and still using a no-attribution required image.

Can you show the process of layering?


It will still be something you need to personally play around with, but I will do a better job of getting you started. Let the screencaps begin!

I’m abandoning the Watchmaker’s thing. Let’s play with something new. I’m going to simply search Canva for free photography using the search term art. I’m aiming for something perfect for a fantasy novel.


That’s an amazing free image! ♥

Okay, now I’m going to search for ways to make this image my own. I generally start by seeking out a gradient. Sometimes I use a black gradient to add shading to a portion of the image, sometimes I use a white gradient to add highlight. But There are all sorts to play with.


I chose this orange-pink gradient. Now for the purposes of this, I added a second page to my design so I could show you what this looks like on its own over a white background at 100% opacity. I am going to overlay this on my first image and fiddle with the transparency level of the gradient and see what happens.


Ha! So I also changed the file name, but as you can see, I placed the gradient on top of the original image and set the transparency to 20%. The change is subtle, but I sometimes think the most subtle differences make the biggest impacts. Let’s look at the two images so far side by side.

No gradient (1)

The differences are really subtle. The eye with the gradient is a little yellowed, while the area around the lips is pink. Either way, I’m still stunned at the beauty of this image. Let’s keep playing.

Now, obviously what you choose to do with it has to pertain to your book, but for some reason I thought a streak of lightning would look really cool over this, so I found this:


I stretched it across my lady’s face, adjusted the transparency level and was gifted this:


Not too shabby, methinks.

If you find an image, like the lightning I found, and the bulk of the image is black, it is going to naturally darken the background image. You can tinker with the brightness of the background image if this proves problematic for you:


Again, the differences are really subtle, but they’re there.

I wouldn’t want to put too much more into this cover for fear it will become too busy. Right now I think it is intriguing, and so long as it were for a fantasy or maybe even sci-fi novel, it would be hella in line with genre.

All that would be left to do is add your title, tag (optional), and author name. Shall I?

Sure I shall. I don’t like to leave things undone.

Divine Wrath (2)


I must thank Jewel E. Leonard for titling this fictional fiction for me. I think I was a bit brain-fried.

Anyway, the total cost for this was ZERO dollars and about an hour, (maybe hour and fifteen minutes) so pretty quick.

That most awesome, fitting font was available in Canva. (I’ll teach you about the drop-shadowing later—I have to save something for a future blog post!)

I’d buy that book. Would you?

Can you help with font choices?

I will certainly try. While a lot of this is opinion, if you look at what design houses produce, you will certainly get an education. Let me create a few quick examples.

The general consensus is you want no more than three fonts. In order for them to compliment one another, you also want to avoid having, say, multiple script fonts. (While it is possible to achieve something remarkable with more than three fonts, unless you’re really skilled at it, your best bet is to stick to two or three.)

I feel inclined to let you know Canva has just again increased their font options with Canva 2.0—there are some great ones in there! Just one more reason for you to familiarize yourself with them. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Once upon a time, (1)




There are four separate script fonts in this image and I really hate it. On their own, they’re not terrible. But put together like that it’s irksome to say the least.

In fact, you’re probably better off using only one script font and complimenting it with other types of fonts: serif, sans-serif, or slab-serif. (There are others. Google is your friend!)


Once upon a time,




Here, we have stepped in the right direction, but there is still improvement to make. While this is technically not two script fonts, they don’t exactly pair up the best. I’d far prefer to see this over the first one, though.

I do like the non-script font much more than I do the script. But, at least we’re only at two fonts this time so there isn’t as much competition.


Once upon a time, (3)

And here is the one I would consider the best of the three. I would say each of these fonts—one is script and one is not—have a bit of whimsy, which certainly fits the quote, they don’t compete with one another in a way that is unpleasing tothe eye. They fit.

If this were a book cover (1st, it’d be terrible) I’d have the author’s name in a 3rd font.






Once upon a time, (4)There’s your last example on fonts. It’s hardly a comprehensive education, but it’ll get you started in the right direction.

  • Keep your number of fonts to a minimum.
  • Make sure they’re legible!
  • Make sure they’re legible at thumbnail size.
  • Keep font choices in tone with your book. You wouldn’t want a quirky, whimsical font for a World War II saga.
  • When in doubt, ask a trustworthy friend, beta reader, or critique partner what they think.

For more on fonts, Canva has a great class, and check out places like Skillshare, too!


What’s this thumbnail size thing?

Okay, I believe this is the last question I wanted to clarify before we continue on.

When you are designing your cover, you’re designing it on a much larger scale than thumbnail. I sometimes zoom in to 400% or more on my covers while I’m working on them. So, keep in mind that just because your cover looks hella awesome at 100%, doesn’t mean it’s going to look so great when people are viewing it online.

Most people are going to see your book online, right? Right. This is called thumbnail size. It’s the size you see when you are browsing books on Amazon or any online retailer. You want to view your cover from this perspective to make sure it isn’t a muddled mess. If you attempt looking up the dimensions of thumbnail images, you’re going to find yourself waist-deep in a lot of misinformation and numbers that make no sense*. The easiest way to do this is simply to shrink your image down and see if it looks good.

*This is because not everyone views things on the same size screens, therefore the thumbnail size changes. When I browse on my 55″ television vs. my iPhone, sizes change.


Here’s a thumbnail image Alabama Rain’s cover. You cannot read the tagline, but you can read the title and the images aren’t completely lost to the resizing.

Since this is how most of your readers will see your book cover, you want to make sure it looks good miniaturized! ♥

Before I say goodbye, I want to thank indie authors Vania Rheault and Meka James for taking me up on my challenge last week!

For any of you feeling froggy, my challenge this week is to attempt a cover with some sort of layered element, and familiarizing yourself with transparency. If you’re so inclined, share it with me on Twitter! ♥♥♥

That’s all I have for you today, friends! Happy designing!

Now Available



3 thoughts on “DIY Book Cover Design, pt. 2.5

  1. Vania Margene Rheault says:

    I purchase my photos through The pictures there are $7.00 a piece, or cheaper if you buy a credit package. Even when i was doing my chat on Twitter, i primarily used photos from there so the pictures were mine, and the chat was mine. Anyway, they do have a maximum amount of sales which is 500,000. Yes, half a million. I can’t go above that. That sounds like a crazy hella amount of books you’d have to sell in order for them to want additional attribution from you (besides the $7.00) but it is something you need to keep in mind. I don’t know what the contracts for the other sites say, like Dreamstime or Shutterstock, but I would think they are similar in that regard. And yeah, I thank the photographer and add the picture id to my copyright page in my books. I think I’ve also added the fact that I’m using Canva to do my covers, as well. I just checked, and yeah, I didn’t for my trilogy, but I added a hat tip to them in All of Nothing. Since they are a free resource, I thought it was a nice thing to do, and it’s professional as well.

    Great post, Aila, and thanks for mentioning me. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s