Cover Design on a Budget

Posted by on May 4, 2013 in Design Advice | One Comment

flightandfawnaWhere to begin when it comes to book cover design? To start, it’s best that you’ve read the book and truly understand what the author is trying to convey through their story. Or, if you’re unable to read through from cover to cover, asking the author what their vision is can be a great starting point when laying out a cover.

But then you run into the problem with material– surly you can’t direct your own photo shoot to get the exact shot you’re interested in for a cover. That alone would run your budget into the thousands, easily. Fear not! I have a couple helpful tips when designing on a budget, especially if you’re looking at taking on this task by yourself:

  • Stock images can be expensive if you’re looking on websites like Veer or IStockPhoto, so look for free (or inexpensive) stock by Googling “Free Stock Images”. Stock Exchange is one I frequent to see if any images might fit my ideas.
  • Instead of using Photoshop, save money by using an online image editor, such as Pixlr.
  • There are endless tutorials with photo-editing techniques on the web, but a good community to check out that’s all art focused is DeviantArt. Try searching “photoshop tutorial” or “image editing tutorial” and you should find a step-by-step guide on how to achieve certain looks. These should translate into Pixlr, but I can’t say 100%!
  • Don’t settle for the standard fonts installed on your computer! There are a ton of great websites out there that offer free fonts for you to use! I personally like Font Space or Font Squirrel. Need help installing a font on your computer? Here’s a step-by-step for Windows users and Mac users.

Remember: whenever you’re using a stock photo, make sure you check the rules and paramaters to using that particular image. If possible, reach out to the photographer and see what their stock usage terms are. Usually, they like to be credited as the photographer– sometimes, they ask for a small royalty (and for book covers it’s usually under $100).


I know I play around making covers for books that are WIP (or not even a chapter into, yet). For me, it’s motivation to continue writing, in hopes of seeing the cover visualized in print form. And even if it doesn’t get that far, the old adage that practice makes perfect is very true when it comes to graphic design. Practice on fake stories, practice on your friends, practice on your dog, Sir Fransis Pups-a-lot, and his new upcoming anthology. The possibilities are endless– just keep at it!


As always, I’m open to questions regarding design. Please don’t hesitate to comment or post on our Facebook Page any questions you might have if you’re looking to tackle a cover design.

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1 Comment

  1. Book Cover Art Chapter 1: Groundwork | REUTS Publications
    February 27, 2014

    […] Unfortunately, different from the editorial phase, cover art requires a certain set of programs to work within, especially if you’re planning on working professionally in the industry. These programs are a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Now, all three of these are quite expensive to purchase without  the prospect of frequent use, however you’ll see there are online resource we’ve already touched on in a previous blog post: Cover Design On A Budget. […]

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