Monday, October 15

How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Just the other day I wished someone would hand me a simple set of rules for designing great looking book covers.

I am in awe of some of the gorgeous covers on Amanda Hocking's books. There is no way in a million years I'd be able to do something like that. That said, I do believe there's no reason the average person (and I am exceedingly average when it comes to graphic design) can't do a decent book cover. We just need guidance.

Enter J.M. Ney-Grimm and her Cover Design Primer. If you're doing your own book covers--or even just thinking of it--this post is a must read. I'm making it sound like a book, but it's not. It's a medium-length post that gives more practical information on how to design a book cover than I've come across anywhere else, books included!

Here's an example of what I mean.

Let's talk fonts. J.M. tells us there are 6 main categories: Old Style, Modern, Slab Serif, Sans Serif, Script and Decorative. Each category contains certain representative fonts.

Old Style: Goudy, Baskerville, Garamond, and Palatino.
Modern: Braggadocio and Engravers MT.
Slab Serif: Blackoak, Cooper Black, Rockwell Extra Bold, and Wide Latin.
Sans Serif: Helvetica, Charcoal, Skia, and Impact.
Script: Apple Chancery, Brush Script, Gabriola, and Lucida Handwriting.
Decorative: Zapfino, Desdemona, Herculanum, and Lucida Blackletter.

Here's the tip:

Three rules for choosing fonts for a book cover: (I didn't include J.M.'s images, you can see them here.)
1) Never use more than one font from each category
That is, Braggadocio (modern) and Helvetica (sans serif) might work well together, but Skia and Charcoal (both sans serif) will not.


Because the human eye likes patterns to be either exactly alike or clearly different. Similar, but not the same, makes the human eye struggle.

2) Do use two different fonts
One font – say all Palatino – is overly calm, sedate, even boring.

Two fonts is interesting, but doesn’t overwhelm the eye.

Three fonts (each from a different category, of course) starts to be cluttered and busy.

3) Use contrast to draw the eye
Contrasting sizes, contrasting colors, contrasting fonts. You do want to catch the attention of potential readers, right? Compare the examples below [see J.M.'s article].

Can you break these rules? Certainly. The instant I learned them I thought of exceptions that work beautifully. But the vast majority of covers that appeal to readers follow them.

Is there more to typography? Of course. But these foundation concepts are enough to produce surprisingly good design results when choosing fonts.
J.M's discussion of fonts is just the beginning. She goes on to talk about the overall composition of a cover. As I say, great article. Again, here's the link: Cover Design Primer.

Thanks to Passive Guy for mentioning J.M.'s article.

Other articles you might like:
- How To Become A Full Time Indie Author
- How Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin & Stephen King
- How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website

Photo credit: Unknown


  1. Great tips Karen, I love playing with fonts. You forgot to mention... "never use Comic Sans" ;-)

    1. Ack! I can't _believe_ I forgot to mention that. ;)

      I know the wink means you're not completely serious but, yes, if anyone out there is thinking of using Comic Cans stop right now. Just stop! Wipe that thought from your noggin. (grin)

  2. Wow, so much information here (this post, and your blog in general). You should put some of this into book form (if you haven't already!).

    I've always been kind of intimidated to make a cover... but now I'm less so!

    1. You're right, I should put some of it into a book. I keep meaning too, but ... lol There's so little time! I think that's one reason I've been talking about the importance of scheduling one's time, I'm talking to myself!

      Thanks Kim! That's how I felt when I first read J.M.'s primer. I wish I'd taken design courses in school. I love tips like these.

      If you've never done a cover before you'd be amazed at how easy it is to do. Hmm, that might be a good idea for a blog post! ;-)

  3. Thanks for the information, I really didn´t know these tips. I just have one question: do these rules apply to all kinds of book covers? Thank you for your help in advance.

    1. You mean, non-fiction as well as fiction? I don't see why not. They're general principles of design that would probably even help out if one was designing a poster!

    2. I think when we design anything (Book, Broachers, Posters, Title, etc) it’s looking different from others and attractive. So must be use different font, color, sizes in designing (for attraction. In a color scheme design according to in which area use this products and in that area's people, which color like mostly......
      Nauman Ashraf Khan Yousfzai

  4. I just have a quick question. What is the name of the font used on "in type we trust"

    1. I'm not sure about the name, but the page to download the font(s) is here:



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