September 27, 2011

Designing Your Own eBook Cover for Free

Total Read Time: 2 minutes

["Designing on a tablet" by admeijer]

When you’re an indie author just starting out, it’s tough to justify spending money on ebook cover design (especially if your retail price point is $0.99). Even though a professional can help make your ebook look fabulous, they can also be pricey. Sometimes you just have to do it yourself.

I designed my own ebook covers for my stand-alone short stories using Photoshop and free, royalty-free images. If you don’t have Photoshop, never fear. There is free software available for manipulating your cover images.

Steps for designing your own ebook cover:

1.  Download and install Gimp, a free image manipulation program.

2.  Visit stock.xchng and search for images to use. The Premium results that appear at the top and bottom of each page are available to purchase, but the search results are all free, royalty-free images. Just make sure you check the availability terms on the page of the image you want to use. Some artists need to be notified and credited if you use their work.

3.  If you want to use a custom font instead of the default variety available on your computer, check out dafont.  If you see a font you like, make sure to check out the author’s site to find out what the terms of use are.

4.  Use Gimp to put it all together.

Design Tips

Keep it simple.

Remember that on many devices, your cover will be converted from color to greyscale and it will be reduced to thumbnail size in online search results. The less contrast and more complexity your cover image has, the more it will look like an unrecognizable blob. (Which probably isn’t what you’re shooting for.)

Make the font as easy-to-read as possible.

Again, since your cover image will be quite small in online searches and listings, you want to keep it legible. Use simple, crisp fonts in strong colors that will stand out from your background image. (Basic black or white is usually best.) Make the font as large as possible, without overpowering your background. Resist the urge to add unneeded text (quotes, reviews or other stuff that is often included on print covers).

Keep sizing requirements in mind.

Your cover image needs to fall within certain dimensions to be acceptable for Amazon and Smashwords, so you need to start with the end result in mind. I usually make 3 different image sizes: one for the cover image that is inserted into the ebook file, one for Amazon’s thumbnail in searches, and a thumbnail size I can fit into the sidebar of my blog. Some people have successfully used other dimensions, but these are the ones that have worked for me (measured in pixels, width x height):

600x800: Image inserted into ebook file
900x1200: Thumbnail image for Amazon KDP. (Yes, it’s bigger than the actual cover image. Trust me, it works.)
180x240: Thumbnail image for blog sidebar

All images should have a resolution of 72 pixels per inch (ppi) to be properly sized and formatted for online viewing.

Hope this helps! :)

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