Learn How You Can Make a Free Book Cover

[Sample Cover]

In this blog post I will show you how to create a basic and no-cost cover for your e-book. Originally I planned to do this blog post a few weeks ago, but other things kept coming up and pushing this lower on the priority list. It didn't help that after a week or so I forgot where I'd put the image files. I could have started over but I knew I had most of the work done already and I didn't want to waste all of that earlier effort. Luckily I remembered this week where those files were.

I should point out that what I describe here is technical, not artistic, in nature. You will learn how to do it, but not what it should look like. There are some good reasons for this, and the top of that list of reasons is that I'm not much of a cover designer. Perhaps one glance at the covers of my own books would tell you that! Another important reason is that your cover should match your story, your style, the genre, etc., and there is no one-size-fits-all look for book covers. However, style issues side, the same free resources can be used across the full spectrum of design concepts.

Also, I should point out that working with an experienced cover designer is highly recommended. The tutorial here is for those who simply cannot afford to hire a designer, and who (hopefully!) have some art/design sense of their own. If you've never done any kind of design, there is a lot of info online that will help you avoid mistakes like having text too close to the edge.

The following free resources were used for this tutorial. You can replace any or all of these with other resources that you prefer, but these were chosen for being capable and having zero monetary cost. These links will each open in a new window or tab:

Linked from this blog post are some XCF files that I saved at various stages as I worked on the sample. You can download them and open them in GIMP. To download other source assets that I used, you will want:

For this tutorial, I made up a Western novel called Walston's War. I have no idea what it's about, nor do I plan to write it, so that makes it a good subject for this tutorial. My design concept was having crossed pistols with a desert background, and bold, blocky text for the title. You can see my final cover above. The following were the steps I used, which you can adapt to create a free cover for your e-book.

  1. Download 110_1017a.jpg and DSC_2269.JPG from morgueFile.com
  2. Download and install the Peralta font
  3. In GIMP, open the "guns" photo and isolate the guns from their background (see file0002123087743.xcf). Ensure the one layer of the image has an alpha channel and cut or erase everything but the guns.
  4. Cut each gun into its own layer and rotate them into position (see file0002123087743_r.xcf).
  5. In GIMP, open the "desert" photo, adjust the colors and saturation, and crop it to a book cover aspect ratio (see file7601341799115.xcf). The recommended pixel dimensions change over time, but the 1563x2500 size is a good starting point.
  6. Copy the gun layers to the desert image (see file7601341799115_b.xcf).
  7. Use the Text tool, set the font to Peralta and color to black, and add the title. Using the same font, add the author name, but at a smaller size. Duplicate the author name layer, shift the higher layer up and to the left, and change the color from black to white. To help the guns stand out from the background, add a gray/transparent gradient where the darkest part is behind the guns. (See file7601341799115_c.xcf.) When adding text, be sure to check your image at thumbnail size (e.g., by zooming out) to make sure the title, and preferably your name, are legible.
  8. At this point it still seemed too flat. My vague notion for the story was that it was one family against another in the Wild West, so I decided to colorize the guns in contrasting colors (see file7601341799115_d.xcf).
  9. Save your XCF file with all layers intact for future edits. Always plan to make more edits, even if you think you're done. Then, export your image to a JPEG file with high quality setting (low compression). The JPEG file is what you will upload to KDP, NOOK Press, etc.

One step not shown here is giving credit where credit is due. In many cases you will be required to give credit to the artist for any photos or illustrations you use. While this is not required by the morgueFile license, I do it anyway. Credit information can be placed on the copyright page of your novel, or on a separate page (e.g., in the back of the book).

This is a pretty quick overview, and I will admit that between the time I had the original idea for this blog and the actual writing of it I managed to forget some of the things I wanted to include. If you want clarification on any of this, please ask!


About the Author
Stuart J. Whitmore is an author of fiction and nonfiction, as well as a photographer, technology developer, and more. If you enjoy reading his blog posts, you might also enjoy reading his books. Take a look at the books by Stuart J. Whitmore today, and download your copy of one that looks interesting to you!