How to Design a Fantasy or SF Book Cover With Canva in Five Minutes or Less
No matter the topic or genre, every ebook needs a killer cover. It’s the first thing that a reader sees and the right ebook cover – or rather the wrong cover, or an amateurish hack job – can make or break a sale.
Some authors spend hundreds of dollars for each book cover. Others make their own.
If you ask me, I think authors should learn how to make a book cover, and then go out and hire the best cover designer they can afford. That experience stretches their creative muscles and it will help them appreciate the work involved in making a good cover.
I taught myself how to make ebook covers over the course of a couple Sunday afternoons. While I don’t plan to make covers as a service, the experience has taught me that it’s really not that hard to make a good cover. (A great book cover, on the other hand, takes more skill and experience than I currently possess – but I am working on it.)
In this post I am going to explain how you can make a book cover in five minutes or less.
Making a great cover may require an expert, but I have found that if you work with the templates on Canva you will make a good book cover.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You don’t have to use the first cover you make – you don’t even have to use the twenty-first. In fact, you shouldn’t. Book covers are the kind of thing where it pays to take the time to get it right. You don’t want to end up on one of the blogs that collect bad book covers, do you?
- If you’re developing a series, it would be a good idea to plan for using similar designs on all the book covers. This will help tie your books together visually.
- If you have the time, create two distinctly different covers for the same book, and then A/B test them. Ask your test subjects which one they prefer, and why. You can use the feedback to refine the most popular cover, and perfect it.
First Things First
Gather your tools and supplies – in other words, choose an app or online service to make the cover with, and also find the images you want to use on the covers.
I had previously published a post with a list of 14 sites you could use to make book covers, but the one I use all the time is Canva. It is a free (for the most part) online alternative to Photoshop. You can use it to make just about anything from an infographic to a business card, and it is easy to use.
Canva has a pretty shallow learning curve; if you know MSPaint, you can learn Canva. In fact, they’ll even teach you how to use it in a series of tutorials. (I didn’t find them until I started working on this post, darn it.)
If you are looking for a source for images, here is a post that lists fifteen royalty-free stock photo sites. In the long run you’re probably going to need to also license paid photos, but for now the free sites – plus the images, layouts, and elements available through Canva – will be enough to help you learn the craft.
And finally, Derek Murphy has compiled a list of fonts you might use on book covers. He organized the list by genre, making it a lot easier to find the best fit for your book. You might not be able to find exactly the font you like, but Derek’s post will give you an idea of what the title of, say, an SF book should look like.
Let’s Get Started
When I set out to make book covers, I just started messing around with the tools, making ugly covers and learning from my mistakes, but what you should do is first look on Amazon to see what book covers look like for your genre or topic. For example:
- Romance titles frequently have people on the cover. Contemporary romance will often use a photo on the cover, while historical romance will use a posed shot showing the main characters.
- Titles in the fantasy genre typically fall into one of several broad categories: their covers show a group of warriors in chain mail, a landscape shot of a valley or castle, a plain cover centered on an occult or heraldic symbol, etc.
- Many science fiction titles have covers that fall into categories similar to fantasy categories, only with different symbolism. Instead of a valley or castle, SF uses spaceships and planets, and rather than chain mail SF relies on showing the heroes in spacesuits to tell the reader about the book.
The observant reader will have noticed that I am over-generalizing cover designs and glossing over a lot of the nuances.
Yes, I am, and that is okay because what I want you to see is that all it takes to make a good cover image is to match an acceptable font with a background color and foreground graphic or image.
That simple cover design will work for SF, fantasy, and sometimes thriller novels. It’s not the most sophisticated cover design idea, but it is a great first step because it is so simple. (And if you take pains to do good job, you will create a cover better than a lot of indie titles.)
Here are a few covers I made while working on this post.
You can make this cover by following 4 simple steps:
- find a stock cover with a monochrome background,
- change the title font to one suitable for the genre,
- change the background color, and
- add a simple image in the foreground.
It is about that simple.
Why don’t you give it a shot, and then share your work here?