#DesignAMA: What is involved in the process of designing and developing a book cover?

I had an interesting question over on my #DesignAMA today. It is a lengthy response, however I believe it is something of value. That is why I decided to share it here on my blog for you all. Remember my #DesignAMA goes live August 28, and if you have any questions submit them here. Enjoy 🙂


What is involved in the process of designing and developing a book cover? How long does it take on average?

There are two types of covers when you look at the process of designing a cover. The first process is the most common, and that is the photo manipulated covers. The second process is the illustrated cover drawn from hand. Time varies between the two big. I will do a breakdown of the two to let you be more informed.

Photo-Manipulated Covers:

  • The first step for a designer is to find out the author’s direction for the cover.
  • Second step is to find the images that will make up the background, textures and concept. This can take from an hour to days. This has ranged from 4 to 8 hours for myself, it depends on what the author is looking for.
  • Next is taking your images into your software, I use Photoshop. During this step you will create layers, adjustments and cut images to set them onto each other. The time this can range from one hour to several, it depends on how many images you are using.
  • The biggest step to making the cover look good is blending. This can range from erasing, painting or adding special features to blend all layers together.  You can expect this to take several hours, again depends on how many images that need blending.
  • Once the image is complete, then comes the wonderful step of adding your text. This is your title, sub-title, slogan, author name and any other text you wish to add. Pay attention to the fonts that appear within your genre before deciding which font to use. Deciding on a font can take hours, however make sure it is a font for commercial use. Read the licensing information even if it says it’s a FREE font.
  • The final step to take before you show off your cover is two things. One take a day away from the cover, come back to it and look it over for any changes you see that need corrected. Second, ask a few individuals you trust for their honest opinion. Word of advice, seek individuals that have an eye for detail. If you missed any issues, they will point them out or give suggestions to improve your cover.

Overall, this cover shouldn’t take longer than two weeks. This time is only an estimate many designers can do it under two weeks. However, I like to have too much time to work within than not enough. If you don’t give your designer enough time to work, then you are jeopardizing the overall quality of your cover you present.

Illustrated Covers:

  • The first step of any illustrated cover is to come up with three thumbnail concepts. This allows the author three directions they could go with their cover.
  • The draft process is the next step after you complete your concept direction. This can range from three to five plus drafts that the designer provides to the author. Drafts are all done in pencil once completed on paper then comes the next step.
  • The designer will now transfer their hand-drawn sketch over to their computer. Most common softwares used is Illustrator or Photoshop. The journey of creating the digital art is a lengthy process. Overall, transferring just a pencil outline will take about a day or less.
  • The next step is painting the image. This is a lengthy process that will take weeks. How it works in Photoshop is that each item you paint has its own layer. Another option is to create each item in their own source file then link to it in a final file. Doing the link option helps keep the project from overloading the software and slowing it down.
  • The designer has finished painting the image, now comes the clean up process. This step varies in length since it entails erasing, blending an adding shading to the layers to make them one consistent image. Expect this step to be close to a day worth of work it can be longer.
  • Now comes adding your title and other text information you wish to include. This will take only minutes to put the text on the cover and create a layout, however as stated above finding the font can range from minutes to hours of searching.
  • The title and text is on your cover now and comes a crucial step. The designer has to make sure the text blends with the image. I am not saying it dissolves into the image itself, what I’m saying is that it looks like it belongs on your cover. Picking a color for the text or by adding an overlay to flatten the text to the image can solve this problem.
  • Now you have what looks like a final cover. Again step back, ask for a few individuals feedback and see if any changes need made. If you see none then you have a finished cover. Overall, the length of an illustrated cover can range from two to six months. It depends on the designer and the experience they have, another big deciding point on time is communication. If an author refuses to communicate with the designer, then that lengthens the process.

A big side note to remember readers will judge your book by its cover, which is why you need to settle for nothing but high quality. Do to budget or lack of one can ruin this for some authors. That is why I tailored my design business to provide several money saving options to all authors. I offer giveaways, discounts, sales and money saving opportunities, along with payment plans that will fit anyone’s budget. If you’re an author that is struggling to put together the funds for making your book just drop us a message, we will make it happen.

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