How to Create a Book Cover Using Canva
A while ago, we published an article talking about what makes a good cover. This time, we’re here to provide you with a guide on how to create a book cover based on the principles covered in that article. You could of course make it really easy for yourself and use our cover designer, but what if you’re not planning on creating your book on our platform? As shocking as it was for us to consider that possibility, we get it. You just want to make a real nice cover without us. In that case, the best and easiest tool for the job if you’re a beginner (or on a budget) is the free graphic design tool, Canva. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to utilize this tool to create a professional-looking cover for your self-published book.
1. Gather Ideas and Inspiration
Before you can start creating your cover, you obviously have to know what you’re going to put on it. If you need some tips on how to conceptualize your cover, check out the article we wrote on the topic.
If you’re looking to find some photos to use, you can find huge selections of copyright-free images on Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay, which you can use at no cost. Or, if you’re artistically gifted, why not make your own design from scratch?
2. Determine Your Cover Dimensions
This is the part where most mistakes are made. You need to be aware of how big your book is going to be to make a cover for it. How do you figure that out? Well, it depends. Most book creation tools will allow you to set the dimensions of your book at some point in the process. On our platform, you’ll find the cover dimensions for your book in step 5, “Cover Design”. Make a note of these, as you’ll need them to make your cover image the right size!
Also, keep in mind that the cover dimensions will change depending on how many pages you have in your book, as more pages require a wider spine. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you have your final draft uploaded when determining the size of your cover image. If you already know how many pages your book will have, you can calculate the dimensions of your cover here.
It’s also important to make sure that you account for the bleed when making your cover design. The bleed refers to the outer edges of the cover, which are going to be trimmed off when printing. This ensures that the colour reaches all the way to the edge of the cover. This means you’re going to want to add a bit of a margin around your cover design. Keep any important design elements away from the edges!
Take a look at the image below to see which numbers you should be looking at when specifying the size of your cover image:
If you’re planning on designing a cover for an ebook, you’ll only see cover dimensions for your front cover, as ebooks don’t have back covers or spines. As such, you can skip step 5 in this guide. Everything else works exactly the same as far as design goes, however. If you’re looking for inspiration, you might be interested in Canva’s book cover templates, which are designed specifically for ebooks.
3. Create an Account on Canva
If you don’t have an account on Canva yet, now’s the time to create one (again, it’s free). Once you’re logged in click “Custom Dimensions” in the upper right corner:
4. Fill in Your Cover Dimensions
Fill in your custom dimensions (which you found in step 2). Make sure to change the units from pixels (the default on Canva) to those you’re actually using. In our case, it’s inches. Once you’ve filled in this information, click “Create new design”.
5. Insert the Spine of Your Book
Now that you have the foundation for your cover, it’s time to insert the spine, and thus divide the cover in half (front and back).
Click the “Elements” button in the left-hand menu and select the square (found in the “Shapes” section).
Once the square is inserted, shape it into a rectangle by using your mouse to drag the bottom and top sides of the squares downwards and upwards respectively. Make sure that the rectangle stretches all the way from the bottom of your cover to the top. Then, you can adjust the width of the rectangle until it matches that of your spine (a little box will appear next to your mouse pointer, indicating the current size of the spine). You now have a representation of your book’s spine.
Lastly, you’ll have to position the spine in the center of the cover. Do this by dragging it towards the middle – Canva will indicate when the spine is centered.
6. Design Your Cover
Now it’s time for the fun part – designing the cover itself. You can either use the designs and elements on Canva, or you can upload your own photos or images. Just make sure to the lower right corner on the back cover free (unless you’re making an ebook cover of course), because the ISBN and publisher logo will be placed there by the printer, obscuring whatever was there before. The list below provides a brief explanation of what you can expect in terms of functionality:
Elements: Here you’ll find various shapes, lines, graphics, and images with a number of themes that you can use. Scroll through the various sections to get an overview, and try the search function if you have something specific in mind.
Text: Fairly self-explanatory – use this to add titles, blurbs, quotes, or any other textual element you want on your cover.
Background: This section provides various images that will fill the entire cover template, excluding the spine you inserted. You can choose a single colour, various different patterns, or photos.
Uploads: Here is where you can upload your own visuals, which you can then apply to your cover. If you’ve found the perfect picture on a copyright-free image site like Unsplash or Pexels for instance, you can use this feature to add it to your cover.
7. Other Useful Features
In addition to the design elements mentioned above, there are some useful tools that allow you to modify the images, shapes, and other components of your cover design. From right to left you can:
- Add several cool effects to uploaded images, such as distortion, background removal, and more.
- Apply one of several filters to your image
- Create and apply your own filter to an image
- Crop the selected image to whatever size you want
- Flip (or mirror) the selected image
- Make a copy of your current design within the same workspace (good if you want to compare two different designs, and don’t want to start over from scratch)
- Increase or decrease the transparency of the selected element
- Lock the selected element(s), so that you don’t accidentally move or edit them
8. Download Your Cover
Once you’re happy with your cover, it’s time to download it. Click on the downward-facing arrow in the upper right corner of your screen, and select “PDF Print” as your file type. While it’s technically possible to create a high-quality cover using a PNG, we highly recommend choosing PDF print whenever possible as it’s more or less fool-proof. If you have more than one design, you can either choose to download them all at once or select individual pages. Then, click “Download”.
If you’re planning on using this cover on our self-publishing platform, you don’t have to worry about toggling on the crop marks and bleed option. We’ll take care of that for you. However, we can’t speak for other publishing or printing methods. Some printers and publishers do require crop marks and bleed, whereas others don’t. Make sure to check what applies before downloading your cover.
9. Upload Your Cover to Bookmundo
Needless to say, if you’re not using our platform to print or publish, you can skip this step! Now that you have your cover, log into your Bookmundo account, and go to step 5 – “Cover Design”. Click on “Choose File” to upload the design of your choice.
Once you’ve done this, you can see what the final cover is going to look like when printed. Make sure that everything you want to be included on your cover is contained within the dotted line (anything that isn’t will be trimmed off by the printer) and that the spine is placed correctly (indicated by the undotted lines).
10. And You’re Done!
That’s it! Follow these steps and you should have a custom-made cover for your book ready in no time. This method involves a bit more work than using our built-in cover designer and requires more precision on your part. The upside is that Canva offers a wide variety of image manipulation tools that, depending on your goals, might come in handy.
Also, if publishing your book for free sounds interesting to you, we think you should have a look at our self-publishing solution. We can also print your books on demand and facilitate book sales throughout western Europe. We’re not big on tooting our own horn (well, maybe a little bit) but we’ve built a pretty great platform and would love for you to check it out. You can also follow us on Instagram if you’re just looking for something more casual. Hope to see you around!