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Design Principles for a Standout Book Cover

February 17, 2021 (Last Updated February 04, 2021)

Marcy G.

Your book cover is your chance to communicate with strangers across the world and convince them to read your book. With one image, you can tell them what your book is about, who its for, and what they can expect. 

But if youre not careful, your book cover could telegraph to potential readers a message you dont want them to receive: that you havent put careful thought, time, and attention into the design of your book. That could make them doubt the rest of your work, too. A poorly designed cover is a missed opportunity to bring another reader into your world and share what you have to offer.

Wondering how to make a good book cover? It’s simple. You really just need two elements:

        Book Title

        Author Name

But book cover graphic design that makes people pick up your book? And better yet, read it? Well, that’s simple, too if you follow some graphic design principles. Check out a few book cover design tips using basic principles of design below.

When you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be able to create beautiful, effective book covers no matter what you’re writing about.

Professional book cover design

Think about a few of your favorite books, or even just whats on your nightstand. Although theyre probably all different, they will have a lot in common if you look closer. 

The best book cover designs rest on a few timeless principles which, when followed, result in a visual communication that is easy to understand.


The principle of hierarchy means that, of the different elements on your book cover, one of them is most important. That is the one that should stand out. Unless youre a J.K. Rowling or a Stephen King, its usually the title of the book that is most important, not the name of the author.

When designing your cover, this most important feature will be dominant. To convey that, use a large point size and your main design color. Setting it off with a Diamond 3D embossing texture will also help it stand out.

Once your hierarchy is established, focus on the next most important element, such as your cover image then your author name. Since its further down the list of importance, use a smaller point size. This will reinforce where you want the reader to look: at the title.


Good design must have balance, meaning the different elements must relate to each other. A cover with all of the design elements crowded at the top -- image, title, author name -- will leave the bottom of the cover feeling stark and empty. It’s a sign that your design is not balanced. 

Instead, the different elements should feel harmonious when viewed together. Nothing is too big or too small, forced too close together or too far apart. If you look at your book cover design and it doesn’t look right,” consider whether some element is out of balance. Try changing the size or spacing and see if that doesn’t help your cause.


The tone of a design is the visual elements that convey a feeling or sensibility. Image, color, font selection and decoration all help you get the tone of your book across.

For example, you would not design a business book about corporate mergers using soft pastel colors, with a script font and lots of watercolor florals, hearts, and swirls. Thats because those things are commonly understood to convey romance, not business. A reader looking for romance would pick up that book and be disappointed; a reader looking for a business book wouldn’t pick it up at all.

Match your design choices to your desired tone. Is your book funny, serious, sad, or playful? Is it fiction, non-fiction, or for children? If youre having trouble figuring out what design elements match your tone, try looking for books that seem to fit the tone youre going for and see what they all have in common. Dark colors or bright ones? Plain fonts or fancy ones? Bold images or soft ones? As you evaluate, you’ll start to get an idea for the sort of elements that will help you convey your message.

Using book design templates

If you’d like to try your hand at designing your cover yourself, using software such as Adobe Photoshop, download our self-publishing book templates. You’ll start off on the right foot using a standard book cover size. Using the book design principles outlined above, you’ll be on your way to a beautiful cover in no time.

We understand that book design is not an easy skill to master! Not everyone is born to be a graphic designer. That’s why we offer our Create-A-Cover service to help you streamline the process. Choose from a list of options, provide any images you would like to use, and we’ll take care of the rest!

Theres no need for a graphic arts degree to create a book design; instead, follow our blueprints to create a book cover that has the proper hierarchy, balance, and tone baked right in. 

Contact us to learn more or download your free templates today.

Your Book Printing Partner

At 48 Hour Books, we help your book stand out in a crowd. Give us a call (800-231-0521) or contact us to see how we can help you add the right premium cover options to your project.


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