Two Very Basic Tips For Making An E-Book Cover (With Examples)

2015 Artwork Simple ebook cover art article sketch

So, you’ve written something that you want to release as an e-book, but you’re not sure what to do when it comes to making the cover image.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you don’t have the time and/or money to hire a professional graphic designer (since you should always do this if you can, because you’ll end up with a much better cover).

I’m also going to assume that you have little to no artistic experience too.

However, you will need some extremely basic graphics editing knowledge. In other words, you will need to know how to do some very basic things in MS Paint – such as changing the background and text colour in a text box and copying other images.

(If you don’t know how to change the background colour of a text box in MS Paint – just create a text box, then right-click on one of the colours in the palette and the background will automatically change. To change the text colour itself, just left-click on one of the colours in the palette.)

Although the two very basic tips I’m going to give you won’t make an outstanding e-book cover, they’ll at least let you make a moderately good one that won’t automatically put people off of looking at your book.

1) Keep It Simple: This sounds obvious but, if in doubt, always err on the side of simplicity when designing your cover.

Not only is it easier to make good-looking simple cover art, but it’ll also look a lot more professional than badly-made, but ambitiously complex, cover art.

The most basic way to make a simple cover image is to just use large white text against a plain black background. Yes, this won’t stand out from the crowd, but it will still look clean and professional. Like this:

White text against a black background. (The font used in this example was one called "Riky Vampdator")

White text against a black background. (The font used in this example was one called “Riky Vampdator”)

Just be careful about which fonts you use in your cover, since some commonly-used fonts require you to pay royalties to the designers if you use them commercially (I’m not a lawyer, so do your own research here).

So, it’s probably a good idea to search the internet for fonts that are free for commercial use.

I found a lot of them fairly quickly when searching online. However, I should warn you that at least a few of them seem to be based on fonts that are used in copyrighted movie posters (and therefore may not actually be truly free for commercial use and/or might land you in legal trouble if you use them for your cover). So, be careful and always do some research about your fonts, so that you don’t make something like this:

Yes, the idea that this font is "free for commercial use" might sound like an offer you can't refuse, but....

Yes, the idea that this font is “free for commercial use” might sound like an offer you can’t refuse, but….

Most importantly, when choosing a free commercial font, be sure to go for a font that is still legible when viewed at a distance.

Although your actual cover image might be fairly large, you’ve got to remember that most people will probably only see a small thumbnail image of it on whatever e-book site you’re using to sell your book. As such, your font should still be readable at a fraction of it’s original size.

2) Public Domain Artwork: If you want to make your cover look a bit more artistic, then one of the best ways to do this without having to splash out on lots of stock images and/or royalty payments is to use artwork that is already in the public domain.

In other words, use old art whose copyright has expired (eg: in most countries, this usually means that the original artist died more than seventy years ago).

There is absolutely loads of this artwork on the internet and a good place to start looking for it would probably be Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons is absolutely crammed with old public domain paintings, etchings etc.. that anyone can use in any way (even commercially).

And, with a little bit of editing in a program like MS Paint, you can make a fairly professional-looking book cover with these images – like in this example:

The image in this example  is "Messaline (entre deux figurantes)" By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

The image in this example is “Messaline (entre deux figurantes)” By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

However, unless you find a fairly obscure old painting, this will make your book cover look slightly generic. But, as a way of finding quick and free cover art, it’s probably one of your best options.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂