How to Design a Professional-Looking Cover for Wattpad and E-Book Sharing Sites
Looking for a quality book cover, but can't afford to hire a designer? Here's our step-by-step beginner's guide to making a great e-book cover that readers will be drawn to.
Should You Design Your Own Cover?
Before we guide you through the basics of cover design, it's important to remember that good design takes a lot of practice and skill. If you're not comfortable with design, you can always find a cover through one of Wattpad's many cover shops. Many 'shops' offer their service for free while others request trade 'payments' like reading a portion of their book or following them.
If you have some design experience or are a hobbyist simply interested in trying your hand at cover design, then this guide is here to walk you through the basics.
Why Some Covers Work
Take a look at these covers for a moment...
Which one of these is a romance novel? Which is a fantasy epic? Which one is the spine-chilling horror? Which one do you think is written for young adults?
Odds are, you probably were able to guess which is which just by looking at the cover. That’s because covers have become a sort of shorthand for telling readers what they need to know about a book. Colors, fonts, and imagery help you understand, right away, what kind of book you’re looking at.
In general it's good to be unique, but in this case, the rules are there for a reason. A bright green cover would certainly stand out in historical fiction, but at the cost of confusing readers. Sticking to existing genre conventions will help the right readers find you.
So how do you know what works for your book? Start by looking through books in the same genre and keep note of what colors, fonts, and trends you see. You don't want to copy everything exactly, but you should aim to have the same vibe.
Step 1: Find a Strong Image
Choose the Right Color
Make sure the image that you choose features colors that fit in your genre. Here's a quick cheat sheet:
SciFi - Green, Blue, Yellow, Grey
Romance - Red, Pink, Violet
Horror - Black, Red
Fantasy - Blue, Purple, Yellow, Gold
Supernatural - Blue, Purple, Black
ChickLit/YA - Pink, Yellow, Violet
Historical - Brown, Beige
Crime & Thrillers - Black, Grey, Blue
Focus on One or Two Clear Subjects
Choose an image with an easy-to-recognize main subject that you can identify from both far away or close up. Aim for images with plain, uncluttered backgrounds and bold colors. Here are some examples of good image choices (top) and poor image choices that are cluttered or hard to read from far away (bottom).
Where to Look
There are many great royalty-free stock image sites on the web. Unsplash is a great choice for its extensive library and ease of use, Pexels has a lot of high-quality modern images, and Pixabay is a great option for illustrations, vector graphics, or fantasy images.
Step 2: Use Canva to Start Your Design
Canva is a free online design tool that many people use to create their own book covers. If you've never used it before, the site offers tons of great tutorials to get you started. Using Canva, find a template in your genre to start from.
Upload your image and swap it in place of the existing main image.
Step 3: Get Creative with Text
Once you've swapped in your image and typed in your title and author name, don't stop there! This is where most beginning designers go wrong.
The vast majority of Wattpad writers use Canva for their book covers, and some popular covers come up a lot. Even if you change the image, your cover will still look generic if you leave everything else the same. As a real-world example of how this can go wrong, here are eight books currently on Wattpad...
Unfortunately, Canva is popular with just about everyone and you'll need more than an image swap to make your cover unique. There are several things you can do now to give the text a unique look too. Here is one example to guide you through the process...
Try moving the title between the middle, top, and bottom.
Switch the positioning of the title, author byline, and any other text between the top, center, and bottom of the book cover, leaving a bit of room at the edges. Avoid layouts that might cover up faces or any important details in your image.
Play around with font size: remember, bigger is often better.
Bigger titles make a bigger impact and are easier to read. See how big you can go and don't be afraid to run off the edges a little.
Change the color of the title or author byline.
Try different colors for the title. They can be colors from the image you’ve used or genre-specific colors. We've used brighter colors in the example below to give the book a YA feel.
Try other genre-appropriate fonts. Here are a few suggestions:
Contemporary Fiction: Bebas Neue Bold, League Spartan, Julius Sans One, Bodoni Bold
SciFi: Norwester, Bebas New
Horror/Thriller: Norwester, Special Elite, Nashville, Shadows Into the Night
Fantasy: Cinzel, Eczar Semibold
Romance: Quicksand, Vidaloka, Bodoni, Great Vibes, Mr Dafoe, Lemon Tuesday
YA: Playfair Display, Sunday, Playlist Script, Lemon Tuesday
Historical: Great Vibes, Special Elite, Libre Baskerville
TIP: As a general rule, avoid overly fancy, decorative fonts with loops, swirls, or symbols—they’re hard to read and tend to look novice. And watch out for ultra-thin fonts too, which can disappear in smaller sizes.
Step 4: Check Your Thumbnail
If you like the look of your cover, now it's time to zoom out to thumbnail size. Ask yourself—can you read the title clearly? Can you clearly see what the subject is? If not, make changes and try again. You want a cover that looks good and can be read at any size.
Optional Final Step: Try Some Advanced Tricks
Once you're satisfied with the way your cover looks, you can stop there. But if you're feeling bold or want to add a little something, here are a few more ideas to try...
Widen your font spacing.
Larger letter spacing is an easy way to make a book cover look more professional. Use the Canva Spacing tool (shown below) to increase the spacing in between letters. Experiment with the tool to see what looks right to you.
If you've never used this technique before, a good place to try it is on the byline, as shown here.
Try photo filters.
This particular tip can be a bit dangerous, because if you're not careful it can lean into the "novice with too many new toys" territory, so be cautious and thoughtful with using photo filters and effects.
The Canva toolbar has "Effects" and "Filters" sections with lots of fun photo filtering tools. Try them out for yourself, but don't go overboard. There are many options, but here are just a few examples...
Tilt your text.
This will work better for some genres than others, but you can definitely spice up the look of your cover by tilting your title text. Try this on YA or romance novels for a lighthearted, playful vibe or on a horror story for a creepy, off-kilter effect.
This is just one example of the many ways you can customize a Canva template using these techniques. Here's the template we used alongside the final result...
That's it! Congratulations—you've now created a book cover! Keep practicing and don't forget to share your covers with us!
Have you tried these tops? Share your book link in the comments so we can see!