5 places to find free and helpful instruction in book cover design

November 22, 2017

HypothyroidWriter.com book cover design blog post Sarah Lentz
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Design Principles

Before we explore the tutorials that help you make the most of your design program of choice, we need to address a common misconception: the idea that the beauty of a design is entirely subjective. 

It isn't. 

To be clear, I'm talking about external beauty. While different people are drawn to different designs, the beauty of a particular design isn't all in the eye of the beholder. Some design principles are universal.

And flouting these principals generally leads to a disappointing design -- one that tells your target readers that you really don't know what you're doing with your book's cover but you didn't bother to learn any more about design than you knew from the start. 

It can be frustrating, though, when you're looking for helpful tips on book cover design, and all you can find are links to someone's book cover design sales page or to blog posts that shame self-publishing authors for daring to design their own book covers. 

The temptation is to just say "F*** it! I'll just do my best and ask some groups on Facebook what they think of it." But there are things you can do to make your cover's first debut on social media far less awkward. 

If you're reading this, chances are you're a daring D.I.Y. self-publishing author, but you also want to do it right. No flying blind for you. 

So, let's get started. 

Design Program Tutorials

1. Canva's own design tutorials

I had a blast with these, and each one is short and to the point, with a brief exercise to get you applying what you learn. They don't just teach you how to use Canva (though you'll learn by doing the exercises in each lesson); they also teach basic design principles, which you can apply with any design program. 

Here are a few pages in particular worth checking out:

I use Canva For Work (CFW), which costs either $9.95 per month, paid for a year, or $12.95 paid month-by-month. Canva still has its free version, though, which still has everything you need to create a great book cover -- unless you have a particular font in mind that Canva does not have. 

That last bit is why I have Canva For Work, which allows me to upload up to 25 fonts of my own choosing, as long as I can legally use them. That alone keeps me paying for CFW.  The other thing I love is the "Your Brand" page, which allows me to set specific fonts and font-sizes for different text styles and to save color palettes (with their individual hex codes) that go with my branding. It's a big time-saver.

I used the free version for several months before I upgraded to Canva For Work after a free 30-day trial. 

2. PicMonkey tutorials (on the PicMonkey website)

I've been going through one of the blogging courses from the Genius Blogger's Toolkit, and one of the course creators confessed her antipathy toward Canva, shortly before demonstrating how to create a favicon using PicMonkey. 

So, of course, I had to learn more about this program that I'd known about for years but hadn't really explored (Canva has been good to me). And it turns out, PicMonkey has its own tutorials on its site to help newbies make the most of the program. 

I'm not even at grasshopper stage yet -- maybe larval. I've only peeked at it a few times, mostly because I have enough to do each day, and I'm a huge Canva fan. But I'm thinking I should soon make time to learn more about this program and what it can do. 

You can sign up to get seven free days of PicMonkey membership before upgrading to one of the paid plans. The Premium package costs $3.99 a month, billed annually, or $7.99 a month, billed monthly. The Supremium package costs $8.33 a month, billed annually, and has unlimited hub storage (Premium will store 50 images) and the ability to organize your stored images with collections. 

If you're wincing at the cost of Canva and want to see if PicMonkey will let you create what you want to create (book covers, social media graphics, branded images for your blog, etc.), the seven free days will give you a chance to check it out before you commit to it. 

3. Derek Murphy's site: DIYBookCovers.com

Once you reach the site, you can sign up to get access to free book cover design training videos, recommended tools, and even a package of free cover design templates. It's all free and well-worth signing up for. 

4. Susi Whitford's free course on PicMonkey: "How to use PicMonkey as a Mom Blogger"

I've been enjoying Suzi's Blogging By Number course (also part of the Genius Blogger's Toolkit by Ultimate Bundles), so when I learned she also had a free course on PicMonkey, I had to check it and then share a link to it here. If you're thinking you'd rather go with PicMonkey than with Canva, but you want more tutorials for it, check it out while it's still free

5. YouTube

That was probably predictable, but Youtube is a great place to look if you want a tutorial for a specific design program, whether that's Adobe Photoshop or InDesign, Canva, PicMonkey, Gimp, or something else. It's also a great place to get an education on design principles from experienced designers. 

Here are ten options:

Sources of Inspiration

If you go through this whole post and find nothing useful, please let me know. If you know of a resource that would help other readers of this post, please share in the comments below. Together we can support the creative and money-saving efforts of our fellow DIYers. 

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time here, and I hope to read something from you, too!

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5 places to find free & helpful instruction in book cover design.

By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.

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