DIY Book Cover Design

20 Apr

If you’re self-publishing your book, you may want to hire a designer to create a professional-looking book cover. However, if you’d like to save some money and try your hand at cover design, we’d like to make it a little easier for you with some basic cover layout how-to!

What size do I make my cover?

This depends on the size of your book and how you’re designing the cover.

The easiest way is to design the front cover and the back cover separately.  The front and back cover should be the same size as the inside pages of your book (But you should add 1/4 inch to both the height and the width to create BLEED. More on that later). You can also create the spine separately, but make sure you know how wide to make it or you design may not match up. (Don’t worry, I’m getting there).

You can also design the front cover, back cover, and spine all in one as an image that “wraps” around the book. In this case, you’ll want to make the height of the file the same as the height of your inside pages, but the width should be two times the width of the inside pages plus the width of the spine. In this case, make sure you put the back cover on the left and the front cover on the right. The text on the spine should be flipped towards the right. (This way, if your book is sitting face-up on a table, the text on the spine will not be upside-down).

How do I determine the width of my spine?

If you’re printing on 60# paper, you can determine how wide your spine will be (in inches) by dividing your total number of pages by 440. (for example, 220 pages/440= 0.5 inch).

So, if the FINAL TRIM SIZE of your book is 5.5 x 8.5 and your book has 220 pages, you should set up your cover to be FRONT COVER + BACK COVER + SPINE, or  5.5 +5.5 +0.5  for a final size of 11.5 inches wide x 8.5 tall.

HOWEVER, this does not account for BLEED.


Bleed needs to be accounted for when your artwork goes all the way to the edge of the page without a white border. Most book covers need to account for bleed.

Adding bleed is simple–just add an extra 1/8 inch (0.125) on all sides of your cover wrap–top, bottom, left and right! Essentially, this means you’ll need to add 1/4 inch (0.25) to the total width and 1/4 inch to the total height. The example above with bleed would have final setup dimensions of 11.75 x 8.75.
Here’s a quick how-to video that will help you add bleed to your document:

Why is my text getting cut off?

When designing your own book cover, you’ll want to make sure that you leave a 1/4 inch (0.25) margin from the edges as a safe type zone. This area should not have any text or important artwork –it will be too close to the edge. Not only does this mean it’s at risk for getting cut off, but it means your book won’t look as professional as it could.

In Summary

  • Make your cover the same height as the inside pages of your book, but add 1/4 inch to the total for bleed
  • Make the width of your cover twice the width of the inside pages of your book PLUS the width of your spine, PLUS 1/4 inch for bleed
  • Find the width of your spine by dividing your # of pages by 440
  • Don’t have any text or important images closer than 1/4 inch from the edge of your cover

Good luck and happy designing!

One Response to “DIY Book Cover Design”


  1. Book Cover Design Dos and Don’ts « 48Hr Books - April 28, 2011

    […] week, I discussed the basics of how to set up your book cover–how to size it, how to add bleed, and how wide to make the […]

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