DIY Graphics and
Copyright Free Photo Sources
If you’re an independent writer the choice of the cover falls on you and that’s scary. We’ve all seen those designs: Images that don’t match the title, poorly placed text, glaring color choices, terrible balance.
I'm an independent novelist; I write occult thrillers and paranormal romance. I know the fear! Should I make my own cover? Buy a premade? Go for a custom design? I’ve sweated through all those choices. Let’s break them down.
Before you dive into Premade, Custom or DIY, you have to decide what you want your cover to look like. This is one decision that is almost never sweat-free, sorry.
You know the genre for your novel or non-fiction book. Break it down into a few images in your mind. Man? Woman? Children? Monsters? Ghosts? Technology? Cityscape? Swamp?
What I do is browse stock photo or copyright-free sites by placing specific search topics like ‘Ghosts,’ ‘Angels,’ or ‘Mysterious.’ And then I scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll looking for images that catch my eye. Stock photo sites like Big Stock let you save the images to look at later for FREE. This is invaluable for inspiration. Save everything that you like. Look back through your catalog of images and think about what might work.
Also, visit cover designer websites and look at covers they have made to see what might be a good design idea for you.
Making your own cover: For do-it-yourself authors
Alert: the optimum size for a book cover on Amazon is 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. This is very important if you are going DIY. If you forget, type ‘Amazon optimal book cover size’ in your search engine.
Copyright Free Photo Sites
Your cover will need a photo or an image. Maybe several layered together. For a start, here are some budget-friendly copyright-free photo sources.
Unsplash, Pixabay, Stocksnap, and Pexelsare all good examples. People, places, mysterious settings, nature, textures for background, they have huge catalogs. Easy to download and open. No special skills required. I’ve used Unsplash for atmospheric background images in several promotions.
(Please credit the photographer somewhere as that’s the only benefit they receive.)
Do your own search for more design sites. Type, ‘sites like Unsplash’ in your search engine.
Paid Stock Photo Sites
Paid photos may become an option depending on your design. All of mine have come from BigStock https://www.bigstockphoto.com a large stock photo supplier. But Big Stock is just one of many similar sites.
Search “Stock Photos” and you’ll get a selection to browse through and come to your own decision.
BigStock is free to join as are others. Most of the stock photo sites make you join to browse the whole collection. You don’t have to buy a subscription. I don’t. Instead, I buy the images individually as I need them. BigStock doesn’t make that very clear but it is an option. You buy credits and those credits are used to buy photos.
Please understand for a cover you need to download and pay for the ‘Extended License’ version of the photo. Not all photos have an extended license. This has happened to me several times when I found the perfect image only to see no extended license listing. Also, read the legal notices about how and how often you can use the image from whatever site you choose. There are rules. Break them at your peril!
If you are creating a banner or some other design feature for your website, you generally don’t need an extended license. For those graphics, buy less expensive versions and then use them over and over. But if you are going to include that image on something that generates income, you will need the extended license.
Free (or low cost) Design Sites
You’ve found an image but now you must do something with it. At the very least you will need to choose a font and size and layer on title and author text. That means you are going to need a design site. There are alternatives to Photoshop.
Canna.com and other design sites like Easil, Stencil, and Snappa let you manipulate your photo – resize it, etc. – and layer it with text or whatever. Sites like these are a blessing because as an Independent Author, your design needs are going to extend far beyond a few book covers.
Websites demand graphics and good looking text for promotions, seasonal sales, announcements, giveaways, etc. Even if you opt for a beautiful custom cover, you can only use it so many times before the graphic gets boring. A few easy design skills become a huge asset to your author platform.
These sites have free and paid options. The free tools are extensive and should meet most of your needs at the start. Especially if you are new to this. They provide premade sizes perfect for banners, badges, etc. for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your web page. You can even use them to create a webpage design. This is a great alternative to paying a designer for every graphic you need.
I haven’t made a cover with them, however. If someone has, let me know. I have made websites alongside several friends to show them how little real design skills you need! LOL!
For other examples, type ‘sites like Canva’ into your search engine.
For my first books, I asked for help from a cover designer. Then my budget said “Learn Photoshop damn it!”
Photoshop was worth every hour I spent cursing and floundering. I am no design wizard but I learned to make my own covers and graphics and those skills have saved me a lot of money and kept the ‘independent’ in Indie Author for me. And God bless You Tube. When I have a graphic design question, I look for a tutorial. Generally you have to slog through a few to find one that works with your skill level, but they have great stuff.
To be continued in Part 2: Premade and Custom Cover Sites and Tips