Last week I shared a few tips on how to make your cover look less self-published which proved rather popular. This week I’m going to focus on using typography as the basis of your design.

There are a few reasons that you might not want to use a stock photograph for your cover. Number one reason is that someone else could have used it before. There’s one photo that I have seen on three different books with no alterations to make them look different! We readers notice such things and may be put off, rightly or wrongly, if we think you’re copying someone else. You might also feel that you are completely hopeless when it comes to photo editing software and just can’t make it look professional. Some genres work better than others with all text covers but it’s something that can create an effective design without much effort.

First off, where do you find fonts? Of course you can buy them if you have a budget but there is also a host of wonderful, generous designers that offer their fonts for free. Do be careful to make sure you can use them for commercial use, although many are and they tend to be very clear about the terms. If the license is confusing you, you need only be concerned with the “embedded distribution” section. Once it’s on your cover it’s embedded and you aren’t likely to be trying to distribute the font file, are you? Make sure you don’t delete the license file either (usually a text or PDF file in the zip) as you may need to refer to this in future. Of course, if you do use a free font for your cover design, it’s nice to give the designer credit (and perhaps offer them a copy of your book as thanks?).

*This site has a pay-want-you-want system, meaning you can get fonts for free or you can pay whatever you feel like via PayPal. If you do download some for free to play with, it’s thoughtful to go back and donate something if you do want to use it in your final design. Sometimes a few dollars is all it takes.

Installing fonts is easy. Just double click on the file (True Type or Open Type font) and you should get an installer appear. Click install and then it will be available to use in all your software.

Pick a stylish font and a subtle toned background and you can have an elegant cover in minutes. With each font you can obviously make it bold and/or italic but you can also create a two-tone effect using stroke width and colour. In your colour palette you’ll find you have a foreground and background colour. When you have your text highlighted, try changing the colours, reversing them and changing the stroke width to see what effects you can get. You should also be able to change the stroke pattern but try not to get too carried away, often simpler is better.

If you don’t want a solid background, you can create geometric shapes by selecting and flood filling areas. I have hidden the author name on the X in this case, perhaps not so effective for someone solely selling through Amazon but that can sometimes give the illusion of a traditionally published book.

Of course you don’t have to use the same font or size for the whole title. Using a circle (just change your selection tool to a circle option) as the basis, I built up a stylised “fox” around it with three different fonts. The author’s name is using the same font as the F in this case but play around until you get something you like.

And also look through your font set for interesting looking symbols. The next cover has just been built up around an exclamation mark. Remember that you don’t need to stick to the normal left to right sentence construction that you’d use within the book. The words can do what they please when it comes to design!

The following cover design has been put together solely using a decorative leaf font. If you’re feeling creative, you might want to try and create pictures with fonts, there’s a whole world of people doing this with great effect. This is a really simply case of putting a few letters inside each other. If you want a white cover and are selling online, you might want to consider putting a fine border around it so the edges don’t get lost.

You may have noticed that the author name isn’t the main attraction on these examples. Unless you think your name is going to help sell your book, the title is going to be more important. If your name alone is already moving books off the virtual shelves, you probably don’t need my help with your covers! If you are writing a series, do keep in mind what future covers will look like and how you can tie them in. It’s probably worth saving all your font/colour settings for future use.

Featured fonts: Metropolis, Blackout, Mosaic Leaf, Junction, Lot, Gota Light and HVD Comic Serif Pro.

Next week: using layers to add textures (a.k.a. how to make your cover look fashionably grungey).

N.B. Blogger’s image resizing isn’t the best in the world and the examples may look a little poor quality here. I’d like to say they look much more professional in my editing software!