Cover Design Tutorial #3 Text, Fonts and Typography

Green-SquareFonts and Typography
In this tutorial we’ll look at Typography, fonts and cover layout. By the end of this tutorial you’ll have a better understanding of cover layout. There’s a lot to cover (no pun intended)!

It’s possible to do a masters degree in Typography so there is no way that I can realistically do the subject justice in a single tutorial on this site. Instead I’m going to give you some simple typographic short cuts that will help you to create an amazing book cover and show you how to position scale a tweak text in Photoshop.

The choice of fonts is the first thing that marks out an amateur book cover from a professional design. The first thing you need to understand is that none of the fonts installed by default on a Windows PC are suitable for cover designs. This means that you can’t expect to use comic sans in your book title and for it to look professional. In fact, the use of certain fonts are guaranteed to make your cover design look amateur. Unless you have some experience with design and have previously installed fonts on your machine, then you should avoid using any default fonts installed on your system with the possible exception of Impact and Century Gothic.

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There are of course times where your cover demands a special type face in order to help with the narrative that the cover tells. Fortunately there is a wonderful resource of free fonts on-line called Dafont. There’s no need for the Google URL shortening service here. Simply go to http://www.dafont.com and have a browse around. At the time of writing the site has over 20,000 free fonts you can browse and download.

* Check the license of the font you download. Not all of the fonts on Dafont are suitable for commercial use. And yes, if you use a font on the cover of a book you are selling then this does constitute commercial use. This is also something you should check with the designer if you decide to get your cover designed commercially. This is particularly true if you get a cover design made on Fiverr, as designer there are working on such ridiculously low margins that they cannot possibly legally licensing fonts or stock photography. While there are currently no font licensing horror stories on the scale of the ubiquitous “Getty Letter” I would not bet against this happening in the future.

Here’s a quick example of the difference font can make to a book cover. In the following example the title font on the first cover is Trajan. In the second image I used a horror font from Dafont.

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As you can see, it does sometimes help to deviate from “standard” cover fonts, but only when the cover warrants it. Above all, your main consideration should be legibility and ensuring that the title and author’s name are visible and readable at lower resolutions.

Tip: Keep it simple. I’ve seen covers where the designer tried to cram everything including the kitchen sink. This is never a good idea. Your cover needs to be good enough to draw people in. Adding heaps of additional Information to your cover design will only make it look cluttered and actively work against you. It’s a genuine struggle to keep the title and author name visible at 160×160 resolution. However, this is the standard size for thumbnail images on the Kindle store.

Adding a Text Layer
Adding Text in Photoshop is very straightforward. Left Click on the “T” icon in the Photoshop toolbar so it turns blue. Now left click on your cover window. A new layer will be created automatically and you’ll see a flashing cursor. Start typing and you should be able to see your text appear (unless you have the font colour set to the same colour as the background).

Changing Fonts
You can easily change the font by highlight the text you want to change. Simply left click and drag to highlight the text. Then just select a different font from the font drop list:

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The are couple of other things you can change using the controls on the upper toolbar. aa refers to Anti Aliasing the options available are Sharp, Crisp, Strong, Smooth. You can also adjust the pt size of the text. However, I never tend to use this, as it is easier to simply free transform->Scale the text to the size you want, as the you’ll often want to text to be much bigger than maximum point size available.

You can also adjust the alignment of text. This can sometimes be useful if you have additional text on your cover. You can align it left or right or centre it.

Positioning Text
You can position text using the same Move Tool that you used to move the image in the previous tutorial. The layout of text on the cover is an important part of the cover design. A good tip to get feel for layout is to study the covers of the books around your house. If you don’t own any books then (shame on you) search on Google Images for book cover designs. Your main focus should be to ensure that the text is legible.

Avoid Font Soup
Few things make a cover design look more cheesy than ones that feature lots and lots of fonts. With the possible exception of a book about Typography this is almost certainly going to be a bad idea. Use no more than two fonts in your design. Have a distinct font for the title. You can’t go wrong with Trajan. Use one other font for the author name and any other sub text you have on the cover.

If you’d like to watch a video of this tutorial, check this out:

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