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Create a Beautiful Book Cover in InDesign Using a Busy Photo Background

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Working on a book? You may have a photo you're dying to use on your cover but feel that it may be too busy or contrasting in color to allow text to stand out against it. Why not go ahead and use it - we'll look at ways of managing a busy background in Adobe InDesign.


1. Pick Your Photo

Select a photo that's of a very high quality (at least 300 dpi) and in a landscape format. Try to visualize what the photo would look like when divided in half - would the right-hand half look strong enough on its own? Would the left-hand half still have some interesting details that would work well on the back of the cover? Why not flip the photo (in Photoshop, select Image from the top menu, then Image Rotation, and select Flip Canvas Horizontal) to see whether the left-hand half would actually look better as the front cover.

I chose this photo, Photodune_AngkorTempleCambodia, and flipped it to ensure the doorways of the temple would appear on the front of the book:

Add-Gradient

2. Enhance the Colors of Your Photo in Photoshop

Step 1

You can edit your photo to complement the colors you will be using on your final cover.

I want to use four swatches for text on my final cover. One of these is a 'warm' color and one a 'cool' color, which work well for contrast against a dark photo. They are also both Pantone swatches which is the best choice if you want to ensure a final printed cover that is as close to the colors in your design as possible. The other two color I'm going to use are 'neutrals', a black and a white:

Swatches

The photo I have selected already has a few green tones - we can do a few subtle tweaks to the photo to further enhance these, so the photo feels more in tune with the mint green pantone which will be used in the cover text.

Step 2

Open your photo in Photoshop. Duplicate the layer so you retain an intact copy of the original photo. Go to Select New Fill or Adjustment Layer at the bottom of the right-hand dock and select Color Balance. Move the Green slider to +7 and the Cyan slider to -14. This gives a subtle light green tone to the whole photo.


3. Extend the Jungle Canopy in Photoshop

Step 1

We also want to get rid of some of the white sky at the top right of the photo which will prove problematic if we want to put the Author's Name in white text against it. A neat trick is to use the Content-Aware Move Tool (J) (found in the left-hand tool bar when you select the Healing Brush menu) to extend the canopy coverage above the temple.

Select the Lasso Tool (L) and draw a rough line around some of the leafy canopy above the temple.

Canopy_1_not-600

Step 2

With the Content Aware Tool selected drag the selected area to cover the white space in the center of the canopy. Set the Adaptation (in the top control panel) to Medium and Photoshop will roughly fill in the gap in the canopy. Repeat this step until the canopy is generally denser. This will allow white text to stand out more boldly against it.

Content-Aware-Tool
Canopy_2_not-600

Step 3

Save your edited photo as a high-quality jpeg (File, then Export, selecting JPEG from the drop-down menu) in a location you can easily find.


4. Set Up Your Cover Layout in InDesign

Open InDesign, select File > New Document to open the New Document window. Ensure that Intent is set to Print, select 1 page for Number of Pages and deselect Facing Pages. For Page Size select Custom and name this custom page size 'Paperback Cover'.

Set the Width 285mm and the Height 216mm. Set the Margins 18 mm. In this tutorial we will be setting up a cover intended for paperback, so set the Bleed 3mm all the way round.

Setting up a cover for hardback will require a bit more give on the bleed to allow for wrapping the edges around the thicker cover. I would opt for a 5mm bleed in this case.

New-Document-Window

5. Add Guidelines to Your Layout

You will need to insert additional guidelines into your document to mark out the spine and create the center lines of your front cover and back cover.

Drag a guideline from the ruler running along the left to 142.5mm - this is the center line of the whole document and the center line of the spine running from top to bottom.

For this tutorial we'll set up a 12mm spine, suitable for about 150 pages of 90gsm paper, though the spine width will have to be increased/decreased (along with the whole document proportionally) if your book has more or fewer pages. Drag another guideline from the left-hand ruler to 136.5mm, and drag another to 148.5mm. The dimensions of the spine have now been set up.

It's also useful to know the center line of your front and back cover for aligning text. Drag a guideline from the left-hand ruler to 68.25mm and drag another to 216.75mm.

Guidelines

6. Place Your Photo

Step 1

Select the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag a rectangle that extends across the whole width and height of the document, including the bleed.

Step 2

Go to File > Place and select your saved, edited photo. Select Open. With the frame still selected click Fill Frame Proportionally in the top control panel. Double-click the frame to select the photo directly and use the arrow keys to adjust its position slightly until you are happy with the result. Ensure that the photo still fills the whole frame.

Place-Photo

7. Import Your Chosen Pantone Swatches

Step 1

Import the two Pantone swatches we want to use for our cover. Open the Swatches panel and select New Color Swatch from the Swatches menu. From the Color Mode drop-down menu select Pantone > Solid Coated and locate "PANTONE 7416C". Click Add.

Step 2

Repeat Step 1 for "PANTONE 571C".

Swatches

8. Use the Gradient Feather Effect to Format the Cover Background

Using the Rectangle Tool (M) drag to create a frame which is the same width and height as the photo frame and in the same position.

With the frame still selected set the Stroke to none and the Fill to "Pantone 7416C". Control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) and under Arrange select Send to Back. The orange frame should now be invisible.

Select the photo frame and go to Object > Effects > Gradient Feather to open the Effects window. Set the Angle to -106 degrees and slide the black slider under Gradient Stops to about two thirds along to the right.

Effects-Window

Click OK. The cover now has an underlying orange tone that appears mostly on the back cover.

Add-Gradient

9. Select Fonts for the Cover

A general rule for professional book cover design is to restrict your font choice to two fonts. It often works best if these fonts contrast against one another - one might be a sans serif, the other a handwritten type; it's really up to you, and what you feel may fit best with the individual cover.

For this tutorial I've gone for a nice simple sans font, "Gandhi Sans", and a contrasting typewritten font, "CarbonType".


10. Insert and Format the Text for the Front Cover

Step 1

Select the Type Tool (T) and create a text frame which starts at the right-hand edge of the spine and finishes at the right-hand far edge of the document. Set it to 136.5mm in width and 7mm in height. Move the text frame so that the top of the frame rests on the top margin. Type 'AUTHOR NAME' into the frame. Highlight the text, set the Font to "Gandhi Sans Bold", the font Size to 25pt, Tracking (the spacing between the characters) to 100, the text Color to White and select Align Center from the top control panel.

Step 2

Create another text frame at the same width (136.5mm) with a height of 32.5mm. Position this frame directly below the Author Name  and in the horizontal center of the document. Type 'THROUGH (paragraph break) THE JUNGLE'. Highlight the text and select Align Center

Highlight the word 'THROUGH', set the font to "Gandi Sans Bold", font Size to 61 pt, Tracking to 20 and text Color to "Pantone 7416C". Highlight the words 'THE JUNGLE', set the font to "Gandhi Sans Bold", font Size to 48.5pt, Leading to 43 pt, Tracking to 50 and select "Pantone 571C" for the text color.

Step 3

Create another text frame to place at the bottom of the front cover. Set the width to 136.5mm as before, and the height to 5mm. The bottom of the frame should sit on the bottom margin. Type "tales of enlightening travel" into the frame. Highlight the text, align center as before and set the Font to "CarbonType". Set the font Size to 14.5 pt, the Tracking to -20 and the text color to "Pantone 571C". Highlight just the word "enlightening" and set the text color to white.

Front-Cover

11. Insert and Format the Text for the Spine

Select the Type Tool (T) and create a text frame 33mm wide and 3mm high. Type 'AUTHOR NAME', format to "Gandi Sans Bold", 11pt size, Tracking at 100 and text color to White. Control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) and under Transform select Rotate 90 degrees Clockwise. Rest the top of the text frame on the top margin; it should run down the very center of the spine.

Copy this text frame, paste, and position directly beneath the first text frame on the spine. Adjust the width of the frame to 83mm and the height to 5.5mm. Move the frame so that the top rests 69.5mm down from the top of the document. Again, center the frame to the center of the spine.

You can also optionally add the Publisher's name (if relevant) to the spine using the same method. Rest the bottom of the text frame on the lower margin and set the text color to black.

Spine_1

12. Insert and Format the Text for the Back Cover

Select the Type Tool (T) and create a text frame, the left-hand edge of which should sit on the left-hand margin and the top edge should sit on the top margin. Set the dimensions to 104mm in width and 71mm in height. This allows for 17 lines of text set as "Gandhi Sans Regular", size 10pt with 12pt leading, text color White, and Justified with the Last Line Aligned Left (select this from the top control panel). Enter your own blurb here or insert filler text for the meantime by going to Type and Fill with Placeholder Text. Select the first couple of words in the frame and set these to Bold.

Copy this text frame, paste, and position directly beneath the first text frame on the back cover. Adjust the height of the frame to 4.1mm. Move the frame so that the top rests 101mm down from the top of the document. This allows for 10 lines of text set as "Gandhi Sans Regular", size 10pt with 12pt leading, text color Black, and Justified with the Last Line Aligned Left, as before. Enter your Author Bio here or insert filler text as before. Again, select the first couple of words in the frame and set these to Bold.

Back-Cover_1_not-600

Here's a great tip. Select the first letter of the text and set the Drop Cap Number of Lines in the top control panel to 2 to create a professional-looking drop-cap.

Drop-Cap

13. Make the Text on the Back Cover Pop!

Step 1

You have the text set up on your cover but on the back and spine it is looking a little... well, illegible! Let's do some tweaks to make the text really stand out.

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a frame 106.388mm in height and 102.426 in width. Set the Stroke to none and the Fill to "Pantone 7416C". Position this frame so that the top of the frame rests on the edge of the top bleed and that the frame is directly centered on top of the text box containing your blurb on the back cover.

Step 2

Select the photo frame, the large orange frame at the very back of the document and this new smaller orange frame (you can do this by dragging your mouse across the top of the document). Make sure nothing else has been selected, then Control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) and under Arrange select Send to Back. The blurb text will be brought to the front.

Back-Cover_2_not-600

Step 3

Copy the small orange frame you've just created paste, and position directly beneath the original orange frame on the back cover, so that the top of this new frame meets the bottom edge of the other orange frame exactly. It should sit directly on top of the Author Bio text frame.

Adjust the height of this new frame to 44mm. Change the Fill of the frame to White and go to Object > Effects and click Transparency to open the Effects window. Keep the default Mode to Normal and adjust the Opacity to 65%. Click OK.

Effects-Window_Transparency

Step 4

Select once again the photo frame, the large orange frame at the very back of the document, and this new transparent white frame by dragging your mouse across the bottom left of the document. As before, make sure nothing else has been selected, then Control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) and under Arrange select Send to Back. The Author Bio text will be brought to the front.

Back-Cover_3_not-600

14. Make the Text on the Spine Shout!

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a frame with a width of 4.75mm and a height of 74.75mm. Rest the top of the frame against the top edge of the bleed and center the frame down the center of the spine. Set the Stroke to none and the Fill to "Pantone 7416C".

Select this frame, the photo frame and the large orange frame at the very back of the document by dragging your mouse over the top of the spine. Control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) and under Arrange select Send to Back. The Author name on the spine will be brought to the front.

Spine_2

Step 3

Copy this newly created narrow orange frame and paste. Change the Fill to White, and move this new frame so that the top edge connects directly with the bottom edge of the narrow orange frame on the spine.

Again, after selecting this white frame, the photo frame and the large orange frame at the back of the document, Control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) and under Arrange select Send to Back. The Book Title and Publisher Name on the spine will be brought to the front.

Spine_3

15. Add an Optional Logo and Website to the Back Cover

Whether your cover is intended for a first self-published book or the next big bestseller, it's always a good idea to add a logo/company name and a website or contact address to the back cover. This is also a good spot to credit the photographer and of course, yourself - the cover designer!

In this example, I held down Shift while dragging the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create a small square frame  to the lower left of the back cover. Then, File, Place and I inserted a logo in white to match the covers color scheme.

Just below this, and lined up against the left and bottom margins, I created a Text Frame and inserted a website address. You may also want to insert a white frame for a bar code and/or pricing details to be inserted over. There are many websites and softwares available that can generate unique bar codes, and may be useful if your book is intended for distribution and sale.

Lower_back_cover

16. Prepare Your Cover for Sending to Print

Firstly, and importantly, check that there are no spelling errors. Check also that the artwork extends over the edges of the document up to the edges of the bleed.

Tap 'W' to move between the Normal and Preview views to check that you are pleased with your final cover. Go to File, Export and select Adobe PDF (Print) from the drop-down menu. Choose an appropriate file name and location to save your PDF, then click Save.

Export-Window

Under General, and within the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down menu select Press Quality.

Export-Adobe-PDF

Under Marks and Bleeds, select All Printer's Marks under the Marks menu and select Use Document Bleed Settings under the Bleed and Slug menu.

Export-Adobe-PDF_2

Nice Work, You're Now Done!

Nice work, you now have a beautiful cover ready to send to the printers!

Final_Cover_with_printer's_marks

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