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Quick Tip: Which Software Should I Use for Book Design?

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Perhaps a client has given you an unusual brief, or your boss wants a project completed ASAP, or you just want to dip a toe into designing something a bit different—and you’ve got no idea where to start! 

In this series of Quick Tips I’ll share a couple of common design scenarios and how you can find the best-suited software program to tackle your project.

Got a book to design? Read on to find out the best way to make your ideas a reality...

Which Software Should I Use for Book Design?

Book cover imageBook cover imageBook cover image

If you’re not a seasoned book cover designer or typesetter, and are taking your first tentative steps into the publishing design world, it can be difficult to know which software you should choose. 

Many book designers have their own personal preference for the software they use to create book layouts, and there are a couple of different options which would be up to the task. Here are two of the most popular programs:

Option 1: QuarkXPress

quark logoquark logoquark logo

You’ll find that some book designers are still fiercely loyal to Quark (QuarkXPress), which is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) layout program. 

While Quark now takes up a smaller slice of the publishing software market (Adobe InDesign has overtaken it in the past decade), it’s still a solid software choice for designing both interior layouts and covers, and has been updated for 2015, providing more support for designing interactive eBooks (ePub). 

So it’s a great choice for designing both print- and digital-format books.

The main advantage? You can pay for a one-off QuarkXPress licence, without having to subscribe to a service, as you do with Adobe CC. So it’s an economical choice.

The disadvantage? Quark has an arguably outdated interface, and can feel a little boring and clunky to use.

Option 2: Adobe InDesign

book cover in indesignbook cover in indesignbook cover in indesign

The other book design titan is Adobe InDesign. Similar in many ways to Quark, InDesign is also a page layout program. 

It has the flexibility to create both covers and interior page layouts, while giving you advanced control over page-sizing, typography and preparing documents for print and ePub. Adobe also provides fantastic design support, with Typekit, Adobe Color CC and Creative Cloud Libraries helping you aim for the lofty heights of ultimate design quality and polish.

The main advantage? Adobe InDesign is like a well-oiled book design machine; and you won’t be short on superior design quality if you go with this software. It also interacts seamlessly with other Adobe supporting programs, like Photoshop, Illustrator and Bridge.

The disadvantage? Adobe CC’s subscription service can be an expensive burden on freelancers and small businesses. 

The Verdict?

Both QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign are perfectly suited to designing covers and interior layouts for books. 

While Quark might be better suited if you're on a tight budget and has a very intuitive interface, InDesign arguably offers a bit more sophistication, giving you the confidence to create more unusual designs, especially when you treat InDesign as part of a larger supportive Adobe package, which includes Photoshop and Illustrator.

While the programs mentioned above are popular options, there may well be other alternatives that better suit your workflow, skills and/or budget, so make sure you shop around and take advantage of software trials before you commit.

The most important thing to remember? The right software can help you achieve your creative goals, but it’s the end result that really matters! Finding software that you feel comfortable with using and that's going to help you realise the ideas in your head is the first big step you can take towards making your end result the best it can be. 

Book cover imagesBook cover imagesBook cover images

Ready to get started with creating some designs? Polish up your book cover design skills with our Creative Book Covers Learning Guide.

Good luck with finding the perfect software for your book project! I’d love to know what you think—feel free to share your recommendations for tackling book design projects in the comments below. 

Are you a loyal user of Quark? Or do you prefer InDesign's interface? Do you use something entirely different for your book design efforts?

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