Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Setting Up a File for Your Book Cover Design

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, we're talking about setting up your file in Adobe Photoshop CS5 so you can design an awesome book cover that will translate well to print and not cut off anything important. Now, the instructions here can translate to ANY design program you're using. The measurements are the same. I have PS, so that's what I'm walking you through. You can also get this information in my book, The Indie Author's Guide to: Building a Great Book. That link will take you to the Kindle version (just $2.99). My guide takes you through more than cover setup though! It goes through how to format everything so your book comes out the other side looking amazing in both digital and print formats.

Enough about that. Let's get going! I have fun screenshots for each step, so you won't get lost.

First, open Photoshop (or your program of choice):
As you can see, I've tailored it to my specific preferences. So, your screen may look a wee bit different.
Now, click on file>new:
Set the document up as follows, replacing the words "My Book" with the title of your book. I'm showing you here how to set up a cover for a 5.5"x8.5" book. If designing a different size, add 1/4" (.25") to the height and width.
Notice I changed pixels to inches, the resolution to 330, and the color space to CMYK. Wait! Why did I change it to CMYK? Because printers don't print in RGB. CreateSpace uses a four color process printer and it'll do funky things to your cover colors if you design in RGB. CMYK changes to RGB (web colors) easily but not the other way around. Here's a little example of the difference:

See how the CMYK colors are a little bit duller? You do NOT want that to happen with your book cover. Okay, moving on...

You should now have something that looks like this:

Next, drag guides to cut off 1/8" (.125") all the way around the book cover. Like so:
I filled the background with white so you can see the guides. Outside the guides is your bleed area (the area that WILL be cut off when the printer prints your book). Now, not all cutting machines are super accurate (the shame!) so you'll need to identify a safety area as well. This is the place you don't want text or anything you want to keep on the cover. If you stay inside these lines, you're guaranteed to be okay. Drag guides to mark your bleed area at 1/4" (.25") inside the bleed line. Some places only make you carry a safety of 1/8" (.125"), but it's better to be safe than sorry. Your document should look like this:
Now I'll show you in colors what you're looking at:
Bleed is the area that WILL be removed. Safety is the area that MAY be removed. Live is the area where your book cover design should be. Nothing should move outside the LIVE area.

As you can see by the ruler on the edge of the screen, when cut at the bleed line, your final product is 5.5"x8.5":
If you take the time to design your cover this way, all you'll have to do when you're ready to set up your cover document with CreateSpace is flatten the image, drag it into the new wrap, and drop it. Once you're all designed and ready to go for digital, save it as a PSD (in case you want to change something later), then flatten it, change the color space to RGB, and save it as a .jpeg. I guarantee it'll be the correct aspect ratio for all platforms.

I hope this saves you all from wearing huge red spots around on your foreheads.

Did you know all of this? Has it helped you in some small way?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Although I usually do my covers in Illustrator, this is helpful when I do use PS. Thanks!

    1. I gotta ask: Why do you do your covers in Illustrator? It's a program that's really geared more toward logos (because they're not raster and can be resized to building size with no loss of quality). Even if you put an image into Illustrator, you're still limited by the number of pixels. And PS gives you sooooo many more options for altering the image (because it's image editing software). Dying to know! Hit me back! Thanks for the comment, Heather! :)


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