Jul 16, 2012

How to Font your Cover

I've blogged before about creating your own book covers in DIY Book Covers, today I want to get more detailed on one major part of covers - fonts. 

Most self-publishing or Indie publishing authors spend a lot of time looking for, or creating, the perfect image for their book cover, but sadly, many fail when it comes to font choice or application. Here are some points to remember:

Choose a style that suits your genre, but is easy to read. I see many swirly, formal script fonts that may give a luxurious feel, but are often hard to decipher. Simplify, and then... simplify more. For example, if you have a grungy urban novel, whether it's fantasy or a boy's adventure read, this font could look good:
The above is also a good example of understanding shade and tone. The light/white-ish font contrasts nicely with the green background. It helps to understand your basic colour wheel, colours that sit opposite on the colour wheel are complimentary colours. The picture below takes you to a good site that explains colour:
But having light font against dark or vice versa is simple, what if your background image is not one tone and varies from light to dark or has different colours, right where you want your title? Well, you could choose a different background, you really don't want anything too busy (a lot of amateur covers seem to have lots of floating heads or items that will appear in the story, remember this is a visual representation, it doesn't have to be literal). No? Ok, here's a little trick:
If you use a professional design program, such as InDesign (my choice), you'll have the option to outline your lettering, this line is called the 'stroke'. You can have a thin stroke, like in the image above. This is just enough to make the text stand out against the background. I like how the above cover mixes a white stroke and black stroke (black stroke on a black font does not work for this effect, it just makes the font look thicker). Or, you can make the stroke thick, so it becomes an important element in your cover. I took this font from KC Fonts:

And added a stroke to create this effect:
I wanted an old horror movie style, so I added a shadow to the text. Here's a tip, with shadowing, you can also change the strength of opacity, that is, how solid it looks. I wanted a soft, smokey shadow, so I don't have 100% opacity.

Also, use your space wisely. Don't have your title run right up to the edge of the page. Make it look like it's comfortable there. Of course you can break all these rules if you're artistic enough to make it work.

My last point is on license. There are many sites that offer free fonts, but did you realise that they're only free for your personal use? If your kids have an assignment or you want to decorate a non-profitable blogsite, sure. But, if you are using a font for a commercial purpose, such as a book cover for an ebook you plan to sell, then you need to pay for a license. This works the same as purchasing a license for your cover image (if you purchase from sites such as Shutterstock). Don't panic, you can find very reasonably priced fonts. Check out KC Fonts guidelines on Personal and Commercial use. Kevin from KC Fonts gave me a very good price on the use of my font (I'm sure font designers understand the reality of ebook revenue).

Images and fonts are people's creations and art, the creators deserve acknowledgement and remuneration for their services.

Here's some more covers I think do a great job with font:


  1. Charmaine I love this post. Useful even if we are not designing covers directly ourselves. We all need to check cover art at some time. I need to pass this on ;-) Thanks again and again.

  2. Great article. I am lucky enough to be married to a designer and she did an incredible job for my first cover. I doubt that I will use anybody else now!!

  3. gud stuff

    ...and BTW...love your Zombie Dog cover. Hilareous

  4. I've been having my bookcover created professionally. It's still a process though. Oh my... This was helpful. Thank you.

    I'll Twitter and Facebook this.


  5. What a great post! I was wondering where people got such awesome looking covers for their books.

  6. Great post! I've seen so many covers in which the picture was awesome, but the font destroyed the cover. One of my friends ended up hiring a graphic designer for her cover and it was worth it. The font was eye-catching, in a good way.

  7. Brill article Charmaine. Now I know a lot more about book covers than I knew before...

  8. Thanks for this info - I never knew about font licensing! Also, I love your book cover - it's just perfect!
    Some Dark Romantic

  9. I've given attention to books I otherwise wouldn't have given a chance to based on typography, alone. Nonsense, I know. But other fonts keep me stolidly away, as well.

    Blame it on heuristics.

  10. This is such a great post - I haven't created my own cover (I might've once, for a school project, I can't really remember) but when I do, I'll remember this post! :)

  11. You so right.. I've noticed that too on some books and it's such a shame. Font plays a huge role in the look of the cover:)

  12. Always great attention to detail, Charming. I learned a lot, but I think I'll be getting someone else to design my covers as I think it's probably the best marketing tool for an ebook.

    BTW your Guest Post is scheduled for Monday 23 July.


  13. Thanks for sharing this, Charmaine. As fate would have it, I have a writer/artist friend working on a cover for my second book. This is some great information to think about as we get closer to finalizing it.
    I hope you and yours are well.


  14. You did a great job with your cover. It can't be easy to put picture, font, and everything just right.

  15. Hi, Charmaine. Interesting post. I retweeted and posted to FB.

  16. What an informative post! I love all the tips and examples that you gave. I especially found the information about needing to license the fonts to be very helpful. Thanks so much for a great post.

  17. This is a great post! Very interesting...
    No matter where a writer is in the writing journey, we have to think about these things sooner or later... and your post made me realise just how important it is to have the correct font!

  18. Great tips. I imagine a lot of people fall into the trap of using "free" fonts.

  19. Thanks for the slideshow of various covers. Shadows of Night is a great cover! Me, I have my nephew do the cover art as he does such a better job than I could ever do.

  20. I love the look of your cover and the ones in the widget.

    I've seen some titles and fonts that don't really stand out too well against the background image or they blend in with it.

    I knew about the font fees. I think for a really standout cover, fonts should be purchased so that they look different from the free fonts we're all used to.

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