How to make a book cover from stock photos

I know that graphic design isn’t people’s strong suit, yet lots of peoples are desperate to make free covers for their ebooks. I’ve been experimenting with making cover art for quite a while now (Wattpad is a great place to practice really awful covers until you get it out of your system).

Onto the process!


Get on Amazon and search for books similar to yours. Fantasy? Romance? Sci fi? Chick lit? Whatever it is, look it up. I’m writing what I’m calling Regency Shifter Romance–basically it’s werewolves in a Jane Austen setting. Except this particular book features a dude who turns into a bear. Does Amazon have stuff like that?

Why, yes, yes it does.


These were the top hits when I searched “werebear romance” on Amazon. Now, let’s break it down.


In case you can’t read my chicken scratch, here’s my observations:

  • All the covers feature a hot guy and a bear, with a forest background
  • All the covers are blue, green, or purple, with the guy/bear trending toward orange
  • The fonts have a surprising lack of cursive “romance” fonts. They trend more toward paranormal. Although cursive does appear on the better-designed covers.
  • The text always falls in the center or toward the bottom
  • The byline is at the bottom most of the time, but it can be at the top


Now I have an idea of what the genre expects for covers, I can go find the stock I want to use for mine. I get on DeviantArt and carefully comb through the stock photos, looking for unrestricted use, or free for use stocks. There’s really awesome stock that requires payment, but I’m cheap. I usually look for the really really old stuff, too. DA’s been around ten or twelve years, and there’s a crapton of art on there.

Here’s the stock I wound up with:





I dump it all into Photoshop and start rearranging. You can rent Photoshop from Adobe for 30 bucks a month, or you can use the Gimp or something else that’s free. The image editing for this art involves cropping, erasing, and moving layers.

I’m working on a canvas that uses Amazon’s book cover guidelines: 1,563 x 2,500 pixels at 300 ppi (pixels per inch, which is the image’s resolution).


At this point, all I’ve done is erase backgrounds and move stuff around.

Now I drop a blue-black gradient into the background.


With the images on top of it, it looks like this:


But Kessie! you cry. How did you make the house all blueish like that?

With the layer settings, of course! As you paste each pic into the image, Photoshop will stick it on its own layer. Just find the layer you want to make all transparent, and change this option:


Now’s the point where I like to fiddle around with the title and byline, to make sure the images fit around them. The title has to be BIG, so it stands out in thumbnail, and high contrast.


These fonts are Alex Brush for the script, and Gabriola for the print stuff. Ah, but it’s still kind of hard to read. Grab your airbrush and scribble in some black on a layer below the text.


Much better. Now, the background is looking kind of dull and empty. A lot of those other covers use trees for the backgrounds to give a foresty impression. Were-animals always run around in woods. (Somebody needs to write one who runs around in deserts, or alpine tundra.) The picture of the house had a nice tree in it that I clip out and drop into the background.


Much better texture! Now, since I’m lazy, I’m going to copy the bear and people layers, and set the copies to Multiply. And I’ll drop in a byline and scribble black behind it, too.


Looks decent, doesn’t it? I have some painting left to do–like I need to remove the grass on the bear, and airbrush the couple to make them look more painted. But it’s well on its way, don’t you think?

So that’s how you make a book cover. Mostly it’s looking really closely at other, similar covers and figuring how they put theirs together. Also, the right fonts is a MUST. I left out the hours I spent tinkering with the text, moving it, changing the fonts, and so on. I’m still not satisfied with the look on my byline, and I’ll change it some more.

I used this site to find great fonts for my genre.

Now go forth, and create book covers from stock! Always remember to respect the photographer’s stock use rules–pay or credit or whatever they require.

2 thoughts on “How to make a book cover from stock photos

  1. Great info, Kessie!!! As someone lucky enough to have a very talented sister as a cover designer for my own books, I’m always on the look out for new tips to pass on to her in case she uses them!
    And your werebear cover looks good to me! 🙂 I’d love to see your final when you get to that part! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!


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