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Book Printing 101: 7 Tips Design a Cover to Professional Standards

As an experienced book printer, I have guided thousand of self-publishers design their book covers that not only catch the eye but also meet professional standards. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through the process of designing a book cover that will make your work stand out on the shelves. From choosing the right format to selecting paper types and testing color schemes, I will cover it all. So, let’s dive in and learn how to design a cover that will impress readers and leave a lasting impression.

design book cover

Designing a book cover is a crucial part of the publishing process. It is the first thing readers see, and it should convey the essence of your book while grabbing their attention. A well-designed cover can make a significant difference in book sales and overall success. However, there are certain rules and guidelines that every designer should follow to create a cover that meets professional standards. Let’s explore these rules in more detail.

Rules of Book Cover Design

Designing a book cover requires a careful understanding of the principles that make a cover visually appealing and effective. While creativity is important, it is crucial to follow certain rules to ensure a professional outcome. Here are some key principles to keep in mind:

Simplicity: A cluttered cover can be overwhelming for potential readers. Keep the design clean and focused on conveying the main idea of your book.

Relevance: The cover should accurately represent the content of your book. It should give readers a glimpse into what they can expect to find inside.

Typography: Choose fonts that are legible and appropriate for your book’s genre. Experiment with different font combinations to find the one that best suits your book’s theme.

Color Palette: Select a color scheme that complements your book’s genre and evokes the desired emotions. Different colors elicit different emotional responses, so choose wisely.

By following these rules, you can create a visually striking cover that resonates with your target audience.

Choose Book Format: Paperback or Hardcover

When it comes to book printing, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to publish your book in paperback or hardcover format. Each format has its own advantages, so consider the following factors before making your choice.

Pros of Hardcover

Hardcover books are known for their durability and premium feel. Here are some advantages of opting for a hardcover format:

Sturdiness: Hardcover books are more robust and can withstand wear and tear better than paperbacks. They are ideal for books that are meant to be cherished for a long time.

Perceived value: Hardcover books are often associated with high-quality publications. They give your book a sense of prestige and professionalism, which can be appealing to readers.

Visibility: Hardcover books tend to stand out more on bookstore shelves, making them more likely to catch the attention of potential buyers.

Pros of Paperback

On the other hand, paperback books have their own set of advantages that make them a popular choice among authors. Consider these benefits before deciding on a paperback format:

Affordability: Paperback books are generally more cost-effective to produce than hardcover books. This can be beneficial, especially for authors who are just starting and have budget constraints.

Portability: Paperback books are lighter and more compact, making them easier to carry around. They are a convenient choice for readers who prefer to read on the go.

Flexibility: Paperback books are easier to handle and hold while reading. They are more flexible and can be comfortably held in one hand, allowing for a more enjoyable reading experience.

Difference between Hardcover and Paperback

While the distinction between hardcover and paperback books may seem obvious. Let’s delve deeper into the differences to gain a better understanding of each format.

Hardcover books, as the name suggests, have a rigid cover made of thick cardboard wrapped in a protective cloth or paper. They often feature a dust jacket that provides additional protection and serves as a canvas for captivating design elements. Hardcover books are known for their durability and are typically associated with high-quality publications.

On the other hand, paperback books have a flexible cover made of thinner cardboard or paper stock. They are more lightweight and affordable compared to hardcovers. Paperback covers are often coated with a glossy or matte finish, enhancing their visual appeal. While they may not be as durable as hardcovers, they offer greater flexibility and portability.

Understanding the differences between hardcover and paperback books will help you make an informed decision when choosing the format for your book. Consider the nature of your content, your target audience, and your budget to select the format that best suits your needs.

Pick Up Cover Size

Choosing the right cover size is crucial to ensure that your book looks professional and fits well on bookstore shelves. The cover size will depend on the format you choose, whether it’s paperback or hardcover. Let’s take a look at the standard cover sizes for each format.

Paperback cover size:

Standard paperback: 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches: This size is commonly used for novels and general non-fiction books.

Digest paperback: 5 inches by 8 inches: This smaller size is often used for mass-market paperbacks and pocket-sized books.

Trade paperback: 6 inches by 9 inches: This size is popular for trade paperbacks and larger non-fiction books.

Choose a paperback size that suits the genre and content of your book. Consider the readability of the text and the overall visual balance when selecting the cover size.

Hardbound cover size

Hardcover books offer more flexibility in terms of cover size options. The most commonly used hardcover sizes are:

Standard hardcover: 6 inches by 9 inches, 8.5 inches by 11 inches: These size is versatile and suitable for a wide range of books.

Large hardcover: 9 inches by 12 inches: This larger size is often used for coffee table books, art books, and photography books.

Square hardcover: 8 inches by 8 inches: This size is ideal for books with a square or unconventional design.

Consider the content, genre, and design elements of your book when choosing the cover size. A well-proportioned cover will enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of your publication.

Select Paper Type

Choosing the right paper type is essential to ensure the quality and durability of your book. The paper type will depend on the format of your book – paperback, hardcover, or dust jacket. Let’s explore the different paper types available for each format.


For paperback covers, you have the option of using either glossy or matte art paper. Here’s a brief overview of each type:

Glossy art paper: This type of paper has a smooth and shiny surface, which enhances the vibrancy of colors and gives the cover a polished look. Glossy paper is often used for books with vivid images or covers that require a high level of detail.

Matte art paper: Matte paper has a non-reflective surface, which gives the cover a more subdued and elegant appearance. It is ideal for books with a minimalist design or covers that require a softer, more sophisticated look.

The common paper weight for paperback cover like 200gsm, 250gsm, 300gsm, 350gsm glossy or matte paper.

Consider the visual style and theme of your book when selecting the paper type. Experiment with both glossy and matte options to see which one best complements your cover design.


Hardcover books offer more paper options due to their sturdier construction. Here are some commonly used paper types for hardcover book covers:

Coated paper: Coated paper has a smooth, shiny finish that enhances the colors and details of your cover design. It provides a high-quality look and feel, making it a popular choice for hardcover books.

Texture paper: Texture paper adds a tactile element to your book cover. It can have a rough or smooth texture, depending on your preference. Texture paper is often used to create a more luxurious and unique cover design.

Cloth: Cloth covers have a timeless and elegant appeal. They can be customized with embossed or foil-stamped designs. Cloth covers are commonly used for classic or collector’s edition books.

Leather: Leather covers exude luxury and sophistication. They are often reserved for special editions or limited print runs. Leather covers can be customized with intricate embossing or debossing designs.

The common paper weight for hardback cover like 157gsm glossy/matte art paper mounted on 2-3 mm grey board. Other like texture paper, cloth or leather mounted on 2-3 mm grey board.

Consider the genre, theme, and target audience of your book when selecting the paper type. The paper should enhance the overall aesthetic and feel of your cover design.

Dust Jacket

If you opt for a hardcover format, you have the option to include a dust jacket. A dust jacket is a removable cover that wraps around the hardcover book and provides an additional canvas for design elements. Dust jackets are commonly made of 157gsm coated paper, which offers a smooth and glossy finish.

When designing the dust jacket, consider the following:

Front cover: The front cover of the dust jacket is the first impression readers will have of your book. Incorporate captivating visuals and key design elements to entice potential readers.

Spine: The spine of the dust jacket should contain the title of the book, the author’s name, and any other relevant information. Ensure that the text is legible and visually appealing when the book is displayed on a shelf.

Back cover: The back cover of the dust jacket provides an opportunity to include a synopsis of the book, endorsements, author bio, or other enticing information. Make use of this space to engage readers and convince them to pick up your book.

Designing a compelling dust jacket will add an extra layer of allure to your hardcover book. Take advantage of this opportunity to create a visually stunning cover that will captivate potential readers.

Test Colors and Font Schemes

The color scheme and font selection are crucial aspects of your book cover design. They contribute to the overall aesthetic and convey the tone and genre of your book. Before finalizing your design, it’s essential to test different color and font combinations to ensure they work harmoniously together.


Consider the following when choosing your color scheme:

Genre: Different genres have distinct color associations. For example, warm colors like red and orange are often used for romance or adventure novels, while cool colors like blue and green are commonly associated with mystery or fantasy books. Research the color palettes commonly used in your genre and select colors that align with the mood and theme of your book.

Emotional response: Colors evoke emotions and can influence a reader’s perception of your book. For example, red can convey passion or urgency, while blue can evoke calmness or mystery. Choose colors that resonate with the emotions you want to evoke in your readers.

Contrast and legibility: Ensure that the colors you choose provide sufficient contrast to make the text on your cover legible. Avoid using overly bright or conflicting colors that may hinder readability.

Test different color combinations and gather feedback from others to determine which palette works best for your book cover design.


Font selection is equally important, as it sets the tone and personality of your book. Consider the following when choosing fonts:

Readability: Prioritize legibility over elaborate or decorative fonts. Make sure the text on your cover is easily readable, even at smaller sizes.

Genre Alignment: Different genres have specific font styles associated with them. For example, serif fonts are commonly used for classic or historical novels, while sans-serif fonts are often seen in contemporary or sci-fi books. Research the font styles commonly used in your genre and choose fonts that align with the overall theme of your book.

Consistency: Limit your font selection to two or three fonts to maintain visual consistency. Avoid using too many font styles, as it can make your cover appear cluttered and unprofessional.

Test different font combinations and sizes to find the perfect balance between readability and visual appeal. Remember, the fonts you choose should reflect the essence of your book and resonate with your target audience.

Set Up Bleed

Bleed is an important aspect of cover design that ensures that there are no white borders or gaps when the book is trimmed. It is essential to set up the correct bleed measurements to avoid any issues during the printing process. Let’s take a look at the recommended bleed measurements for each format.


For paperback books, a bleed of 0.125 inches (3mm) is typically recommended. This means that any images or design elements that extend to the edge of the cover should extend beyond the trim size by 0.125 inches to account for the trimming process.


Hardcover book covers typically require a larger bleed due to the additional elements involved, such as the spine and dust jacket. A bleed of at least 0.59 inches (15 mm) on all sides is commonly recommended for hardcover designs.

Dust Jacket

If your hardcover book includes a dust jacket, the bleed measurements for the jacket should be 0.125 inches (3mm). This ensures a seamless transition between the cover and the dust jacket.

Including the appropriate bleed will ensure that your cover design looks professional and seamless when printed and trimmed. More about bleed, please check out “artwork”.

Use High Image Resolution

When designing your book cover, it’s crucial to use high-resolution images to ensure optimal print quality. Low-resolution images can appear pixelated or blurry when printed, compromising the overall visual appeal of your cover.

When sourcing images, aim for a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (DPI). This resolution is considered standard for high-quality printing. Using images with a higher DPI will result in sharper and more detailed prints.

Additionally, consider the color profile of your images. For print purposes, it’s recommended to use the CMYK color mode rather than RGB, as it better represents the color range achievable in print.

Using high-resolution images and the appropriate color profile to ensure that your book cover looks professional and visually appealing in print.

Consider Special Finishes

To add an extra touch of elegance and visual appeal to your book cover, consider incorporating special finishes. These finishes can elevate your design and make it stand out from the crowd. Here are some popular options to consider:

Foil stamping: Foil stamping involves applying a metallic or holographic foil to specific areas of your cover design. It adds a luxurious and eye-catching element, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal.

Spot UV: Spot UV involves applying a glossy varnish to specific areas of your cover design, creating a contrast between matte and shiny surfaces. It adds depth and texture to your cover, making it visually captivating.

Embossing and debossing: Embossing involves raising certain parts of your cover design, creating a three-dimensional effect

More special finishes, please check out “cover options“. Each finish has its unique effect and can elevate your cover design to the next level.

Book Printing with Printingexport

Once you have finalized your book cover design, it’s time to bring it to life through professional book printing services. ChinaPrintingeExport is a leading book printing company based in China, offering high-quality printing services at competitive prices. With state-of-the-art printing technology and a team of experienced professionals, we can ensure that your book is printed to the highest standards. Contact Printingexport today to discuss your book printing needs and bring your cover design to life.

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