Design a Physical Book Cover with GIMP: Transcript

You’re ready to learn how to make a book cover with GIMP! In this tutorial we walk you through how to design a book cover in GIMP, using one our DIY templates. We’ll start with the process of downloading GIMP and finish with using it to design your book cover / book template. You’ll also learn how to prepare the files for submission to Kindle KDP, using nothing but GIMP software. At the end of the video, we’ll show you how to make a quick Kindle cover as well.

To follow along with the video (highly recommended) watch here:

To design a physical book cover with GIMP you’ll need 3 things: a design file from, your manuscript’s copyright page, and GIMP, which you can download by going to You can access GIMP directly at CNET.

When you follow the link, you can see GIMP’s pretty popular on CNet. It’s had millions of downloads, and it’s been reviewed by hundreds and hundreds of reviewers. Go ahead and click download, and then click save. Be sure you click the correct download button. Often CNet allows other links that say download, but are outside ads that will not give you the GIMP program you need.


How to Make a Book Cover in GIMP


We’ll wait just a moment while that saves to the computer, this can take a minute or two.

Once it’s finished you’re going to need to click on the file and then click Run. Then click Yes, pick your language and click Okay and then click Install.

The install process can take up to several minutes, and you may need to wait a few minutes while GIMP installs itself on your computer.

Once it’s finally downloaded, click Finish, and then you’ll need to locate the file on your computer and open up the program.

Once I open it, I’ll expand this to be full size.

Opening Your Book Cover in GIMP and Setting Up the Workspace

Go to File, Open to locate the book template you downloaded from our website. Once you find the correct folder, the file is going to be something that says at the very end of it, front.xcf. Once you’ve located the xcf file, open it up and you should see the front cover.

What you’ll need to make GIMP work for your book template are the Tools (shown here on the left) and then the Layers panel (shown here on the right). If you don’t have those panels you can go to Windows and select Toolbox, or go to Dockable Dialogues, Tool Options and Layers to get those to show up.

As shown here at the top is the ruler, if this is not in inches you can change that at the bottom. (As you can see I can toggle between pixels and inches.) It’s currently in pixels now so I’ll change that to inches. Some of you may see a line running down the middle, that’s just a guide. It won’t be printed but if it’s a nuisance to your work, you can make it invisible. Go to View, then to Show Guides, and that will disappear.

Save Yourself a Version

Next we’ll go to File, Save As, and re-name this book template the name of your book. This will create a new file that’s your working file. I’m going to leave the word front at the end of this but erase everything else and just write the Star Namer, which will be the name of the book. In summary, it says the StarNamerFront. And you’ll want to keep the word front on there because you’ll need it later. Once you name the file, you can click Save.

Now that a new GIMP file is saved and named, we can begin to customize the cover design.

In the layers panel (on the right) you can see all of the text elements that are on the book template. There are separate layers that correspond to each text element on the cover. When you select a particular layer in the layer panel, you can usually see where it is within the design.

To change and customize the text, select the Text tool (shown here on the left). It looks like a capital A. You’ll also want to make sure anti-aliasing is checked before using this to modify the text.

Squaring Up Your Copyright Requirement

Before you dive in, find the layer that says copyright notice and then locate it on your page (sometimes it’s a little hard to find). This one looks like it’s buried in this green section. It says “copyright notice, copy and paste into your book’s copyright page: original and modified cover art by artist name and”.

Click inside the text area and select the portion that’s inside the quotations. Then right click and copy, or you can go Edit, Copy. Next, open up your book’s manuscript and go to the copyright page so you can paste that portion in so you can satisfy the copyright requirement for your cover design.

(I also like to make sure the text I’ve just pasted into the manuscript is the same type face and point size as the rest of the text on the page. Then hit Save and close.)

We don’t want that copyright notice showing up on our final printed version of the cover, so go to that layer in the layers panel and click the eye symbol. That will make it invisible. Now we’re ready to start changing and customizing the text for the book.

Personalizing the Text for your Own Book

Locate the layer that corresponds with the title section. You can see we have two different layers because we have two different sizes of text within the title.

This book is going to be called The Star Namer, so I’ll leave that first word in place and change the other two. If I didn’t want that word I could just omit it, or if I wanted it to be something other than that I would change it in the same way.

Let’s go up to the top of these GIMP layers and we’ll just work our way down through each text layer, wherever this takes us. It looks like this first one corresponds with the Author Name. I’m Stacie Vander Pol so I’ll write that in. The next one is Declarative Statement. We’ll change that to say, “The Definitive Guide”. The next one looks like it’s down here: Information About the Author. We’ll change that to say that I’m a “Night sky gazer, and star naming expert”.

The next layer is the copyright notice, which we already took care of. The next layer corresponds to a quote, blurb, or endorsement. I don’t have anything like that, so it’s going to be descriptive text, which is just as good. I’ll say, “Everything you need to know about naming your own stars, including a list of recommended organizations”.

Okay, the next layer is where the Subtitle goe–or you can put more descriptive text. Oops, I’ve got to make a correction there. If you don’t have a subtitle or if it’s not suitable for your particular cover design, you can put something like a tag line like this one or something more descriptive.

The last text box is in the starburst. Most of our designs don’t have these, but if yours does, I’ll show you how to change it with GIMP, which is a bit tricky. This is where you can put an award that your book won, or has been nominated for. This book doesn’t have anything like that so I’m going to put something else: “The most complete resource on the topic”.

I like to see this kind of text rotated so that it looks a little bit more like a sticker, so I’m going to click the rotate tool here in the toolbox, and I can use this bar to rotate the text in either direction. I’m going to leave it positioned so that as the reader finishes reading it, their eyes head toward the title. In GIMP, once you click rotate, the text can no longer be changed or edited, so make sure you’ve done your spell checking or proofreading first.

Perfecting the Details, Special Exceptions and Embed the Fonts

I can see that this text isn’t quite centered, so I’m going to select the move tool and select the layer I want to move. By doing that I can move the text around and get it centered better. You can do that with any of the text on the page if you just select the layer. I can see the subtitle area is off center as well.

That was easy enough, but let’s say that for some reason this book template didn’t exactly work for you. For example, let’s say that the author name you’re working with is longer than what was really meant for this particular cover design. First, go back and select the text tool.

Let’s say the name is Jonathan Lee Vander Pol, instead of Stacie. We can see when we look at it that the name is pushing out to the margins of the page and taking up more space than it was meant to in the original design.

If we click on that layer, and highlight what we want to change, we can go over to the letter spacing and either reduce or increase our letter spacing. You can see that this brings the letters a little closer together so that they fit better on the page. Conversely, you could do that with a name that was too short, you could space the letters out further so that they take up more room

You can also do this with your title. You can stretch it out, or scrunch it together. For a free program, GIMP has a surprising range of options.

I’m going to go Edit, Undo and put the title back to where it was. You can go Edit, Undo on anything that you’ve done that you want to take a step back.

Once you’ve customized it to your liking and proof read it and spell checked it, go ahead and save your work. Then we’re going to make another file with embedded fonts, so we’ll go File, Save As, and this one will add the word embed to the end of the title. So it says the StarNamerFrontEmbed, and you can click Save.

GIMP also has the built in ability to embed fonts and the rest of the layers, which will be required before you can publish with CreateSpace. Now to actually embed the fonts in this new file we’re going to go to Image, Flatten Image, and once we click that you can see that our image has flattened into a single image and all the fonts are embedded. Next go File, Save.

The Back Cover

Now it’s time to address the back cover.

To do that, go File, Open, and in that same folder, locate the file, which at the end of it says back.xcf.

The way you customize the back cover is the same way you did the front: by clicking on each layer and using the text tool to change the text. We’re not going to do that again here because you already know how.

All the book templates come with two optional icons on the back cover: a Facebook and a Twitter icon that you can use if you have a Facebook or a Twitter address. The cover templates also have text layers that you can customize for your own addresses with these icons.

You’ll also notice that these layers are linked, and that’s so when you select the move tool, they all move together. So, if you wanted to move them, select the move tool and the appropriate layer. You can then move them closer to your text or further from the text, and you can move them as a single unit.

If you don’t want them linked, just click the little link image in the layers panel and they unlink or they re-link. If you don’t want to use them, you can click the eye icon to make them invisible just like we did with the copyright page. And you can disappear all or one of them.

Just like we did on the front cover, you’ll want to go File, Save As and rename this file the name of your book, so this one will say TheStarNamerBack. Then click Save.

After you’ve made all your changes, you’ll save your work, and then you’ll go File, Save As to create an embedded file, and that one will be named embed at the end of it. We can click Save.

Like the other front cover, we’ll go ahead and actually embed these layers by going to Image, Flatten Image, and we can see that our layers have flattened into a single image. So go File, Save.

The Book’s Spine

The next thing we need to do is work on your book cover’s spine. We’ll do that by going File, Open, and in that same folder, locate the one that says spine.xcf. You can see initially that it’s turned the wrong way, but this is only temporary. As with the starburst, GIMP makes rotated text permanent and un-editable, so we have to make the edits before turning it.

Go to the text tool and make sure you have the A selected (text tool), and you can change the book name and the author name. We have Star Namer, and I’ll put in StacI Vander Pol.

On this one we’re not going to embed the image, and we’re not going to flatten it, and you’ll see why in a minute. We will go ahead and save it, so we can go File, Save As, and this will be TheStarNamerSpine. You can click Save.

Download a Template from CreateSpace

CreateSpace Cover Design using GIMPNow we have all of our components, and we just need the template on which to put these pieces together. You’ll need to visit here and it will take you right to the CreateSpace book cover template. These are really easy to use, they’re free, and you don’t even have to have a CreateSpace account set up to use them.

Let’s customize this CreateSpace book template. It’s going to be a 7×10 black and white with 200 pages, on white paper. Click Build Template, click here to download, click Save File. Next, we’ll go ahead and click on the file. It’ll pull up a folder, which we have to keep clicking into until we find the two files, a PDF and a png. The png is the one we’re interested in, so I’m going to minimize this so that I can drag this png file right onto my desktop where it’ll be easy to find and later open from within GIMP. We can close this folder.

Putting it all Together

I’m going to go back to my GIMP files and go to File, Open on one of them (doesn’t matter which one). I’ll go to my desktop and look for that .png file we got from CreateSpace. It’s right here, so I’ll open that up, and now we have a great template where we can put all of our pieces together to form a complete book cover design, and submit it to CreateSpace.

Click on the GIMP file that contains your back cover, the flattened one, and go Edit, Copy. Go back to the CreateSpace template and just go edit paste. You’ll see your back cover there. We can switch to the move tool (make sure you have the right layer as selected here), we’ll select that layer and now we can move it around in the template.

The idea in these CreateSpace templates is to cover all of the orange edges on the outside, and then on the inside, to push it right up to the dotted line. We’ll move this so it’s just covering the edges. I’ll need to change to the scale tool, which is right here, and this will allow me to stretch and pull the back cover into position.

Using the GIMP scale tool, I’m going to pull it all the way to the dotted lines, on the inside near the spine. Then scroll down to the bottom and pull it down to the bottom edge. Once I have it in place I hit Return, and GIMP makes the change happen. We just wait for the scaling to finish and it’ll go back to where I wanted it. Great.

Actually, before we go any further, let’s go to File, Save As and rename this template the name of our book, so this will be TheStarNamer, and I’ll call it full spread. That lets me know that this copy has everything for a full book cover design: the front cover, back cover and spine. Click Save.

Now we can move the front cover over. We’ll minimize the back cover here in GIMP, and select the front cover design. Go to Edit, Copy.

Back on the CreateSpace template we want to put a new layer right here, and it doesn’t matter what we name it. You can click Okay and then we can go Edit, Paste. I’ll adjust the front cover the same way we did with the back cover. Start by selecting the move tool, and moving it so it covers just the edges of the orange. There we go.

Then to adjust it from here I need to select the scale tool. I’ll click on it and I’ll just pull it. I want to push it back up and pull it to the dotted lines. You can move this out of the way, and then I’ll scroll up. I like to be zoomed in so that I can make sure that I’m covering up that orange just so, and I’ll hit Return and wait for the scaling. That should go right where I put it.

Before we do the book’s spine, let’s go ahead and save changes. Go File, Save.

The Prickly Spine

Next, we’ll go back to GIMP and click to the spine and the capital A to select the text tool, and go inside and actually highlight this text layer. Go Edit, Copy or right click, Copy, and click once and then right click (or Edit), Paste onto the template.

Go back to the spine file to grab the background. We’ll click the eyeball to make the text layer invisible. Click on the background layer, then go to Edit, Copy. Go back to your CreateSpace template and use GIMP to create a new layer again right here, and click Okay. Then go Edit, Paste.

Now we can see our spine, but it’s clearly going the wrong direction, so we need to go to the rotate tool and rotate it vertically. This will allow us to line it up where it belongs on the book spine.

The same way we did before, we can slide this to rotate it 90 degrees, and then we’ll make a slight manual adjustment here, and a quick rotate. We can click the move tool, and move it into place.

Right now it doesn’t matter how wide it is because we’re going to adjust that later. Scroll down and also select the scale tool, so we can stretch it all the way to the bottom. I also like to stretch it fairly wide, just so there’s no risk of a skinny little line showing up on the printed version.

To move the spine layer underneath our front cover and back cover designs, we need to go to the layers panel and click on the spine, it’ll say Floating Layer. Right click and click to New Layer, which will merge it with the new layer we created.

Now we’re going to go to the down arrow button. This will enable you to move the spine layer so that it sits down underneath the other layers. Keep hitting that button until that layer is sitting right above the CreateSpace template.

If you’ve never used a program like GIMP before, you should applaud yourself on your progress.

Next is the spine text. Once we rotate our spine text, it will no longer be editable, so make sure it’s right. I forgot that I changed the name to Jonathan Lee, so I’ll select that layer, and I need to select the text tool so that I can change the author name to Jonathan Lee Vanderpol.

Once it’s rotated, GIMP prevents the text from being, so, over in the layers panel we’re going to make a duplicate layer. You can do that by right clicking and clicking Duplicate Layer. Now we have two of them in case we mess something up and need to change it later.

If one of them is selected, click the rotate tool. Just like before we’re going to rotate this 90 degrees, and once we click rotate, that text can’t be changed. Click the move tool and move it into place. If your text happens to be white, you can change temporarily the color of that text to black while you take care of this task.

Temporarily, we’re going to go ahead and make the color of the spine invisible so that we can see the template underneath it. That way we can line up our text to make sure that it’s centered. We have to make sure that none of the text is touching any of the orange lines. When we’ve got it straight, we can turn the spine color back on by clicking the eyeball, which is how we turn it on and off in GIMP.

If we know we don’t want to make any changes to the spine text, then we also want to make invisible that extra layer that we created that was still editable. Optionally, you can click the eyeball on the template layer to make that disappear as well.

Next we need to embed the layers like we’ve done before. Go File, Save As to create a new file that’s embedded. Write the word embed at the back of this, and click Save.

Finally, we need to embed these layers. Go Image, Flatten Image, and you can see all the layers have been embedded into one. To create the PDF for CreateSpace, go to file File, Export, and change this extension right here from whatever it says to say PDF.

Down below we’re also going to select PDF. Then click Export. It doesn’t matter if we have these boxes checked because we’ve already embedded everything so we can just click Export again. GIMP has just created a PDF file you can submit to CreateSpace for your cover design.

Make a Quick Kindle Cover using Your Work

If you’d like to make a Kindle cover as well, the rest of the video is for you. We’ll continue using the GIMP files we’ve already created, and with very little work

You’ll need to open your flattened/embedded front cover that we made earlier. Then you’re going to go to File, Save As, and rename this as a Kindle version. Click Save. To ensure the design meets the Kindle guidelines for book covers, I’m going to go to Image, Scale Image. This is because I need to change the size just a little bit.

Once I’m in Scale Image (make sure that this box here says pixel, it should say px, and this link chain right here is linked and not broken), change it by clicking on it. Click inside the height box and type 2000, and when you click inside the width box, it should automatically change, and you’re good to go, click Scale.

Now we need to make a JPG in order for this book cover design to be submitted to the Amazon Kindle platform, which can be done directly from GIMP. So let’s save our work and then go File, Export. We’ll change the extension here from whatever it says to say JPG for jpeg, and down below we’ll select jpeg. Click Export. We want the highest quality possible so we’ll move this up to 100 and click Export again.

Now we have a completed GIMP cover design that’s in a JPG file, which can be submitted to Kindle for your final book cover design.