In this article, we’ll discuss layout for book covers that use full bleed images.

Book Covers with Foolproof Graphics

Images with a full bleed go all the way to the edge of the page (as if to bleed off). Generally, there are two ways to use full-bleed graphics on a cover. The first is to find an image that comprises the entire page and then place text over it (first example below). The other is to position the image to cover one-third or two-thirds of the page, and leave the remaining space for copy (second and third examples). Penguin Classics has embraced the one-third copy, two-thirds image layout for decades on its book covers, with the iconic template shown in the second example. The third cover, by Simon and Schuster, reverses the proportions with equal success.

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Before deciding on a full-bleed graphic, answer the following questions.

1. Does the image reflect the mood or genre of the book?

2. Does it adhere to the rules of layout from Layout Part 1: Rule of Thirds & Diagonal Scan?

3. Is there room, or an obvious place, for copy?

4. Will the area for text provide enough contrast for the words to be legible?

5. Is the background area textured? Will the pattern interfere with legibility?

If the answer to any of the above questions reveals a possible problem:

1. Can the image be modified (flipped, darkened/brightened, covered with a color block) to improve its use for my cover?

How to Design Book Covers with the Right Image

As discussed in Layout Part 1: Rule of Thirds & Diagonal Scan, the position of objects and words form the foundation of every book cover design. To ensure your image complies with the basic rules of layout, review the following points:

1. The graphics for your book covers should either have strong focal points or provide a opportunities to make the title the focal point.

2. Lean toward layouts that embrace the Rule of Thirds. They are easier to work with and usually result in better designed book covers.

3. Preferred diagonal scan is desirable, but not required. However, it should not be reversed on book covers.

4. Faces near the edge should look onto the cover, rather than off it.

images for book coversThe image shown here has just enough depth and narrative to work for a variety of book covers. The contrast created by the dark legs and white boots creates a focal point.






images for book coversThe layout falls neatly into the division of thirds, without any cropping or modification. Additionally, the turned heel contributes to preferred diagonal scan. The best place for copy is most likely at the bottom of the image, where the boots will point to it.





images for book coversBecause the bottom is neither bright enough nor dark enough for legible text, a solid band is placed over it before adding copy. Alternating the color of the box as well as the text style would make this a versatile images for different kinds of book covers.





   Improving Images for Book Covers

So often, it seems, you stumble on an image that would be perfect except for one thing. Either the diagonal scan is reversed, the Rule of Thirds is ignored, or the obvious location for text is less than desirable. You can usually correct problems such as these by moving the image.

Create the Rule of Thirds

Ordinary pictures can become great designs for book covers with simple adjustments to the layout. Altering an image so that it works with the Rule of Thirds takes little time and invariably improves the appearance and suitability for its use on book covers. The easiest way is to move the location of a horizon line (or other horizontal line) that cuts through the picture. Push the image up, or down, until the defining line falls at, or near, a divisional line of thirds.

Below  By shifting the first  image downward, the picture is enhanced and a location for copy is created.

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Preferred Diagonal Scan and Book Covers

You can read more about layout, including Preferred Diagonal Scan in this article, Layout Part 1: Rule of Thirds & Diagonal Scan. Preferred Diagonal Scan refers to the upper-left to lower-right movement that the Western eye prefers to see on a page. When your desired image reverses the preferred diagonal direction, you may be able to fix it.

Below By reversing (flipping horizontal) the image, the lines of the subject create an upper-left to lower-right diagonal scan, and the woman’s face looks left to right (preferred when the face is near the center). The second example is a much better choice when seeking images for book covers.

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When flipping a photo or drawing, be aware of any text, numbers, symbols, or other recognizable features, such as city skylines, that will appear backward or inaccurate when reversed (see below).

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Space for Text

In addition to good layout, large graphics for book covers need a place for copy. Once in place, text should enhance the design and work within the recommended guidelines for layout. The image below has strong upper-left to lower-right diagonal scan and an obvious location for text (which happens to fall on a Rule of Thirds intersection point).

images for book coversbook covers








Contrast and Legibility

Though contrast and legibility have nothing to do with image layout, they play a role in image selection. Midtone and patterned backgrounds make reading the copy on book covers difficult, especially on thumbnails. Most graphics allow you to increase the contrast between the two, to improve the legibility of your copy. You can darken the image or brighten the letters, or both, as shown in the example of the book covers below.

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That’s all for now on graphics and images. Thanks for reading!

Next: Buying Graphics and Images

Previous: Graphics and Images Part 1

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By Stacie Vander Pol