I’ve been receiving a ton of emails from Kindle Forum users about resources for creating ebook covers. So, I thought I would put together a little post about the things I know, which may not be too much. However, seasoned designers and authors please feel free to post anything here that you feel can add to this discussion.
A Kindle ebook cover should be in a JPEG or TIFF (think of it as a photograph) format. The size requirement of the JPEG has changed over the last few months, I use 1800 x 2400 pixels. The resolution (term used to describe the number of dots, or pixels, used to display an image) should be between 72 - 300. I always create my covers at 300 resolution. Simply because higher resolutions mean that more pixels were used to make the image. This results in the image being crisper and sharper.
So what do you do when you find the perfect picture? Doesn’t everybody have Photoshop? Before you jump on me, I am kidding. We all can’t take from our children’s college fund or remortgage our homes to buy PhotoShop. HOWEVER, let me tell you how I did buy it. If you are a TEACHER or STUDENT or ANYONE WORKING IN AN EDUCATIONAL faculty (Yes, I am screaming) you can purchase Photoshop for a lower price. I bought it for less than $300. You do need to prove that you are in school, or your child is in school, or you work in a school.
Fortunately there are other ways to edit your images. Here’s a list of links to FREE (yep, I’m yelling again) editing sites:
http://www.gimp.org/ http://inkscape.org/ http://pixlr.com/editor/ http://www.photoscape.org/ps/main/index.php http://picasa.google.com/ http://fotoflexer.com/ http://www.getpaint.net/
Now, unless you are willing to spend hours learning (and pulling your hair our) I would stay away from trying to create image composites for your cover. What is a composite? It’s the blending of multiple images into one. I don’t know if I will be able to link this successfully, but here is a great YouTube video of a cover creation: http://www.youtube.com/v/yoDCiTsS7dU&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3
Lauren Panepinto, creative director at Orbit, ran her video screen capture as she designed a cover for the book series she works on. As she wrote on her company blog:
“Over 6 hours of my onscreen compositing, retouching, color correction, type obsessing, all condensed down to a slim sexy one minute 55 seconds of cover design. Trust me, no one wants to watch it in real-time…and even then I left out the not-as-riveting-onscreen stages of my cover design process, such as reading the manuscript, sifting through Alexia photoshoot outtakes, background photo research, etc.”
Looks like she used Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, Illustrator, MS Word for Mac, and Shutterstock to make her masterpiece.
Only 6 HOURS! Now maybe you won’t be so taken aback by a designer when they have high prices, it takes many hours to create one picture.
A few tips: In my experience a simple cover is best. Always be mindful what your cover will look like in a thumbnail size. Make sure your title is readable. Cover art with white or very light backgrounds will disappear against the Amazon Kindle Store white background. If you need the cover white, add a small border. Make sure the image has something to do with your genre and what the book is about. Sometimes the best covers are straight fonts and colors with nothing else.
When you put your cover together and it’s completed, make sure you flatten all layers in whatever editing software you are using. Merge and flatten. It will make the file smaller and will be able to be uploaded. You cannot load a file over 1.21 gigerwatts (I am joking it’s really up to 40 MB in size.)
(This was taken straight from KDP:)
“To upload your cover, just follow these steps:
1. Log in to your KDP account at http://kdp.amazon.com/.
2. Select the "Actions" drop-down menu next to the relevant title and choose "Edit book details."
3. Scroll down to the heading labeled "Product Image."
4. Click on the button named "Browse for Image..."
5. A pop-up window will appear. Click the button named "Browse."
6. Locate your cover image file on your computer, click "Open."
7. Click the "Upload Image" button.
8. Uploaded Successfully! will appear along with the preview image.
9. Scroll to the bottom of page and click "Save and Continue."
Lastly, I am not a great writer. I say this to apologize to all the authors who have just read this and wanted to scratch their eyes out because of all my mistakes. I have written and published but I have a wonderful editor.
Most people on these forums know that I design covers. I have worked with many of the authors here, but please do not take this post as spam or an advertisement for my services. I haven’t placed an add here for a while, because I know how much it annoys writers and I respect that. However, if anyone wants to view my website and see the wonderful indie authors I’ve worked with, here’s my link: http://darkroaddesigns.com/
The size requirement of the JPEG has changed over the last few months, I use 1800 x 2400 pixels. The resolution (term used to describe the number of dots, or pixels, used to display an image) should be between 72 - 300. I always create my covers at 300 resolution. Simply because higher resolutions mean that more pixels were used to make the image. This results in the image being crisper and sharper.
Sorry, I don't get it. If your image is 1800x2400 pixels it contains 4,320,000 pixels, period. What has dpi got to do with it? This is a measure of printer resolution, as I understand it. We're talking about e-books, right?
Sorry, I don't get it. If your image is 1800x2400
pixels it contains 4,320,000 pixels, period. What has
dpi got to do with it? This is a measure of printer
resolution, as I understand it. We're talking about
This is [i]exactly[/i] right. I believe that some of this confusion may stem from software applications that are intended for print and may use the terms "dimensions" (or similar) for "pixel resolution" and "resolution" for "print resolution." However, this is merely my guess since I've never personally run into a situation where this was confusing or ambiguous.
Since this is such a common misunderstanding around here, I'll add a little background for those who are curious. If you're not curious, simply ignore the "dpi" or "ppi" of your image [i]unless[/i] you are using it for print. The pixel dimensions of your image are what determine its display size.
There are three main types of "resolution" that you may encounter when working with digital images.
The most common is "[b]pixel resolution[/b]," which is commonly and [u]accurately[/u] referred to as simply "resolution." For example, the "resolution" of an image that is 1800x2400 pixels is 1800x2400 pixels. While the total pixel count (width * height) may also qualify as the "pixel resolution," this is less meaningful in most cases when attempting to understand the actual size of the image. However, there are instances where the total pixel count is very important, such as publishing on iBooks where there is a hard limit of 2,000,000 pixels per image, regardless of aspect ratio.
The second most common place you may see "resolution" used is for the "[b]print resolution[/b]," which is a metadata (data about data) value that determines the physical length of each pixel when translated for printing. This value is commonly given in "[b]dpi[/b]" (dots-per-inch), though this is a bit of a misnomer and (as we'll see in a moment) a point of ambiguity. A more accurate unit for measuring the print resolution is "[b]ppi[/b]" (points per inch), which directly translates points (pixels) into physical lengths (inches). As an example, an image with a resolution of 100x100 pixels at 100ppi (sometimes added to the resolution with an @, as in 100x100@100ppi) will print as a one inch square. The same image (100x100 pixels) at 200ppi will print as a half-inch square. Two images of black squares, one at 100x100@100ppi and the other at 1x1@1ppi, will appear identical in print. Similarly, two black squares, one 100x100@100ppi and the other 100x100@947ppi, will appear identical on Kindle. Feel free to test this out for yourself.
The third, and by far [i]least[/i] common, place you will see "resolution" used is in relation to physical print media (typically some form of ink), which I will refer to as "[b]print[u]er[/u] resolution[/b]." This value is given (accurately this time) in "[b]dpi[/b]," as you may see on the stat sheet found on the back of the box your printer came in. The "dots" in "dots-per-inch," when discussing standard ink-based printers, refers to the discrete points of ink that will comprise a printed image. The more densely packed the dots printed on the page the smoother and more detailed the resulting image can appear. Higher dpis are especially obvious along curved edges and in areas of very fine detail. For color images, which are printed using a very small handful of colors (typically CMYK, or [u]C[/u]yan-[u]M[/u]agenta-[u]Y[/u]ellow-blac[u]K[/u]), a higher dpi will result in smoother colors and less banding, in addition to smoother edges and higher levels of perceptible detail. This "resolution," unlike either the pixel or print resolutions, is not a property (data or metadata) of the image file at all, but rather a property of the physical printer (and any associated driver software).
I hope that this clears things up a bit for any who are confused.
 There are some instances where this might not be the case, such as on eInk Kindle devices where images less than the screen width/height minus margins will be doubled in size and then scaled to fit the screen if they are too large. This can of course be corrected by explicitly declaring the width and height of the image by applying those values to the respective attributes of the HTML <img> tag.
 Aspect ratio is the relative width-to-height proportions of an image, written as WIDTH:HEIGHT, and can be arrived at by dividing the length of the longer side by the shorter side. These may appear reduced so that one side of the ratio is 1 or alternatively so that both sides are integer values. For example, the aspect ratio of a 1800x2400 image is 1:1.33~, or 3:4. The aspect ratio of a square is 1:1, or simply 1.
I'd also like to add that this is a very nice list, including many sites that I have never heard of in addition to many that I know to be of high quality. I'll definitely be giving it a closer look when I get the time.
Hi - I'd like to offer just a note on the free stock photos sites. Please read the license for any images you download - some site do not allow commercial use, some require you credit back the to the site, some offer small image for free but you must purchase larger ones, etc, etc.
I am with Freerange Stock, which is on your list (http://www.freerangestock.com), and ebook covers use is completely allowable under our terms. We would certainly love it if you credit the site and photographer, but it's not required. There are no restrictions for this type of use, and we're always proud when our image are deemed cover worthy.
We ask that our photographers upload image at 2400x1600 or larger, so it sounds like the size would be perfect.
My absolute favorite site to find old paintings and drawings is The
Web Gallery Of Art. They say that their images can only be used for
educational and personal reasons; however, every single image they have is in
the public domain. Use your own judgment there, but I wouldn't think twice about
copying PD material from someone's website for my own use.
Another is the Life Photo
Archive hosted by Google. They say you are free to use any photo there in a
non-profit function. So, if you're e-book is offered free of cost, you can use
any photo they have. But again I must say that many of their photos go back to
the mid 1800s and were photographs of photographs (back when this was the only
way to copy an image), many of them from PD books and magazines that existed
over a hundred years ago. Again, I don't think twice about copying PD material
regardless of what a site's TOS says. But to each his own.
Also, more often than not I'm simply going to clone bits and pieces of old
paintings and do a sort of mash-up anyway.
Thank you everyone who added more information and resources! It would be nice to keep a thread like this going so any authors who get stuck on the cover part can try it on there own.
There really should be an area for Author Resources on the forums. But I guess too many people will start spamming it until it exploded!
This is driving me crazy! Trying to find an image that is genuinely free not only to look at but to use on an e-book. Does anyone know which sites are free-free? Shutterstock seems to have the range I want but they're only free, not free-free!
This is driving me crazy! Trying to find an image
that is genuinely free not only to look at but to use
on an e-book. Does anyone know which sites are
free-free? Shutterstock seems to have the range I
want but they're only free, not free-free!
You might try the Creative Commons image search. There are many images there that are licensed for modification and commercial purposes, with no fees or royalty payments required for re-use.
I used a backgroud picture from google. I got it for free. I made my ebook cover from it on My Office Presentation Program. I heard Power Point is about the same. All for free. I suggest when trying to pick a image don't try to pick the best. Just pick one you like most quickly. This will save you time and avoid headaches.
Just to part some knowledge I received from a thread I started on this very subject. Do NOT use images from Google! You don't know who the copyright belongs to and it could result in huge lawsuits. Someone else mentioned Creative Commons. This is actually a great place to go. Do a search with Flikr in Creative Commons. Many of these pictures are split into categories, like many who just require attribution (just a note in your copyright page as to who the pic belongs to). I choose just attribution and get many choices, depending on your search keywords. There is a search in Google Images in Creative Commons....but please be careful if you go this route. Make sure you check if the image is copyrighted. The image I chose off of Google Image through Creative Commons did specifically state it was not copyrighted at all and could be used without author's permission. Good luck!
Sxc.hu and Morguefile are free-free. As with anything, just make sure you are "following the rules". Some require notification, some require attribution, and some require permission. For the perfect image, jumping through hoops might be required.
Stock companies like shutterstock and istockphoto are what we refer to as "royalty-free", in other words, you pay once and you are done. "Rights-managed" is a set price for a certain amount of time for a certain audience. If you do use Creative Commons (you can also filter results on Flickr to find CC licensed images) you need to attribute the creator in the means they designate.
For image sizes, if you do plan on getting your book also put in print (Createspace is free and goes through Amazon) you should create the front cover in 6x9" size at 300dpi. From there you can save down to an eBook size. Scaling doesn't work from small to large, unless you don't mind blurry and pixelated covers.
Don't be afraid to ask a designer for help. We don't bite. Much.
Nice nice bit of resource here - shame some threads
can't be stickies on this forum because this would
definitely be deserving.
A little thing to add to it might be the post I did
on my blog which was about tip for covers. http://humblenations.com/2012/04/12/14-tips-for-good-k
I recommend this post only all the time. Anyone having their first go at designing their own book cover should really make it their first port of call. If everyone did the average level of cover quality in the Kindle Store would leap dramatically.