How To Do Stuff

How to: Make a Book Cover Using Canva

November 30, 2014

I want to show you some of the stuff I’ve learned as a self-published author so I’m going to have a new feature on my blog called “How to.” I’ll walk you through part of the publishing process so you can do it too.

One of the hardest and most important things you’ll do as a self published author is choose a cover for your book. The cover is your most powerful marketing tool because it will either draw in potential readers or repel them. If you get it right, you’re gold but if you don’t well…people will think you’re an amateur and will likely not ever consider it something they’ll want to read.

I’m not going to go into all the things you’ll need to consider for your book cover, like making sure it resonates with your target readers I’m going to instead give you a DIY tutorial. First, I have to let you in on a little secret…I did the book cover for Burnt Edges myself. The designer I wanted to use was busy and I tried hiring someone I had never worked with before but I did not like her work at all. Then I got impatient. I thought, “How hard can it be?” Well, it’s not hard if you keep it simple and that’s what I’m going to show you.

Step 1: Find an Amazing Photo
This part of the process is the longest because the photo will do the heavy lifting. Of course, you’ll need to make sure the photo reflects the essence of your story, character, or plot.

Where do you find photos? You can use one you’ve taken yourself but it will need to be high resolution. If you are publishing your book on Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, or Smashwords, they have the required minimum resolutions listed. Just keep in mind: the higher the numbers, the better the photo will look when it prints.

You can also try these sites:

You will have to pay for the photos at some of these sites but the cost is much cheaper than hiring a designer. Photos range from $199 – $499 whereas a designer can cost up to $800 depending on their experience. You will also need to pay attention to the licensing terms for the photo. For example, the photo I used cost me $200 for up to 50,000 print copies. Unless my book starts selling like hotcakes, I think I’ll be fine.

For purposes of this tutorial, I found this photo of a chipmunk (which happened to be free):


Step 2: Download Your Photo and Go to
Once you’ve got your photo, go to www.canva.comScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 10.33.51 AM

Create your account (don’t worry, it’s free). The site automatically takes you to a “Beginner’s Challenge,” which leads you through a tutorial on how to use it. I suggest you try it. If you don’t want to do that, you’ll end up here at the Dashboard:

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You’ll see that there are a bunch of prepared sizes and formats already available to you. Click on the scroll bar until you find “Kindle Cover.” Choose that one.

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Step 3: Choose Your Template or Create Your Own
On the left-hand side, you’ll see some book cover templates already formatted with photos and fonts. You can choose one of these to tweak, or create your own.

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For this tutorial, I’m going to create my own to show you how easy it is.

Step 4: Upload Your Photo to
You can even upload photos from Facebook but I wouldn’t recommend doing that for a book cover. Again, you need a high resolution photo.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 10.45.14 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 10.46.27 AM

Step 5: Drag Your Photo onto Your Workspace
Now, drag your photo on your workspace but you’ll notice that the photo doesn’t fit.

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Not to worry! Simply grab onto one of the circle things at the corner and make it bigger.

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The part of the photo that doesn’t show in the workspace won’t show in your final cover.

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Step 6: Add Your Book Title and Author Name
Now you need to add the title and your author name. On the far left-hand side, you’ll see an icon that says, “Text.” Click on that.

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You’ll see some text that says, “Add Text,” “Add subtitle text,” and “Add a little bit of body.” Choose the one that says, “Add Text,” and drag it onto your photo.

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Put your cursor in the text box and enter your title. But look what happen! The text doesn’t fit in the box!

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Don’t stress! If you grab the circle thing with your cursor, you can change size of the text box and you can position it wherever you want.

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But, I still don’t like the way it looks. Guess what? You can also change the font, size, and color. Just select the text and scroll down the list of fonts until you get to the one you want. Also, change the size and color. Remember that fonts can evoke certain feelings so choose one that fits your subject matter.

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Now do the same for your author name.

Step 7: Download Your Book Cover
Click on the Download option on the upper right.

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You can choose what format you want your cover output to be. If you are uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing, you’ll need it in JPEG so click “As an image.”

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Canva will do the work of preparing and converting your photo and download it to your computer.

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Step 8: Marvel at Your DIY Book Cover
Now you’ve got your cover! Aren’t you proud of yourself? You should be!

The Contemplative Chipmunk

Was this helpful? If so, share it with someone you think might benefit from it. And stay tuned for my next “How to” post. 

Only registered users can comment.

    1. Hi Lee! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. With images, you always need to make sure that either you or wherever you get them from (in this case, Canva) has distribution rights. Many times there is a limit on the number of copies you can make. For instance, let’s say you’re only allowed to make 1,000 copies of an image and you sell 5,000 books. You’re going to owe legal fees if you go over. If you aren’t sure, shoot the folks at Canva an email and ask if you have a particular image you want to use. It’s good to cover your bases and I wouldn’t leave that to chance if I were you. Hope that helps!

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