How to Design Your Cover’s Background

Sometimes when self-publishing, the artwork you’ve selected doesn’t fill the entire cover. In that case, the background of your document that you’re building the cover on will show. You’ll want to select a background that works well with your photo and allows readers to easily see your title and byline.

Begin by ensuring the background complements the artworks’ dominant colors and the title’s colors. At this stage, you probably just know the artwork’s dominant color. You can upload your artwork to a color palette generator. There are several of them online that you can use for free; to find them, simply type “color palette generator from photo” into your favorite search engine. Personally, I like the palette generators at Cooler and Canva. You’ll then get a set of six colors that are in your photo or hues that complement those colors.

Select the lightest of the colors in the palette for your background color. Usually the background of a book cover is light so as not to distract from the artwork. This means that the color of the title and byline must be dark so the letters will stand out. For example, on a white background you’d use black lettering. Usually black is your best bet, but there may be a hue of black or of a dark blue in the generated palette that will work for your lettering.

Sometimes, though, the background needs to be dark to work with the photo. In that case, the color of your title and byline must be light, for example, yellow lettering on a royal purple background. In that case, select the darkest color in the generated palette for your background and the lightest one for your title.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.