Guidelines for Placing Artwork on Your Cover

Once you’ve selected your artwork for your paperback cover, you next have to prep and place it on the document that you’ll use to build the total cover.

This can be the most time-consuming part of the cover creation process, but not rushing through it is vital. Get the artwork wrong, and you’ll lose sales, if only because potential readers will think the writing probably is as unprofessional as the cover.

Follow these guideline when prepping and placing your artwork:

  • Use a sharp, quality picture of a single, recognizable object – That means ensuring the photo is at least 300 dpi and slightly larger than the size that must be uploaded when you self-publish. If you go with a lower dpi or a smaller size, the photo will appear pixelated or blurry. In addition, since the cover potential buyers will see is literally the size of your thumb, the illustration or photograph on the cover should not be complex or detailed. All of that simply will get lost in the small size and look like colors splattered on the screen.
  • Properly crop and touch-up the picture – The picture needs to be shaped so that it is proportionately the same as the thumbnail. If the thumbnail is two inches tall by an inch wide, then the photo itself needs to be twice as tall as it is wide; a photo that is three times as tall as it is wide won’t work and will need to be cropped. Further, don’t distort (or change the aspect ratio) of the picture to force it to fit the thumbnail’s dimensions. Finally, if you’ve taken the photo yourself, ensure its coloration is good and that red-eye is removed.
  • Leave space on the photograph for the text – Decide in advance where the title, subtitle and byline (the author’s name) will go on the cover. The object in the picture should not be covered (or at least mostly not be covered) by the text. For example, if the cover photo is of a sunflower, leave a sufficient amount of blue sky above the blossom where the title can go and some mostly mono-colored grass below the blossom where the byline can be placed.


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.