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Week Three: An Appealing Cover


The cover illustration is the most important illustration in your book. Imagine a picture book wall in a store and all of the covers face out. Squint your eyes and see how your cover would look at a distance. Print out your cover and take it to a book store to see it in relation to the other covers on a picture book wall. It will depend on what books are on the wall, but it will give you an idea of how your cover will look with other books. For example, if your cover were red, it would stand out on the bookshelf below, but if there were lots of red books on this shelf—then less so. This is a home bookshelf instead of a bookstore bookshelf, but what stands out here?



The aqua background with the contrast of the polar bear book shows up better than the aqua background of the baby book on the top shelf.

The yellow with the contrast of the cow shows up.

The deep color of the night sky with an elephant sort of recedes, but in a hefty way.


Now a bit closer:

The "How to find..." with the large text becomes more clear. 

The White large text of "Tress" shows up well.

Notice the penguin book is hard to read the body form of the large penguin? Even though the shape has contrast and holds weight, it doesn't register—so our eye moves on. 



"Forever"'s book cover works in all three scales of viewing: from a distance, from a few feet, and in your hands. Look at the bookshelf below. Look how the eyes of the scuba diver draw in our attention!


Study these samples of interesting covers and why they work.

COLOR: This color is striking and can be interesting from a distance. The icon drawings are charming as is the hand lettered title.

COLOR / PATTERN: This light playful pattern of polka-dots with the red center draws your attention to this book. Notice the fluid lanky type feels acrobatic.

COLOR: Red is always a strong color.

SURPRISE: This delightful twist in expectations, that this ghost is scared instead of being scary.

COMPOSITION / COLOR: This blue sea is just so beautiful and the shift in creating such a high horizon line creates an unexpected image. If I were art directing this piece I would make the type slightly lighter for more readability.

COMPOSITION CREATES FOCAL POINT: That green eye contrasts so beautifully with the orange that we instantly are drawn to it and then we see the Fly. And we are drawn to faces, just as babies are drawn to faces.

COMPOSITION: The feeling of burrowing in and getting a sweet peek at this bucolic scene represents the experience of reading this book.

BOLD FRESH: This Is a sketch piece for an album cover. It wasn't selected to be used, but I'm completely drawn to the bold use of color and interesting shapes. The type is not that readable, but some images are so interesting that the function is less important. I am willing to spend sometime figuring out what the type says because I am drawn to the image. However another art director was not willing to risk it.

INTERESTING SUBJECT: This dressed seal is so charming you are likely to pick up this book.

INTERESTING OBJECT: The air balloon symbolizes a poetic adventure, combined with the lion, creates an undeniable curiosity.

EXPRESSION: These eyes make such a strong image. I'm reminded of those studies that say babies are drawn to shapes that look like a face. I feel like this image taps into that innate human reaction.

IDENTIFYING CHARACTER: This story is about Gaston and the chair sets his environment.

SCENE SETTING: The use of lush edging creates the scene for Peter Pan, the center is more neutral so we can clearly see Peter Pan. The textures are beautiful and the hand lettered type reflects the angular feel of the figure and knife.

BEING LITERAL: The play on the type is great and sums up the story.

BEING LITERAL: It is all about the wardrobe after all. The wardrobe is my favorite part of this book.

SUMS UP THE STORY: This book is about all these one thousand things. This clever cover brings them outside of the book.

SUMS UP THE STORY: Again is an example of a perfect synopsis of what is inside.

... and again.

SUMS UP THE STORY: We get a clear idea of different homes right away.

CONTRAST: This is not a children's book, but the combination of the pencil lettering with the very detailed realistic and the cropping of the bird gives this cover sort of a sublime horror.

HUMOR: This is just funny! Great clear type and furry feet. The combination of the sweet, cheerful background and furry feet wonderfully sums up the Hobbit.

CREATIVE COMPOSITION: This is just beautiful use of front and back cover. The horse makes for a great neutral space for type.

Then there are always exceptions to rules.... Maira Kalman's Chicken Soup Boots relies on your curiosity to decipher the cryptic cover.

And then again, here is the back of the cover. Willing to give it a try, but ultimately limited faith in the reader!




Design your book cover. Tell us what techniques you used to create an eye-catching cover.


1) It's nice if your title is not too long. Generally, the type should be designed so the title is clear and readable. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: such as Chicken, Soup, Boots by Maira Kalman. 



2) Will your cover stand out when seen at a distance? from a few feet? and in your hands?


3) Color, contrast, and composition can be used to make a cover engaging.


Have fun!! I'm looking forward to seeing your creations! 


I hope you enjoyed this lesson.


Kristen | Brooklyn, NY 

© 2018 by Kristen Balouch

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