Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Graphic Design 101

There are a number of mistakes I see people commonly make with fonts on book titles:  word spacing, letter spacing, line spacing, outlining, and shadowing. There is also poor color choice, and the over-usage of common fonts.

For today’s example, I’m going to use the title of my best-selling YA story, ME & TIMOTHY COOPER. I have started by putting it as black text on a white background on two lines. My font is Arial, a standard computer font.




There’s a number of things wrong with this look. One, the lines are too far apart. Here’s your first tip:

1. You do not have to type two-lines of text in the same text window. I almost always use separate text boxes with multiple lines of text. Then I can space them however and wherever I want.





This looks better, but still, so far as text style, it’s incrediblyboring. So here’s a second key:

2. You don’t have to use standard computer fonts. There are TONS of free unique fonts out there. Branch out. Also, don’t limit yourself to only one font on a book cover. I’ll use three or four most times – two or three for the title, one for my name, etc.

Plus, I don’t always use the same font between letters. The “M” in “Me” can be one font. The “e” another. The “T” in “Timothy” a third, and so on. I can use separate text boxes for each of these.

I do this A LOT with cursive fonts. Often, I don’t like the uppercase letters, so I’ll substitute with one that looks better. Take a look at the letter L in several fonts, and you’ll see what I mean.





3. Using different fonts, also enables me to fix letter spacing. This is a particular problem in cursive fonts. If we look at the word “Love” typed all in one text window using one font, in this case, Brock Script, it looks okay, but the L is a little far from the "ove".



Let’s separate the letters. Using the same font but two text boxes, look at the change in results.




This also enabled me to change the letter size between the “L” and the “ove.” I’m not restricted to the same height or width from the capital to the lower case. This technique gives you infinite possibilities.

Along this line, look at the final result of ME & TIMOTHY COOPER. I wanted the title to fit on the boy’s shirt. I also wanted it to look like a girl’s handwriting, so I used two separate fonts in three separate text windows: “Me &” is one; “Timothy” is the second; “Cooper” is the third. All these were independent of each other, and this allowed me to adjust the spacing as I desired.

Notice, also, I didn’t leave “Me &” horizontal, but angled it some. Don’t feel you always have to have your text level and centered.



4. This next point is my pet peeve. Outlining. I’m just going to state it up front. HEAVY OUTLINING LOOKS UNPROFESSIONAL. (The following example makes me cringe.)




I get the purpose, to help the text stand out on a busy background, but with only minor exceptions almost 100% of the time it looks cheap and tacky. There are other ways to place text on a busy background without the use of outlining, so just make the point to avoid it entirely.

5. Shadowing is a super way to highlight text. And here’s a good point: Don’t limit yourself to black or gray shadows. On the cover for Love & Roses, I used pink and green. I also spaced the shadows way out from the letters to give a double effect. (Notice, once again the text isn’t level and horizontal, but tilted, going back to my previous point.)

I’d much rather use shadowing than outlining any day. If I find myself forced to use outlining, I make it more transparent, lowering the opacity to about 30%.




6. My final point on fonts involves color. Certain color combinations do NOT work. Red text on black background, for one. It’s too harsh on the eyes. I like to match the color of the text to the photos I’m using. With only a few exceptions, I’m not going to have a red/gold image with blue text, or a blue/yellow image with red text. The color of the font can make or break the effect you’re going for.

I glean font ideas by viewing book covers done by other artists. Doing this, I’ve learned what I hate as well as what I like. Below are a few of my own covers with more complicated font choices.


 This cover has five fonts. The "And" is a font as is the swirly to the left of my name. I have seven text boxes: "The Life Times Of"; "And"; "L" in Lucas; "ucas McGilley"; "A Young Adult Novella", my name, and the swirly.



Here, there are three fonts:  "Love After" ""Snowfall" and my name. Notice, how I overlapped "Love After" and "Snowfall". I could do this because I used separate text boxes.




 Glass isn't a font color at all, but a texture created from a JPG image. I did this using Photoshop. You see this also in the cover for my book, SUIT.

I hope you found this helpful. Too look through other covers I've done, both for myself and other authors, visit my blog.



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Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography 
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

1 comment:

Lynnette Bonner said...

LOVE some of these covers! Nicely done! Glass especially stands out - and I'm sure it has nothing to do with the guy on the cover! ;)

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