Friday, January 22, 2021

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Fonts, Titles, Series Logos (Part Three)

In Part I of this series of DIY graphics design tutorials, we reviewed the need to find photos that will work for your projects as well as saving the links to those photos somewhere that you can find them later. Click here to review Part I, In Part II, we went over the basics of planning a series and choosing photos, cropping, the use of filters and planning for a series of covers, so click here to review Part II.

Today we’re going to concentrate on creating titles, series “logos”, taglines, etc. In other words, all the WORDS you see on the book cover.

First, a few simple rules to follow. Sure, you can break them, but if you do, make sure you know you’re breaking them for the better good.

A goofy example highlighting contrast

1) Contrast. Fonts need to STAND out and the best way for that to happen is to have sharp, clear fonts that contrast with the background. This doesn't mean that you have to ALWAYS use white against a black background, or black font against a light background, but if you narrow the gap between dark/light too much, it might make your title hard to read. Make sure you view thumbnails of your project before you get too far along in the process.

Another goofy example. But it is pretty cool. lol

2) Generally, don’t "fade out" or make cover fonts transparent. While It looks really cool while you’re working on it, when your readers view the thumbnail cover, it might be hard to read the words. Again, there are exceptions. A BIG, BOLD title with HIGH CONTRAST can work well with a bit of transparency. Again, just be aware of what it looks like on a thumbnail, which is what the bulk of our readers see these days. In the example above, the fading works and makes this fake title pop. I used two fonts and two colors, but both stand out great against the black background.

3) Don’t use too many fonts on your cover. TWO styles are fine. In some cases, you might use one font for your title (or a combination of fonts that create the look you want like the Black is the Night above), a different font for a series logo, and a different font for your author name.

4) Titles can work well as ALL UPPER CASE or lower case, depending on the font you choose. My examples above are all upper case. There's no hard and fast rule here. Readability is job #1, followed quickly by catching the reader's eye.

5) Generally, the author’s name on the cover will be ALL UPPER CASE. This isn’t a RULE, but it truly does help your name stand out better. Well known authors tend to have their last name really BIG, bold, and uppercase (KOONTZ). And some authors have a “trademark” style for their name that’s printed on the cover of all their books. Again, there’s not a rule of thumb on this, but just be aware that sometimes lowercase names are harder to see on thumbnails, and depending on the font you choose, you might even opt to make your name bold.

Now, let’s move on to the actual programs I use to create the words that go on my covers.

I use Picmonkey (I talked about this program more in Part II of this series), to design my book covers, but if I can’t quite find the right font, I’ll open Word Swag on my phone and play around. Picmonkey has added more bells and whistles over the years where you can curve fonts, but it still takes a bit of time, and each step is a conscious effort to click and decide how to turn this, how to adjust that. I just haven’t felt the love for design for TITLES and SERIES TITLES in Picmonkey yet. 

Enter Word Swag.

Word Swag is an app. Word Swag is available for IOS and Android (I think), but if it’s available for desktop/laptop, I haven’t found it, but since I don’t really need it on my desktop, I haven’t searched hard for it. I’ve had the app for a while, but I think it costs $4.99. That’s a one time fee, and I seriously love it. I’ve definitely got my money’s worth.

WordSwag is a simple, on the go type app. It’s not something you have a lot of control over as in being able to go back to it and keep working later. But it’s so easy and quick that you can recreate a title or meme if you didn’t quite like what you’ve previously created. Quick redo, then AirDrop it to your laptop.

Oh, AirDrop. STOP THE PRESSES: I just realized that I use an Apple iPhone and an Apple MacBook Air, so I can easily share between both using AirDrop (love it!). I'm not sure if Android users and Windows users have things this easy between platforms. I searched and there is such a thing as “Nearby Share” for Android users, but that's as far as I delved into that realm.

Okay, back to Word Swag. In a nutshell, Word Swag is just what it says … WORD SWAG. Perfect name for this little app. You can start with a photo or background and add a quote to make a meme, or just use the transparent background if you’re creating titles, series logos, etc. So, for titles, the transparent background is your go-to, because when you create your lovely title, you’ll want a transparent background so you can add it to your gorgeous cover in Picmonkey (or Publisher, Canvas, or BookBrush, etc.) I suppose someone could create an entire cover in Word Swag. I haven't tried that yet. Hmmm... :)

When you open Word Swag, it looks like screen #1 above. It’s pretty intuitive, but LIBRARY goes to the photos on your device, FREE PHOTOS takes you to a world of free photos from Unsplash and Pixabay. Use the search feature and have some fun making memes and all kinds of PR. HOWEVER, for today’s tutorial, we want to make a cool title for our book. As you can see on screen #2 above, you need to choose TRANSPARENT BACKGROUND. And of course, #3 shows what a transparent background looks like. The light/darker gray checkerboard lets you know that this is a transparent background.

HOT TIP: Many times, you will need to create WHITE TEXT on a transparent background. You’ll be able to see your white text when you save it to your photos, but if you crop this image, it goes wonky. I just always save this on my computer so that I know exactly what it is, and that it’s white text on a transparent background. ie GYPSY_WHITE FONT TRANSPARENT

Deciding on Colors for your Title

What makes Word Swag so cool is that it offers some unusual fonts. When you type in your title, you can quickly play with the styles by rolling the dice (yes, literally… well, not LITERALLY, but by clicking a button) and trying various color options. When I was playing with The Gypsy Bride title, I thought a blue title would look good (bringing out the blue in the sky and the blue on the sleeves of the red dress), but turns out I needed white for contrast, so I had to go back and redo it. I tried white by itself and it looked washed out. Then I add a black shadow and ended up with just what I wanted.

I’m sure Picmonkey (or Canvas, Publisher, Book Brush, etc.) can and does create lovely titles, but if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, try Word Swag. I just like the idea of a REALLY COOL title treatment for a book. Maybe that’s just me. lol

Here's a short video of how I made the Seekerville heading at the very top of this blog. Fingers crossed that the video plays correctly. There is no sound, except some clicking when I'm typing, I think. It's a Screen recording on my phone.

Last, here are two more resources that I have not really tried out yet. Fontmeme has some really, REALLY cool fonts, but I haven’t researched the site enough to know if the quality is sufficient for book covers. The jury’s still out, but if the quality is good enough, the options would be wonderful.

And, I haven’t researched Heritage Type Co. either, but I LOVE their fonts. I’m tempted to just buy it for a late Christmas present to myself. My mom gave me some money for Christmas, so I really, really should! But after I research some more. I'll need to make sure the fonts work with the software I'm using. :)

Next month, I'll talk more about designing split covers and pairing title treatments with the cover design. Let's talk. If you have questions, I'll do my best to answer them.

Also, I'll be out of pocket some today, but I'll stop by as often as I can.

Ready for Part Four of this series? Click below...

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four) 


  1. This is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing this info with us, Pam! Your insight into creating and layering and directing us is marvelous. You rock!

    1. Glad you stopped by so early, Ruthy. Yawn! lol

      Every little tidbit helps, doesn't it? Even for those of us who don't plan to design for ourselves, knowing a bit about how a designer approaches it, helps. Years ago, my entrepreneurial boss tapped me to design a website for a whole new line/new company he started. (Never mind that I'd never done a website.) Hours and hours, WEEKS later, he's reviewing it and wants to change some (to him) minor thing on the homepage. Ugh. It was truly NOT a simple fix like he thought it was.

      So, all this to help Bethy not wring your neck when you suggest something like... removing a male cover model's beard. HA!!

  2. Another great post, Pam. As a digital scrapbooker for many, many years I have accumulated a LOT of fun fonts and it's great when you find just the right one for the word/phrase you want to use. I can imagine how fun a book cover will be to design (someday)!

    1. Glynis, what program do you use? I'm hoping that if I get the Heritage Co. package that it works with Picmonkey. I'm not keen on learning a new design software. :(

    2. I use an old version of Photoshop, which I've been learning over the last 15 years or so. Now that it's only available through a subscription and I don't really scrapbook much anymore it doesn't make sense for me to upgrade, so I might be looking at alternatives. I don't relish learning a new system either.

  3. Very nice post . You describes easily and professionally. And it is very helpful for the beginner. That why beginner understand easily. Thanks for sharing that. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    I also have a blog.

    Best Photoshop Tutorials

    Don't forget to check it. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I'm definitely shooting for simple, beginner techniques for the DIY folks. Appreciate your insight. I haven't clicked on your link, but did check out the Learn Photo Editing Facebook page. Nice!

  4. I found this absolutely fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great post, Pam. While I don't design book covers, you have no idea how much time I could waste playing around on BookBrush or Canva. Mostly because I'm continually learning. One of these days I need to print out or make a list of the fonts that I like because that's always where the bulk of my time goes. Yes, I'm quite adept at driving myself crazy.

    1. Mindy, I was just thinking that it would be for Picmonkey to have a "favorites" button on fonts and filters I use the most.

  6. Thank you for all the great info, Pam! I'm looking forward to playing around with cover design now that all three installments are done!

  7. Hi Pam:

    This is a great series. I wish the Seekerville home page had a section, (perhaps it could look like an old time movie theater marquee), with links to great series like the one you have created here. Call it "Classic Topics" and post the series in a library as one seamless topic.

    BTW: I love your advice on seeing any artwork as a thumbnail which is how almost all your viewers are going to see it.

    This great advice is often still overlooked with the selection of full size outdoor billboards. The advertiser is shown a small perfect copy of the ad on an art board which he holds in his hands. He looks at it in perfect light from about two feet away. It looks great.

    When the artwork is posted outside, however, with power lines, trees, other billboards in the way, it can be almost unreadable. Sometimes the board is 500 feet away and the cars driving by have only two to three seconds to notice and read it! I've seen full size billboards with small copy that would require the driver to stop his car at just the right time of day,(remember the sun) and park in just the right spot to be able to read it -- or even tell what product the ad is selling! And all these expensive boards were approved!

    One point I might add to your comments: The viewer needs to see the 'forest' as a gestalt and not just as a selection of different 'trees'. The viewer should know within two to three seconds, a single glance, what genre that book is in.

    For example: that first artwork,'Disco Dead', tells me instantly that it is like a William Gibson futuristic computer type book. If it is not in this genre you may have instantly lost the attention of the best prospects to buy that book.

    Get as creative with fonts as you wish as long as they are readable. However, I always follow the advice of the great adverting man, Leo Brunett, "It's not creative unless it sells".

    I believe that's the best advertising advice you could post in any creative agency. :)

    1. "It's not creative unless it sells"

      Love this quote, Vince. Spot on! And you've shared some good advice and tips. Thanks!

  8. Pam, thank you!! These lessons have been so helpful! I'll be storing them all away for when I get brave enough to try doing my own covers. (Just be prepared for me texting you with tons of questions!) haha

  9. Sorry to just make it to the blog, y'all! Babysitting 2 of my grands and my son/DIL are expecting another one soon, so when I go to their house, I do as much work as I can to help out. New babies are wonderful, but I remember the sheer exhaustion of those last few weeks.

    Diving in to read the comments.

  10. These posts related to cover design have been so helpful. For someone without a design background, just getting a handle on the various elements and the terminology feels like a boost. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Jenna. Glad this has been helpful. I really wanted to show that one doesn't have to have a design background or expensive software to create striking covers.

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