How to Make a CreateSpace Book Cover in Photoshop

Are you planning on self-publishing through CreateSpace and aren’t sure how to begin creating your book cover? Today, I’d like to demystify the process.

Lately, I’ve been immersed in creating the cover for my upcoming SF adventure novel “The Truth Beyond the Sky”. And I’ve really been enjoying the process, despite the fact that this project has completely confiscated my life as only graphics work can.

First, a common-sense disclaimer: I have been developing my skill as a graphic designer for over ten years, so don’t expect your result to look like mine. And if you’re a newbie to design, you’d be better off using CreateSpace’s Cover Creator.

If that didn’t scare you off, then you’re ready to proceed. (And for Avani’s sake, please do NOT use MS Paint.)

How to Use CS’s Cover Template in Photoshop

  1. Finish writing your book (Seriously, that’s the more important bit. And plus, how long it is will determine how wide the book spine is!)
  2. Layout your book in Apple Pages or MS Word. (I recommend you use one of CreateSpace’s “interior” templates to make sure that the margins and sizes of the pages of your book are correct.)
  3. After laying out your book, you’ll learn a Very Important Number. Namely, the number of pages in your entire book.
  4. Go to CreateSpace’s Template generator and enter:
    • The “Interior Type” — which will be B&W for most books, unless you want full color pictures inside of your book.
    • Trim size — which is the actual size of the book. Vast majority of fiction books are 6×9″ or 5.5×8.5″. (The Truth Beyond the Sky is 5.5×8.5″.)
    • Number of pages — which you know now! (TBTS is around 300 pages.)
    • Paper Color — which tends to be “cream” for fiction and “white” for nonfiction.
  5. Hit “Build Template”! — This will generate a template for your book, taking into account trim size, bleed, and the number of pages for the spine width. More pages = Thicker Spine.
  6. Download the resulting file. After you unzip it, you will get folder containing a PDF and a PNG versions of your template.
  7. Open the PNG version in Photoshop (or similar program). You will notice that it’s pretty huge. Probably around 5700×3900 pixels. This is because printed work should be at a resolution of at least 300 pixels per inch.
  8. Create a new layer, use the paint bucket to fill it with white, and then set the opacity to 90%. (This way you can still see the guidelines faintly, but when you’re done, you can easily block the guidelines out for the final printout.)
  9. Play around. Seriously, play! Experiment with different typefaces and sizes. Experiment with stock photos from (just be sure to follow the image license). Above all, give yourself at least 10 hours total of brainstorming and polishing before you even begin to feel good about the result. A good cover takes time. You may want to get feedback from people whose taste you respect. (Also be sure that your cover fills or exceeds the bleed area. Read the instructions on the template. It’s so important, I’ll say it again: Read the instructions on the template.
  10. After you’ve achieved a result that you’re happy with, choose “Save as” in the menus, and choose “Photoshop PDF” (or just PDF) as the format.
  11. Upload the resulting PDF to CreateSpace!

Note: Keep in mind that this template will only work when submitting a book to CreateSpace. For other book printers, you’ll need to see what they offer.

Progress on The Truth Beyond the Sky book cover

At the very least, I hope that the tutorial above points you in the right direction. If you’re totally lost, I may be able to offer some help on twitter… if you ask kindly.

The proof is in the pudding with these types of things though, so I’ve put my own progress with the book cover below. Perhaps it will be helpful. You’ll also notice that I’ve extended the guidelines in the last image in order to help me cut and fold test prints. This is not strictly necessary, but since I’m printing out test copies at home before I even order a proof from CreateSpace, I’ve found them especially helpful. 🙂

CreateSpace book cover template (step 1)

Laying out my type onto the template (step 2)

Polished book cover (step 3)

Coming together quite well, I’d say.