Quick note: I use Canva Pro, and some of the features I talk about are not available in their free plan. Before Canva added those features, I taught myself a few things in GIMP, a free version of Photoshop. (Find it here: https://www.gimp.org/downloads/) It will be up to you to learn the things you don’t know. And as always, there are no affiliate links in this post.
Because of the changes KDP made to their template generator and the updates Canva added to their software, the blog post I wrote last summer on how to use Canva to create a full wrap paperback cover is basically obsolete. The good news is KDP took away the need to do any math, and I think that will make a lot of people happy. Oh, and the CMYK vs. RGB issue if you want to publish on IngramSpark is gone as well, since Canva (on the Pro Plan) added the option to download your PDF in either.
While there are some things that still pertain to doing your cover in Canva such as making sure your stock photos are 300 dpi so your cover isn’t pixelated, there is a lot that has changed, too, so let’s dive in.
Before you start, you’ll want to make sure you have a formatted manuscript. This includes all your front matter and back matter, your dedication page, acknowledgments, about the author, etc. If you do it yourself with Word, Vellum or Atticus, InDesign or other, you can make changes whenever you want (and you probably will). KDP gives you a 10 page grace, so don’t go crazy. If you hire out, you’ll need the total number of pages of the formatted manuscript that you’ll upload into KDP or IngramSpark and the trim size you’ve chosen for your book.
Once you have that, you can download the cover template that will show you the bleed areas to stay away from when creating your cover. Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/cover-calculator and enter in all the information they want.
1. Paperback or hardback That’s your choice, and I would imagine the instructions on how to do the cover are the same. I’ve never done a hardback so I don’t know if it’s worth the time or not.
2. Because you’re not creating a coffee table book or a cook book that requires colored pages (those projects are beyond the scope of this blog post) choose a black and white interior.
3. Cream pages for fiction, white for non-fiction is usually the norm. Your page color is attached to your ISBN number, so you can’t change your mind after you publish.
4. Page turn direction is left to right, but if you choose the wrong one, the template will show you a cover with the back on what would normally be the front. Just go back and change it.
5. I choose inches.
6. Choose your trim size. Trim size is also attached to your ISBN so you can’t change the size of your book unless you republish. If you have a very long book, you may want to go with 6×9 due to printing costs in KDP. Look at what other authors in your genre are doing. Amazon makes it easy to find the product information of any paperback book. I used to go with 5×8, but under my new pen name I’m going with 5.5×8.5 for all my books. You’ll need to tell your interior formatter which size you’re going with as well.
7. Enter the page count. This determines the thickness of your spine. (Press Enter if the yellow button doesn’t light up.)
8. Click Calculate Dimensions.
With the new way KDP offers you the template, all you need for the canvas size in Canva are the numbers for the full cover. The width is 12.045 and the height is 8.75. Before, you used to have to do the math (adding the front and back covers and spine and bleed) to figure out this number, but not anymore.
Click download template on the lower left. It will come in a ZIP file. Open the file and save the PNG under a name you’ll remember so you can find it to upload it into Canva.
The template will have all the information you entered into the template creator and will remind you of the canvas size: 12.045 (width) x 8.75 (height).
In Canva, on the home page, you’ll want to do Custom Size:
There, you’ll enter in the numbers that the KDP template gave you:
Click Create New Design.
When you do that, you will have the exact sized canvas you need to fit the template you downloaded.
Adjust it like you would any picture or element you use in Canva.
And really, it’s that easy. No more math. No more guessing the canvas size. This is my template for the first book in my King’s Crossing Series. I’m using a 5.5×8.5 trim size, the pages of the book are 318 and I print on cream paper.
In my other blog post, I took you through the steps on how to use the template, and I can do that here. I’ll keep going with the first book’s cover.
Using the transparency, you can see the bleed lines I’ll need to stay away from when adding text. It’s why I build on top of the template, but you can always guess, and then using transparency, put the template on top of your finished cover and see if you stayed away. That’s a lot of adjusting if you’re not used to making covers, especially text sizing on the spine, but you’ll do what works for you.
Next I darken the image and add the guy. I pay for Pro, so I’m not sure what all the special features are available in the free plan but I think the background remover is worth the price alone.
Remove his background and darken him up. I play with the brightness and contrast until I like how he looks against the background.
Canva has a lot of cool elements that I’ve started using, and I don’t need GIMP as nearly as often as I used to. Because I like his size, but the photo is cut off toward the bottom, I needed something that would hide that and make the title font and my author name pop. So I found a black gradient element that I use and put it at the bottom.
This black gradient is perfect for what I need it to do:
Now I have space for the title and my author name. Canva Pro offers a lot of font options, too, and while I try to buy my own just for my own peace of mind, sometimes I do use theirs, but I always give attribution on my copyright page at the front of my books.
The font I’m using for the title is Better Saturday and Playfair Display.
This is why I build on top of the template. So I can see where to place the text so it’s a safe distance from the bleed marks.
When you’re doing the spine text, you can zoom in to see the bleed lines clearly.
Print on Demand is iffy at best, and I’m cutting it close with CRUEL. I’ll make that a bit smaller to give the printers some wiggle room. There’s always someone on Facebook complaining their spine text isn’t centered, but I’ve given up worrying about it. It’s nothing you can control. Just give the printer enough space to mess up so your text doesn’t bleed onto the back or front cover.
Add your name and imprint to the spine if you want and then do the blurb or whatever else you’re going to put on the back cover. I’ve only added my author photo with my bio one time. I also skip putting the barcode white box on the back. KDP will add it for you if you leave that space blank.
Keeping the transparency low on the background lets you see that the text for the blurb isn’t too close to the edges.
You’ll want to tweak it, of course, but when you change the transparency to 0 you can see how it will look when all the pieces are in place. (Oops, almost forgot the series logo.)
In the bottom left of the back cover, I call that the crap corner. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what to put there because there’s not a lot of room for anything, and with the barcode in place, the corner just looks empty. I’ve started putting my author website there for lack of anything better and I think it works okay. Like I said, I leave the barcode box blank. Both KDP and IngramSpark will add it if you don’t buy or make your own barcode. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur has a free barcode creator if you want to create your own barcode. You can find it here. Barcode Creator. (Okay, I lied. I added it so you can see what it looks like.)
One of the updates that surprised me was when Canva added the choice (for Pro Plan) to download in RBG or CMYK. IngramSpark prefers the CMYK and KDP, I don’t think, cares. I’ve always uploaded an RBG because that’s all Canva has offered in the past.
This takes some of the worry off using IngramSpark because I hated seeing their error messages even though I knew what I was doing was okay. My covers always came out fine (POD mistakes aside) so I never worried about it either way, but it’s nice to have the choice.
You can use this cover for IngramSpark, too, but make the text on the spine smaller. Their spines are narrower because of the kind of paper they use. IngramSpark also has a cover template generator, and if you want to make sure you’re in the bleed lines, you can download it and lay it on top your cover. If you want to keep both, duplicate your KDP cover and name them, indicating their appropriate platforms. Using your transparency, you can adjust the font and then delete it when you’re done.
As you can see, I would want to adjust the title on the spine because it’s narrower than KDP’s template. I haven’t found there to be any other difference.
Adjust the text so they are still centered, and you’re done with covers for both templates and platforms.
What I really love doing for a series is saving the first book as a jpg or png, and then laying that over the other books in the series so all the elements are in the same place. I was actually really lucky with the pages in my books, and I was able to use the same template for 4 of the 6 books.
That was convenient because I could duplicate the cover and then swap out the guy and change the titles, and I knew everything would be the same size and in the same exact place. I don’t always expect to be that lucky, though.
Here’s what the finished product looks like. The cover looks a bit washed out, but that’s the photo and I don’t think it needs adjusting in real life. I can move the black gradient over a bit though, closer to the spine, but otherwise, I think it’s pretty good.
I think I covered everything there is to know with the updates. If you have a cover from a designer and you need to resize it, entering the numbers and generating your own template for the numbers and plopping them into Canva is easy. Another update Canva Pro added recently is you’re able to upload PDFs, not just PNGs, JPGs, and JPEGs. I haven’t needed to try it yet, but I was excited about the new things Canva is adding for us! Canva Pro also has a resize option that I’ve used for my large print books and it works pretty well.
I hope the new instructions are helpful!
Let me know and thanks for reading. 🙂
Quick Resource Links:
Atticus is a new interior formatting software created by Dave Chesson and his team at Kindlepreneur. Atticus is available for all computers, not only for Mac like Vellum is. You can find Atticus here. If you have a Mac and want to play with Vellum, you can try it for free. They’ll charge you only if you want to generate files. Find Vellum here. If you don’t have the cash for either, but still want to do it yourself, KDP also supplies interior templates with bleeds and gutters and front matter in place. Download the template with sample content. Delete theirs and copy and past your own into the template. You can find info about the interior templates here. (That is actually how I formatted my books before I bought Vellum.)
Canva Pro lets you upload fonts into your toolkit. I find lots of cheap fonts at Creative Fabrica, and there are some free for commercial use fonts at 1001 Fonts.
There’s a great gal in the Design Resources Hub group on FB who posts whenever Creative Fabrica has free or discounted bundles. You can join the group here.
Developing your eye takes time and practice. Looking at Canva templates and the top 100 in your genre on Amazon can teach you a lot. You can look up Canva Templates here.
GetCovers is a cheap place (popular and trustworthy, they are based in Ukraine) to find covers for your books if you don’t want to make your own. (They also have a very informative marketing newsletter if you want to sign up.) I’ve started looking through them for practice. This cover was in one of their Tweets; I follow them on Twitter. I thought it looked easy enough to duplicate so I tried using only Canva tools. I could probably do better if I took more time, but I think I did a good job. Because of the elements that you’ll have at your disposal, you won’t be able to get everything right, but the practice is invaluable.