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How to Make a Basic Cover

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Created on: Jul 29, 2010 10:12 AM by CreateSpaceResources - Last Modified:  Oct 26, 2010 5:56 AM by CreateSpaceBlogger

How to Make a Basic Cover in Adobe® InDesign®

By Kelsea, CreateSpace Design Specialist

I. Know the Physical Properties of Your Book

To begin your cover, you will need to know the trim size and the spine width calculation for your book. To avoid recreating your cover, it's best to wait until you have a final version of your interior file, which will provide the final page count.

Trim Size

The trim size should be selected from the Physical Properties section of your title set-up. Trim sizes are always listed in width x height.

Spine Width Calculation

When looking at your PDF interior file, take note of the PDF page count, not the page count according to the page numbers in your book. For example, even if the first page of your book is not numbered, it is PDF page 1.

The thickness of your paper type is multiplied by your PDF page count. Paper thicknesses are as follows:

  • White: .002252"
  • Cream: .0025"
  • Color: .002347"

For this exercise, we will use a trim size of 6 x 9", white paper type and a page count of 300.

300 X .002252 = 0.6756"

II. Organize Cover Components on your Desktop

Organize your cover materials so that they are easy to access while building your cover file.


You may wish to include a front cover image, back cover image, author photo, publisher logo or other images in your cover. These should be cropped to the exact size you wish for them to appear, flattened, color-adjusted, and ready to place on your cover file.


Any text that you wish to include in your cover should be saved in a word-processing file, edited and spellchecked. This could include back cover text, author biography, title, subtitle, etc.


CreateSpace will add a barcode to your cover at no additional cost; however, if you would like to add it yourself, make sure it is high-resolution (at least 300 dpi), and 1.5" - 2" in width with proportional height. Ideally, this barcode should be 2" wide by 1.2" tall. Once the barcode has been generated, save it as a PDF or JPEG to your computer.

The program used for this article is Adobe InDesign CS4. Additional assistance with Adobe InDesign can be found in the Help section or online at

III. Setting the Document Size in InDesign

In InDesign, select File > New > Document.

Enter the following settings:

  1. Make all margins 0
  2. Enter the number "2" in the columns field
  3. Change the width to 18" and the height to 12"
  4. In the Gutter Margin section, enter your spine width calculation (0.6756")
  5. Press "Ok"


For all graphics, click on the image to enlarge.


Your cover should look like this:



IV. Setting the Parameters of your Cover


Use the Rectangle Tool to create a box on your artboard. The Rectangle Tool is found in the Tools palette.

With the Rectangle Tool selected, click once on your artboard.

A dimensions box will open.


Enter the trim size of your book (6" in the width field and 9" in the height field). Then using the Black Arrow Tool from the Tools palette, move the rectangle to be flush with the spine (center column).

Your cover should look like this:


With the rectangle still selected (highlighted in blue), select Edit > Copy. Then select Edit > Paste. This creates a duplicate rectangle. If it isn't highlighted, use the Black Arrow Tool to select it.

Move this rectangle to be on the other side of the spine and even on the top and bottom with the first rectangle.

Your cover should look like this:



V. Setting the Guides of your Cover for Bleed and Safe Zone Areas

Setting Guides for Trim Size

Pull guides down to the top and bottom and right and left of the rectangles so they line up with each side of the newly-created rectangles. Guides can be pulled directly from your artboard rulers if they are visible. If they aren't, select View > Show Rulers.

Once you have placed guides on the top, bottom, right and left sides, you can delete the 2 rectangles you made. The guides you have just created are your trim lines.

Setting Guides for Bleed

Using the rulers as a guide, measure 1/8" out from the trim lines on all sides and pull guides down and across to mark the measurement. These new guides are your bleed lines.

Additional Guides

You may want to include additional guides to assist in creating your cover file. Creating a horizontal line that marks the center of your cover, and creating two vertical lines on the front and back covers to mark the center is a good idea. The live graphics area (1/8" inward from the trim line) could also be marked with guides.

Any graphics or colors that are intended to bleed should be extended out to the bleed lines. Any text should be placed at least 1/8" inside the trim lines.

Your cover should look like this:



VI. Background Color

Select your Color

Whether you are selecting a background color from the palette, or using a color from one of your cover images, make sure that it is appearing as the foreground color in the Tools palette.

If you have an image already placed in your cover, you can do this by using the Eye-dropper Tool and clicking once on the desired color from the image.

If you do not have any images placed yet, double-click on the foreground square and browse for a color.


Make Your Color Box

Using the Rectangle Tool, draw a square that extends at least to the bleed lines of your cover. We recommend extending the color out further, just to be safe. The color you selected should fill the entire rectangle.

Your cover should look like this:



VII. Adding Text

Front and Back Cover Text

Using the Type Tool, draw a square and then either type or copy and paste your book's title into the square. Next, using the Black Arrow Tool, position the text box on the front cover where you would like it to appear. Follow the same steps for all other cover text, such as subtitle, author, back cover text, etc.

The text color and font is up to you to decide and can be selected by opening the Character Palette under Window > Type and Tables > Character.



Make sure to place all text at least .125" inside the trim lines and do not allow any front or back cover text to extend into the spine area.

Spine Text

Keep in mind that if your page count is under 100 pages, you should not create spine text. Similar to the front and back cover text, create a text box using the Type Tool and type or copy and paste the text you would like to appear on your book's spine. Right-click on the spine text frame and select Transform > Rotate 90 degrees CW. This will turn your spine text so that it appears properly on the cover.


Using the Black Arrow Tool, position the text frame in the spine area. Leave at least 1/8" space between the spine text and the right and left edges of the spine.

The text color and font is up to you to decide and can be selected by opening the Character Palette under Window > Type and Tables > Character.

Your cover should look like this:



VIII. Adding Images

Placing images in InDesign

To start, click on a white part of your artboard to make sure no part of your cover is selected. To place an image on your cover, select File > Place and then select your image from where it is saved on your computer. Click once on your artboard and your image should appear. Use the Black Arrow Tool to position the image where you would like it on the cover. If the image is extremely large or small, instructions on how to scale your image are found on the next page.

If you would like a bleeding image, ensure that the image extends to the bleed lines of your cover. In this example, we have extended the image to bleed only on the bottom and right sides.


Scaling images

To downsize or enlarge an image, click on the Free Transform Tool in the Tools Palette.


While holding down the Shift key, scale the image up or down by using one of the diagonal points on the image. This will maintain the proportions of the image without causing stretching. Keep in mind, changing the size of your image changes its resolution.



IX. Adding Barcode

On the back cover, identify where you would like the barcode to be placed. Using the Rectangle Tool, create a box that is approximately 2" in width by 1.2" in height. The box should be filled with the color white. If another color is selected, double-click on the foreground square to change the color.


When your white square is positioned where you want it, click on your artboard to ensure that no parts of your cover are selected. Then select File > Place and select the barcode file. By using the Black Arrow Tool, position the barcode over the white box so that all parts of the barcode are contained within the box. You may need to scale the white box or barcode to make it fit.


X. Exporting as PDF

When you have completed your cover file and are ready to make a PDF, save the InDesign copy of your file first. Then select File > Export. Name your file and select the location of where you would like to save it.

Click Save.

A settings box should open. Follow these guidelines for creating the PDF settings:

  1. Under Adobe PDF Preset drop-down menu, select the default setting of High Quality Print.
  2. Ensure that all Marks and Bleeds boxes are turned off.
  3. Under Compression, make sure the bicubic downsampling isn't set below 300 pixels per inch.
  4. Click Export.


It's a good idea to run preflight on your PDF cover to check for any errors before submitting your final cover.

Adobe® InDesign® are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. Adobe product screenshots reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

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