Resources for Learning Graphic Design
These skills are useful for layout of the interior pages of low-content books and the covers of all book types.
Learning Graphic Design Skills for KDP Publishing
One of the most common questions posted in Facebook groups is something like “I’ve published 50 books but have no sales. Can someone tell me what I’m doing wrong?” There can be a few reasons for no sales like the niche has too much competition, the niche doesn’t have an audience, or you’ve priced your book too high.
But the most common reason is a poor cover design. Despite the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, on Amazon a book IS judged by its cover. Your book has to stand out in the listing of search results. If the design looks amateurish or the graphics and title don’t “pop”, no one is going to click on the book and see your description or A+ content.
You may think it takes an artist’s intuition to design a good cover but that is not true. Some attractive covers are designed using only text or predesigned images that are dragged and dropped onto the cover design. Many covers are created using Canva in this way.
Most bad covers break basic (and simple) layout rules like bad contrast or type. Some of the common problems I see are bad alignment, colors that don’t go together, poorly matched fonts, or too many fonts. These basics are easy to learn when you know where to look.
If you have a book that you know has a good interior, price, and description but is not making sales, an update of the cover should be your first step.
Best Books for Learning Basic Design and Layout Skills
Let’s take a look at some resources for learning the basics of graphic layout design.
The best book I invested in for learning about layout and design was Robin Williams’ Non-Designer’s Design Book
The Non-Designer’s Design Book packs a lot of information into its 240 pages. It starts with the basics of design: proximity, alignment, contrast, and repetition. It then covers color theory and has a large section about designing with type. The book is filled with examples demonstrating each of the concepts it teaches.
Ms. Williams’ has been producing straightforward and highly received books on design for 20 years. This should be the first book anyone serious about learning the fundamentals of graphic design obtains for their reference shelf.
On YouTube, Satori Graphics https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoeJKtPJLoIBqWq4o8TDLpA does a great job of explaining graphic design fundamentals. I’ve learned a lot watching his videos where he compares bad and good designs and layouts. He also has a lot of tutorials on the use of Adobe Illustrator.
Visme: https://ww.youtube.com/watch?v=mOA0WH00reA&list=PLy8gz52B1hF5odTORN27bItuQzn6PLqJB posts videos on a variety of topics. The link included here is for his graphic design playlist. His explanations of color theory are especially helpful.
If you’re an Adobe product user, Robin Williams also has books of tips and techniques for Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign. They’re a little dated since the Adobe Tool Suite has gone through updates over the years. But the content is still useful and the examples still apply, though you may have to hunt around in the application’s menus to find where options have been moved.
The Non-Designer’s InDesign Book – this book was particularly helpful to me as I struggled with figuring out how to use InDesign when I first got it.
The Non-Designer’s Illustrator Book – some features in Illustrator, like the pen tool, can be hard to get your head around without a good reference book.
The Non-Designer’s Photoshop Book – I don’t think one day passes where I’m not using Photoshop. Thankfully, this book helped with some of the deep dive options.
I also found the book below useful. It’s a textbook. The projects in the book put a lot of focus on integrating the workflow between the use of the Adobe suite of products.
Graphic Design Portfolio CC 2019 The Professional Portfolio: Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign
Design Composition Basics
See the free tutorial at GCF Global to learn about the five basic principles of layout and composition.
Learn more about the basics of graphic design from this article, Design 101: The 8 graphic design basics you need to know
Here is a complete course on creating a cover using Adobe InDesign
Color theory sets the fundamental guidelines around color combinations and harmony. Learn more about color theory here: https://www.designwizard.com/blog/design-tips/color-theory
Color Hunt has a large number of prebuilt color themes to choose from.
Flat UI Colors is also a good site for finding good color combinations.
Adobe has a digital color wheel for creating pleasing palettes found here https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel and in addition, you’ll find tools for testing that colors palettes are accessible to color blind people.
If you need some inspiration or reference images, this listing of over 200 image sites will help: Resource List: Free Image Sites
Be sure you understand the licensing terms for any image you use and be careful not to infringe on someone’s copyright.
Your book’s cover is probably the most important element in making sales. With time and practice, you can create an attractive cover. The information here is presented to help you build the skills needed to do so. When starting out keeping production costs low will require you to manage many tasks – layout design is just one of them.
But if you have the budget to pay a professional designer to create your cover a few options are:
- Fiverr (low cost – hit and miss on finding a good designer)
Once you have a book cover designed, you can convert it to a 3D mockup for use on your website or social marketing campaign for free at Adazing