Three free tools for DIY book cover design (‘The Bloody King’ cover reveal)

The Bloody King final3last one

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed I mentioned recently that I was close to completing a short(ish) story called ‘The Bloody King’. Whilst the story isn’t quite ready yet (it should be released before the end of next week), the cover is. It is a real departure from my ‘comfort zone’ genres of science fiction and fantasy. I would guess you could say that it’s a crime thriller (you could also say that it is a terrible story, I will leave you to be the judge of that!).

I am not sure where the story came from really. It just popped into my head one day as I was waiting for a train and a distinguished looking old man walked by…

‘The Bloody King’ is quite a lot darker than my other work and, quite frankly, one of the scenes was very difficult to write and made me feel a little uncomfortable. The main character is a man called ‘David May’ and I guess you could call him an anti-hero. David May certainly is not a good man (I think I will leave it at that really, no need for spoilers).

The cover for the short story is at the top of this blog and I would love to know what people think of it. I have written about book cover design before and I have a good relationship with an excellent group of designers called ‘Deranged Doctor Design’ (who I cannot recommend highly enough). The cover for book two of the ‘Adarna Chronicles’ has just arrived and I should be doing the cover reveal in a week or so (I think it is stunning, but then I am a little biased).

With ‘The Bloody King’ I decided that, as it is only a short story and will be priced at under a pound (or dollar if you’re American), I really couldn’t afford to pay for a cover, so I designed it myself (which is kinda why I want to know what people think of it).

I used three tools to design the cover:-

1) A rather brilliant piece of software calls ‘GIMP’, which is a completely free program that does nearly everything that Adobe photoshop can do but without the hefty price tag. If you haven’t heard of GIMP, I would recommend that you google it and, if you are considering trying a little design work of your own then you might even want to download it.

It has to be said that I have been playing with GIMP for about six months now and I still don’t understand how to use a tenth of its features. There is quite a steep learning curve and it takes a long time to get the hang of it (so not for the faint hearted).

2) A website called ‘Fontsquirrel’. Getting good fonts is essential if you want your work to look professional. The problem is that many fonts are covered by copyright licences and cannot be freely used without a (sometimes rather hefty) price tag. The great thing about Fontsquirrel is that the site lists many fonts that are completely free to use in any medium (you have to check the exact conditions of use though, so be careful).

The other great thing about Fontsquirrel is that it allows you to ‘test drive’ the font before you download it. So you can literally type in your book title and it will appear instantly. This is very handy indeed as you never know how your title is going to look in a particular font.

3) The other tool that I used was ‘Morguefile’, which, to be honest, isn’t a tool at all really. Morguefile is a website that offers completely ‘licence free’ stock photo’s for download.

So, ‘The Bloody King’ is out soon and I created the cover for nothing. Was it worth the time? Does it look even slightly professional? You tell me.

For my part, I don’t think it’s as good as what my usual designers could have come up with, but sometimes you just have to economise!

I am still working hard on book two of the ‘Adarna chronicles’ (Phoenix rising) and it is still on schedule for release before the end of July. So back to work for me πŸ™‚

If you like this post why not ‘like’ it below? Or follow the blog (top right) or do something else social networky? πŸ™‚


6 thoughts on “Three free tools for DIY book cover design (‘The Bloody King’ cover reveal)

  1. Imogen Bold

    Great job, Jason! I hear what you saying about budgeting for shorter works. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the software and site. I started to learn GIMP about a month ago, but then reverted to Inkscape (also open source and free) because it’s easier and more intuitive to use than Gimp, but not as flexible and not much use for photographs. It’s mostly for vector / cartoony art.

    I have to check out Morguefile. Thanks! Another good site for free photos is

  2. mobewan

    Have used GIMP before but never heard of the other two. Thanks for posting. They are definitely going in my tools bookmark.

    I like the cover. Simple and clean. The colour scheme on the gun works really well for me, as do the fonts. My only slight reservation is the blue background. It’s unusual. It’s not wrong or bad or anything, just different. I think what jars me is that I can’t see it on a paper back. I know it’s not going to be a print version (is it?) but my mind still sees the thumbnails as actual book covers. Probably just me.

    (I’m now looking round my study to see if I can find covers that colour…)

    Kudos for pulling something so professional together yourself. It’s a great idea for the shorter works.

    1. Jason K Lewis - Writer Post author

      Thanks! Yeah, I know what you are saying about the blue (it used to be green and my wife made me change it! Although I am not sure green was any better…) The cover will never be a print cover so for me the important thing was to make it look visually ‘arresting’ as a thumbnail for sites such as Amazon. Hmmm may have to resist the urge to play with it some more…. I think that much like a piece of writing, a cover is never perfect…. Oh what the heck, may have to try out some different backgrounds, GIMP here I come… πŸ™‚

  3. caharland

    I like the cover, bold and simple. The font is a good choice in my opinion. I love GIMP, I used it for years before I got photoshop.

    I’m not a designer, but there are a few small tweaks I would make. The first is to increase the padding on the left and right slightly to give your title and the gun a little more breathing room. It doesn’t have to be much (maybe just make it match the spacing at the top?). The second is to include a shadow of some sorts under the gun and bullets, as they seem to just hang there.
    I like the blue background (better than green, definitely) but maybe you could try dropping the saturation a few points and darkening the colour slightly to create a more “stormy” shade. Again, just some ideas if you’re looking.

    Also, if you’re after tips and tricks for GIMP, you can find loads of user-made tutorials here:


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