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Book Cover Basics: Depth

Updated: May 5, 2022

As a self-published author of novels and short stories, I sometimes design my own book covers. I fall back on my experience as a graphic designer. I also peruse published books in my genres to see what visual trends are current in cover designs. Lately, I've noticed depth.

book cover of The Bad Death

Depth in design has been around for an age. I see that now but back in the 2010s, I didn't notice depth because so often a fashionable element -- the big face -- provided much of a cover's visual impact. In 2013, "Creative Alchemist" Derek Murphy designed a big face cover for my historical supernatural thriller, The Bad Death.

book cover of People Like Us

I designed a big face cover for my erotic short story, People Like Us. In each design, the big face is in the middle distance, with an image behind it and the book title in front of it.

Today, novels in certain genres often have covers showing more of the figure; not so close up on a face. You notice the background

images more, and though you may not realize it, your eyes are enjoying depth. Here are some great examples:

book cover of To the Sky Kingdom

book cover of Where the Desert Meets the Sea

book cover of Mustard Seed

book cover of Scarlet Carnation

book cover of The Mayhem of Mermaids






Aren't these book covers beautiful? Kudos to the designers! The number beneath each image links to that book's Amazon sales page. Notice how image 1 has sort of an abstract background, could be clouds? I think I also see the background swirling around the female figure, probably implemented by skilled use of Photoshop to bring the background into the foreground. Nice! Obviously 2 and 3 show literal backgrounds, as if the figures in the middle ground are visiting a location. But hey, get 5 with the background contained in a ring! And 4 proves you don't have to have a person as your focal point. The flowers in 4's background look closer than they are, made prominent by the frame at the middle point. So many options! If you're starting out with cover design, consider browsing through books. Make a game of mentally labeling the background, middle ground, and foreground elements. I suggest one reason these covers are so captivating is they draw you in, fool you into thinking you're viewing a world you are one step away from inhabiting. And isn't that what a good book does?

Inspired by these covers, I mocked up several cover ideas in preparation for publishing my latest novel, The Name I Chose.

I used stock images from 123rf. Below each cover idea, I listed the contributing 123rf artists by their username, linking each username to that artist's design catalog. I listed contributors top to bottom in the order the images were used in my cover idea, from the background to the foreground.

My next blog post will probably cover some explanations about how I used the stock images to create the ideas, going into details about how I achieved certain effects. That's as specific as I can get with a prediction, though. I'm always into something. You never know what I'll do next!

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