Category Archives: design resources

book covers

How to Make Your Book Cover a Creative Masterpiece (Fast!)

Designing your own book cover? Book covers are a complicated beast, but what’s true with t-shirts is true with book covers. When it comes to designing one, you probably have a good idea of what you want, but a not-so-good idea of how to go about getting it. Book covers seem hard to make on your own, but hiring a good designer can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

So, what’s a self-published author to do? Don’t fret.

Whether you’ve never made one before or you’re a fan of the tried and true book cover template, this guide will get you from idea to store shelves in no time.

Know Your Audience

Wrote a steamy beach romance? How about creating a cover with a tanned lifeguard… Maybe in an unbuttoned shirt?

Penned a biography of George Washington? A good bet is a cover with patriotic landmarks and the American flag.

Dreaming up an otherworldly fantasy? Try a picture of cute puppies. Everyone loves puppies.

See how that last one didn’t quite make sense?

Whether your book is a raunchy romance or a fantasy adventure, you need to choose images that connect with your story.

People like familiarity. Don’t copy, but do stick with something that draws in readers. Images help prepare them for the kind of book they’re about to read.

Not convinced of the power of images?

One author made a simple change to his cover design and saw a huge increase in book sales. With a little elbow grease, you can achieve the same success.

Here’s a handy list of questions to ask yourself when choosing your book’s look:

  • What age group is this book for?
  • What do other covers in my genre look like?
  • How do I want readers to feel when they see my cover?
  • Is there an important event or plot point I want to portray?
sample book cover designs

sample book cover designs – Adobe Spark

Use Your Resources

Hiring a photographer is pricey, and doing it yourself just doesn’t work. You don’t have access to the training, time, and equipment you need to do the job. You’ve got to create a cover, but you don’t want to break the bank to do it.

You’ve got to create a cover, but you don’t want to break the bank to do it. Luckily, there are many ways to do it.

Find your image

Thanks to the internet there are tons of quality, low-cost image services out there waiting for you.

Adobe Stock Photos, Shutterstockomg photos, and iStock are a few of the many, many resources at your fingertips.

And the good news? They’re all a quick internet search away.

Get editing

Once you have your photos, you’ll need to do some editing to get them in tip top shape. There’s no need to go buy any fancy image editing software.

Free and easy to use programs like GIMP, Pixlr, and Canva are a few of the powerful tools you can use to work on your images.

Not particularly tech savvy?

It might surprise you to learn that you can even design your entire cover in Microsoft Word.

Stand Out

You’ve chosen an image that suits your theme – well done! You’re one step closer to publishing.

Before you give your book the green light, let’s make sure it can handle the competition.

Take a stroll through your local book store’s Teen Romance section. Notice anything?

About now, you’re probably seeing a lot of covers with red objects on black backgrounds. Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“It worked for Stephanie Meyer. Why can’t it work for me?”

Because no matter how big of a Twilight fan you are, you’re not the author. You’re you, and your book should feel like it came from you, too.

Plus, it’s a little embarrassing when your cover looks exactly like everyone else’s.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the book cover world, it’s the fastest way to lose sales.

Readers will put your book back on the shelf when they realize it’s a copy cat.

Admire that author’s writing, their plot, or their themes – but keep your book cover original. You never know, you could come up with the next big cover idea.

book cover design ideas

book cover design ideas – Adobe Spark

Follow the Principles of Design

There’s a lot to know about the principles of graphic design. What’s true with shirts is also true with everything else; from tiny postage stamps to free business cards or (cheap t-shirts!) to massive billboards.

It can be overwhelming. I’ve distilled it down into the top three heaviest hitters in book cover design.


Fonts are as varied as book genres, and it’s important to look for a perfect fit.

Whether you’re going for whimsical or serious, funny or stoic, it’s crucial to pick a font that represents your book’s core theme.

Fonts need as much design as images do. Be sure to keep them well placed and well spaced. Believe it or not, the font you choose can evoke powerful emotions in the subconscious.

Did you know there’s even an entire psychology behind fonts? Take the time to choose the right font.


If you’ve ever been green with envy, felt yellow bellied or met a bonafide blue blood, then you know colors are just as linked to our feelings as images.

In fact, one study found that participants judged up to 90% of products based on color alone. That’s right, an enticing color can make all the difference.


I can’t stress this enough: let your work breathe. Don’t clutter the cover with minute details or too many characters.

Go with the main theme, one important event, or a major character, and leave space for those images to work their magic.

Write Your Blurb

You’ve finished the front of your book cover, but that doesn’t mean you’re done.

The spine and back cover need your attention too, and the blurb is a good place to start. The blurb is a short summary of your story located on the back cover of your novel.

With the average human attention span down to 8 seconds, (look, a butterfly!) you need to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

Start with an enticing hook, and follow with some light description. Add a dash of mystery and you’ll have a book blurb worthy of its shelf space.

Get Going

With these tips in hand, the only thing left to do is get started. What kind of book cover will you design? Let us know in the comments below.


Behind the Scenes of a Tee Design


@DieselLaws pointed out his behind the scenes mini-tut about how he created his Run That Baseline Hot t-shirt.

This isn’t a full-on step by step tutorial, more of an overview, but it’s always interesting to me to get a glimpse into how other t-shirt designs do their thang. The most interesting part, and something I learned early on, is the impact some black outlines can have on a design. Takes it from a 5 to a 10 in about as many minutes.

Check the whole thing here.


Color Resources for Tee Designers

You’ve been working on a design in your spare time for 5 days straight… and almost everything is perfect. Everything except the colors. You have 4 different variations laid out in illustrator and keep flipping back between them. You’ve already switched the shirt colors half a dozen times, changed your bright red to something a little darker, and completely nixed the navy blue.

But it’s still not right.

pantonephoto attribute iboy_daniel

As designers, we’ve all been there. Choosing the right palette is sometimes the hardest part of the process. And when you have to throw printing considerations into the mix too (will this need an underbase? do I need to use halftones here?) it gets even more fun.

Over the years, we’ve rounded up an arsenal of color tools on the web that have helped us get better and smarter at picking color combinations for our projects. We’re going to share them here today, and hope they help you, too.



This is our top site when it comes to browsing and discovering new color combos. This is a social site, so hundreds of new colors, palettes, and patterns are added over time by users. The built in rating system lets you easily see the most popular and sorting features allow you to discover new submissions.

Color Hunter


The concept is pretty simple: find an image you like, upload it (or enter the URL), and the site will spit back a palette of the colors in the picture. There’s a ton of different sites out there that do the same thing, but the idea is a great way to get inspiration from what’s around you.

ColorZilla for Firefox


Targeted towards web and graphic designers, I think this is a killer tool for anyone who works with colors. ColorZilla is a Firefox plug-in which allows you to color pick from any web page (including graphics) and find out it’s RGB and hex values.

This is GREAT when you find a fantastic image on the web and want to easily capture the colors from it. You can also bookmark and archive your favorites.

PANTONE Formula Guide


If you’re involved in designing tees for screen printing (as opposed to digital or vinyl), then you already probably know that PANTONE is the grand-daddy of color in print. (Never heard of them? It’s time to get educated!)

When you send a spot color design off for printing, these are the colors that your printers will be looking to match to. Be a superhero and ensure that colors come out exactly how you want by specifying all your colors from the Pantone Coated/Uncoated palettes.

Pick up a color guide to make sure that colors on screen match what you’ll actually be getting. They’re $299 from the source itself, but you can find older ones for less on EBay.

Spyder Color Management from Datacolor


How images look on screen vary wildly from monitor to monitor. Factors like monitor manufacturer, model, user settings and even ambient/overhead lighting all influence color display. So it’s all fine and dandy if your artwork looks great on your monitor, but what if your monitor isn’t displaying colors how they really look?

Color management software + hardware (software-only solutions are entirely worthless) does much to solve the problem. Simple walk-through software combined with hardware that can sense (and adjust for) changing light conditions will improve the accuracy of your on-screen colors in just a few minutes.

There’s a tons of different packages out there at different price points, but we use and recommend Spyder.

Got any awesome color resources you use when designing? Share them below in the comments!


How to Create Exploded Isometrics

Want to create your own exploded [insert object here] shirt like the iphone tee we covered a little while ago?

Well now here’s your chance. The folks over at vectortuts have a great write up of how to create your own isometric art using just illustrator and a whole lot of grids. The author walks you through step by step creation using one of ikea’s popular lounge chairs:


Read the whole article HERE.


316 Textures


316 Graphics has released two new texture packs targeted directly towards t-shirt designers.

The textures, high resolution tiffs, are converted to black and white so whether you’re using Illustrator or Photoshop (or that funny editor out of Canada – yes Corel, I mean you), all you have to do is set the fill.

Wear and Tear Volume 1

Paint Volume 1

Each texture pack is just $15 bucks and includes 15 textures. And as if you needed any more incentive to buy: There’s also a special promotion going on from now until 1/30/09.

With every purchase you are entered to win your choice of a iPod shuffle or a $50 gift certificate! Plus a portion of each purchase goes to charity.


Free Vector Pack

UPDATED 4/28/09:

Mr Vector is FINALLY live! In addition to the freebie vector pack here, check out the official site where our first 10 high quality packs are available for just $9.99 each.

The holidays are upon us and we have just the thing for that hard to buy for Tee Designer/Enthusiast on your shopping list:

A vector pack of useful graphical morsels. It just warms the cockles of my heart thinking about it.

But what’s a good vector pack without a few additional goodies?

You get a shnazzy Mr. Vector logo with every download. (No sharp edges for your little ones to hurt themselves on, we promise.) More than that, you get to hear from Mr. Vector himself, the defender of Apparelville.

But the cheesiness doesn’t stop there folks, because this plug isn’t done yet.

You also get an overly large name for this great Vector Pack. We are proud to present (deep breath)… Super Ultra Freebie Vector Pack Deluxe, Volume I.

Oh, I know what you are thinking, “How could I afford all this awesomeness?” Well fret no longer. Due to the charitable giving of the PCT for Hope foundation, you can get all of this great stuff absolutely free. Yep, take a minute to let that soak in. FREEEEEEEEE!

Preview the Pack:

How can you get started? Well, first you will need to download this vector pack of awesomeness (too bad we already named it or that would have been a great name) and then in the spirit of giving, we hope that you will give us some feedback so we can make more of these packs and so that we can make them better and better.

Listen to Mr. Vector Audio Goodness:

(Which we recorded just for this!)


The SUFVPDV1 (Nice Acronym huh?) consists of mostly random vector images rolled into a happy little package which is in .eps format for all your importing needs.

What are you waiting for? Click the link and get free stuff!


(Did you appreciate this FREEBIE from PCT? If so, please float us!)


How to Make Your T-Shirt Shop Stand Out and Sell More

As web designers and t-shirt addicts we’ve learned a few things about what goes into making a t-shirt shop a killer success. So we put together this article on the details that a lot of people overlook when designing their stores. We hope you find it useful.


1. Use clear, simple navigation.

Why? The goal of a store is to SELL STUFF. That’s it. By removing clutter from your navigation and keeping it simple, you avoid confusion and funnel users quickly to the key areas of your store.


These stores have clear, creative, and to-the-point navigation:

Go Ape Shirts


the Tee Party

2. Use your main page to promote best sellers, specials and products you want to highlight.

Why? Your home page is the best advertising tool you’ve got. It’s the page that visitors (usually) see first. Don’t waste that valuable real estate with boring text welcoming users to your site, or news about your company.

If you have a sale, put it front and center. Find out what products are selling best and create a section to highlight those. If a particular design isn’t selling well, see if some front page visibility can help it do better.

You can include the news and welcome text, just remember it’s not the most important thing.

3. Cross promote products by including links to similar items on product detail pages.

Why? It’s the same idea as putting the Hershey’s syrup at the end cap in the ice cream isle. By suggesting similar or complementary items to users you give them a nudge in the direction of buying something else they might not have seen or thought of.


1. Use photographs of your product instead of graphic mock-ups whenever possible.

Why? People like seeing exactly what they’re going to buy. When you’re ordering something online, you can’t touch or feel the product, so it’s important to give people the next best thing: actual up-close photos. Plus, because screen doesn’t translate perfectly to garment, you don’t get a true picture of how a design looks until you see it on the shirt.

2. If you have printed tags, custom sew-ons, or branding prints in locations other than the main print, show photos of those too.

Why? These are often the details that make a shirt extra special and unique. Showing them off adds value to your product!

3. Show large images of your product.

Why? There’s nothing more frustrating than looking at a design and not being able to see the details of the artwork.

Some sellers, artists especially, are concerned that showing large versions of a design will be an open invitation to theft.

But your know what? Get over it.

You’ll be doing a disservice to both your customers and your bottom line if you give into this fear. Worry about any theft when and IF it occurs; chances are actually relatively slim that someone will put in the necessary work to rip off your design.


Check out these guys for some great examples of good product photos:

Wire & Twine
Large preview image of the shirt on a model, and tons of extra super-large pictures showing all the great details of the print.

Chop Shop
Preview images are displayed in a slide show and include detailed shots of both the actual garment, and the design. Click “see larger image” and you get whisked down to a nice full size graphic of the print.

Wonder how many and what type of images are best for your store? You’ll be safe with the following combination:

  • A preview image (for product listing pages and features on the home page)
  • A medium-sized photograph of each printed location (for bonus points, offer a pop-up zoomed version of each)
  • A large graphic of each print (front, back, sleeve, etc so people can actually see the detail in the print)

If you have them, model shots are also a fantastic way to showcase your shirts because it allows people to see how they actually fit.

Oh, and accepting photos of customers wearing your shirts is a great way to encourage user interaction.


1. Tell people what brand of shirt you’re printing on.

Why? Every brand fits a little bit differently, and you’d be surprised how many people who buy t-shirts know which brands fit them best and have developed a preference. In addition, lots of folks know that an American Apparel t-shirt is going to cost more than one by Fruit of the Loom; use this to help justify higher prices for your goods if you’re using premium brands.

2. Include size charts for all your garments.

Why? This goes back to the same idea that it’s really hard to buy clothes that fit correctly online. Having size charts lets people better judge whether a particular size will fit them. This is good for them because they get a t-shirt that fits the first time around and good for you because you have less returns.

3. Is your garment 100% organic? Made in the USA? Pre-shrunk? Washed by the hands of 1000 angels before being printed? Tell your customers about it!

Why? Anything that’s unique about your garment choice is another aspect that adds value to your products.


Check out these guys for some great examples of good garment info:


The big daddy of t-shirt sites offers so many different brands that they have a page crammed with information and size charts for them all. This link is on every product page.

The link for the size charts is intelligently placed right above the drop down box for size. Clicking launches the chart over the existing content.


1. Offer returns (or exchanges), promote the fact that you do, and provide detailed terms.

Why? It’s just good business and it makes people feel more more confident ordering products from your store. Think of it like this: who would you rather order from? A store that offered returns or exchanges if something didn’t fit, or one that said “Sorry, tough luck?” Be the type of store you’d want to buy from.

2. Have a detailed FAQ and keep it up-to-date.

Why? The longer you’re in business, the more you’ll find that many of your support emails have the same questions again… and again… and again. Save yourself some time and preempt these emails by creating a FAQ for your site to address common questions.


1. Have an “About Us” page and talk about your company. Be funny, be serious, just don’t be boring.

Why? People like stories. By telling a story about your company – how you got started, what your mission is, who does the artwork – you build interest, legitimacy and a connection to your customers.

That connection, by the way, is one of the reasons that indie design is so successful: people like buying things from real people instead of faceless corporations.


Check out these well-written About Us pages:

Completely absurd, but makes you read to the end.

The Ampersand Shop
Written with a designer’s flair and a bit of humor added in for good measure, you learn about both the shop and the folks behind it.

Assault Shirts
A mini history lesson of the company and tons of pics of the people behind lends tons of color to this otherwise black and white site.

2. Start a mailing list and include options to register on your site and as part of the check out process.

Why? Mailing lists are a great way to generate repeat customers. How many times have you ordered something from an online store, only to forget the name of the store after a few weeks?

Use your mailing list to periodically remind customers about new products, special deals, and coupons for your store. This significantly increases your chances of creating repeat buyers.

We recommend icontact to manage your mailing list because it’s easy to use, inexpensive (10 bucks a month), and because we’ve used it too.

Got any other tips that have been useful to you? Share em below!


GoMedia Arsenal Releases New Tee Templates

Go Media consistently provides some of the best stock art resources specifically for t-shirt designers.

Just recently, they introduced a package of blank GUY t-shirts for creating the type of stunning winning mock-ups you see popular artists using when showcasing their designs.

Now, they’ve introduced a version of the templates for the GIRLS:

Once you pick up a set, you should also check out their excellent tutorial on how to create photo-realistic t-shirt mockups.