Ready to put a book out into the world? Find the right tools for the job and create a book cover that’s professional and impactful.
Discover our edit of the best book cover design software, from paid-for programs that pack a professional punch to free software that allows independent publishers to produce fantastic cover designs on a limited budget.
Whether you’re looking to produce and distribute a print book or you have an eBook in mind, there’s a program to suit every cover design project.
The Best Paid-For Book Cover Design Programs
If you’ve allocated a budget for your cover design project, you’ll be sure to find something suitable in the edit of paid-for programs below. From pro-standard software for bigger budgets to cheap and cheerful alternatives, there’s a paid-for option to suit every cover designer.
For free alternatives, scroll down to the bottom of the article.
1. Adobe InDesign (Paid)
The reigning champion for book designers everywhere is Adobe Indesign.
The undisputed titan of publishing design, InDesign is one of Adobe’s flagship products alongside other Creative Suite products, Photoshop and Illustrator.
Professional designers love InDesign for its versatility—you can produce a huge range of media for print, web and mobile apps—as well as its advanced interface and tools.
InDesign allows you to create both cover designs and the inside pages of a book, while offering precise control over page-sizing, typography, and exporting artwork for print and EPUB.
Integration with other Adobe apps, including Creative Suite plus added extras like Adobe Stock, Adobe Color, and Typekit, allow designers to access a broad range of material to use in their artwork.
Ultra-professional interface and tools, with the seal of approval from most professional cover designers. Plus it offers integrated support from other Adobe applications.
The subscription model is expensive for independents and small businesses, at $20.99 per month for the single InDesign app.
Best for: Immediate-to-seasoned designers who want to create pro-standard covers for print books and eBooks.
Check out these InDesign book cover tutorials:
2. Affinity Publisher (Paid)
InDesign has had the lion’s share in the publishing software market for some time, but a string of recent rivals that compete on both functionality and value have threatened to diversify the market.
Affinity Publisher is the best competitive alternative to InDesign, and mimics much of the functionality, interface, and tools of its older rival.
Released in June 2019, AP is the young upstart in the publishing market. But, with more pro designers choosing it over InDesign, it looks set to be a healthy competitor if not a future market leader.
Featuring many of the same essentials as InDesign, including master pages, facing page spreads, advanced typography, and full professional print output, creating a professional book cover in Publisher is arguably more intuitive than in InDesign. The slightly simpler interface will delight users who find InDesign a little intimidating.
A genuinely excellent alternative to InDesign, and cheaper too, yours for a one-time fee of $24.99.
Creatives more familiar with InDesign might find Publisher’s interface a little clunkier, but for the budding cover designer it’s a decent place to start in the paid-for market.
Best for: Immediate designers tackling eBook and print cover design projects.
3. QuarkXPress (Paid)
This is the original WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) publishing program. Quark XPress has a loyal following among print designers who appreciate its solid dependability and no-subscription-required fee. If a designer started out before Adobe InDesign was first released in the late 1990s, they may well prefer QuarkXpress.
QuarkXPress occupies a smaller niche in the book design market, but it’s still a solid software choice for designing both interior layouts and covers. With recent updates, this program offers much more functionality for designing eBooks, eMagazines, and content for web.
QuarkXPress 2019 now offers functionality for exporting to both digital EPUB and print formats, so it’s a pro-standard alternative to Adobe’s subscription model. As a direct ancestor of InDesign, QuarkXPress users who have prior experience with InDesign will have a seamless transition.
QuarkXPress can feel a little on the pricey side. Entry-level fees start at $395 for a lifetime licence to the software, along with technical support and quarterly feature releases for a year. It’s an investment for sure.
Best for: Experienced cover designers who want to find a better-value but still pro-standard alternative to InDesign.
The Best Free Book Cover Design Programs
Are you working on a limited budget, or just dipping a toe into book cover design? The cover design programs below allow you to create beautiful book covers without loosening the purse strings. And in many cases, they have as much functionality and features as more expensive alternatives.
4. Blurb BookWright (FREE)
Blurb BookWright’s easy-to-use features allow anyone to publish custom photo books, magazines, and novels in either print or ebook format. This program includes ISBN numbers for free, as a nice bonus.
BookWright enables authors to design and publish print and ebooks from the same file, at the same time, all in one place. It’s actually the only free software tool that allows this, giving users both value and design flexibility.
Blurb also provides plugins for Adobe InDesign, Adobe Lightroom, and apps for iPhone and iPad, allowing you to access and edit blank book cover templates across a range of programs and devices.
Blurb BookWright and Blurb’s Adobe plugins are not only free and intuitive to use, but also link fluidly across to Amazon distribution. Within the space of a few hours, you can create print books or eBooks and start selling them on Amazon.
Blurb has thought of everything that a budding self-published author would ever want or need. Bookwright is an excellent app for first-time cover designers, while the InDesign plugin allows more experienced cover designers to integrate their designs seamlessly with the book production and sale process.
Best for: Authors who want to easily create professional book covers for EPUB and print, and start selling the results on Amazon straightaway.
5. Shutterstock Editor (FREE)
Shutterstock Editor is a multi-purpose layout software, that allows you to create professional-looking content for print and online.
This entry-level design tool Shutterstock Editor is great for budding cover designers or self-publishing authors. With built-in templates for creating a range of media, including eBook covers, Shutterstock Editor allows you to choose from millions of images from Shutterstock’s library and customize typography and color to create a completely unique and eye-catching result.
Access hundreds of templates for eBook covers on the Shutterstock Editor online app.
Compared to other publishing software like InDesign, Affinity Publisher, and QuarkXPress, Editor is much more intuitive and easy to use for beginners. Editor is hosted online and also completely free to use. So, you can save work in your Shutterstock account and come back to it later.
It’s simple, quick and easy to us, with a broad range of templates and images to choose from.
For more sophisticated print editing, users might find Editor a little lacking. But it allows a very quick and easy eBook cover design process for time-strapped authors.
Best for: The intuitive and simple interface makes Shutterstock Editor a great choice for beginner cover designers, especially those looking to publish eBook covers.
6. Lulu (FREE)
Lulu is a one-stop shop for independent authors and publishers looking to get their book created, distributed, and sold with next to no initial investment.
In the past, Lulu users had to upload their book designs as a pre-designed PDF file. But Lulu’s new Cover Wizard allows users to create their own cover design through the site by choosing from a range of pre-loaded themes. Designers can create a more unique flair through adding their own images.
The Cover Wizard is geared towards creating decent covers for both eBooks and print books. But, the lack of flexibility in the wizard means that creative cover designers might find the program a little limiting.
Once you’ve created your cover and inside pages, you can upload the book to Lulu’s online marketplace. Distribution for eBooks is free, but print books are charged per unit, with some small discounts for large volumes.
An easy-to-use, low-cost, one-stop software-and-distribution offering that allows you to get your cover created, printed, and out in the marketplace.
Although it’s free to create both print books and eBooks, distribution costs can quickly turn your budget-friendly project into an expensive endeavor.
Best for: First-time eBook authors looking to get their work out for sale as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Conclusion: The Best Book Cover Design Software
Whether you’re an accomplished cover designer looking to upgrade your publishing software or a budding author dipping a toe into book design, there’s a program to suit every level and budget.
For pro-standard cover design Adobe InDesign remains the top paid-for pick. After all, the program offers unparalleled functionality for creating covers that feature superior typography, graphics, and layout. Not far behind are Affinity Publisher and QuarkXPress, both of which offer a competitive interface and excellent value for money.
For those on a limited budget, there are plenty of free programs for creating cover designs. Many of them link to distribution channels such as Amazon and Lulu, making these excellent choices for self-published authors. For first-time cover designers, Shutterstock Editor is particularly intuitive and easy to use.
Ready to start creating a fantastic book cover? Discover more book cover inspiration and publishing design tutorials below:
Cover image adapted from contributor blackzheep.
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