Graphic Design for Authors by Rebecca Heflin

Corresponding Creations (3)Who knew that when I published my first novel, I’d have to learn graphic design along with the business side of writing, as well as improving my craft? And what’s more, who knew I would enjoy it!

While we can hire professionals to design our ad creatives, social media posts, etc., it can get pricey, and since most authors today are expected to promote their books, it behooves us to learn some do-it-yourself graphic design tools and tips.

Now, I don’t profess to be an expert, and I’m sure there are those among us who are, but never having taken any kind of art or graphic design course, these are the top five things I’ve learned about amateur graphic design.

  1. Graphic Design Tools. Find a graphic design tool or software program (or two) that you like. There are lots of programs out there including Adobe Photoshop, CorelDraw, and Corel PaintShop Pro, but some of these programs cost a pretty penny. If you can’t afford one of this desktop programs, check out some of the web-based tools available for free or for a nominal annual fee.

My two favorite web-based tools are PicMonkey and Canva. One downside of PicMonkey is that you have to download your designs and save them to your computer, which means, you can’t make tweaks to the design after the fact. With Canva, all your designs are saved in your online Canva account, so you can go back and make tweaks to a creative, or, you can copy it so that the original design is saved and make tweaks to create a whole new graphic.

  1. Colors and branding. In designing and building my website, I learned about colors and branding. After hiring a designer to create my website header (along with my Facebook and Twitter banner), when I redesigned my website, I built it based on the header colors. Another nice thing about Canva, is I can create and save a color palette of my brand colors. This makes designing graphics with my brand so easy. I created the graphic here using Canva and my brand palette.
  1. Fonts. Limit the different typefaces used in a graphic. One or two different fonts usually does the trick. Or, stick with a font family and mix it up with bold, italics, and light. Fonts also convey a feeling or message. If you write contemporary romance, rely on bold, crisp modern fonts. If you write historical, use an elegant traditional font. But be careful of script fonts. They can be difficult to read. And what good is an ad if the target audience can’t read it?
  1. Order and symmetry. I love symmetry. No, I crave My home’s architecture is symmetrical, my office space is symmetrical, my landscaping is symmetrical, my, well . . . you get my point. I love order and balance. Be sure your graphics have order and balance, or at the very least, make sure the imbalance is intentional.
  1. Images.  Vibrant images really capture attention – just think of your books covers! And there are oodles of sites where you can purchase royalty-free images relatively inexpensively. Some graphic design sites like PicMonkey offer free photos. Canva offers thousands of free photos, but they also offer thousands of royalty-free images you can purchase. Cheap! Additionally, many website design platforms also offer photos for use on your website, either for free or for a nominal fee. I used Wix to build my website, and they offer loads of free images. Finally, if you use an image of your own, make sure it’s large enough. Nothing looks less professional than a pixelated photo.

I’m sure the pros out there can offer even more tips, but these are the basics. How about you? Do you have any graphic design tools or tips you want to share with the class?

About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
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4 Responses to Graphic Design for Authors by Rebecca Heflin

  1. Beth Carter says:

    I’ve never tried PicMonkey and opened the Canva site for about five minutes. I need to take the time to learn how to do this. So far, I’ve hired people to create banners, memes, and ads. It does get pricey. Nice post!

    • Thanks, Beth. It does get pricey. I’m not sure I would undertake something as important as a book cover (or even a banner), but I do like creating my ads and social media posts.

  2. This was so helpful, Rebecca! Thanks for sharing. Have you taken any classes or workshops about any aspect of colors/branding/design that you can recommend? –kate

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