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Can anyone share his or her experience on designing a book cover? I just finished writing my "Awk One-Liners Explained" e-book and now I am designing the cover. I tried \maketitle and the result was pretty ugly (see screenshot below). I'd appreciate any tips on designing book covers.

bad looking book cover

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Book covers are often designed using desktop publishing software and only added during production. The PDF of the actual book only contains some minimal cover page which is still present in the final bounded book. For online published PDF-books you could also include such a cover page using pdfpages. –  Martin Scharrer May 6 '11 at 13:56
The Book Design Review has great examples for book covers. While these books could have been typeset with LaTeX their covers probably aren't but were designed independently and added later like Martin Scharrer said. –  Christian Lindig May 7 '11 at 7:04
I agree with Martin on this one. It's easier to design the book cover in a program like Adobe InDesign. It's really easy and intuitive program, I've been using it for several years and the results are great :) –  dingo_d May 7 '11 at 10:51

9 Answers 9

up vote 71 down vote accepted

Here is a poor man's solution! Cover and title pages should ideally be designed by a graphics artist, as most of us are really challenged in this area! (If you have not watched this brilliant TED Talk by Book Cover Designer Chip Kidd, I advise you to watch it as you can gain a lot of insight into book cover design).

enter image description here

The code follows:

%% temporary titles
% command to provide stretchy vertical space in proportion
% allow some slack to avoid under/overfull boxes
\newcommand\nbstretchyspace{\spaceskip0.5em plus 0.25em minus 0.25em}
% To improve spacing on titlepages


\small BY\\
\Large PETERIS KRUMINS\\[0.5em]



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This looks very good. Where is the picture from, if I may ask? –  Harold Cavendish May 6 '11 at 16:30
This is amazing, thanks so much!! I am going to tune this and use for my book :D –  Peteris Krumins May 6 '11 at 16:42
@Harrold It is from an old Roman History book and which I can't now locate (I even tried tineye.com). –  Yiannis Lazarides May 6 '11 at 18:13
+1x10 for the TED link! –  Dror Jun 12 '12 at 14:01
it is awesome !! easily to find other picture to replace. –  larrycai Jan 16 '13 at 5:02

Create an own document (1 or 4 pages) for your cover and then merge it with the other document with the package pdfpages. Examples of book covers.

enter image description here

For more detailed workaround, see Creating Book Covers using PSTricks. You will be guided how to create a book cover as shown above.

For my own cover I use a template:

enter image description here

On this I put all text frames and additional images with \rput from PSTricks or \put from standard LaTeX.

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Really nice @Herbert, though I have a question. It seems your examples are front and back of the book. If so, how do you take care of the page counts? What I mean, is that if a book 500 pages, area between front and back should be wider when there are only 50 pages. Is there any mechanism to take care of that or your example are focusing mostly on the designing process? –  Pouya Apr 9 at 5:56
you have to ask the printer which paper will be used. Then you know the thickness of the paper and can multiply it with 0.5 pages. In general the printer has more experience and can tell you what width will be needed. –  Herbert Apr 9 at 6:55

You can use xcoffins package from LaTeX 3 project. This example is inspired by work of Jan Tschichold



  \NewCoffin \result
  \NewCoffin \aaa
  \NewCoffin \bbb
  \NewCoffin \ccc
  \NewCoffin \ddd
  \NewCoffin \eee
  \NewCoffin \fff
  \NewCoffin \rulei
  \NewCoffin \ruleii
  \NewCoffin \ruleiii

\SetHorizontalCoffin \result {}
\SetHorizontalCoffin \aaa {\fontsize{52}{50}\sffamily\bfseries mitteilungen}
\SetHorizontalCoffin \bbb {\fontsize{52}{50}\sffamily\bfseries typographische}
\SetHorizontalCoffin \ccc {\fontsize{12}{10}\sffamily 
                      \quad zeitschrift des bildungsverbandes der
                      deutschen buchdrucker leipzig 
                     \textbullet{} oktoberheft 1925}
\SetHorizontalCoffin \ddd {\fontsize{28}{20}\sffamily sonderheft}
\SetVerticalCoffin \eee {180pt}
\SetVerticalCoffin \fff {140pt}
                 {\raggedright \fontsize{13}{14}\sffamily\bfseries 
                       natan altman \\
                       otto baumberger \\
                       herbert mayer \\
                       max burchartz \\
                       el lissitzky \\
                       ladislaus moholy-nagy \\
                       moln\'ar f.~farkas \\
                       johannes molzahn \\
                       kurt schwitters \\
                       mart stam \\
                       ivan tschichold}

\RotateCoffin \bbb {90}
\RotateCoffin \ccc {270}

\SetHorizontalCoffin \rulei  {\color{red}\rule{6.5in}{1pc}}
\SetHorizontalCoffin \ruleii {\color{red}\rule{1pc}{23.5cm}}
\SetHorizontalCoffin \ruleiii{\color{black}\rule{10pt}{152pt}}

\JoinCoffins \result                \aaa 
\JoinCoffins \result[\aaa-t,\aaa-r] \rulei   [b,r](0pt,2mm)
\JoinCoffins \result[\aaa-b,\aaa-l] \bbb     [B,r](2pt,0pt)
\JoinCoffins \result[\bbb-t,\bbb-r] \ruleii  [t,r](-2mm,0pt)
\JoinCoffins \result[\aaa-B,\aaa-r] \ccc     [B,l](66pt,14pc)
\JoinCoffins \result[\bbb-l,\ccc-B] \fff     [t,r](-2mm,0pt)
\JoinCoffins \result[\fff-b,\fff-r] \ruleiii [b,l](2mm,0pt)
\JoinCoffins \result[\ccc-r,\fff-l] \eee     [B,r]
\JoinCoffins \result[\eee-T,\eee-r] \ddd     [B,r](0pt,4pc)
\TypesetCoffin \result

enter image description here

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Note that the interface to xcoffins is not yet stable: we have to decide on some key detail yet! (It is 'experimental', after all, although the core concept is sorted.) –  Joseph Wright May 6 '11 at 14:06
Ahh good to know. I have seen example with keyval syntax, but the old one seems to me more intuitive and simpler for use –  michal.h21 May 6 '11 at 14:23
@michal.h221: The problem (for me) with the syntax as you've used is it remains stuck with the 'remember the placement of optional argument' issues that have arisen in the past with LaTeX2e. Now, it may be that in some cases this is best: one for the LaTeX-L list, I think. –  Joseph Wright May 6 '11 at 14:32

For graphic layout tasks such as this, I reach for a full-page pspicture:


\begin{pspicture}(8.5,11)% use your page size
    \Huge\bfseries\sffamily Awk one-liners\\ Explained
  % ...


minimal sample

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Nice solution. –  Yiannis Lazarides May 6 '11 at 15:36

You can of course redefine the \maketitle macro to acquiesce to your design wishes.

But as Martin has mentioned in a comment, the cover title is actually a later addition to a book. \maketitle is not the way to do this.

The KOMA documentation says the following:

A cover is actually something that should be created in a separate document. The cover often has a very individual format. It can also be designed with the help of a graphics or DTP program. A separate document should also be used because the cover will be printed on a different medium, possibly cardboard, and possibly with another printer.

\maketitle’s job is to create the title page(s) inside a book, not the cover.

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Book covers, and title pages, should be individually designed --- the \maketitle macro is not of much help. On CTAN there is a document of mine showing a range of title page designs that could be adapted for book covers: Some Examples of Title Pages. If you have TeX Live then

texdoc titlepages

should bring it up as well.

Here is, hopefully, an example cover of mine. I have used as the background a photo I took of an old manuscript (cover2.jpg) and overlaid the title information on top. The cover (and book) will be trimmed to eliminate the margin white spaces.

%% front cover The Decretales of Pope Gregory IX 1505 recto
\begin{center} \LARGE\textbf{A Few}\par
\HUGE\textbf{Book Design}
\Huge\textbf{Peter Wilson}

I have a PDF of the above and thanks to Yiannis I now know how to include it in this answer.

This should be an image of the front cover

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Thanks for the answer, if you include links we will help out with formatting. For images is best to capture them and use the little picture in the editor to upload. –  Yiannis Lazarides Apr 17 '12 at 20:15

The current page node of TikZ is very helpful:



[   overlay,
    remember picture,
    mynode/.style={left,fill=yellow!10,general shadow={shadow scale=1, shadow xshift=-0.8ex, shadow yshift=-0.8ex,
opacity=1, fill=gray!50}},
    \fill[red!30!gray] (current page.south west) rectangle (current page.north east);
    \node[mynode] at ($(current page.north east)+(-0.2,-6)$) {\fontsize{25}{30}\selectfont \textbf{Awk One-Liners Explained}};
    \node[mynode] at ($(current page.north east)+(-0.5,-8)$) {\fontsize{20}{24}\selectfont \textsc{Peteris Krumins}};
    \node[mynode] at ($(current page.north east)+(-0.8,-10)$) {\fontsize{15}{18}\selectfont Samizdat, 2012};
    \node[above right] at ($(current page.south west)+(5,5)$) {\includegraphics[scale=0.5]{awk}};



enter image description here

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Are you Peteris Krumins' TeX consultant? –  stalking is prohibited Sep 22 '12 at 11:15
@GarbageCollector: No. May I ask what gave you that idea? Or is this some kind of humor I dont get? –  Tom Bombadil Sep 22 '12 at 11:44
Because in your screenshot there is Peteris Krumins' name. He was a person looking for a TeX consultant last year in this site. I forgot the link. I will search for it shortly. This is his question. –  stalking is prohibited Sep 22 '12 at 11:54
Ah, but still no. I just took the contents from the question, analogous to Yiannis Lazarides' answer. –  Tom Bombadil Sep 22 '12 at 12:30
I am sorry, it is my fault. I did not check the owner of this question that actually belongs to him. :-) –  stalking is prohibited Sep 22 '12 at 12:33

As always I want to recommend Inkscape which with some meddling can export PDF's that you run through LaTeX and get the best of two worlds.

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The source code for the title page from the The TikZ & PGF Manual might be interesting.

Also, the source code for cover graphic from another version of the title page is available.

Although these are specifically used as title pages, with some study of the source code, similarly inspired designs could be used in the design of a book cover.

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