Discover our roundup of the best book cover design software, from paid programs that pack a professional punch to free software that allows independent publishers to produce fantastic cover designs on a limited budget.
Ready to launch a book into the world? Find the software to design professional and impactful covers.
Whether you’re looking to produce and distribute a print book or have an e-book in mind, there’s a programme to suit every cover design project.
Best paid software for book cover design
If you’ve allocated a budget for your cover design project, you’ll be sure to find something suitable in the edit of the paid programmes listed below. From pro-standard software for big budgets to cheap and cheerful alternatives, there’s a paid-for option to suit every cover designer.
For free alternatives for book cover design software, scroll to the end of the article.
Adobe InDesign (fee-based)
The reigning champion for book designers everywhere is Adobe Indesign.
The undisputed titan of editorial design, InDesign is one of Adobe’s flagship products alongside other Creative Suite products, Photoshop and Illustrator.
Professional designers love InDesign for its versatility — it can produce a huge range of media for print, web and mobile applications — as well as for its advanced interface and tools.
InDesign allows you to create both book cover and interior page layouts, while offering precise control over page size, typography and artwork export for print and EPUB, so it’s a good choice if you want to print your books. If you want to know where to print books click on the link.
Integration with other Adobe applications, including Creative Suite, plus added extras such as Adobe Stock, Adobe Color and Typekit, gives designers access to a wide range of material to use in their artwork.
Advantages: Ultra-professional interface and tools, with the stamp of approval from most professional cover designers. In addition, it offers integrated support for other Adobe applications.
Disadvantages: The subscription model is expensive for freelancers and small businesses, at $20.99 per month for the single InDesign application.
Best for: Experienced designers who want to create pro-standard covers for print books and e-books.
Affinity Publisher (paid)
InDesign has had the lion’s share of the publishing software market for some time, but a number of recent rivals competing 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 old rival.
Launched in June 2019, AP is the young upstart in the publishing market. But, with more professional designers choosing it over InDesign, it looks to be a healthy contender, if not a future market leader.”
With many of the same essential features as InDesign, including master pages, cover pages, advanced typography and fully professional print production, 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.
Advantages: A truly excellent alternative to InDesign, and cheaper too, yours for a one-time fee of $24.99.
Disadvantages: Creatives more familiar with InDesign may find Publisher’s interface a little clunky, but for the budding cover designer it’s a decent place to start in the paid marketplace.
Best for: Immediate designers who are engaged in eBook and print book cover design projects.
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 rock-solid reliability and subscription-free pricing. If a designer started before Adobe InDesign came on the market in the late 1990s, he or she may prefer QuarkXpress.
QuarkXPress occupies a smaller niche in the book design market, but remains a solid software choice for interior and cover design. With recent updates, this program offers much more functionality for the design of e-books, e-magazines and web content.
Advantages: QuarkXPress 2019 now offers the functionality to export to both digital EPUB and print formats, making it a pro-standard alternative to Adobe’s subscription model. As a direct ancestor of InDesign, QuarkXPress users with previous InDesign experience will have a seamless transition.
Disadvantages: QuarkXPress can feel a little pricey. Entry prices start at $395 for a lifetime licence for the software, along with technical support and quarterly feature releases for a year. It’s a safe investment.
Best for: Experienced cover designers who want to find a better-value, but still pro-standard, alternative to InDesign.
The best free programs for designing cover pages
Krita is a Photoshop clone, so to speak, with great capabilities. It’s our favourite and we’ve tested it with more complex photo editing, including covers. I find it very intuitive, and between the forum and Google, I can learn to do almost anything. However, it does require a bit of processing power, and although they claim to have a tablet version, I’ve only had success with the desktop version.
Download link: (http://krita.org)
Tutorial link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH2EDTNjvBw
GIMP is arguably the oldest of the free photo editors, and the most widely used by the artists I surveyed. The Honda Civic, so to speak. Although its design is basic, it’s also classic and has pretty much all the functions that photoshop does. Although I prefer Krita for its familiarity, GIMP is my backup. Bonus: there’s a browser version for Chromebooks.
Download link: (https://www.gimp.org)
Tutorial link: https://www.gimp.org/tutorials/
Paint.net is a basic, clean program, with most of the tools a photo editor needs. My biggest criticism is that the site looks like something that would give your computer a virus (though as far as I can tell, it’s totally safe), and some controls weren’t as intuitive as I’d hoped, partly due to its old-school design. That said, I figured out most of the main tools fairly quickly, and any major problems seemed to be answered in the forums.
Download link: (https://www.getpaint.net/index.html?)
Tutorial link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my7T6bKA2Uc
Conclusion: The best book cover design software
Whether you’re an accomplished cover designer looking to upgrade your publishing software or a budding author dabbling in book design, there’s a program to suit all levels and budgets.
For pro-standard cover design, Adobe InDesign remains the best value option. 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, which offer a competitive interface and excellent value for money.