How To Design A Sexy Book Cover Like Britney Spears (Part 1)

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So I promised last week here that if 20 people said yes, yes, yes, I would write an article on how to design sexy book covers. So here goes…

Preamble or all that usual stuff people put at the beginning of articles like this

Before I start this article, let me explain a little bit of what it is all about. The article is to help you design simple … emphasis on simple but effective book covers.

The article probably will not enable you to design complex book covers, or covers with several layers of complexity unless of course you are a photoshop or graphic design expert already. In which case you might not need to be reading this article.

Design Like Britney Spears

Remember Britney Spears?

That is who you are going to be today. You don’t have a great singing voice, but your goal is amplify the little singing talents you have to design hit cover designs so you can hang with the super talented singers like Mariah Carey on the billboard charts. And you can do so thanks to a graphic design concept called minimalism or Britney Spearism. A concept that focuses on simple but effective designs like below.


In minimalist design all you need to know is that a book cover is primarily made up of 2 things, a background image and texts … that’s it … Britney Spears.

What I Will Show You

In this article, I will show you the following:

Part 1

  1. How to get started
  2. Where to find the right image
  3. How to pick the right image (the case of the empty spaces)

Part 2

  1. Where to find the right text
  2. How to pick the right text (font, color and size)

Part 3

  1. How to manipulate the text to finalize your design
  2. How to convert your design to JPEG and then refine with filters

Along the way I will also share with you some popular mistakes that make cover designs unsexy …. I will call them the SINS. So here goes

#1. Turn on your computer

Like seriously this is the most important step actually turn on your computer and start designing. Don’t read and say I cannot do this, just do it. The world needs you but most importantly the world needs your sexy book cover.

#2. Where To Find The Right Image

There are various sources to find the right image, but what is the right image? We would tackle that in the next step.

For now the main website I go to get images from is I like them because they have a variety of high quality images. Actually variety is not the right word, they have millions of pictures! Now I know the whole credit card ish can be an obstacle for payment as the images are not free. In the case you could try and utilize Microsoft pictures here. Although the pictures here are free and high quality, there is very little variety.

So I would strongly recommend


Sin #1: Do not copy and paste images from shutterstock sample gallery. That is a no no … you know this is happening with the watermark usually across the image. I see this so many places across the internet, I want to scream … even corporate organizations. Aside from that the picture resolutions are too low for print.

shutter 3

Now, someone would ask what about google, the problem with google is that the licenses there are undefined. And you could get in trouble if you use an image without permission. Reference this article to see what I mean 

#3 How to pick the right image (the case of the empty spaces)

Now that we know where to get images from. The next step is picking the right image? Out of a million images that could be a daunting task.

Picking the right image for your book cover is very important and is not that. We would use Ila’s Burden as an example. In picking this image, I was looking for a female picture that could project the message of Ila’s Burden, I needed the female to be black and needed a certain level of beauty. So I started my search with the word “African Women.” And from there I kept on searching till stumbled upon the image below.

start 2

The woman was very pretty and beautiful, but that was not it. The other critical thing I was looking for was the fit. How do I get this image to fit the book cover? After all this is a landscape picture that needs to be fit to a portrait … now this is where people may make mistakes. There are 3 ways that people would attempt to juggle this picture to fit a typical book cover.

Method 1: Just rotate and flip

start 4

Method 2 (my personal pet peeve): Just squish it

start 3

Method 3: Crop hair cut aka Mike Tyson


Out of the 3 methods above the one I would pick #3. Actually this is obvious because I already picked that design for the final cover. But here really is why I will pick #3 over the others. #1 could work but it seems unnatural and gravity defying, not that there is anything wrong with that, some experts can pull it off, but remember we are keeping it Britney Spears here. #2 on the other hand is the second sin of graphic design, never squish or alter your image ratio. Not even if it will bring back our girls, okay okay I kid bad joke. But never do that, it makes your work look tacky. Instead crop it using the crop tool in MSWORD, see screen shots below.

Sin #2 never squish or alter your image ratio.


print 2

Once you have cropped to an acceptable book ratio, then you are ready for the next secondary step. Actually this step should come first before picking your image … but I have to show it in this order to make sense.

The next step is finding the space for your text. This is actually the most critical step in picking a book cover image. You have to ensure that you have some degree of empty space on the cover to put in your title, subtitle (if applicable), name and secondary picture (again if applicable). Below are some pictures I have used on previous designs showing the areas of empty text in yellow.

empty space

Whenever I pick a background image I am always looking for text space. Also notice how the pictures are cropped versus shrunk and how the text yellow boxes overlap areas of consistent color and do not overlap boundaries?

Below is what I mean by overlapping boundaries. Avoid it, because it makes your cover look tacky. Your text should sit across a clear boundary. Off course this is not a hard rule, you can bend it but remember we are using the Britney Spears principle and working on our area of strength.


It takes time to master this step. But if you could it will help you pick effective images that would instantly make your book cover design awesome. Soon you will start seeing text on images even in the craziest places like (below). But you have to keep at it and study other book designs to see how and where they place their texts.

Now you are done with verifying that you have enough space to put your texts. Now you are ready to put in the secondary image, often times a logo.

Now I would like to introduce 2 terms to you called portable network graphics aka .png and JPEG images aka .jpg. For this exercise understand that PNG are pictures with transparent background and JPGs are not. Aside from that different the other difference are minor (another word for saying I really don’t know how to explain them).

To illustrate the differences, we are going to add an okadabooks logo to our book design by inserting the image and then bring it forward as below:

remove background

png vs jpg

Now above to the left is a picture of a .png picture and the one on the right is a .jpg picture. You can see the difference between both images. One looks cleaner, while the other looks different, the difference is subtle but in graphic design the little things add up. At the end of the day, the .png is the way to go, however if you find yourself unable to get .png images with transparent backgrounds then you can get rid of the background by using MS word as shown below:

remove back

NOTE: In this method the image quality drops as the edges are not very smooth.

Now that you have background image set, you have your secondary picture (if applicable) done, then you are ready for adding the texts. Which I would cover in part 2 of this article, which actually took longer than I thought.


This article is free, but it can help add value to your work especially as a publisher/writer on a budget, I have used this method to design awesome covers in as little as 30 minutes. Now for all the tips, all I ask is that if you like the article or found it helpful then help spread the word and retweet it 5 times and give it at least 1 facebook share or like. That’s all.

twitterWritten By Okechukwu Ofili of
Follow him on Twitter
Stalk him on Instagram
Read his crazy titled books on konga or okadabooks
Feed his children at…no wait he has no kids…but he has a BB 790D2741


Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of
Follow him on Twitter
Stalk him on Instagram
Read his crazy titled books on konga or okadabooks
Feed his children at…no wait he has no kids…. 



29 comments on “How To Design A Sexy Book Cover Like Britney Spears (Part 1)

  1. Toonna on said:

    The simple ingenuity of this tutorial plus the effort it took to actually publish this creative process as a blog post, is proof of a writer with stamina, patience and consistency.

    Ofili baba, you are a strong man. Kudos to you in achieving all your goals!

  2. Toonna on said:

    P.S That Mashable post about the girls photo used for #BringBackOurGirls campaign without her permission is a great reminder for me. I used to just move images off Google for my writings, but after one not-so-friendly copyright warning email, I dey play with typography plus dey form paparazzi dey snap my own pictures with my phone. No time to be dealing with copyright wahala o 🙂

    • Lelora on said:

      I had an almost near experience.
      I used an image on my blog and one day a dude tweeted at me asking if it was mine that he needed it urgently for a post and he was willing to do right by me…or if I wasn’t, I should point him in the right direction.

      Since then!
      I give credits.

  3. I make covers from my book all the time and at first I was alittle tacky, always picking images from shutterstock(with the water mark) but later on, I figured out how to get rid of the water mark and still have a high resolution picture. I actually do it on an online website for editing pictures, and it has the best tools for editing. No Cost needed, not too many steps (’cause I’m sixteen and broke and YOLO! Ya know?)

  4. Ofil, this is a very Sexy post. lol, I just had to. But seriously, this was very informative and will be useful in the future

    I also like the teacheable moment between you and Bunie Arah. It is important to give credit where its due, and that includes obtaining permission before using a person’s image or buying the said image.

    In addition to shuttershock, can I advocate that we patronize our own. Jason Njoku of Iroko TV just launced You can also find and buy pictures on this site as well.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post. Na you be the last bozz.
    Monale Alemika latest post is UnderCover Boss: valuable LessonsMy Profile

  5. Cool stuff actually. Folk without the knowledge of Photoshop have got the chance. Plus, I got pissed off finding it difficult registering with Creative Commons. So I began ‘shifting’ pictures without giving due credit. Till Toperants’ post told me, ‘boy, you’re a criminal.’ Now, I use and give credits. Nothing wrong with that, right?

  6. awesome article. as a non linear editor I recently started thinking of making multimedia post production more consumerist in nature. kind of streamline the process so that people who don’t need the fancy stuff have like a quick DIY set of tools that trump what is currently on offer. Fonts are always an issue. I’ve got a thousand six hundred of them, with some being duplicates with different names. what I do for my TV montage designs is I basically have like a color combination rule for jobs I want to execute quickly and a set of motion backgrounds, either downloaded or created by me. and when you find a design that works, save it as a template, all you’d have to do later is flip the colors and the text fonts. honestly these stuff are time savers, originality may now be more about how you apply something already in existence as opposed to creating an entirely unique design. unique doesn’t necessarily translate to good or acceptable.

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