The magic of colour, or what to go by when choosing the colour scheme for your book cover

The magic of colour, or what to go by when choosing the colour scheme for your book cover

When designing a book and choosing your colours, you have to take into account the way your book’s recipients perceive things. You should disregard your private taste in this respect. Even though you are not fully aware of it (and whether you like it or not), colours affect you in a certain way. Research shows that certain colour preferences and associations are inherent, while some others are culturally determined. Read our short guide to help you decide on the colour scheme for your book cover.

Basic colour scheme

Red is an extremely emotional colour. It symbolizes aggression and danger, while at the same time standing for love and erotica. It is ideal for highlighting items that you want to bring to the foreground, the title of your book or a graphic on the cover, for instance. You can also opt for a red cover made of eco leather. This particular finish will give your publications an elegant and rare look, particularly when combined with embossing or gold foil.


Blue inspires trust. It is a colour that brings to mind honesty, peace, space, and purity. It is usually used in publications designed to be perceived as competent, e.g. technical and educational. Interestingly, due to the fact that no food is blue by nature, most people consider blue to be not particularly appetizing. So if you are planning on publishing a cookbook, maybe blue is not your best choice.

niebieska okładka

Yellow is an extremely energetic colour. It is associated with the sun, joy, and vitality. When you put it together with white, you need to make sure there is enough contrast for the graphics to be clear. Because yellow is a light colour – like white – you need to give a thought to protecting your yellow cover from becoming dirty.

żółta okładka

Black and white

Black does not have very joyful connotations in our culture (think death, mourning, evil). However, it also symbolizes strength, mystery, and elegance. And the last association is usually what publishers desire the most to achieve. As a consequence, black is often combined with gold – to emphasize the luxurious nature of your publication. Black is also treated as a universal and neutral base. However, when deciding on a black cover, you have to remember that – unfortunately – even minor scratches will be visible on it. A good option here will be to use scratch resistant foil. Your printed materials covered this way will be less prone to damage, and you will not have to worry about scratches. However, if you are not too sure about this specific solution, it would be worth considering a black covering material.

czarna okładka

White brings to mind cleanliness, lightness, gracefulness, and elegance. Like black – it is a great base for your design. Minimalism is still the leading graphic trend. Simple graphics in a saturated colour on a white background is a ready recipe for a very contemporary book cover. Remember that the main task of the cover is to protect your book block from becoming dirty. Which is why, if you know that your publication will be used and touched frequently (because it is an exercise book or a calendar, for instance), you have to choose the right materials. This way you will ensure that your book will continue to look great despite being heavily used. Glossy foils will provide the perfect protection against dirt for even the most abused white wedding planner or an exercise book.

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Secondary colours

Green is all about peace, nature, freshness, and the environment. It has become popular along with the rise of people’s awareness of eco-friendliness. The phenomenon of greenwashing, or the so called “green sheen” is particularly interesting in this context. It is the process of deliberately misleading consumers to make them believe that a product is more environmentally sound than it actually is, for instance by suggestively using green. This shows that colour itself is enough for consumers to consider a product to be more natural than it really is. And there you have it, the practical implementation of the magic of colour.

zielone okładki

It is doubtful that there is a colour more culturally charged than pink. A king’s ransom for the graphic designer that first designs an indisputably masculine pink book cover. Most men will have to double check that they have not strayed into the wrong department when confronted with a bookstore shelf displaying anything pink. Whether you like it or not, pink functions as a typically feminine colour, and it works beautifully with publications aimed at the female audience. However, the issue is far more complex, as there are no two pinks alike. There is an ocean of possibilities that stretches between fuchsia and salmon. Intense pink, associated with the Barbie doll, is often used for publications more “girly” than “feminine”. In turn, the muted shade similar to beige will look extremely elegant on planners.

różowa okładka

Brown is a unique colour. People associate it with durability and timelessness and – as the colour of earth and wood – with nature. If you want to use it, make a real effort and find the right shade. Otherwise, the recipient’s associations can stray into surprising regions (for instance those you visit to spend a penny). Which is possibly not the feeling you want evoke in your audience. There is a good reason that Pantone 448 C, i.e. brown with a hue of olive green, was declared the ugliest colour in the world.

There is more than just colour…

Even when you choose to go for a uniformly coloured cover, it is not just the colour that determines how your potential customers receive it. The material it is made of – its quality, texture and finish – is equally important here. Depending on the raw materials used, the colour may look elegant, or it may make an entirely different impression. Even the most meticulously selected shade of green will not be associated with nature if you decide to cover it with glossy foil, while your black will look less stylish when the cover has the fingerprints of anyone that has ever held it in their hands on it.

Does our short guide provide all the answers when it comes to colours?

Of course not! We follow the latest developments on the publishing market, thus we are able to detect quite a few colour trends. Technical books often have faded colours, publications about young children are all about pastels, while those aimed at men are dark, black or navy blue, for instance. Take a look at bookstore shelves yourself to spot similar tendencies.

Does it make sense to design your book cover using “fashionable” colours?

Sounds absurd, but there is certain logic to it. Particularly when you talk about planners and calendars – in this case, design does not have to stand the test of time. Their life lasts as long as you use them, and you are unlikely to reach for them after a few years. And while you carry them with you in your bag, they can be seen as a fashionable accessory. However, this does not apply to planners only. Many books are published as a response to current market demand, and therefore are also a reflection of trends. That is, if a celebrity or an influencer causes a cabbage based diet to become trendy, nothing prevents you from “making hay while the sun shines” and using the most fashionable colour of the season on the cover of your cabbage themed cookbook. It is possible that after a while it will become less striking and desirable, but then the same fate most probably awaits the abovementioned diet …

Are you at the mercy of one certain colour?

The use of a certain colour will not ensure that your book is successful. The above are just suggestions, do not take them as rules to be followed. In the end, it is about setting the mood and how readers perceive the cover of your book. After all, there are delightful and saleable blue cookbooks, along with black children’s books and desirable feminine planners in colours other than pink (and there is still hope that somewhere in the universe there are fantastic masculine books with pink covers). It is simply worth having some elementary knowledge about colours to save you the trouble and prevent you from reinventing the wheel.

lidia piasecka

Lidia Piasecka

Graphic designer at She writes because she enjoys it, but only when she isn’t busy drawing. Enthusiast of vintage furniture, she restores them to their original glory. Lover of cats, moths and the Moomins.

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