Do you know what you want for your ebook cover or blog banner, but don’t have the tools you need? I find that software for special purposes often costs a little more than I’d like to invest–so, my first go-to place is the Web to see what’s out here for free.

Here are some of the tools I’ve used that will help you create the perfect header or book cover.

Canva

Canva is a free online graphics tool that lets you work in layers. I like it because it’s easy to use–much easier than the full-featured graphics software I have.

To begin your project you need to know what size graphic you want to use. If your template tells you the best size to use, just select “Use Custom Dimensions” from the top right of your login screen and enter them.

Custom size on Canva

Custom size on Canva

For e-book sizes see this article from Indie Book Covers.

In addition to custom dimensions, Canva also has a number of pre-built sizes that are very useful. Don’t get caught with the Facebook option though, as it’s really square with a placeholder for where the photo you upload of yourself on Facebook will appear. There isn’t an additional box on the left hand side.

The first thing you’ll do in Canva will be to insert a background — or alternatively if you want just a white background you might want to add a banner. Just type “Banner” into the Search Box and you’ll get a number of options. The banners will also appear if you select Elements from the left pane of options.

Adding a banner

Adding a banner

If you find a texture you like in the backgrounds, but want a different color that’s easy to do as well. Just click on the background and then the coloured dot icon in the popup dialog box. You’ll see seven color dots and a plus sign. You can click on the plus sign to enter your own hexcode to exactly match what you’re using in your blog or cover as accents in other places.

Not sure about hex codes? Here’s a great chart to help you select what you’d like: http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_colorpicker.asp

Note that if the backgrounds and banners you select aren’t marked FREE, they’re not. There’s a large collection of graphics that are $1 each that you can purchase using Paypal.

Your next step will be to add your text. Just click on the Text icon on the left hand side, then click on an option you like and it will appear on your canvas. You can drag the text around on the canvas — you can even put text on top of a banner if you’ve used one, so that you’ll have three layers (the background, banner, and now, text). If you don’t like the results, it’s easy to undo things by clicking on the Undo option at the top left of the screen.

Adding Your Photo

If you’d like to add your photo–or any other photo you have–you can easily take the background out and make it transparent by using tools on the Web. That will let whatever background you’ve selected show through.

I used two different ones:

Both work the same, but there are three steps with EditPhotosForFree and two with ClippingMagic.

Select a photo to upload from your files and it will appear in the work area of the application. With the free service select the yellow option and draw a line completely around the face or object you want to keep–that’s the step you don’t have to do with ClippingMagic.

To remove unwanted parts of the image, use the red marking tool (the -). To mark what you want to keep, use the green marking tool (the +). With ClippingMagic the yellow line marking what you’re keeping appears as you work. Keep in mind that the red and green lines should never touch.

Both tools allow you to change the tip width of the brush you use to mark the image, so that you can get into narrow areas. ClippingMagic’s tool has a narrower tip. ClippingMagic also allows you to mark hair and shadows for more precise results.

Using ClippingMagic tool to remove background from a photo.

Using ClippingMagic tool to remove background from a photo.

When you’re finished removing your background, just download your image to your own files.

Free Graphics

I have two sites that I use a lot for free images: Pixabay and OpenClipart.

  • Pixabay – Creative Commons License with nearly no limitations (images can be used and adapted for commercial purposes without attribution) – terms of service – https://pixabay.com/en/service/terms/
  • OpenClipart – Images have been created and listed by Creative Commons License as being in the Public Domain – terms of service – https://openclipart.org/policies

Video Tutorial

This is the banner created in the video below.

Banner created on Canva.

Banner created on Canva.

And here’s the screencast showing how I used the tools above to create it.

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