How to make a full print book cover in Microsoft Word for Createspace, Lulu or Lightning Source

At the end of 2013 I put out a package of DIY book cover templates in Microsoft Word and revolutionized publishing with a how-to guide to designing amazing book covers in an easy to use program you’re already familiar with. But it took me a while longer to figure out how to customize your front cover into a full print cover for Createspace or other POD providers.

I shared a guide to doing just that on DIY Book Covers a couple months ago but am now sharing it with you, for free, so that you can design your own full print covers in MS Word.


book cover design templates in MS Word book cover design templates in MS Word book cover design templates in MS Word book cover design templates in MS Word


If you’ve never used MS Word as a design tool, you should first check out and sign up to get the free sample package and guides. Your full print cover will only be as good as your front cover; so getting the best possible front cover is a necessary first step.

Ideally you’ve already finished a book cover you’re happy with, converted it to a JPG and used it to sell your ebook. But now you want to make a full print cover for Createspace (or Lightning Source, or others).

You need to know the final word count of your formatted book, so if you haven’t formatted your book for print yet, you need to do it before you start your full print cover.

I set up some free templates and guides to book formatting here to help you out:

Once that’s all done, you can download a print template that’s specific for your book.

Createspace and Lightning Source templates

Log into Createspace. Click on “Books”>> “Publish a trade Paperback”>> “Cover”.

Then click on “Submission Requirements” and “Download Cover Templates”.

Or, you can just click this link to get there:

If you’re using Lightning Source, you can download a template here:


Most books will be “black and white” – set your book size and page count. “Cream” paper is better for most fiction and non-fiction. “White” is only good for specialized non-fiction or coursebooks, or if you’re printing color pictures.

Once you click “Build Template” you’ll get a .zip file to download which includes a PDF and a PNG file.

Calculating the size

The templates come with a lot of extra white space. I usually use Photoshop to trim this off. If you want to set up a Word file that’s just the right size, you’ll need to calculate this yourself:

For Createspace, you need to add .125” of trim size to all the edges.

So for a 6”x9” book:

Height= 9″ + 0.125″ (top margin) + .125″ (bottom margin) = 9.25″

Width= 6″ + 0.125″ (outside margin) + 6″ + 0.125″ (outside margin) + spine width.


To calculate the spine width,

White paper: multiply page count by 0.002252

Cream paper: multiply page count by 0.0025


So, for a 6”x9” book of 200 pages, my height= 9.25” and my width equals spine (200×0.0025= 0.5”) + 6″ + 0.125″ + 6″ + 0.125″ = 12.75.”

But you can also just open one of the files you downloaded, and it will tell you the spine width clearly. Interestingly though, my sample template generated by Createspace came out to a spine width of .49” instead of .5” as it should have; I’ve also noticed the spine can be off especially for very large books (600+pages) so Createspace’s calculations aren’t perfect.

 book cover design templates in MS Word

In the generated template on the left side, it will tell you the “Page Layout Size” (the size of the sheet of paper they are printing on) and the Black Dotted Line = Trim Edge. So another simple way to calculate would be to take those dimensions, 12.49” x 9.0” and add .25” to each for the trim. I’m going to go ahead and round that .49” up to .50”.

So now I can set up a new Word document, with custom page size of 9.25” x 12.75”

When you download your template from Createspace you’ll get a PDF and a PNG version – the PNG version you can use in Word.

book cover design templates in MS Word


All I have to do is set up my new document, with the custom size 9.25” x 12.75”.

I don’t need any margins, so I’ll set all my margins at zero.



Then I can drag that PNG template into the Word file.

At first it will center somewhere in the middle of the page and be too small, because there’s a lot of extra white space around the template.

I’ll use the “Crop” tool to crop pretty close to the edges of the template. The closer you can crop, the better. You can zoom in to be even more precise. Try to crop it right on the line, to get rid of all the outside white space without cutting into the pink borders.


book cover design templates in MS Word

Then, I’ll double click on the template, choose the “Wrap Text” options and set the image to “behind text.”



That makes it so I can drag, move and resize the image however I want.

Now I can drag and move the template until the edges of the template line up with the edges of my document.

You’ll probably have to zoom in and out to match it up perfectly. It can be hard to do with the mouse alone; you can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move it up, down, left or right just a tiny bit at a time.

If you make it too big, you won’t be able to grab the edges anymore and you’ll have to move it over to the side until you can grab an edge to resize. If you get the top and left corner perfect, you can focus on stretching the bottom right corner – zooming in close will let you resize with more accuracy.

book cover design templates in MS Word


The advantage of this is that the document is now the perfect size, and you can organize the elements without worrying about the parts that go off the page. What you see is what you get. Once you finish all the art and text, you can Just save it as a PDF and your full print cover is done.


But another, much simpler way to do all that, is using an online converter to change your PDF template into a Word file.


That gives me a page that looks like this.


book cover design templates in MS Word



In this case, the template is already the right size, and all the white space is “extra” – it will get cut off during printing. So you can fit the art over the template, leave the white space as is, save as PDF and it will still work just fine.

(The same goes with Lightning Source Templates: the one you download comes with a lot of extra paper space, which you can leave in or crop out, it doesn’t matter).

Preparing the Art

The easiest way to bring the art into your full print cover template, is to make the front, spine and back art unique, 1 piece layers, without the text. If you’ve already made an ebook / front cover using my templates, you’ll have to adjust the text a bit, because now you have extra margins on the top, bottom and sides.

So the text on your front cover will all need to be made a little smaller, moved away from the edges and a little to the left side (because there is extra trim on only the right side on the front, and only the left side on the back).

I’m going to open up one of my front cover templates (#71fiction) and get started.

book cover design templates in MS Word


First, I’m going to open the Selection Pane and select all the text layers. Then I’ll hit CTRL+C to copy those layers, click into my other document with the template, and CTRL+V to paste the layers. I can move them around to get them centered.



Then I’ll click the eye symbol on the selection panel to hide all the text layers, and do the same thing with all the images – selecting, copying and pasting them all into the new document.


That worked, but if I’m using the full template (without cropping at the edges) it looks pretty messy, and now it’s hard to see where my edges are.

book cover design in MS Word

I’m going to try it again… this time I’ll hide the text layers and save the art as a PDF. I had trouble saving directly from Word to PDF this time…

So I used an online converter:

Rather than saving as a PDF, you can also try using Word’s “Print” feature to Print/Save is as a PDF with Adobe, Nitro PDF or another PDF tool. Sometimes this will save beyond the borders of the image, but you can crop it after you save as a JPG and import it to your cover file.

There are many workarounds or online converters you can try.

Then I used my PDF to JPG converter:


Now I have a clean, 6×9 @300dpi (1800 x 2700 pixels) JPG image of the cover, that I can just drag and drop into my Word file (or insert>>image). I’ll set it to Wrap Text>>Behind Text again, then resize and position it to fill the front and line up with the dotted line of the spine.


NOTE: since we’re preparing this for print, you should read Chris McMullen’s article on preserving image quality in MS Word:

Some of his tips include:

“The first step is to disable automatic picture compression, while realizing that this step – all by itself – is not sufficient. In Word 2010, for example, click the File tab, scroll down below Help to find Options (at first hidden toward the bottom of the list), select Advanced, scroll down to Image Size and Quality, and check the box that says, “Do not compress images in file.” Do this before inserting any images into the file.

Don’t copy and paste pictures into the Word document. Instead, click Insert and then Picture.

Don’t use Save As to convert the Word document to PDF. Instead, print the file to PDF using a Word-to-PDF converter. For self-publishing, find a PDF converter that allows fonts to be embedded in the file and transparency to be flattened.”

Now I can move around my text to center it – make sure to keep away from the edges (unless your text purposely goes near the edge). Createspace is very picky about its trim space though; if you have anything that looks like text extending of the edge of the cover, Createspace will flag it and not let it through (unless you manually contact customer service and ask them to ignore it).

Something else to keep in mind – since you have extra trim space now you’ll have to extend your top, bottom and right border a bit. If you have a central image or character, that fits nicely between the text, you may need to keep those the same size and only stretch the background to fill the extra space (in which case, you’d need to do that in the original front cover file while you still have layers, by making the center objects smaller and a little to the left, before saving the whole think as a JPG).

book cover design in MS Word


So this time I just saved the image art as a PDF>>JPG and put it in, and resized it until it filled the front.

Usually I can just take a little bit of the front cover, like a strip of the very left side, and use it as the spine. In this one, I just copied the front cover image, put it behind the front cover, and shifted it to the left until it hit the dotted line on the other side of the spine. Then I made another copy, put it behind the spine layer, and shifted it all the way over to the other side. Because the horizon isn’t even, I flipped the back cover image so the horizons would match up evenly.

book cover design in MS Word

For the spine, I can just copy the text layers, rotate them 90degrees clockwise, and resize them to fit in the spine. If I have a publisher logo or anything I can add it in as well.

The back is more complicated: I don’t want the character there, and there’s a lot more text that needs to stand out. So there are a few options: If you have more landscape you can just use it. For example the original picture of this girl is much wider. I could start over and keep all the extra landscape, maybe stretch it out a bit, use the same gradients, and use it for the back. It would look OK… but it would be a little tricky because of the lighter, almost white sky and the dark treeline.

You need your text to stand out by contrast. You can use a light shadow or glow, but it’s preferable to use natural contrast by putting light text over dark areas and vice versa.

You could also just use a flat pattern or grunge background for a lot of books – search google for “Grunge desktop” or “background texture” and you’ll see what I mean. You may find something with the right feel or style, and if you change the colors a bit it will match nicely with the front. (Something like this for example):

book cover design in MS Word


You’ll have to be careful with the spine text – it has to fit inside of the pink margins, so make sure there’s no overlap. You might want to copy the background template layer, and put a new layer on top of everything, that you can toggle on and off to check (or, just hide the image layers while you put in the text, then set them to show again).

What I’m actually going to do for this cover, is add a new shape. Normally I’d add a rectangle and make it near black or white. I can also go to “more colors” and set a transparency level if I want some of the background to show through; but in this case I mostly want to hide the girl. Just for fun, I chose a shape with some rounded corners and added a yellow stroke. It’s a little strange but fine for YA.


Then I add in a text layer, matching the fonts with the front cover. I usually like to start with a quote, review or callout text (something larger to grab attention).

Then you can add in the rest of your edited, killer, captivating and extremely important back cover copy – the same copy you’ll use for your Amazon description probably. It’s really important to make this awesome, so get help on from someone who knows what they’re doing (most writers have difficult writing their own summary… you need to give away just enough, but not too much, and use compelling language).

ISBNS and Barcodes

If you’re using Createspace, you could just save as a PDF and upload: Createspace will add in a barcode (I have to make sure I’ve left enough space on the back, where that yellow rectangle is on the template). However, CS won’t add in a price, and a lot of bookstores won’t store your book without a price on the book and in the barcode.

Since you may want to try and work with some bookstores, and it’s pretty easy, you might as well add in your own price. I always recommending pricing higher, so that you can discount in person (you can still experiment with your book’s pricing – the Amazon price doesn’t have to match the price on the book.)

So you might set it to $14.95, for example, even if you plan to sell it for $10. That way you can say it’s 35% off.

If you don’t have an ISBN yet, you can start your project on Createspace to get one, or buy some directly from Bowker. If you get a free one from Createspace, the publisher listed on Amazon will be “Createspace.” You can pay a little more to change that (it will display your publisher name on Amazon, even though if anybody looks up the real ISBN on Bowker they will still find Createspace listed) or you can pay even more to have it registered to your publisher name in Bowker.

Once you have an ISBN, you can use my free barcode generator here:

There are instructions on how to use it. But the barcode files it gives are PDF or EPS, so I’ll have to use my PDF to JPG converter again:

Then I’ll insert the JPG. The price is embedded, but written in code, so I’ll add a normal $Price and add it into the white barcode box. I can also add a link to my website, a short author bio or picture, or social media icons. They’re kind of fun… they won’t actually click of course so you need to add your Twitter handle or Facebook page link. When you add links, just start from www.


As long as everything is in the right place, it should be ready to upload.

You can test it at home but the colors and quality probably won’t be as good as Createspace’s printers. You should also make sure the barcode works – if you have a smart phone, download a barcode scanner app and scan the barcode straight from your computer screen (it will only work if your ISBN is already registered to your book though).

Matte or Glossy?

Createspace offers both options now. Generally speaking, glossy is better for fiction, especially for covers with a lot of dark patches or rich colors. Colors don’t show up as brightly on matte… however matte can look more professional and sturdy. Matte is usually best for simple, white covers like non-fiction.

But you may want to print out one of each (just order, switch the setting and re-order) before you decide for sure.

Also, when you upload, you’ll be prompted to use Createspace’s automatic previewer – be warned that it’s sensitive and will often flag things that aren’t really problems. So if it’s giving you a lot of grief but you think things are OK, just submit the file, wait for approval and order a proof.

That’s it! If you want a PDF version of this guide, along with the four full cover templates I put in the top of this post, you can download those for free here:

Full print cover design templates for MS Word

If you like them, please share!


About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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