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Cover Design

Covers are designed across a single large page, as if the book was opened flat on a table. Your cover dimensions are automatically preset based on the book type and size assigned to your account as specified by your studio.

Cover Terms & Specifications

Hard Cover Binding – A method of binding that has rigid covers and pages. Also referred to as hardbound or hardback binding.

Perfect Bound Soft Cover Books – A method that is commonly used for paperback books that have a higher page count. The cover is wrapped around the glued pages, then the book is trimmed to its finished size.

Saddle Stitched Books – A method in which folded sheets are gathered together, one inside the other, then stapled through the fold line with wire staples.

  • Creep – When the inner pages extend further out than the outer pages as a result of folding then bundling pages into a booklet. The edges of the booklet are then trimmed flush.

Split Binding – The practice of offering identical yearbooks with the same design for two types of covers.

Tip: Check out our Design Specifications Guide for all details about designing your cover.

Anatomy of a Cover

  • A. Safe Margins – keep all text and featured photo content within the dotted lines.
  • B. t/Wrap area – while background content must completely cover this region, it won’t be visible on your cover. 
  • C. Spine 
  • D. Back Cover
  • E. Front Cover
Editing your cover as a spread

To view your Plic cover in the editor as a full back-to-front spread, click on the page gear icon in the top right corner of the page.

Select Edit Spread from the list of options on this menu.

The entire cover will be available for editing, displaying the spine area in the middle of the page.

Accessing a second cover page

If your studio has set up a hard cover and soft cover option for your school, the format will of the current cover type will be displayed in top right corner in the page editor.

To switch to the second cover page, click on the gear icon in the top right corner, and click on the second cover type to launch it in the editor.


Choose Duplicate Content to copy the design to the other cover. Be sure to review both covers for placement issues!

Trim/Wrap Area

Hard cover books have a large wrap area around the entire page.  This area wraps over the back edge of the cover. All background elements need to go through this area to ensure there are no unprinted area of your cover. If you are designing a cover background image, be sure to allow .75″ of additional space on all four sides of the cover design for the Wrap Area.

Soft cover books (Perfect bound, Saddle-stitch) display a thin trim area around the entire edge of the page. This area is trimmed off the finished cover to ensure complete edge-to-edge color. Allow .125″ of additional space on all four sides of the cover design for the bleed.

Tip: Plic backgrounds automatically snap to the edge of your pages. But if you choose a background uploaded to your candid images, be sure to extend it to the outer edges of your cover’s canvas. Do not leave any small edges free of your background content as these might be visible on your finished printed cover.

Safe Margins

The safe margins keep content from getting clipped by ensuring they are placed away from the trim edge of the page. Only your background or content that needs to spill off the page edge should extend past these margin lines. Keep the area around the spine clear too to ensure a nice placement of content on your front and back covers.

Tip: Keep in mind that paper can shift during printing by up to 1/8″ so text and images too close to the green safe margins may be trimmed off or appear awkwardly after printing. Push all text and feature images within the safe margins for best results.

Designing Your Cover

The Basics

Most cover designs prominently feature:

  • The School Name
  • The School Year
  • Design elements representing your book’s theme or your school (logo, mascot, school colors)

Background Design Options

For additional cover background options, browse the extensive collection of images in the Studio Source Catalog. This collection includes thousands of double page/cover backgrounds that are copyright-cleared and appropriately formatted (6000 x 3900 pixel jpg files) to fill the entire cover background.

Custom Cover Contest


If you want to use original hand-drawn student art on the cover, be sure to download the Custom Cover Contest Guidelines to obtain detailed guidelines for using student art. Be mindful of the cover design guidelines and the following details:

  • Students should draw on 8.5×11″ letter sized paper.
  • Important design elements such as lettering and feature images should be inset a thumbs-width from the page edges.
  • Watch out for spelling mistakes, especially your school’s name! (Check how “elementary” is spelled in particular.)
  • Scan the artwork at 300 dpi, saving as a jpg file. Make sure the page is straight in the scanner and content isn’t cropped out at the edges.
  • Prior to scanning, ensure that the paper is as clean as possible – remove erasure marks and flatten it as much as possible.
  • Upload the cover art jpg file(s) to a photo album, like any other image.
  • Drag it to your cover, ensuring it is well placed with no feature part of the image cropped out.
  • We strongly recommend insetting the art well within the margins and spine of your page, then adding a custom background color/texture behind it to feature the art like a matted framed picture. This will highlight the art and provide a cohesive design from front-to-back of the cover page.

Spine Design

Spine text may only be added on hard cover and perfect bound books with a minimum of 62 pages

For the best design, follow these guidelines:

  • Only add text in the spine area
  • Text must be centered within the spine guidelines. 
  • Use ALL-CAPS to make placement easier, avoiding high- and low-lying letters from mix-case text.
  • Do not exceed 70% of the spine width
  • The spine area should be kept clear of other design elements from the front and back covers – text, clipart and images.

Note: The amount of the background image being taken up by the spine may affect the placement of design elements on your front and back covers. Be sure that the images “land” correctly, with no critical content lost on the bleed/wrap or across the spine.

Dos & Don’ts of Cover Design

Since paper can shift during the printing process by up to 1/8″, verify how your cover background falls across the spine area.

DO use a continuous background across the spine.

DO extend a front cover wrap past the spine guides to the back cover. The same can be done when wrapping a back cover to the front.

DO use a color band that extends past the spine guides to replicate the look of book binding tape. See the Tip below.

DON’T wrap a front cover around to the back and end it at the spine guides.


DON’T layout a different front and back cover that meet in the center.

DON’T use a color band on the spine area and end it at the spine guides.

Tip: Replicate the look of book binding tape by adding a shape or a background texture. Extend a frame to the top & bottom edges of the page, and onto the front & back covers to pad out the spine area.

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