best book cover color

What Is the Best Book Cover Color?

Ann O'Brien

August 25, 2022

One of the more surprising aspects of becoming a published writer is the process of crafting the cover for your book. From choosing the best title to picking out graphics or photographs to be used to selecting a color scheme, finalizing the cover is a big project with its own unique pitfalls and rules to follow. But cover design choices should be rooted in an understanding of color theory and how colors affect the mood and feel of the cover and as a result, what potential readers will think about your book before they even read a word. So let’s take a look at color theory and how the choices you make for your book cover color impact what readers think about your book. That way, you can choose a color scheme that reflects the genre and feel of your work.

Color Theory

The science of color details how closely colors are in hue and how different colors interact with each other. On the color wheel, colors that are across from each other are called complementary because they pair well with each other and create an energetic, upbeat vibe when used in tandem. Colors called analogous are nearby each other on the color wheel, because they are similarly hued and create a soothing, relaxing feel when combined.

  • Complementary Colors: red and green; blue and orange; yellow and purple
  • Analogous Colors: yellow, orange and red; red, purple and blue; blue, green and yellow

Colors and Their Effects

Have you ever noticed that fast food restaurants share similar bold, bright color schemes, while coffee houses usually employ darker or more subdued hues in their design? Likely the colors chosen for these destinations were chosen to influence how we feel there since harnessing the power of color is a critical part of interior design. And those same principles of how colors affect the mood and feel of a place also apply to their use on the cover of a book. Since each color projects its own unique vibe, authors can use color combinations to hint at the book genre and tone hidden beneath the cover.

Black

This moody, dark tone is technically not a single hue but its imposing presence can bring a variety of emotions to a cover. Black can be imposing, formal, sophisticated, and serious, while also implying an ominous, scary, evil, or unhappy vibe.

Blue

A calming hue in all of its variations from baby blue to bright turquoise to rich navy, blue is associated with nature. Sky blue and the multi-hued colors of the ocean all project a serene, natural feel. Other emotions evoked by blues are stability, honesty, and sadness.

Gray

A neutral color with less boldness than black, gray is associated with intelligence and sophistication but also with sadness or negative emotions. Gray also projects an air of remoteness, distance or a lack of emotional warmth as well as a feeling of seriousness and focus.

Green

Another color associated with nature and the outdoors, green projects a soothing state of mind. Often associated with lushness, growth, and renewal, green reflects where we see the vibrant color in new spring growth and healthy plants and trees. Bright tones are connected to vitality and wealth as well as fresh beginnings but green can also reveal the more sinister emotion of jealousy.

Orange

This cheerful, bright hue is associated with energy and playfulness. From light peach tones to fiery reddish oranges, this color is connected to warmth, happiness, and confidence. The flip side to orange hues is it can also make objects feel cartoonish and become overwhelming in large doses.

Pink

The range of emotions evoked by pinks swings from childish, innocent, and playful with softer hues to passion and romance with darker versions of pink. This playful color can also impart feelings of femininity and love as well, depending on the tone.

Purple

Historically associated with royalty, purple still projects a regal feel as well as extreme wealth that is also commonly connected to royalty. Rich versions of this hue give off a moody vibe and support feelings of bravery and wisdom along with passion, intensity, and depth. Lighter tones, like lilac or lavender, are associated with spirituality and mystery.

Red

The most visible color, red is easily associated with love and high emotions like anger and passion. The color also gives off feelings of warmth and comfort, but red also is about power and desire in its strongest hue versions. Red also connects to feelings of fear and horror due to its color connection to blood, and it can also bring up feelings of dominance and aggression as well.

White

The lack of hues in white does not mean that white doesn’t affect people in strong ways. Instead, white or the absence of color can project feelings of cleanness, purity, and peace. But white can also be associated with freshness as well as starkness, blandness, and lack of warmth. Other feelings evoked by white can include safety, self-sufficiency, and simplicity.

Yellow

This bold, cheerful color is most associated with happiness. But yellow can give the feeling of warmth, coziness, and energy while also at times bringing out feelings of aggression and annoyance. Yellow is also well known for its ability to grab your attention and is often used when caution is required.

Genre Colors

When choosing a book cover color, most likely authors will not simply choose one hue. In fact, a combination of colors and tones is often used in specific genres, making it easier for readers to know at a glance what type of book they are looking at without even reading the title or book description. A cover that coordinates – or at least does not clash – with accepted genre color schemes is a great way for authors to begin the creative process of developing a book cover color scheme that reflects the mood and tone of their book. Some of the expected book cover color schemes are:

  • Romance: soft colors like gold, red, lilac, and pink are used, while bolder colors like red and black are usually reserved for spicier contents
  • Thriller/Mystery: red, black, and white are typical color combinations and high contrast is commonly used on these covers
  • Self-Help: versions of yellow, orange, and white are common
  • Fantasy/Science Fiction: many in these genres utilize blue or amber color schemes
  • Literary Fiction: typical in this all-encompassing category are bold, bright colors like reds, orange, blues, greens, and yellows

Dark vs Light

The intensity of the colors used on book covers also plays a part in how readers feel about the book. Darker color schemes imply a moody, mysterious feel while a lighter, brighter scheme tells the reader that there likely won’t be a focus on dark themes like death, fear, anxiety, or sadness.

Contrasting Hues

Choosing book cover colors that reflect the overall mood for your book is the first step in developing an appropriate color scheme. But selecting the right contrasting hues to use for wording and other graphic elements is important as well. When a complimentary color to the primary color tone choice is used for words and graphics, this low-contrast produces a more soothing feel. A high contrast combination, like black and white or neon yellow and dark blue, will increase the intensity of the cover and create tension and excitement, implying that the book may be a mystery, thriller, Sci-Fi, or some other high-energy theme.

What is the Best Book Cover Color?

As you might have guessed, color not only impacts how readers perceive a book’s contents, but the color choice an author uses is also driven by the genre and mood of the book’s contents. No one color fits all book types, so choosing one hue as the best overall color to choose would be misleading. No one likes to pick up a book with a bright, cheery cover only to be surprised to learn it is a thriller instead of the lighthearted beach read that the cover colors suggested.

Choosing the Best Book Cover Color For Your Book

Choosing a color palette for your book cover includes not only thinking about the book’s tone and themes, but also considering the way the colors will impact your readers and how they perceive the genre. Working with a design expert can help you define the right feel for your cover colors and design so that it reflects your book accurately, resulting in higher readership in the long run. And working with a trusted printing company like Publishing Xpress will help authors with designing their book’s cover as well as through the whole publication process from start to finish.

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