How To Master The Color Theory in Book Cover Design

How To Master The Color Theory in Book Cover Design

Do you judge a book by its cover? What about its color?

Have you ever wondered why most business books use dominant blue or orange colors? And why is there often a pink or red element somewhere around when it comes to romance books?

What does color theory have to do with professional book cover design in general?

Please keep reading to learn more about colors in book cover design and how to use them to promote your book effectively.

The importance of colors in book cover design

Color in the modern design world is effective means of contrast as well as a significant quality factor.

Just think of your everyday life, particularly of all the brand logos you stumble across. For example, why do you think McDonald’s uses yellow and green without any exceptions? And why does Starbucks have a green and white combination and a beige paper cup holder? The mix of those three colors hints at relaxation and coffee break.

Impressive, right? There’s a whole science behind colors, tones, palettes, and color combinations.

Stuart Bache, in his interview with Joanna Penn, shared an interesting point regarding the color theory: 

“You have the design perspective, and then you have the motive.”

And your book cover is exactly the place where you should apply those rules.

How to choose a color for your book cover design

The color isn’t something that you can think about later on. It’s an essential element that you should choose consciously. Color helps to emphasize contrasts and dynamics. It gets a bit more complicated since color perception is subconscious. Thus, it may be challenging to define the rules and “guess” what a potential reader has in mind.

Guess? Who said guess? Rewind that.

No, we will study color theory in all its details to help your book cover become a great marketing tool.

“Need a consulting on book cover design?”Contact us to get a free cover idea or critique

How the book cover colors communicate with the audience

Before the potential readers even open a book, something in the colors on a book cover gives them the first impression. And we all know that one matters a lot.

The thing is that when visitors search for books in the store, they subconsciously react to the visual patterns. Therefore, we strongly recommend following the color design adopted in your genre to meet the expectations of your target audience.

Pro-tip: When choosing a color palette to design your book cover, do proper research. Concentrate on colors that create the emotional response you are looking for in your audience.

color theory book cover

That is one side of the coin. Another factor is this color psychology deal when the marketing alarm goes off.

Interested in how to create a book cover that sells? Read our book cover design guide to learn more.

Colors as a marketing tool for a book cover

Colors that you use on a book cover communicate some message. And the main idea of that message is to evoke certain emotions to make people want to grab the book. Different colors stimulate the brain and provoke mixed emotions from excitement to frustration. Using this psychological factor, brands have learned how to engage their target audience.

People have strong emotional reactions and associations with colors. This concept is called color psychology. And if you understand it well enough, you can use it as a marketing technique to get readers’ attention.

Enough theory. Now, let’s take a closer look at its majesty, color psychology.

Book cover color psychology

The idea is simple: every color represents and evokes a certain feeling. Therefore, color is a powerful communication tool that influences psychological reactions.

So how exactly does this work in book cover design? Let’s take a look.


Red is all about the active lifestyle, energy, confidence, and enthusiasm. It immediately attracts attention, sometimes signifying danger (think about all the warning signs). As a result, red color increases heart rate and boosts up the energy level.
However, dark red is associated with anger, rage, and prestige, as well as passion and dominance.

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Orange characterizes the maturity of personality. It is the color of joy, pleasure, the pursuit of achievement (Does it ring a bell? Think about all the self-made success books!) and self-affirmation, the color of energy and strength. It has a beneficial effect on human psychology, relieving tension in conflicts.

On the other hand, it displaces different colors associated with the shock effect. In this case, orange symbolizes the passion of the struggle and the demonic beginning of the war.

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Yellow stimulates brain activity and imagination. Pale yellow is the color of a good mood; it eliminates apathy and anxiety. Bold yellow provokes ambition, motivation, and creativity. In addition, it influences the left side of the human brain, which is responsible for logic.

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Light green goes along with nature, vitality, environment, and health.

DarkHowever, bright green is associated with magic, mysterious light, and paranormal phenomena (greetings from Harry Potter and Hobbit book covers).

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Blue stimulates longing for travel, miracles, and magic. It is a color of peace, relaxation, and meditation. Blue calms, balances, reduces pain and provides a sense of relief. When the reader detects blue on the cover, they may expect mental tension and involvement. The book might give them a lot of food for thought.

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Light purple is about sensuality and spirituality. It enhances self-esteem and gives a pleasant feeling.
At the same time, one of the most mysterious colors, no doubt, is dark purple. It is associated with abnormal activities, fantasy, and magic.

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Grey communicates the message of sophistication, knowledge, prestige, and wisdom. Think about images of architecture, strong urban and industrial vibe.

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Pink brings youth, playfulness, emotion, innocence, dreams, and desires. It is considered to be a classic feminine color. However, different shades of pink can seem weak, vulnerable, and a bit silly. It can be associated with the refusal to face real-life challenges (remember that rose-colored glasses proverb?).

Book cover design by MiblArt 


White is clean, straightforward, self-sufficient, and simple. It correlates with spirituality, energizes, and purifies. However, white color can get the opposite value. By its nature, it seems to absorb, neutralize all other colors, and correlate with emptiness, icy silence, and, ultimately, with death.

Book cover design by MiblArt 


Black evokes the feeling of authority, power, and a sophisticated lifestyle. Dark cocktail dress, black suit, and tinted car windows. And of course, black is also associated with the dark side and depression.

Book cover design by MiblArt 

We hope you found the color psychology idea interesting. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative and combine different colors. But knowledge about color theory and psychology can become your game-changer.

Interested in how to create a cover that communicates your genre? Read our book cover design ideas cheat sheet.

How to choose a color for your book genre

Now let’s learn what colors people typically associate with specific genres. Here we will combine the knowledge of color psychology and cover design in different genres.

When choosing a color palette, take into account the following details:

  • color psychology;
  • the individual’s assessment of the harmony in colors based on a specific object ( e.g., green makes sense as the color of grass, but not human skin);
  • do not use more than three dominant colors on the book cover;

Non-fiction: blue, yellow (or golden), orange and sometimes red

For non-fiction book covers, designers prefer to use yellow, orange, blue, and red colors based on the meaning they communicate and feeling they might evoke. If you are a proud author of self-help motivational books, success stories, or thought-provoking non-fiction, this is the palette you might be looking for.

By the way

Don’t be afraid to use white space in non-fiction book covers. It has proven to make a book cover more scannable and prioritize the focus element for the audience.

Book cover design by MiblArt 

Now, let’s look at the most common colors for fiction book cover design.

Science fiction: Blue, Black, Green, Red, and Grey

Many sci-fi books occur in dystopian societies, hard times, or rebellion. Cool blues, purples, and some metallic greys will lead the audience to feel tense and unsettled.

There’s an exciting theory of impossible fictional colors, which are the ones that do not occur in nature under normal circumstances. Some sci-fi books use these colors on their covers.

Book cover design by MiblArt 

Romance: Pink, Purple, Red, White, Blue

Let’s go by the common stereotype and assume that women are the target audience for romance books. As a result, it is good to use a feminine color palette for book covers in this genre.

If your book falls into the category of historical, contemporary, erotic, or paranormal romance, you might want to go with pink, purple, red, white, and blue combinations.

Book cover design by MiblArt 

Fantasy: Bright Green, Purple, and Yellow

What about fantasy book cover design? Since this genre quite often involves paranormal activity, the combination of green, purple, and yellow will highlight the book’s mood. It is also a great trick to draw attention. And an excellent way to represent different aspects of the unreal worlds, mystic creatures, and scenes.

Book cover design by MiblArt 

Thriller: Red, Black, and Blue

If you are working on a psychological, action, crime, or mystery thriller, you might consider using red, blue, and black in your cover design.

I mean, think about blood, aggression, fear, power. The combination of red and black communicates that the book is about violence and mystery.

Book cover design by MiblArt 

As a cherry on top, we would like to keep you updated on color trends in book cover design in 2020.

So enjoy our little book runway show.

Color trends in book cover design

Always chasing rainbows

Take some notes from this inspirational rainbow and technicolor style book cover.

Pink is the new black

Pink keeps having strong leading positions in book cover design.

Entirely black and white book covers

One needs to be extremely careful and create a stunning design to pull this one-off.


Now you know how to use color theory in book cover design.

Finally, we’ve prepared a little surprise for you.

color theory book cover design

Take a look at the color wheel above, choose one color, and start freewriting a bit. It means what the name suggests: writing without constraint (almost, the color you’ve selected is your constraint). 

Now start a 10-minute timer and write non-stop, using that color word as a central element of the plot, creating your character around it, describing the scene, etc. This exercise is excellent for boosting your creative thinking; there are no limits or restrictions, just your imagination.

Post your results in the comment section below. Again, let’s try to keep it below 500 words.

Ready. Steady. Go.

Enjoyed the post?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get a FREE CHECKLIST with 50 websites where you can promote your book.
You're In!
Check out your email to confirm the subscription and get ready for amazing staff in your inbox!
4.6 5 votes
Article Rating

Access is denied.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

This was so helpful. I have so many directions for my cover design idea this really helped organize things. Thank you

2 years ago
Reply to  Gale

Glad to hear you found it helpful!

1 year ago

Hi there,
I am just wondering who the author is for this article as I would like to properly cite this article for an essay I am working on

1 year ago
Reply to  ghalia

Hi! This article was written by Anastasiya Lototska 😉

Leon King
Leon King
1 year ago

Thanks, this was a great article.

1 year ago
Reply to  Leon King

Thank you! We’re glad you enjoyed it 🙂

1 year ago

Thank you so much for this! Great article! I appreciate you and your staff. I submitted to receive your suggestions, I can’t wait!

1 year ago
Reply to  DWoods.Advisor

Thank you!

Love our blog post?

Check out our book covers for more inspiration.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Let's support Ukraine together

MiblArt is a Ukrainian company and we continue working to support our economy.

We donate a % of our profit to Ukrainian Army, so all our clients make a contribution to peace and freedom. If you want to support Ukraine, consider the following organization: