Custom book covers or illustrated covers. Who wins?

MIBLART | Book Cover Design

There are two main ways how the book covers are designed. The most spread one is to create the cover using stock pictures, and they are custom book covers. The other covers are illustrated.
To understand what is the difference between the final products we need to find out the process of creation of each cover.

The process of book cover creation

Book covers created using the stock pictures or custom book covers

Let’s first take the book covers created using the stock pictures.
First of all, a designer buys all the pictures he needs. It’s almost impossible to create the cover using only one picture. Good cover requires at least 5-7 pictures. It takes up to three days to create such cover depending on its complexity. Using stock pictures the designer does not create each element from scratch. For example, he may take a dress from one picture, a head of the character from another one and the hair from the third picture. In this way, he saves the time as there is no need to draw each element. Of course, there are cases when there is no necessary element in any of the pictures, so the designer needs to draw it.

Book covers with the illustration on the front cover

The illustrated cover is drawn from the scratch. The process of its creation takes much more time, unlike the custom book covers. It takes at least two weeks to create the first concept for such cover. Mostly you will get the black and white version of the illustration in 3 days. After that, the designer will make it colorful and add all the necessary details. In this case, the picture will look exactly the same as described in your book, so it’s the best option for those authors who want to have the fiction creature on their cover. This type of covers allows you to reflect the tiniest details of each character.

If you want to compare how each type of the covers look, please check our portfolio..

Illustrated cover vs Stock pictures cover

Now let’s compare these two options.

Time of creation.

Using stock pictures, you will get the final cover faster than creating the illustration from scratch. So if you have a tight deadline, it’s better to choose the design of custom book cover. The time for making changes will also be different. For example, if you want to change the face of the character, it is easier and faster to replace it by the face from the other picture rather than to draw a new one.


The cost of illustration is much higher. The creation of one illustration requires the same time as the creation of five custom book covers with stock pictures. Also, it requires much more imagination from the designer as you need to create every detail in your mind and show it on the cover. It is not just about the combination of the elements.
The creation custom book covers cannot be cheap as well as the designer should buy all the pictures, and their cost may sometimes reach up to $50 or higher as at Getty Images.


Of course, illustrations are absolutely unique, and you cannot find any of their elements on any other picture. But custom book covers are unique as well, as they are the combination of many images so you cannot find the same cover. Even the covers created with the usage of the same picture will look different as different fonts, textures and effects will change their look.

So, before to select one of the options you need to think of how much you have and what budget can you afford for the book cover design. If you have a tight deadline of 3-4 days, you should never choose to order the illustration for your cover. There is a chance that you will get the first draft, but it will not be polished and good enough to publish. But if you prepare all the files in a month before the release date, you are always welcome to start working on the illustrated cover and astonish your readers with amazing book cover design of your manuscript.