Mystery and Suspense Book Cover Design: Tips and Examples

Mystery and Suspense Book Cover Design: Tips and Examples

You write mystery and suspense stories, and you want fans of the genre to recognize your books at first glance. That would significantly improve sales and increase your popularity, wouldn’t it? Fortunately, making your wish come true with a proper book cover design is easy.

Today we’ll share tips on creating a stunning mystery and suspense book cover. Also, we’ll provide vivid examples for each case. All right, let’s roll.

What should a mystery and suspense book cover look like?

Each book genre has its unique characteristics, not only in the plot but also on the cover. Mystery and suspense stories are not an exception. After all, choosing such a book, the reader certainly doesn’t expect to see images of happy lovers or cute animals. Most likely, he’ll see abandoned houses, mysterious characters, ghost images, or dense woods.  

According to the genre standards, mystery and suspense book cover should:

  • Cause a desire to reveal the secret
  • Evoke curiosity
  • Force the brain to work on the verge of its abilities
  • Evoke such emotions as fear and anxiety
  • Make readers think that they’re not alone in the room.

To understand how it works, let’s analyze some examples.

What are the most frequently used images in mystery and suspense book cover design?

When readers go to a bookstore and look for mystery and suspense stories, their eyes subconsciously catch a glimpse of specific pictures. Let’s see what they are so you can use them in your book cover design.

1. Strange houses and abandoned buildings

Events in houses or cottages far from civilization are a widespread motif for this genre. Even Agatha Christie used mysterious mansions as her main theater of action in over half of her 66 novels. So, no wonder that strange houses and abandoned buildings are frequently used on the book covers to create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

In our examples, you can also see lonely houses with paths overgrown with grass. It seems that no one’s lived here for a long time. There is no light in the dark windows, and you can’t guess if someone’s watching you now, hiding inside the house. Looking at these book covers, you want to know what terrible secrets these walls hide.

Book cover design by MiblArt

2. Dense woods and untouched nature

People usually associate thick and dark woods with secrets as it’s unclear what’s waiting for us at the end of the path, lost between trees. A murderer? A hidden corpse? A haunted house? Such things make readers get nervous.

The following example shows dense woods where sunlight can’t even break through the trees. The most attentive readers will also notice the human body, almost merged with the general landscape. We don’t know who he is or whether he is alive. But we want to find out about it as soon as possible.

Book cover design by MiblArt

3. Cemeteries and ghost images

Graves, crypts, and desolated chapels mostly scare people as well. So why can’t we use them in the mystery and suspense book cover design? Cemeteries have one function in real life: To bury people to have an opportunity to visit their graves, mainly in the daytime. But when someone steps away from this scenario, we start getting suspicious of something.

The same thing happened in the following book cover. What is this young man doing in the cemetery at night? Whom is he fleeing from? What’s in the suitcase? We definitely want to find answers to these questions.      

Book cover design by MiblArt

4. Things associated with mystery

This list includes puzzles, sunglasses, binoculars, sealed envelopes, masks, veilings, gloves, fingerprints, footmarks, half-smoked cigars, whatever. We can use such things as a central figure implying that the book tells about something suspicious.

Check out below how a red puzzle hints at some troubles to solve and scary secrets to reveal. The second example contains the binoculars in the foreground, immersing us in the story, so we feel like we are spying on our neighbors.


Book cover design by MiblArt

5. Contrasting images

And here, we don’t mean colors but the main ideas of the pictures. The point of this is to combine peaceful and frightening images. You can hide the last one a bit so that it does not immediately catch the eye. When readers see such a book cover in the mystery and suspense section, they directly look for clues and come across scary details.

The first book cover contains a diversity of beautiful flowers and a cup. But only when you look closely, you’ll notice that the cup contains blood, not tea. The second example gives us the image of a gorgeous lady in a pale pink dress. But wait, is it a knife in her hands?          

Book cover design by MiblArt

What do the main characters look like in mystery and suspence book cover design?

A protagonist is another critical element in the mystery and suspense book cover design. Their poses and facial expressions can increase tension and evoke certain emotions. We want to share how characters should look on the book covers.

1. They stand with their backs

This trick performs several functions. Firstly, it adds more mystery as we can’t see the character’s face. Secondly, from that perspective, the heroes look at all troubles they have to solve. And finally, we can immerse into the story better feeling that we stand in the back of the protagonists as a part of the team.    


Book cover design by MiblArt

2. Their faces are covered

Even if the characters stand facing us, we often do not fully see their faces. They can be hidden in the darkness, with tree branches, hoods, or sunglasses. This appearance makes the reader want to know more about the hero and his secrets.

Book cover design by MiblArt

3. They are dressed like true detectives

The protagonists don’t have to be detectives, although it’s a prevalent occupation for mystery and suspense books. They usually wear expensive and stylish suits because people associate such clothes with high intelligence. Such characters can solve any problem and reveal all the dark secrets.


Book cover design by MiblArt

What about typography?

Book cover typography is essential as it catches the readers’ attention. Due to it, people can distinguish the author’s name and the book’s title. Unlike fantasy books, we don’t use too fancy and graceful fonts in the mystery and suspense book cover design. But there are some other essential tips to know.

1. Large letters

The title can take up 1/3 of the area of the book cover or even more. Designers often use bold fonts. Such a size aims to attract the readers’ attention. The author’s name can be equal in size to the title or be a bit smaller. Also, you can add the book’s slogan in small letters.

Book cover design by MiblArt

2. Contrasting colors

You can use a bright contrasting color to highlight the book’s title. It works great if all other design elements are made in one hue, for example, navy blue, dark green, or gray. In practice, words in red suit the mystery and suspense book cover the best.

Book cover design by MiblArt

3. Sans Serif fonts

Indeed, you’ve met Serif fonts with numerous curls on the covers of this genre. However, Sans Serif typography is preferable. The mystery and suspense stories are closer to real-life than fantasy books with their dragons and elves. That’s why we need fonts that provide a clean look and remind us of the typography we used to see daily.

So, what is the most popular Sans Serif font in this book cover design? Draw attention to:

  • Helvetica
  • Gill Sans
  • Inter Sans
  • Innovate
  • Proxima Nova
  • Futura.

What are primarily-used colors in mystery and suspense book cover design?

Have you ever heard of color theory in book cover design? Even if your answer is ‘No,’ you’ve most likely noticed that some book covers are often pink or yellow, while others are dark blue or black. And it usually depends on the genre. Why is it so? The particular colors evoke particular emotions. And we can use this trick to make our mystery and suspense book cover design work for us. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Dark colors

Artists and designers use dark colors to evoke such emotions as fear, anxiety, anger, depression, and despair. And these are the moods we need for the mystery and suspense book covers.

2. One-color is predominant

We can often see that the book covers of this genre are monotone. They are usually made in one color but in different shades: Blue, green, gray, brown, or black. This trick helps preserve the same mood, highlight the central image and avoid distraction. And it is the case when you should use a contrasting title. It looks great on the sole-colored covers.

Book cover design by MiblArt

3. Colors associated with night-time

Most mysterious and suspicious events happen at twilight or night when no one’s looking. That’s why colors such as black, dark blue, gray, violet, and emerald are preferable because we associate them with the late hour.

4. His Majesty, Red color

Red is a color of power, anger, and rage. However, when we speak about the mystery and suspense stories, we also mean blood and murder. These scary things are integral parts of this genre, so no wonder that we use a red hue for the book covers. It’s a great way to highlight the title and emphasize some elements.   

Book cover design by MiblArt

The final note

Mystery and suspense book cover design mean many elements and features. When we speak about the images, the book covers can contain strange houses and abandoned buildings, dense woods and untouched nature, cemeteries, and ghost images. We can use mystery-related things (puzzles, masks, or fingerprints) or play with contrasting ideas.

If there are protagonists on the book cover, we usually see them standing with their backs, with covered faces, or dressed in expensive suits. 

Keep in mind that Sans Serif typography is preferable. Using large letters and highlighting the title with a contrasting hue is a great idea.

Colors matter a lot as they evoke certain emotions and moods. That’s why we should choose those that cause fear, anxiety, anger, depression, and despair; for instance, dark colors that are associated with night and twilight. Also, don’t forget about red as it means blood and murder, which are frequent in mystery and suspense stories.

What other features of such book covers have you ever noticed? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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7 months ago

These book covers are all effective because they are visually appealing, evocative, and mysterious. They create a sense of curiosity and excitement, and they hint at the plot of the book without giving too much away.