Disclaimer: if you have any budget at all for a book cover, buy or commission the best you can afford. After actually having a decent book, a good cover may make the difference between succeeding and failing. It is one of the best investments you can make. If, however, you do need to design your own covers, Canva can be a lifesaver. I don't believe you need to wait until you make enough money to publish a book. You can publish with a decent cover, make some sales, and then funnel your earnings into a re-launch with an awesome cover that will take your marketing to a whole new level.
So let's begin. For me, it usually starts with Pixabay, the safest and least confusing image source. You can freely use any image there for commercial purposes. Of course, someone else might have used it in a book cover already, but that's the case with all stock photography, even if you pay for it.
Let's say I'm making a cover for a historical fiction novel titled "Lady of the Fire". I find this image, which is fantastic:
It appears that my best option in this case is to make the woman's image semi-transparent and layer it over the fiery background. To do that, I go to Canva, choose the book cover design option, and upload both images. As I adjust the sizes and placing, I select the lady's image, press "Position" and choose "Forward". This means that the fire remains in the background.
Then there is the fading checkers image. These are the transparency settings. I play around with them until I'm satisfied and adjust both images over each other until they merge perfectly.
Add the title and pronto:
The semi-transparency of the front image adds a touch I really like. I could play with the fonts some more, but this will do for now.
I hope you found this tutorial useful! Please feel free to share.