Art + Design

This is How a Book Cover is Hand-Lettered

We’re big fans of hand-lettering here at Chronicle Books—sometimes titles drawn by hand bring just the right amount of personality and style to a cover design. Whether we use lettering chops of our own or work with talented artists, we often incorporate custom elements into our covers. Here are some recent Chronicle titles that feature hand-lettering, with snapshots into the cover design process!

How to Be a Wildflower

This book is filled with Katie Daisy’s paintings and lettering, so it was a no-brainer to ask her to hand-letter the cover. We wanted to give Katie a lot of room to be creative, but at the same time, we needed to be clear about the parameters for the materials that we had all agreed on—a separate front cover and spine, known as a two-piece case.

First, we created a very rough mock-up to give her an idea of the lettering style and color palette that we preferred. We chose a piece of art from the book’s interior to stand in for the front cover panel and just used some generic clip art to show how the back cover and spine could work. From there, Katie delivered rough sketches in black and white. We liked the sketch below best, but thought it would work better without the corner details on the right.

After this round, there were probably about three or four more back and forth rounds where we refined layout, color palette, and lettering to achieve our final cover. —Brooke, Lead Designer, Art

Initial Cover Mock-up:

How to Be a Wildflower cover comp

Cover Sketch:

How to Be a Wildflower cover sketch

Final Cover:
How to Be a Wildflower


The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a picture book about a girl who loves to run and is endlessly inspired by Wilma Rudolph. After trying several different typefaces in various arrangements, nothing seemed to be matching Frank Morrison’s art style in the way I had hoped. I tried a few hand-drawn sketches of the title, and landed on one that seemed to work extremely well. The angled type conveyed the idea of motion and quickness of the main character, Alta. —Ryan, Senior Designer, Children’s

Pencil Sketch:

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville sketch

Painted Version:

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville painted sketch

Final Cover:

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville


Start Now! The Creativity Journal

Start Now! is a guided journal and sketchbook of inspiring prompts for would-be artists; it’s completely hand-lettered and illustrated on the interior by author Kate Neckel. We initially designed a cover with a typeset title in order for it to stand out amid all the drawings around it, but it wasn’t quite coming together. The author suggested that she send us some hand-lettered options to try, and the energy and impact of them was undeniable! We ended up also shortening the title accordingly. —Emily, Senior Designer, Entertainment

Early Cover Design:

Start Now and Repeat early cover design

Cover Lettering:

 Start Now and Repeat cover lettering sketches

Final Cover: 

Start Now

– – –

For more behind-the-scenes on the lettering process, check out Ryan’s post about the cover design of Old MacDonald Had a Truck. And for more hand-lettering eye candy, take a look at the Little Book of Lettering or, if you’re interested in trying your own hand at some lettering, start with the Hand-Lettering Ledger.

Allison Weiner

Allison Weiner

Senior Designer at Chronicle Books and weekend crafter.
Allison Weiner

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