Project Focus: 2-Color Cover Design for Trade Publishers

POSTED ON Sep 22, 2009

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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For offset printing, 2-color covers can be much more economical than 4-color covers, particularly for short-run books.

I discussed two 2-color covers for self-published books in a previous article and explained why these covers are often preferred by publishers. Here I look at two covers done for trade publishers.

This first cover was designed for a book I packaged for Charles Tuttle, Inc., a Boston-based publisher. Drawn from the writings of D.T. Suzuki, the noted Japanese author of books on Zen Buddhism, this book intended to take advantage of the popularity of an earlier book I had published by the same author, The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk.

Here, a dark blue is used instead of black, and the second color is metallic gold. The very prominent typography stands out remarkably well against the background and gold Buddha, an illustration taken from the content of the book. I often prefer using the book’s own illustrations on the cover when available because it yields an integration between cover and interior that is often missing in trade books.


The next jacket was designed for Oak Knoll Press. The story of the postwar book buying of noted bibliophiles Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern, Old Books in the Old World was published as a hardcover in a relatively small print run. The book needed a jacket design that was both elegant and evocative of the time period as well as cost-effective and modern enough to appeal to contemporary book buyers. These requirements create exactly the kind of challenge book designers love.

Here I used black for the halftone and a very deep yellow for typographic and design elements, and I think the finished product meets all the requirements set for it.


Whether you are a trade publisher, or a self-publisher creating a book to compete head-on with the products of the larger publishers, 2-color covers can play a role in your production plans. When printing offset, some short-run books, or those which need to be produced with the greatest cost efficiency may profit by being designed with 2-color covers. Make sure your book designer offers this option for your consideration.

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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