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55 Best Tips for a Successful Magazine Cover

| February 18, 2014 | 15 Comments

Magazine cover tips

After we introduced you to the world of magazine covers, this post will give you some general tips about cover design and headline writing. Of course you will have to be the judge if these concepts will work for your audience and we would like to point out that these are the concepts for magazines that rely on newsstand sales.

You can pick the best magazines by their covers. Cover without a focus is a magazine without a focus. Bad covers belong to the bad magazines. They say you cannot judge a book by its cover, but if we apply this phrase to magazines it is just the opposite. You can judge the magazine by its cover.
A good cover page should force a potential buyer to make a decision to buy a magazine. The good cover is the sales figure driver for your magazine.


Magazine cover tips

Design related tips

  • Cover model should look straight into the camera. Eye contact is important.
  • When designing a cover you can play around, you can exaggerate, but you should remain within your concept and style and you should know what to exaggerate.
  • Each cover needs one headline that will pop out. In size, in color, in attitude.
  • The cover page should have a focus point. It can be a model in the image it can be a headline or a number, but something has to draw the eye.
  • Divide your cover in three sections. Big one with main cover line, smaller one with few cover lines and the smallest one with few more cover lines.
  • If you plan to use orange color for the cover lines print them with additional spot color. Orange never looks good if printed in traditional CMYK process. It will look brownish.
  • Green is the least used color on cover pages and red is the most used one. Whichever you use, make sure you have a contrast between colors.
  • Main color has to be different than the one in the previous issue. Buyers may mistakenly replace the new issue with the old one and not buy it.
  • They say black covers do not sell. They are wrong.
  • For smaller cover lines, preferably go with black text or white if the background is dark. For bigger ones use colors.
  • Masthead’s position is not a sacred one. If you think you can achieve something, for example boost sales with a cover line above the masthead than go for it. Move the masthead little bit below and add some cover line above it even if you have never done it. This can be great if your magazine is tucked away on the shelves. This extra space can be useful.
  • In USA magazines are racked in waterfall presentation so the top third of the magazine is the most visible part and there you will see the biggest cover lines. In Europe it is the different story. Over here magazines are stacked so that the left third of the magazine is the most visible one. This is why there are so many magazines in Europe with masthead in top left position.
  • Photography looks better and sells more than illustrations on the cover page.
  • It does not matter if you shoot the cover model in your studio or if you buy stock photo of a model background has to be in solid color. Any patterns or mixing colors in the background will make your life hell when designing a cover page.


Magazine cover tips

Cover lines related tips

  • Use word play, but only when you will be sure that the readers will understand it immediately. The potential buyer has no time to think what did you mean by that word play. Everything should be clear in a second.
  • If you plan to use a question as the cover line, give an answer to it.
  • The biggest cover line does not have to be the biggest feature in the magazine.
  • The biggest cover line should appeal to the biggest section of your target readers. For example, in women’s magazine those can be diets, beauty, fashion; for men’s mags it can be sex, cars, fitness…
  • Yes, sex sells, but sometimes the word itself can be too direct especially to women. It can deter rather than to appeal, so use it implicitly.
  • Use numbers since they suggest that there is a lot in a magazine. Numbers can often be your best selling point. For example, “22 best beauty salons in XYZ” By using the numbers you are telling your reader that you have made a selection from a number that is much bigger than the one you stated in your cover line.
  • Repeat your best selling cover lines from time to time. It is not a shame to repeat yourself, especially if the cover line was so great.
  • You can replace one cover line with a list. Readers love lists.
  • Use descriptive words to spark reader’s curiosity.

As you can see there are no 55 tips in this post, but this trick is used daily in magazines world wide to attract the readers into buying. Besides, who is counting, right?!

These are some of the tips you can implement on your covers and if you have some more ideas that worked out for your magazine be so kind and share them with us.


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Category: Design

Comments (15)

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  1. Dolores says:

    Thank you so much!!! Keep them coming. 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    thanks, you were very helpful !

  3. Monika Desai says:

    Amazing information for free. Thank you for all steps to successful magazine cover.

    Monika K Desai

  4. Tia says:

    Ty it really help a lot ;D

  5. sel san says:

    It is so helpful with short but meaningful tips. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Kevin says:

    thanks for this info, valuable stuff, thanks!

  7. Liz says:

    Really helpful. Thanks a bunch

  8. John Brinkmann says:

    Your argument lost me immediately:

    “A good cover page should force a potential buyer to make a decision to buy a magazine.”

    Force? People know when they’re being forced. I prefer not to force anybody into any situation. The secret lies in capturing their willing interest. Feels better for both creator and consumer. Lasts longer, too.

  9. Zeeshan Ali says:

    Your post topic is very informative and useful for all readers

  10. ??? says:

    Thanks this helped a lot

    First comment of 2019 😀

  11. Lilia says:

    Hi Nikola,

    Thank you for sharing all the valuable information about magazines.

    I reorganizing a magazine and learning while I am doing it!

    So this is very helpful!

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