12 Stunning Book Cover Illustrations You Need to See

Are you a beginner in the world of illustration? Or looking to get some illustration work, but don’t know what you want? This list of the most vital styles of illustration is a good place to start.

February 28, 2024

Table of Contents

Graphic Design Subscription

One-stop for all your designs. Flat monthly price, unlimited requests and revisions.

If you’re an art director or graphic designer looking for inspiration for your next illustrated book cover, you’ve come to the right place! 

Sure, reading a book on Kindle is handy. But the feeling when you pick up a book at a bookstore is something else.

Book cover design is a true art form since it requires immense graphic design talent to create something that’s beautiful, appealing to a certain audience and fitting to the theme or story of the book.

With the expansion of digital art, book cover illustrations have gotten more intricate and impressive. A quick Google search will give you tons of awe-inspiring examples, but our selection of some of the best book covers also includes categories that can help you find inspiration to create a cover for your next project.

Children’s book illustrations

You never forget your favorite childhood book. But, if it also featured a fun cover illustration that’s a mental image that lasts (looking at you, handsome musketeer on my copy of the Alexandre Dumas novel). 

In fact, children’s book illustrations often feature characters we love, or book cover art that’s bright and playful, and therefore appropriate for young audiences. Here are some great examples of story book cover design to inspire you. 

1. Collection of children’s stories

Speaking of loveable characters, fairy tales seem like a good place to start. This gorgeous story book cover design with Little Red Riding Hood is something you’d immediately notice on the bookshelf. The elegant darker background gives the scene a more dramatic, mysterious look. 

It’s incredibly intricate but what makes it a great book cover is that the design still isn’t too noisy. With just the two main characters, you can guess what it’s about. And this simplicity and universality are precisely what we love about fairy tales!

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Olly Moss, the talented book cover illustrator behind this cover art has a unique vintage style, which is a perfect fit for this magical read. 

Thes Harry Potter covers were commissioned by Pottermore and created with avid fans in mind. That’s why each creative book cover features a key element from the story (in this case Harry’s patronus). They’re all pretty amazing so I encourage all Potterheads to check them out.

3. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Yet another classic, this example provides a stunning front and back cover. It features the main characters and the book title is written on a signpost which is perfectly fitting for this story that includes many travels and adventures.

The ornaments and framing give the novel cover art a more vintage feel, but the illustrations look pretty great and contemporary. And of course, you immediately recognize the three unusual characters that make this book so special.

Decorative book covers

If you prefer to get your books in a  bookshop rather than Amazon, surely you can appreciate the draw of beautiful book covers you immediately notice on a bookshelf.

These artistic book covers will make every book you get a treasure you’d like to keep. 

4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Coralie Bickford-Smith is a celebrated book cover illustrator, best known for designing book covers for Random House Penguin classics. It’s pretty hard to single out one cover from her rich portfolio, but since I grew up with two sisters, this classic is one of my favorites.

Each book cover design matches the theme or setting of the book in some way. The cover art for The Great Gatsby is gold, with an art-deco style pattern. This one has a romantic color scheme and a floral pattern made up of small bunches of three flowers (perhaps symbolizing the three Dashwood sisters).

coralie bickford smith book cover illustration

5. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott  with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis

This fiction book was inspired by Claire Winelad, a young author with cystic fibrosis. The book tells the story of two young patients who develop a romantic relationship despite being forced to stay 6ft away from each other at all times. 

This beautiful illustrated book cover was done by Lisa Perrin and outlines the shape of lungs (the organ affected by cystic fibrosis) using tree branches and flowers. It’s romantic, yet slightly dark, perfectly fitting to the theme of the story.

five feet apart book cover illustration

6. Tales of Kathasaritasagara by Jayshree Bhat

Minimalism is often considered a staple of good graphic design, but sometimes rules are made to be broken. 

This collection of adapted 11th-century legends, folktales and fairy tales features a colorful book cover drawing by Chaaya Prabhat. Although it can be considered a children’s book illustration, this stunning design celebrates cultural heritage and verbal tradition, and is therefore appealing to adults as well.

tales of the kathasaritasagara book cover illustration

Modern book cover designs

Sometimes a book’s theme simply doesn’t go well with romantic graphic design or dainty hand lettering. On the other hand, it’s pretty great to find a classic “wearing” a modern book jacket with sleek, minimal illustrations that appeal to the modern audience.

Either way, if you want to take a contemporary art direction, you can consider the illustration styles of the following book cover ideas.

7. Paradise Regained by John Milton

This literary masterpiece is a continuation of Paradise Lost, and shares its biblical themes and motifs. Since temptation is one of the main themes this ominous snake makes a terrific front cover for this bilingual, Hungarian-English edition.

The illustration work included in the book is also terrific, following the same theme of light and dark contrasts, ambiguity, chaos and beauty.  And it’s a great example to show that a good book cover doesn’t need to be colorful to stand out

8. The Poison of Love by K.R. Meera

If you’re designing a children’s book, watercolors or pencil illustration might be a great choice. But digital art is certainly something to consider for contemporary publications.

This (anti)romantic novel tells the story of one woman’s slow demise, caused by her love for her husband. This fiction book also tackles some elements from mythology so this mysterious, dark cover is perfect. The glimmer of the snake in the water, wrapping around the woman juxtaposes the hands of prayer (perfectly sums up a toxic relationship, right?).

The choice of typography also works well with the title of the book. The lettering is fluid, but also bold and works much better than a dainty script font that would fit a more conventional romance novel.

the poison of love book cover illustration

9. Ararat by Frank Westerman

You’d easily think this dramatic cover illustration belongs to a thriller, so I’m excused from sneaking this one non-fiction book on the list. The novel describes the writer’s journey to the reputed resting place of Noah’s Ark, and now a cultural, geographical and political landmark.

The book is described as “a pilgrimage of a non-believer”, as he travels from the domain of knowledge to that of faith. The human figure seemingly leaping off a cliff perfectly captures that “leap of faith” the author searches for, while the simplicity of the art puts timeless ponderings in a more modern context.

The story as design inspiration

A person with some graphic design knowledge could probably pull off creating a decent book cover in software like Canva or Adobe Photoshop if you’re more advanced.

However, it takes a true master of graphic design to marry the theme of the book with different design elements like color or typography in the best book cover you could imagine.

10. Make Way for Her by Katie Cortese

This collection of short stories covers narratives about women aged five to forty-five, exploring different walks of life, love, knowledge and desire. It’s perhaps more difficult to create a great book cover for an anthology rather than a novel, since it’s hard to rely on one storyline for inspiration.

And yet, this wonderful illustrated book cover does a great job of luring potential readers in and giving a “taste” of what to expect. It shows a woman with her head “in the clouds' ' standing on a small step ladder. Although it’s bright and playful, there’s something reflective about the illustration. It’s definitely “feminine” in a more traditional sense, but also suggests a vast emotional, psychological and philosophical scope.

make way for her book cover illustration

11. Educated by Tara Westover

The New York Times bestseller memoir tells the story of a young Mormon girl trying to navigate her way out of the constraints of religion, tradition and survivalist family through education—with all the emotional complexity that comes with.

The watercolor pencil dominates the cover, however you can still see a small figure of a girl standing on what resembles the top of the mountain. This image is fitting in both the literal sense (Tara grew up on a mountain called Buck’s Peak in rural Idaho), as well as metaphorically, to designate her trying journey of conquering education and growing up.

educated book cover illustration

12.  Silence by Shusaku Endo

This is another very minimal cover art that’s both modern and timeless. This great book is a novel about the prosecution of Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan.

Although set in a specific historical context, the book itself is a timeless exploration of religion, faith, betrayal, suffering and forgiveness.

This eye-catching front cover elegantly juxtaposes the two contrasting influences in the book: Western Christianity and Japan. The red sun has a twofold meaning, as the symbol found on the Japanese flag, but also hints at the devastating bloodshed found in the book.

silence book cover illustration

More illustration inspiration

From social media to web design, here at ManyPixels, we know that a great custom illustration can do wonders to attract the right audience. That’s why we regularly update our free illustration gallery with great designs everyone can use.

If you’re still looking for more book cover illustration ideas, be sure to check out our article with cookbook illustration ideas and our tips on how to find a freelance illustrator.

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

How we can help

A design solution you will love


Fast & Reliable

Get your design back in 1-2 business days.

Fixed Monthly Rate

Unlimited requests & revisions, same price.

Flexible & Scalable

No contracts. Scale up or down as you go.

Pro Designers

Work with battle-tested professionals only.
Book a call

Our top 100 Illustrations

Get inspired with some of ManyPixels best custom illustrations. Download our portfolio to check them out!

Wait... there’s more!

Enjoyed the read? Subscribe to our mailing list for all the latest tips, how-tos and news on graphic design and marketing.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.