What makes cover art attractive?

I’ve been thinking about this for a little while now, and I fully expect this broad of a question to get answers along the line of “It just is or it just isn’t.” Which is fine! I think there are some obvious elements to good cover art that we all recognize, just as most people can agree on (or can they?) about what looks good or what doesn’t. Like polish! I think we can all agree that a more “polished” cover art is more attractive than one that isn’t.

But what other elements about a cover draw you into a game, or make you want to click on it in the storefront?

Is it bright colors or moody atmospheres? How do covers like a Squire’s Tale fare against covers like Mask of the Plague Doctor?


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Is it style? Are cartoon-like or comic book-style covers more or less popular than realistic or painted covers? Or abstract vs. figurative?


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Is it adherence to and conveyance of genre? Are covers that are very indicative of their specific genre more appealing, or do the ones that encompass a broad scope of possible stories draw in more curious readers?


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Is it subject matter? I used to think covers had to feature specific and central characters for me to be drawn in by them, but it turns out there are a lot of COG games that did not feature a “person” that I had no problem being engaged by!


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Or do you ignore the cover art and go by title and summary?

I’m very interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this! What draws you in when looking at all of the different covers on the storefronts? What makes a game stand out to you, just by its cover? Put another way, what’s one thing or the most important thing you need in a cover for you to want to click on it, if applicable?

(This is not an invitation, by the way, to bash any specific covers or games, as each of them are the product of someone’s hard work and artistic creativity. I also happen to think each and every cover I’ve seen is incredible in its unique way!)

(Also, I used COG covers for this post, but in case anyone doesn’t know, these are just the promotional images that appear on the COG website–you can see the full, larger versions in places like the Omnibus app and admire their full beauty there! I say this because some examples I used as “not having people” do, in fact, have people in their full renditions.)


Gotta say the Plague doctor cover is so beautiful . If you take it out of its context, it could easely be a painting setup in a gloomy antic living room, with one of those old clock going about .

Personally, I rarely pay attention to the cover . And they have no influence over if I’m gonna try this demo or buy that game .

I learned that the hard way, when I wanted to buy this game called ‘’ Demon Mark’’ and well…in a spazze moment I brough Avatar of the Wolf thinking sure that was its cover lol so I don’t go by cover anymore .

In conclusion (Love using that line lol), I would say one thing about the covert . And that is, I do enjoy the fact that they are made by different artist . Why? So we see different talent at work . It really no different then getting a thrill of reading different stories from diferrent writers and see how they will spin things around .


Personally I find detailed covers picque my interest more than a very simple cover with just the title. However, I don´t always like being presented with the whole cast drawn extensively since it can break the image I had in mind for them.
I think I find myself more drawn to “mysterious” covers or covers that make me ask “What´s that about?” For example that Magician´s Workshop cover makes me ask what is really going on. Seems like a blend of magic and steampunk. And the only way for me to find out? To read it. Same with Chronicon Apocalyptica. I see a hand with dull skin coming out of that box… but what in the world is going on? So I´m more likely to read those than others.

All that being said, I´m often bored, so wether I like the cover art or not, I´ll most probably take a look when there aren´t new games out.

If the goal is to capture the mind of the would-be-players with the cover art, some mysteriousness behind it is the way to go (make the viewer curious!). While showcasing at the same time what kind of genre is to be expected through background props or color. We can easily infer from Chronicon that it´s not going to be a young child´s first world aventure or something of the kind.


Some reviewers at IFComp actually do reviews of the cover art and blurbs Obviously art is subjective, but I really recommend taking a look at last year’s coverart from the ifcomp entries and then reading the reviews about them. (And not just because they said some nice things about my cover. I found the breakdown for what they thought was and wasn’t working really helpful :grin:)

Edit: Probably should also link to the covers and blurbs they’re talking about :slight_smile: IFComp 2019


Let me think this through, because you can’t really objectively critique art (although there are certain rules). The ideal cover art, in my opinion:

  1. It should be have some sort of artistic merit. Being drawn by someone with talent is the obvious first step to good cover art. What is well drawn? Whatever isn’t poorly drawn (this part is fairly subjective).

  2. It should convey the tone of the game, and at least give an idea of what occurs. For example, I love this poster for the movie Moonraker because it does both:

A COG cover that does this well is Blood Money. It shows the mood through its style and subject, and shows the ghosts that are so heavily involved in the plot.

  1. As long as it relates to the game, subject matter doesn’t matter. Choice of Robots and Metahuman Inc are two of my favorite covers out there, and they feature polar opposites in tone and subject.

  2. Finally, it should have some sort of intrigue to it. When I take a look at Choice of the Petal Throne, I see a random guy kneeling at a statue. …Okay? Alternatively, when I look at Congresswolf, I see a huge crowd with all eyes on a central figure, clearly about to give an important address. Now, I want to play the game so I can figure out what he’s talking about, and what side he’ll take.

However, as I said, art is subjective. Ultimately, its quality will always depend upon viewer tastes.


Yeah I agree, sometimes for small pictures like you’re going to see on an app store, less can be more. Having a simple picture which highlights something important in the game can work remarkably well, where as more detailed pictures have to be careful not to get too “busy” as the impact can get lost on a phone screen very easily.


I don’t know what makes the cover art attractive, I just go with my gut and do what I think it fIx

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Ugh, lots of things. But it’s essentially in three parts for me.

1. Font
Usually, it looks, quite frankly, ugly if it’s like from Word. Although some fonts can work if it works with the game. Take a look at The Parenting Simulator.
I don’t like the font. But since it works with the theme and the mood of the game, it actually works, so overall I don’t have any problem with it. The Fog Knows Your Name is also a great example.

Also, if it’s legible, it’ll make it look much better.

2. Placing
I’m talking about the general placing; of the art, of the font, and if it mixes with the art.
in 180 Files: The Aegis Project, the placement is great. Aside from the fact that the font is excellent, it’s positioned well and it flows nicely. It doesn’t block the art, and has equal distribution.

Color is also included on this one. If you have a dark background, and you place text with another dark color, then it’ll look not that good. And try to make sure that the color theory is applied.

3. Art
This is the first thing that the (possible) readers see. Now let’s be honest, if it looks horrible, we’ll likely scroll on. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed, or good, but if it’s eye-catching, then it’s a good thing.

I really like the art in Stronghold and Mask of the Plague Doctor.

But then again, it’s all about preference. I lean more on scifi-related posters because I love sci-fi. And most people won’t actually dig too deep on a poster, because they’ll likely focus on the blurb and/or demo.


Same, for me a cover art says a lot, yes I know don’t judge the book by the cover, but a good cover art is a plus to get me interested in a book :slight_smile:


All of that makes the cover attractive. The thing is to know when to make one thing or another.
I would’ve feel tricked if Blood Money had a cover like Tally Ho, for example. It doesn’t make Tally Ho’s cover bad, it’s marvelous. For Tally ho. What if Blood Money had the colors of Fool!'s cover? It wouldn’t work either. So it’s a mix of everything. The artists for CoG’s games always do a great work, they know what they’re doing. I barelly have any cover I don’t like. And it doesn’t even has something to do with the artist’s style itself; The Eagle’s Heir has the same artist as Kidnapped! and their covers are very different; Adrienne knew what to do to pass a comic message in one and a more serious message in the other. But this is all half of the criteria.
The other half is just the personal preference of the reader. Two covers I like a lot are the covers of Heart of the House and, again, Blood Money. They both are fantastic and tells you what the games are like; but if I had to pick one of them, I’d pick Heart of The House JUST because I like that style more, so it makes more attractive for me. Many other people may think other way.

Opinion of a small artist that’s trying to make a living of it


Well, first of all I want to clarify that I’m not by any means qualified to say something of a considerable veracity, this is just stuff I catched while trying to learn and think about what and how to draw my own cover and for doing publicity posters for my work.

So, the image, position and alignment, there are quite a few studies as far as I know about how the placement of the objects draw the attention of the viewer, namely golden ratio, rule of thirds, etc…
The objects, or the parts of them that you want to be catched at first glance should be placed on those lines.

Color /mood / tone.
Here you would pick the general tone of the drawing (if it is a colored one), and the subsequent colors that would accompany it. There are articles about this you can look for and also pallets with specific match of colors to achieve the desired goal.
Red is generally used for arousal, excitement, violence, blood, power.
Green for nature, peacefully, safety, prosperity, equilibrium.
you can find the rest of them by your own, they are all over the internet.
I’ve found there are some discrepancies on the moods that each color convey depending where you find the information but there is a general tendency among them.
There are pallets that the publicity industry already use for this so you can borrow those, in essence you are making a publicity about your book, so you want to draw attention to it, publicity does that and they already know how to. If you want just a logo, there are thousands of known brand logos already, so you can see the same pattern on them (designs applying the rule of thirds or similar) and you can also find the specific colors and mood in all of them (McDonald’s (yellow), intel (blue), coca cola (red), ups, shell, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, a lot of times, there are too much examples to mention)

Contrast also plays a role, it is maybe the only tool you can use on a b&w drawing, but it also can be used on a colored one to draw the reader’s attention to a certain part of the image.
Whether it be a blurred background or less detailed traces increasing the contrast towards the desired part, you can play with that as you please…

This is the part that varies the most as opinions vary from person to person. Some of us don’t find meaning on abstract drawings and others pay millions of —insert currency here— for a painting of that branch (though the renown name of the artist that created it also plays a really important roll I guess).
I guess that if you are trying to portray something that resembles something of your book the abstract kind of things will do a poor job in that regard. Anyways, a well done detailed work could give more information than a simple one, A clogged one full of stuffs could seem ugly and messy by some. Sometimes just a simple symbol can be enough to say to the reader what it needs to be said, the balance can tip to either side depending on many factors.

Commonly and general accepted things.
Eyes draw attention, symmetry is generally seen as beauty and appealing on faces also conveying health and fertility, not to mention things like shoulder to belly to waist ratio for the female and male body attractiveness, skin color, pose of the body and head. Expressions on faces can also make or brake a scene.

Subjective matter.
This is something we have to accept, not everyone would like your cover as not everyone would also like your book.
If you are into ships and pirates a drawing of that would be more attractive than the one of a cat, so besides how well or poor is the drawing it also comes down to the subjective interest of the readers. That though, won’t ensure that the actual book would be appealing to the reader that is into the subject.

I could keep ranting about the subject if you want but that might be more than enough for most of you, so, sorry for the extended version.

And yes, having said all this I’m still not sure what to do for my cover art, I have some ideas but I’ll have to put some more thinking into it once I arrive to the drawing part.

Art is in the eye of the beholder… but you can kind of trick them to like it anyways :thinking:


I took a marketing course in college, and my take away was that there are no firm rules since the market is always changing and people’s opinion is always subjective. Then again, I think I got a “C” in that class so I might not be the best “expert”.

I think that it really needs to, somehow, evoke the mood of the game. For a romance game, you probably wouldn’t want to feature a horrifying monster ripping someone’s head off. For some sort of action/horror game a horrifying cover might work but not for romance. I’m not sure how one would promote an action/horror/romance cover (Combine the two? A nice, romantic scene on one side of a wall and something horrifying on the other? I may actually have seen this somewhere.)

I read that action vs. static images work better when there was a discussion about the cover a (tabletop) role playing game which was being re-launched by a different company. (It was a Hong Kong action movie game, so that may be true for action games and not something with a more sedate pace, like Creme de la Creme, whose cover evokes the feel of the game and isn’t an action cover.)

I tend to prefer covers with more “realistic” art over more “cartoonist” art. I’m not sure how that applies to others. Bright colors tend to attract people’s attention, although how to combine that with a game with a dark, moody atmosphere I am far from sure.

One important thing, I feel, is to let the people know what is in the package so that they don’t feel like they’ve been conned. This, of course, should also be conveyed by the written description of the game. Probably attracting peoples’ attention to get them to read the text is more important, but you are more likely to get them to the text if they think the advertisement is for something they are interested in.

This was all off the top of my head and written in a rush since I need to be on the highway soon to get to a D&D game about an hour away, so keep in mind how much you paid for my advice and it comes with no guarantees, etc.


Colors are heavily culture dependant though, which is good to keep in mind when aiming for international market.


This topic really got me thinking. And typing.

tl;dr version

Knowledge has allowed me to pinpoint exactly why I hate something.

Short Version

Good covers should imply genre and tone.

The Not So Short Version

While I’ve never personally designed game covers and images, I’m somewhat familiar with book cover design. And as a player of games, it seems that they have to be more direct, showing potential users in a glance what they’re in for. And those glances are frequently done on mobile devices.

So, right away, it’s obvious that game cover art can’t be too complex. It’d be hard to see on a phone or tablet. So something simple and crisp is probably better than something busy or impressionistic. (With an illustrated cover, the overall style will depend on the genre of the game and its tone, so that will have to wait for a bit.)

With style on hold, onto genre: As mentioned before, game covers tend to be more direct than book covers. A spy thriller novel can get away with Bold Title + Author Name in neon yellow slapped onto a plain black cover, but a spy thriller game would need to show an actual spy.

But what about tone?

For that, color theory helps–specifically “warm” and “cool” colors. Warm colors are dynamic, and invoke, well, warmer feelings, like happiness. Cooler colors are more passive, and invoke cooler feelings, like sadness. Further, the darkness and lightness of those colors matter. Rule of thumb: A darker cover implies a darker story, a lighter cover a lighter story. (For the sake of sanity, I’ll not talk about tones and shades, or things like complementary colors, lol.)

Now back to style. CoG titles have illustrated covers, but they vary from the realistic to the subtly stylized to the cartoonish. This is another way of conveying tone. Something humorous is more likely to look cartoon-y, while something serious will probably look more realistic. Cover designers can ignore this at their peril. As a related example: There’s a recent trend in romance novels for illustrated covers. These covers all tend to be bright, jaunty affairs, when the words between them are sometimes not. And that is very jarring, not to mention deceptive. They also don’t really show the “heat” level, which is…not good in a genre like romance. Someone who wants a clean novel does not want to be tricked into buying a steamy one, and vice versa.

Finally, there is font. A good font will complement a game’s genre, tone, and style. It also needs to be readable, so it has to stand out from the cover itself, but not so much that it overtakes the whole thing. Color and placement of text is also important; the color should “pop” for, again, readability purposes, and it shouldn’t block the most engaging elements of the cover.

These guidelines can be toyed with, but being familiar with the “rules” is what allows them to be broken well, instead of poorly. And knowing them makes it easier to understand why some covers are attractive to me and others are not.


I like this post because it bring up a valid point. :thinking: What’s important about the covers ?
for me: a reader that had a wide range in his purchases of CoG/Heart’s Choices titles from the “pretty” covers list and also from the “simplest” Hosted games covers one (mostly made not by artists, with mashed up images and photoshoped titles) I find out not always behind a great cover come a great story.

Example: Hosted Game “Scratch” got an unempressive cover but really deep noir mistery story behind it :sunglasses:. so it remained for me a good surprise that at first wouldn’t pick up with great hopes just for the cover. Same concept could be applied in reverse for CoG titles (not everything that glitter is gold :wink:) so in a way my suggestion is go with your guts and pick genres you like without prejudices

:sweat_smile: Is clear having limited funds that the cover choosen for the game make at first a difference in the choice the buyer/reader make in picking up the game… personally I love the covers with cartoonish light tones and are loyal to portray their theme by giving glimpse of the characters in it. For Example: Fool!, The Fog Knows Your Name. Sixth Grade Detective, NOLA is burning. Different genre but the theme is clear even if the cover is less realistic.

For the Mask of the plague Doctor (that I read: A good story) and a Squire’s Tale (still haven’t read it) the covers are more realistic and complex: The first one also give a glimpse of the 3 main characters (the plague doctors) that I find a good touch and I say the dark tone is loyal to the theme of a dark mistery story set in the medieval times so I find them both a good choice as covers :wink: :+1:


Ooohhhh cover arts! I’ll speak about this subject as an artist, a reader, and a writer.

It’s hard for me to answer what kind of covers I like because most of the time I like them as a bias artist. But the other main thing that catches my attention is what’s shown on cover art. Then I become bias once again, but at least for other reasons lol. Because of that, I’ll answer what I think makes cover art great.

So… How to make great cover art?

There are of course—as people above stated—things to keep in mind when creating a cover: quality of the art itself, style, font, composition, colors. But there is also one other thing to remember: how well cover art conveys information about the game. While the artistic aspects of cover art are very critical, the first thing you decide is what will be depicted on the cover art. Whatever it shows the atmosphere, main theme, main characters, unique thing(s) from the game, the big battle, or something else. And I think it’s very important.

I also believe that it’s important to make sure that it’s easy to understand right away what to expect from the game just by looking at its cover art. It might be cliché to have a werewolf on cover art of a story about werewolves, but it would make it easier for a reader to get the idea of what this game is about.

Some games with nice covers and why I think they’re nice:

  1. Ironheart. Not only the cover art is beautiful, but it also shows the unique part of the game: mechs in medieval times. There is also something going on between three portraits on the top left, which might evoke curiosity in viewers.

  1. The Fog Knows Your Name. Pretty simple—but good looking—cover art. Scared kid surrounded by foggy background. It works well because the game is horror-themed with kids\teens, and everything in the cover art screams about this.

  1. Choice of the Cat. The cover art shows a cat with mischievous expression, and the overall style is cartoony. I think less gloomy color scheme would better convey that it is a comedy story, but even with dark background the cover works thanks to its style and the cat.

  1. A Sensei’s Story. One of the simplest cover art I have seen, but this simplicity is done well in terms of design and thought. The red dot on white background most likely will evoke association with Japan, which is the country where the story takes place. This combined with the title can give a pretty clear idea that in this game you’re playing as a teacher in Japan.

  1. The Shadow Society. The cover art is great, but the way it’s drawn might confuse people about the game’s theme\atmosphere. Personally, when I look at this cover art I think about more of a horror-themed game then romance. But at the same time, it is a creepy house with shadows from the game, so the cover works.

There are many, many more games with nice covers, but I’ll stop here.

TL;DR - My verdict is that you shouldn’t think only about the finesse of the cover art, but also what it’s conveying to your potential readers. Think about what is shown on the cover and how well it is shown.


I had a little bit of conceptual input with the artwork for Mask of the Plague Doctor, and I’d echo quite a lot of what’s already been said on this thread.

When you’ve got a game that’s 100% text (aside from some chapter headers and stat UI design), the cover art is the one and only chance you have to give players a visual cue of “this is what this game is about, this is how it will feel to play,” so I think it’s pretty important to get right.

My hope and intent for the Mask cover was for the masked protagonist (in the classic crow mask that everybody knows) to be front and center, with the other two masked doctors either side (which meant, sadly, leaving out Lucia - but it really needed to be the masked trio).

While writing the game I’d been looking at a lot of Holbein ‘Dance of Death’ woodcuts, which I expect a lot of people will recognize (see below!) They’ve all got a skeleton hanging around with the various classes of society, to indicate that the plague does not care about social status - it takes queen, merchant and peasant alike. I requested a similar motif on the cover, because even if people don’t know the Holbein originals by name, I think that sort of historical imagery has a way of resonating.

But all credit should go to the artist, Catherine Joo, who took my vague concept suggestions and absolutely smashed it with the composition, colour and tone. It’s probably impossible to quantify how much the artwork contributes to the game’s sales (a bit, hopefully!) - but the image conveys just what I hoped it would, and that’s really what mattered to me.

I should also mention that the CoG editorial team are great about this. How often do you hear about authors who wind up with a cover they had basically no control over, or where some detail is included that’s just flat out wrong? Being involved to this degree was really satisfying.


It’s one of those things where I know what I like when I see it.

Personally, I’d get this guy to do all my covers if I could. I didn’t even know who he was, he just read the story and decided to make a title cover for it and suddenly popped up to say “Hey check out what I made for your story!” and then disappeared.

Every element you mentioned that I liked in it was addressed in the artwork. It probably couldn’t be a more perfect cover for the story.


For cover art, I like something that looks reasonably professional (doesn’t have to be crazy good, just clean and well-drawn/painted/photoshopped) and that clearly indicates the genre and/or subject matter of the game. From the examples you’ve provided, my favorites are Mask of the Plague Doctor, A Squire’s Tale, The Magician’s Workshop, Avatar of the Wolf, 180 Files: The Aegis Project, and The Fog Knows Your Name.

I think what’s most important is having an easily readable title that looks eye-catching against the background, and a clear indication of the game’s genre or subject. The art doesn’t have to be the best money can buy, but I’m more interested in clicking on games with attractive art. If a cover looks sloppy, or if the title is hard to read, I’m most likely not going to click on it. When in doubt, I think the best plan is to use a simple pattern for the background and a nice font for the title - a lot can be communicated with just these two elements.

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Thanks everyone for your amazing insights–@jacic I have to look at your links right away!

What I’m taking from this thread so far is that simple and straightforward (and eye-catching) are often better than complex; and that conveying genre is incredibly important. Lots to think about! I worry that personally any “simple” cover–such as a symbol or an object, as in Tin Star–that would convey my game’s genre (fantasy) would come off as generic and uninteresting, like a sword or badge or magical item; and my inclination is to cram as much interesting and eye-catching stuff in there as possible (characters and action and fighting and monsters and magic), which I know would look way too busy and convoluted. So I’m not totally sure what to do yet!

Etc. etc. – all very great points! :slight_smile: