Are you ready to release new music but don’t know how to make an album cover? For some artists, creating album art can be a daunting task. For others, it can be an exciting opportunity to add striking imagery that complements one’s music. Album cover art is an important part of an artist’s identity, as it conveys the artist’s message and style. After all, it’s the first visual element the listener will see when stumbling upon your music! A successful album cover is key in making a good first impression. To ensure your album cover stands out and communicates your message clearly, it’s important to follow some key design principles. The same principles apply for single artwork or an EP. In this article, we’ll explore how to make an album cover that will be meaningful to your project and draw attention.
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1. How to make an album cover: initial brainstorming
When deciding on your cover art, the first thing you should do is brainstorm visuals that complement your music. What kind of images come to mind? Let’s go through a basic checklist to narrow down the type of image you want to use for your album cover.
- Medium: First you need to decide on a medium for your cover image. Do you want to use a photograph, a drawing, a painting, or a collage? Maybe you can use an illustrator or graphic-design software to make your album artwork. Most album covers nowadays use photographs in the cover design, but anything is possible. Get creative with your album cover by expanding your artistic horizons. Maybe you have a friend that could paint your album cover for you!
- Subject: Once you’ve decided on a medium, it’s time to narrow down the subject of the image. More specifically, if you or your group will be pictured on the cover, other people, or no people at all. Portraits can make beautiful album covers . Or perhaps maybe the subject isn’t a person at all, but rather an object or a specific place.
- Setting: What kind of setting feels right for your album cover artwork? A cozy indoor space like a bedroom or an outdoor space in nature or in a city? In a blank white studio space? The choice of setting for your album cover can play a big role in your identity as an artist.
- Mood: After you’ve narrowed down these first three factors, think about what mood you want your album cover to convey. Playful, mysterious, or serious? Dreamy, sincere, or badass? Write down a list of 10 adjectives that you want to focus your album cover design around.
2. Get inspired by making a moodboard
Creating a moodboard is a great way to get inspired when making an album cover. Start by gathering images that reflect the mood, theme, and style of your album. You know that feature on Instagram where you can save posts? Take a look at the posts you’ve saved to see if there are any inspiring images that could match your album cover vibe. Think about the color palette, shapes, textures, and objects that you want to include in the cover. Do you want your album cover to be noisy and stand out in bright colors or be uniform in monochrome or black and white? More importantly, take a look at album covers of some of your favorite artists or artists in similar genres. What makes these album cover designs unique? What draws you to them?
3. How to make an album cover based on your moodboard
Based on your moodboard, imagine three different album cover ideas. Doing this exercise will help you explore all of your creative options and narrow down the best one. Keep in mind that these three cover ideas don’t have to be fully fleshed out, but at least check the boxes of the initial brainstorming checklist: medium, subject, setting, and mood. You can do some quick sketches to illustrate your three potential covers to really visualize all of your options.
With these three potential album cover ideas in mind, it’s time to narrow down “the one”. Sometimes the best choice will be obvious, and other times, not so much. At the end of the day, you want an album cover that is going to be meaningful to you and that you are proud of. Most of all, it needs to capture your essence and that of your music. You need to pick an album cover that is going to be feasible– not only in terms of creating the image but also in terms of your budget. For example, taking photographs in a professional studio with lights and a team for hair, make-up, and wardrobe can be expensive! Make sure you set your budget for your album cover from the start.
If you have constraints on budget and time, you can use or edit royalty free images for your album cover. Of course, creating your own image is recommended as it usually is more authentic, but using free photos is an option too. You can download free high resolution images from sites like Unsplash, Free Images, and Pexels.
4. Text or no text
Once you have the image you are going to use for your album cover, you need to decide if you are going to add text to your image. This may seem trivial, but it’s an important decision that can make or break a great image. Between the layout, design, and typography, there needs to be a great attention to detail when adding text to an album cover. If a specific font adds something extra to your image, go for it. If it seems like it may clash with your image or be distracting, you should probably reconsider incorporating text. Some fonts can be too much sometimes in the context of your image! Keep in mind that sometimes script fonts are hard to read. You don’t want the viewer struggling to understand your band name. Here are the pros and cons of adding text to your album cover:
Pros of adding text to your album cover:
- Can highlight your artist name or album name right away
- Can make the cover more visually engaging
- Can be a great way to emphasize your message or brand
Cons of adding text to your album cover:
- Can be distracting or overwhelming if used excessively
- Can make the cover look cluttered or busy
- Can make the design look unprofessional if not done well
If you decide to add text to your album cover, make sure you just add your artist name and the name of the album– nothing else. Do not add any hashtags, social media handles, or URLs. A minimalist approach to text is usually best for branding. You can add text like the track list and other album information like credits on the back cover. If you want help with the layout of your text, try using a cover template on Canva or get some help from a graphic designer or a friend thats good at Photoshop. Here are some examples of great album covers that successfully incorporate text.
5. Ready for distribution? Guidelines for album cover size
You’ve successfully come up with your album cover and you have the file ready to submit to digital distribution services along with your music. Double check to make sure that your image file is high-quality and the right format to be accepted by streaming platforms. Respect these guidelines when uploading your cover art:
- 1:1 aspect ratio
- The highest resolution available
- Minimum 640 pixels wide and tall, but ideally 1600×1600 or 3000×3000 pixels
- TIFF, PNG, or JPG format with lossless encoding
- Encoded with an sRGB color space, 24bits per pixel, with color profiles applied directly
- No larger than 4 MB
6. Promote your music and your album cover
Time to promote your music and your new album cover! Make sure you share your cover art across your social medias either just before the project comes out or on release day. Share the story behind the album cover with your fans and listeners and any behind the scenes footage you may have in the making of it. Behind the scenes footage always makes for great promotional material. A captivating album cover can make a big difference in successfully promoting your music and getting press coverage! Want to get in touch with music industry professionals with guaranteed feedback within 7 days? Check out Groover.
7. Conclusion: Most iconic album covers in music history
In conclusion, we want to leave you with some of the most iconic album covers in music history to get you inspired. Some of the greatest album covers were memorable because they were eye catching and powerful. They helped to define the aesthetic of a band and solidify their image across pop culture. From original artwork to epic photographs, here are some of the best album covers to inspire you on your album cover journey.
Abbey Road by The Beatles, The Velvet Underground & Nico (produced by Andy Warhol), Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen, Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin, Nevermind by Nirvana, Horses by Patti Smith, Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.