How to make your own album cover artwork

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How to design your own album cover artwork[This article was written by CD Baby team member Priscilla Shaw.]

As a CD Baby rep, I see a lot of album covers. I also see a lot of artists trying to submit their music for distribution WITHOUT album artwork.

I always let them know that their album needs artwork in order for us to distribute the music, even if it’s only going to be a digital release.

Once in a while I get asked, “Why do you need artwork?”

EVERYBODY needs artwork!

First impressions are key with music discovery.

The art you use to present your album is another way of branding yourself. Why would you want to pass up that opportunity? Your album artwork is a reflection of your style and story, every bit as much as your music.

I can’t speak for other consumers but personally when I’m searching for new music I click on album covers that look interesting to me, and I skip over other titles that aren’t as visually appealing. I’m sure I’ve missed out on some great music because of it, but that’s just the way it goes. I visually choose what I want to hear (like most other listeners).

What does your album art say about you?

Clearly you won’t be able to intrigue or please everybody with a single image, so the look and style of your album cover artwork should be genre appropriate. Make sure the image reflects you and your music in some interesting way. You’ve put so much hard work into your music; now it’s time to treat it with respect and make sure that the cover art is worthy.

Four tips for generating album cover art ideas

Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t sure what direction you want to take your artwork in, or if you have a creative block. Instead…

1. Look at album artwork from artists you admire in your genre.

2. Ask yourself: why do I like about this artwork? What works? What doesn’t work? Write down your answers (so you can apply those principles to your own design).

3. Check out some design blogs, or get lost down the rabbit hole of a Google image search.

4. See what the trends are with current albums cover artwork on a music platform of your choice.

Four DIY tools for creating album cover artwork

Having to make your own artwork might seem like an inconvenient process, but if hiring a graphic designer or a professional photographer is out of the question, there are many free (or cheap) DIY options out there you can use to create quality images.

Smart Phone apps are the most accessible solution. It’s as simple as taking a photo with your phone, changing the filter, making a few edits, adding text, and bam you got yourself cover art!

I recommend downloading an app and just playing around with the features for a while to see if it’s a tool that works for you.

Here are four that I personally like to use (of course there are many other great apps out there):

1. Phonto (http://phontogra.ph/) — If you follow the link you can see examples. This app also offers a wide range of free fonts.

2. Piclab (https://museworks.co/piclab/) — This App offers stylistic fonts.

3. Union (http://unionapp.co/) — If you are okay with coughing up $1.99 on this app it is fun and has a small learning curve but you can combine images to create great illusions. I would suggest checking out the site to see other examples.

4. Pixlr (https://pixlr.com/) — This app is good if you know your way around Photoshop but don’t  have access to the program. You can check out Pixlr on a browser and use the web editor.

Do you have any tips or tools to recommend for artists who are designing their own album cover art? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • You might want to give the relatively new TAD (for iOS only at the moment) a try
    http://tadtheapp.com/ (Thumbnail art design)
    also Phoster http://www.bucketlabs.net/portfolio/phoster/
    not forgetting Canva 🙂 https://www.canva.com/create/album-covers/

  • Mixtape Cover King

    An unexperienced designer or music artist should never try to create their own art work.It takes a skilled designer to make professional artwork .I’ve been designing for music artist for years an your artwork matters don’t try to cut corners

    • Pulsepride

      Halsey seemed to do just fine. Same with a bunch of other artists. Honestly it really depends what you’re going for. In some cases yes a experienced designer would definitely come in hand. Especially looking for something new. Photography I think personally is a big one for your own vision. There is too many album works like the others. I see the trends. I get your opinion on this one. If you’re good with it by all means. Whatever works best.

  • disqus_qVNr0wjoGb

    album art is not created with some mobile app.

  • If you don’t have design skills, don’t be afraid to go minimalist. It’s easier to control things when you’re only working with a few elements.

    Follow on Twitter: @ChrisRobley

  • hiphopgods

    What if an artist likes his artwork distorted or blurry? You can’t tell an artist what their vision is. I like blurry album covers.. I like old looking stuff. This writer is the type of person that doesnt appreciate the scratching in records so she would have them remastered digitally, put color in old black and white movies etc. I like B-Movies BECAUSE they look cheap and rough around the edges, THATS MY PLEASURE. I wonder how much money this writer has caused this company with her strict ideologies on image acceptance? SMH WE as indie artists don’t work for CD Baby, SO, their ideas of what they find “acceptable” is like a mind your business type of thing. Can we please name some of the crappy album covers that we loved? One of my favorites is Jay-Z’s thje black album, which would never get accepted by CD Baby’s “high standards” AND opinions. This new digital era is killing the vibe.

  • hiphopgods

    What if an artist likes his artwork distorted or blurry? You can’t tell an artist what their vision is. I like blurry album covers.. I like old looking stuff. This writer is the type of person that doesnt appreciate the scratching in records so she would have them remastered digitally, put color in old black and white movies etc. I like B-Movies because they look cheap and rough around the edges, Thats my pleasure. I wonder how much money this writer has caused this company with her strict ideologies on image acceptance? smh WE as indie artists don’t work for CD Baby, SO, their ideas of what they find “acceptable” is like a mind your business type of thing. Can we please name some of the crappy album covers that we loved? One of my favorites is Jay-Z’s the black album, which would never get accepted by CD Baby’s “high standards” AND opinions. This new digital era is killing the vibe.

  • hiphopgods

    why block my comments? i have not cursed or offended anyone, this is blocking my freedom of speech. why put something out there if you cant take someone responding to it?
    What if an artist likes his artwork distorted or blurry? You can’t tell an artist what their vision is. I like blurry album covers.. I like old looking stuff. This writer is the type of person that doesnt appreciate the scratching in records so she would have them remastered digitally, put color in old black and white movies etc. I like B-Movies because they look cheap and rough around the edges, Thats my pleasure. I wonder how much money this writer has caused this company with her strict ideologies on image acceptance? smh WE as indie artists don’t work for CD Baby, SO, their ideas of what they find “acceptable” is like a mind your business type of thing. Can we please name some of the crappy album covers that we loved? One of my favorites is Jay-Z’s the black album, which would never get accepted by CD Baby’s “high standards” and opinions. This new digital era is killing the vibe.