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Get Your Album Cover Art Sussed & Sorted!

Album Covert Art: The Face of Your Music, Online and Offline...

You're probably well-aware by now that your album cover art plays a crucial role in your releases.  Yes,  your cover artwork is the visual representation of your music both online and offline and also part of your artistic image, messaging and brand.

 In this post below we look at your main options when it comes to your album cover art and also do a brief overview of the process of coming up with cover ideas.  In addition to this you'll also find a few good recommended resources to get the the job done.

So, whether it's a single, EP or album, this post will get you started on the right track!

Fishing for Album Cover Ideas

Album Cover Brainstorming - Image of Paper and pen with drawing of lightbulb.

It's helpful to get a vision or at least a sense of general direction before you start to design, shop around or work with a designer for your album cover art.

So, start with a little brainstorming session:

1. Consider Yourself

Take a moment to think about your own style and the image and message you want to convey with your album cover artwork.

Write down any ideas, hunches and inspirations that come to mind as you do this.

2. Consider Your Music, Genre and Listeners

Make some notes about what you think the expectations are for your genre and what people who listen to your style of music like.  You don't have to always cater to these expectations, but it's good to at least have an idea of what works for your style of music.

Most importantly, take some time to consider the album/EP/track you're releasing and what type of imagery and style you want associated with it.

3. Find Some Inspiration Online

Other album cover art can provide inspiration for your own artwork.  Head on over to streaming platforms and browse around and check out covers to get your creative juices pumping.  You could also google something like "greatest album covers".

The Main Elements of Album Cover Art

Image of a designer with color palettes.

All great album cover art consists of the same basic components that all have to work together to produce the final wanted result:

1. Color and Color Scheme

Different colors and color schemes will produce a different psychological effect, so it's an important design consideration for your album cover art.  You may want to read up a bit on color theory before deciding which scheme to go for.

2. Typography and Logo

The font and styling you use for your artist name and release title is the next main design consideration to take into account.

You may already have an existing logo already designed. In this case you'll need to make sure you have a high quality PNG or vector of the logo ready to use in your cover artwork.

3. Images and Style

It's good idea to have a theme in mind when you create your album cover art.  That way you can ensure the photos or designs you use align with your theme and expresses your artistic vision.

Always make sure you have secured the full commercial rights to the photos and designs you use if it's not your own.

Now, let's take a look at the options at your disposal when it comes to the actual creation of your album cover art...

How to  Create Album Artwork

Image with signs that read Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4

You have 4 main options when it comes to your own album artwork:

  1. Design Your Own Album Artwork
  2. Use an Album Artwork Maker Online
  3. Find Album Artwork for Sale
  4. Commission Custom Album Artwork Design

A quick brief overview of each album artwork option and some resources you can utilize for each:

1. Design Your Own Album Artwork

A bit of a Photoshop wiz, are you?  Want album cover art that's uniquely you?  Well,  then the obvious way to go is to design your own album artwork from scratch.  Not much I can really teach you in this regard. ;-)

You may just need to quickly check the required specifications for album covers mentioned further below in this post,  and you'll be off to the races!

2. Use an Album Artwork Maker Online

Not a design wunderkind? That's OK. A good option for fast and easy template-driven cover art design is Canva (affiliate link).

I know of professional designers that make use of Canva and I personally love it.  You can easily customize tons of high quality templates or even use your own images and designs with Canva, so it's a good option for all your cover art needs.

3. Find Album Artwork for Sale

You may be in hurry to release your music and want something that you can simply make a few tweaks to and publish.  In this case you could always purchase ready-made album cover art.

You always need to check whether you're getting exclusive or non-exclusive artwork when you decide to take this route for your releases.  Exclusive means you get the sole-right to use the design and it won't be sold to other artists,  so expect to pay a bit more for it.

There are many sites that offer high-quality pre-designed album covers.  One excellent example of such a site is CoverArtworks.com where anything under $50 is non-exclusive and anything over $50 is exclusive.  Prices differ but you can snag yourself a ton of superb exclusive cover art designs in the $75-$300 range.

4. Commission Custom Album Artwork Design

 If you're intent on a specific custom design you could opt to work with a designer to bring your album cover artwork ideas to life.

Sites like Upwork, Fiverr and 99designs are all good places to hunt for designers who can get the job done and produce something unique to you.

Prices for custom artwork rates can differ wildly depending on the experience and ability of the designer, so make sure to shop around a bit to find the perfect fit. Cheap album artwork design is of course available but your mileage may vary in terms of quality.

Now that you know your options,  it's good to make sure you get the specs right..

Album Artwork Specifications

Image of page torn with text

Distribution services and online music platforms each have recommended specifications for your album cover art dimensions, resolution and content.

Here are the basics FYI:

1. Cover Artwork Dimensions

Your album should always have a 1:1 square ratio and preferably be 3000 x 3000 pixels in size.

If you're using an aggregator like Tunecore, Distrokid or CD Baby,  they'll adjust the size to fit the requirements of the each streaming platform you're uploading to.

Here are the main recommended dimensions for some of the most popular music platforms:

  • Spotify - 1600 x 1600 pixels
  • Amazon - 1600 x 1600 pixels
  • Apple Music/iTunes - 3000 x 3000 pixels
  • Soundcloud - 800 x 800 pixels

Tip:  Always start with the largest possible version and highest possible quality of your design and then downsize it if needed.  Never the other way around.

2. Cover Artwork Resolution

A higher resolution means a better quality album cover and improves the results when your album cover is re-sized.

If you're designing your own album cover then it's important to make sure you use the highest quality images and typography at every stage of the design process.

The minimum resolution for the final artwork should be 72 dpi. 300 dpi will however get you much better results.

3. Cover Artwork Format

Your album cover should be in most cases be in .jpg or .png file-format.

Check with your distribution service or the platform you plan to upload to first but most will accept JPG or PNG.

4. Cover Artwork Color Mode

Always make sure you use RGB colorspace for your album artwork, not CMYK or Grayscale.

5. Cover Artwork Content

It's best to stick to just your main design, artist name and album or track name for your cover art.  You could even exclude your artist name and album name.

You'll avoid rejection as long as you don't include your social handles, website address, unlicensed photos or images, company logos, prices, nudity or obscene images, terms like "exclusive" or other promotional text.

Again, keep it simple and stick to your artist name and album/EP/single title and you'll be good-to-go.

Album Cover Art - Conclusion

Your album artwork is a crucial part of your image and artistic output.  That much, you know and I know to be an undeniable cold hard fact.

Now that you've read this post you have the basics of album cover art design or commission sussed and sorted.  All that's left for you to do is get started and produce an album cover that creates the exact impression you want and represents your music in the best way possible.


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