Creating Cover Art For Music [Guide]

The cover art also called album art is the image that will accompany your music. Getting a great artwork is important, because you spent a lot of dedication and time making music, and now you need artwork that is as good as the music is. Here you’ll find the best resource online for information on how to create cover art, what rules apply and how you can get the best cover art you could possibly imagine. Whether you wanna make it yourself, or you wanna kind of make it yourself or you want someone else to do it. This guide has something for you.

The Easy Way To Make Cover Art (You Dont)

The easiest way to make cover art is by far, just picking a picture, not modifying it, and calling that your cover art. Anyone can do this, no software required. Maybe you need to crop it to make it a square but that’s about it, you can do that on your phone. No one will really blame you if you do this, and your fans or listeners will never notice. While you may think this is a joke, many artists who lack experience in photo editing will do it this way.

Just head over to Unsplash or Pixabay and fetch some nice images. Pick one and call it a day.

If you want to resize the image, just use an online cropping tool like ILoveImg or Ezgif.

Though let’s be honest. Most artists would never settle for an easy to get, free image that’s neither unique nor personal. Since music is such a personal thing, and you may have spent days, months, or years working on your material. The cover art suddenly becomes a big deal. This is what should represent your days of work. Finding the perfect artwork is an important task, and it should be something intriguing that really speaks the same language as your music.

Don’t Pick These Images

Don’t fall into any of these copyright traps, however. While Unsplash, Pixabay, and other free image sites have great images that you can freely use for commercial use. You must at all costs stay away from images featuring brands(e.g Disney, Nike as well as pictures of paintings and physical artworks. You see, those images may be copyright protected, and sometimes, they may not be “commercial-free” as the image site says. This means, that you can get sued for copyright infringement if you use them.

Make Cover Art By Remixing Images

If you got the skills. You can combine images in new and creative ways to make totally unique artworks. The possibilities are endless and many times you just need a little bit of an idea to get started. I’ll show you three examples of how I’ve remixed images to come up with artwork.

Here is just an example of how a picture of a deer and a mountain range can form an awesome and very fantasy-looking picture.

Short story of how this specific image was made. All the images were downloaded from a free library of images. The deer was cut out from its original image using Topaz AI Mask, then it was put into the image of the mountain range using Photoshop and blended with another image I did myself (The blue geometrics). Saturation and contrast turned up a bit, finished.

This artwork was basically a prototype artwork I did for one of my singles. It’s called “Rymdskepp” which means spaceship. I took the image of a mushroom”Amanita Muscaria”, an image of the earth, an image of some stars, and blended them together in a fun way. I think of the mushroom as a flying saucer, leaving earth with a white smoke trail. I ended up not using it because it was a bit too trippy. But again, it’s just an example of how different images can be combined into something completely new and cool.

This image started with a simple photograph taken on a cold day in my area. I had no intention of ever turning it into cover art when I first shot the picture. I took it all into Photoshop, rotated the image, and mirrored it. After that, I just cropped it and played with saturation and colors a bit to get a really cool-looking effect. I ended up using the artwork for an EP I released.

It wasnt hard to do it and the artwork is out of this world.

Maybe you’ve already taken a good picture for your artwork and you just don’t know it yet. Look at your photographs and you may have something cool laying around that you can remix.

Choosing the right image

I know that choosing the right image will be hard for one reason. You know that any image you may choose will be on this piece of music for a long time. That’s why it can be a good idea to keep it extremely simple. This can make the artwork less regrettable while leaving the imagination up to the user instead of making a really vivid image. It’s not the world if you don’t get it right. Many famous bands and artists have artwork that could be deemed bad, but it’s an artwork. It’s a subjective experience and everybody will have a different opinion about it. After all, it’s the music that matters the most.

The Album “The Beatles” is a Beatles album released in 1968, while it features a ton of good music, the artwork is basically as simple as it can get.

For my own project “Skarholm”, I went with Abstract colors in a fuzz. All of my releases follow basically the same design principles. The name of the game was “keeping it simple” to allow me to focus on the music and not the cover art. Just a bunch of cool colors and not much else.

Fonts And Text On Cover Art

Many artists have some text on their artwork, and they often use extravagant ways to spell out their name or the name of the release.

You can choose a number of fonts in most image editing apps. The common fonts are usually avoided, as they look very “everydayish”. For a cover artwork, you usually want something a little bit more exotic. It’s actually easy to install new fonts, and if you’re on a computer. This is probably what you should do so that you can get a font you actually like. Who wants a sad-looking font to ruin a perfectly good image?

Just remember that the font has to be approved for commercial use. So make sure of that before you use it.

Here are some good free font resources:

Just download any font, click on it and install it. It’ll be available to use immediately in GIMP or Photoshop. If it takes looking up a tutorial on how to install them for you to get them. It’s worth the time.

Choosing colors on your fonts

The font should ideally be woven into the image in some way. Either by abiding by the same color palette or by going for a neutral color such as black or white. If you need some inspiration, go to the top list in Spotify or whatever streaming service you use. Look how artists make their text really fit the style of the image.

Black and white font often works as they are neutral colors. On a dark image, try a white font and on a bright image try a black one. There comes a point when white looks good and black doesn’t, and the reverse as well. It’s all up to taste and depending on how dim or lit the image is.

Font Size

If you want your font to be readable on most devices, you gotta keep it pretty big. In any streaming app, your artwork will be miniaturized in many different ways, in Spotify alone your artwork will be shown in more than five sizes, all pretty small compared to your original image. So always check that any text is compatible in miniature mode if you want it to be read. Of course, it’s impossible for it to work on the smallest sizes. But that is just something everybody has to live with.

Placement

A good thing to know is that text can be placed anywhere you wish. If you look at the top 50 played songs on Spotify or Apple Music, you will see that text is placed literally anywhere. It can be the bottom, middle, left, right, top. It doesn’t matter as long as it looks great!

Text or not

Most artworks have some text in them. But you don’t have to have any text if you don’t want to. The reason it’s used is to make the listener pay more attention to your name, name of the song, or album. Simply put, it’s a marketing opportunity you may want to take because it’s a chance to make a memorable impression.

Dimensions

Album and LP art are both always made in the perfect square format. Here are the resolutions that you should use when you’re making your cover art. Included are also the preview sizes, such as miniatures in Spotify. This is handy if you want to preview the cover art in a size that will show up to the users in the different streaming apps.

Digital Services: Recommended resolution for streaming distribution is 3000×3000 pixels or higher.

However, most distributors will let you get away with less. So don’t worry about it too much. There are ways to make an image higher resolution if you want to and listeners will always see a small-sized version of the artwork. Some distributors will let you upload a 1000×1000 pixel image and that would look just fine on any platform.

Vinyl LP Cover: 3713×3713 pixels (300DPI)

This is because the average vinyl cover is 12.375 inches (31.43 cm) and has a square format at 300dpi (300pixels per inch), 12.375×300= 3712,5. So anything above 3712,5 is fine!

For Vinyl LPs, don’t forget that there is also a backside and an inner sleeve. So you may have to have custom artwork for those areas. They are the same size, so the image resolution should be the same. Some producers even have printable discs, which is super cool! So there are a few areas where you can produce artwork for.

CD Cover Art: 1410 x 1410 pixels (300 DPI)

CD covers are 4.7×4,7 inches or 120×120 mm, at 300 pixels per inch this equals 1410×1410 pixels. Don’t forget that there may be a print on the disc, as well as a backside and an inside on your CD cover.

For all purposes: Have it in 4000×4000. It’s the best resolution to work in as it would work for any format with a good margin. You can never get too high in resolution, as you can just downsize the artwork for specific needs. However you can go too low, and that will result in a quality loss if you want a higher resolution.

Cover Art Generators

If you find it hard to make cover art. You can always use a cover art generator. There are many to choose from, and you can get work done very quickly. Many of them are free with limitations. This means they have premium features, and so with the free versions, you may not get the best experience. Anyhow, they make making cover art look easy, and you can be done in minutes.

Pros

  • You can be done in minutes
  • No skill required

Cons

  • Other people may have used the same image, font, and style before you
  • Those services may come with limitations such as limited resolution or filetype

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is by far the most competent online cover art creator. It’s a super solid option for those who want to have an easy and fun way to make cover art. The best part about it is that you can upload your own photos, and so the options are unlimited. This is one I really recommend. While it does come at a price, it’s simply the best alternative for beginners.

This is the online tool that will get you the most professional results, as it does layering great and has a huge library of assets. It has great font alternatives and also a good number of stock images. While Adobe Spark is integrated with free photo libraries. You can go to for example Unsplash or Pixabay yourself, browse and find a photo and then upload it to Adobe Spark.

https://spark.adobe.com/make/album-cover-maker/

Canva.com

This Album art generator will let you work quickly. But it is cluttered with premium features and you will most likely end up with a pretty bland result. However, if you want a quick and free result. Why not give it a try. Canva has one thing going for it, and that is the ability to download your artworks for free! Though, it’s safe to say that Adobe Spark is the clear winner.

https://www.canva.com/create/album-covers/

Creating Cover Art on your phone

You can create cover art on your phone easily. There are several apps that let you do this. As you can see in the image above, I gave it a go using Iphones built-in photo editor and it was a breeze. The key to making good cover art on your phone is starting out with good photographs or artworks. Since your editing capabilities and your creative capabilities may be limited because of the small screen size.

I gave many apps a try, and I found Snapseed and Photoshop Express to be particularly easy and useful to work with.

  • Snapseed
  • Photoshop Express

Just start with any picture. Use one from your own photos or download one (One you got the license to). Open it in a photo editor, crop it to a square, and don’t eyeball it. Use the format called 1:1 or Square, and from there add text and effects. While you can use Google photos or iPhones, built-in photo editor. Snapseed or Photoshop Express really gives you more ability to play around with your artwork and make it unique.

While making cover art on your phone may be the easiest way to go. Using a computer or laptop will potentially yield you far better results.

They all work very similarly. I am sure you can get good results if you pay attention to the quality. Although on a computer you will get different results, and you will have way more options to edit and modify your picture. However, the skill level higher.

If you want to get serious. Use Photoshop Or GIMP

GIMP

While you can take a good shot, no modification or edits needed. Often you find yourself wanting to create something that doesnt exist, that’s were photo editing plays a huge part.

Photoshop and GIMP are the go-to programs for creating unique and professional designs. They are both great tools to turn your ideas into real artwork. You need a vast amount of options, brushes, and tools in order to do the job. While it’s not the easiest way, it’s the professional way. This is however only recommended for creators who want to make real art and make something you can be proud of and hang up on the wall. For most people, however, those tools will take too much time to learn and they’ll probably quit within minutes of opening the software. It’s an overflow of information and it just takes time to learn.

Photoshop

I highly suggest you try either Photoshop or GIMP. While it’s not for absolute beginners, it’s for anyone who is willing to get great album artwork. You might just need it for small modifications to an existing image, or you may want to make or paint something from scratch. If you want that. Don’t worry, just download GIMP for free. It has no subscription, nothing, you need to pay nada forever. You cant go wrong with it.

Adobe Photoshop CC Logo Vector

If you would want to get in line with the Industry a bit more. Photoshop is the way to go. While it’s a paid option, this is definitely the go-to for industry professionals. Though, GIMP is getting better and better by the day. Both software shares many similar functions.

If I had to choose between Photoshop or GIMP, I’d say Photoshop would be the winner. But if you are to choose from a budget standpoint. Go for GIMP because it’s free!

Download GIMP or Photoshop

Explicit Content Warning

The explicit parental advisory logo is also known as the “PAL” logo, is a trademark that you can use on your album art if your music falls into the explicit content category. Today it has two purposes. One is to inform listeners that your content may not be suitable for children, the other one is to further emphasize your edginess as an artist.

There are guidelines for the usage of it, and different rules apply to different countries. I’ve been in touch with both organizations that own the trademark regarding its use, and the situation is the following. If you’re an American citizen, you need to submit a free application in order to use the logo. If you live in the UK or elsewhere, you can use it if necessary without submitting anything. However, if you want to be absolutely certain contact any of the organizations.

I contacted both organizations in an effort to clear out any doubts. The question was, “Can you use the parental advisory logo without submitting an application?”

USA: https://www.riaa.com/resources-learning/parental-advisory-label/

The Parental Advisory trademark on music releases does require a license agreement even if the usage is free.  Users can contact the RIAA or BPI by phone for further information regarding their specific releases and will be directed to the proper party with regard to territory. 

UK: https://www.bpi.co.uk/media/1047/parental-advisory-guidelines.pdf

The Parental Advisory Scheme is a voluntary initiative created by BPI for record labels and artists. If you believe that your album will benefit from having the logo then we are more than happy to provide it to you. We do not require any fee but we do ask you to follow the guidelines.

Of course, if you want to use the logo. Copy it from this website and incorporate it into your artwork, or get it from the respective organizations RIAA or BPA.

Resizing Or Upscaling Existing art

If you have low-resolution artwork that you need to get in a higher resolution. Just use an AI up resolution tool. AI Topaz is one software you can download but there are also online alternatives that will do the same thing. I suggest you go to https://deep-image.ai, create a free account, and upscale your image.

If you just need to resize or crop your image, use GIMP, Photoshop, or an online tool such as ILoveImg or Ezgif. You never wanna upload a cover art that is for example 3099×3000 pixels to your distributor. You want it to be precisely the same amount of height as width, 1:1 is what the format is called. Just make sure that you got an equal number of pixels on both sides.

Buying Artwork

If you don’t want to DIY your cover art. You can just buy one from a site. It’s one route many choose, and the best part is that many images are created to be used as cover art in the first place, whereas free images are not.

Artgrab is a cool place, where you can buy artwork and get an exclusive license. This means that when you buy artwork from Artgrab, it will no longer be available to anyone else. You own it! Forever!

If you want to see if I “the creator of this guide” has any cover art up for sale, Click here!

Why Cover Art?

Cover art or album art is a way to make a memorable impression. It engages more senses, and good album art certainly makes your music more memorable. Some people want to upload their music without album art and unfortunately, that’s not an option. Luckily you can spend as little or as much time as you wish on your cover art. Just make something you’re proud of.

Some other methods to make cover art

There are a few more ways of making cover art that I have not yet mentioned in this article, one of them is by making a photo collage and the other one is by painting. I may cover them in the future. But for now. Thanks for reading the guide, and good luck on making awesome cover art!

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