A unique album cover can make your music stand out from the competition. While the quality of your work is what eventually matters to your fans, the design of your album cover is what will grab their attention initially.
Moreover, the artwork of your album cover adds a new layer of artistry to your product, as it provides the listeners with visuals to associate with your music.
Furthermore, album covers offer an opportunity to brand yourself. Artists can use it to reflect their style as much as their music.
In a nutshell, your album covers entice the listener to learn more about the album, your band (or yourself as an artist), and what type of music you produce. Therefore, you should always associate your music with the best designs you can have. In this article, we will discuss the steps of designing the best album cover for your music.
Think Before You Design Your Album Cover
Great designs are products of great thinking. As a musician, you should think about yourself, your audience, and your music before designing your album cover. As a result, you will envision the album cover you should design.
A good starting point is to narrow down your target audience as much as possible and ask yourself how they should feel when listening to your music. The emotions you want to evoke will determine the colors, the typography, and the overall style of your cover art.
Additionally, it is beneficial to come up with a few words that describe yourself, your music, and your audience. These words will become handy when working with the design elements of the cover.
Find Inspiration For Your Next Album Cover
Music sometimes comes out of inspiration. An event, an image, a sound, or even a feeling can inspire a musician to produce a remarkable track. In the same way, you can let inspiration leads you towards your next album cover.
The inspirations that motivated you to make the music might also inspire you to design a unique cover. Alternatively, you can check the covers that you admire and find out what you like about them. Combining the result with the notes from your brainstorming session might produce some good ideas.
As an artist, you should always look for inspiration, even when not working on a specific project. A good practice is to collect what inspires you in a folder on your computer. This folder can include influential records and album art, promo photos, bands logos, ideas for merchandise, and more.
Consider Distribution Requirements
Before designing your album cover, it is imperative to review your distributor guidelines and requirements. This step is to ensure that the cover does not get rejected by digital stores.
Generally speaking, the specifications of your artwork should be as follows:
- JPG or PNG format.
- 1-to-1 aspect ratio (perfect square).
- 3,000 x 3,000 pixels
- 72 dpi.
For more information about distribution guidelines for cover art, check out this article.
Decide On A Direction
At this stage, you should figure out the concept and the overall look and feel of the cover. This task is usually the responsibility of art directors. But since not all musicians can afford to hire them, many musicians will have to take such important decisions themselves.
When you start thinking about the concept of an album cover, think from a wide perspective. For example, decide on the color but leave the specific shades and complementary colors to the designer. And the same goes for typography. Choose the style but leave the grid, layout, and exact font selection to a professional. The goal at this point is to come up with a rough outline of the design.
Overall, most album covers are either portraits or illustrations based. However, there are many art directions that you could follow. Not to mention that some covers might also incorporate multiple styles and elements.
Check out this article for examples of the commonly used styles by album cover designers.
Key Elements of Album Cover Design
The next step is to start making the artwork. Isolating each component of your album cover will help you take things step by step, rather than getting overwhelmed with the whole design all at once.
Here are the main components of any album cover:
Color selection is crucial for all designs, including album covers. With so many colors to choose from, learning the basics of color theory will help you identify what colors to use in your design.
Colors can make us feel a certain way. Each color can evoke and is associated with specific emotions. Since you want your music to evoke a certain feeling among the listeners, you can use the colors of your album cover to enforce that feeling. For example, if you want your listeners to feel happy and playful, you might want to lean into yellow and orange in your cover design.
Unless you are going with a minimalist or a monochrome design, you will need to identify complementary colors to go along with your dominant color.
For a monochrome cover, you can use a single color along with its many shades. This style is powerful and can tap your audience into a certain mood.
Like colors, the fonts you choose for your album cover play a significant role in communicating the personality of your music. Here are the main font types that you can use in your album cover:
You can distinguish serif fonts such as Times New Roman and Cambria by their serifs, the small lines at the end of letters. Serif fonts are serious and traditional and therefore work well with acoustic or operatic music.
Sans serif fonts
On the contrary, sans serif fonts are fonts without serifs. Helvetica and Arial are examples of these modern and streamlined fonts. Sans serif fonts are ideal for electronic and indie rock music.
These are cursive fonts that emulate handwriting. Script fonts range from very traditional and ornate to playful and even messy, which means that they can invoke a variety of feelings. Messy fonts are suitable for alternative rock. On the other hand, the precise and signature style fonts are perfect for contemporary music and solo artists.
What To Include In Your Album Cover
Band And Album Name
In some cases, the album name is considered the primary design element. Thus, it has to stand out. However, the current trend is not to include the album and the artist names in the design because people are now commonly listening via streaming services, where artist, title, and album names are all listed beside the cover thumbnail.
The back of the physical album covers should include the album’s tracklist. Although the typography can be different from the text on the front cover, it should still follow the main style and be easy to read at the same time.
Licensing And Legal Information
The physical back cover should also include all licensing and legal information. Such information may include song-writing copyright notice to indicate who wrote the songs as well as sound recording copyright notice. A song can be recorded and released on different albums and each version of the song might belong to a different owner. As such, it is important to declare the owner of the recording.
The standard recording copyright notice consists of three elements: the ℗ symbol, which stands for “phonograph recording”, the year of the recording, and the name of the owner. Here is an example: ℗ 2021 Mello Studio
You might also want to credit the producer, the engineer, the studio, the mastering facility, and any other participants in the making of the album. Additionally, consider adding a statement to prohibit unauthorized reproduction.
How To Design An Album Cover
If you have the budget, the best way to design a cover for your album is by hiring a professional. Companies such as Cover Art Factory and Cover Art Works offer pre-made and custom-made covers. However, if you want to spend less money, you can always hire a freelancer from platforms such as fiverr to design it for you.
Alternatively, you can use an online tool to create the cover yourself. Through platforms like Canva and Adobe Spark, you can create stunning album covers even with no previous experience in graphic designing.
Cover art, whether it’s a physical album cover or a thumbnail for a streaming platform, is a powerful tool to grab the attention of your target customers. It also enables you to promote yourself and showcase your brand. Believing that a well-designed cover can turn a casual listener into a super fan, Mello Studio always goes the extra mile to create a creative, unique, and appealing album covers. Get in touch with us today, and we will work with you on creating best visuals for your music.