Looking for tips on how to make the best album cover art? We’ve got you. In this guide, we’ll show you how to create eye-catching artwork for your album.
Why is album cover art important?
Album art is one of many crucial elements in cementing legendary albums in the music industry.
They define how we look at a particular album and are key to first impressions and music discovery. The most notable album artworks have earned their rightful place in music history. The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover made St John’s Wood in London a timeless tourist attraction.
Similarly, Beyonce’s tantalizing photography concept in her Renaissance album art was able to merge Vogue and music successfully.
That’s why to make your album memorable, you need to make an outstanding album cover art.
The relationship between album art design and music
Today’s music is mainly experienced online. The most popular platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music put album art covers at the front and center of the design interface. Design is one of the key elements of the online user experience leading to high demand for visual artists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 254,000 graphic design positions in the United States in 2020. These all played a critical role in various industries, including music.
One reason for this is how accessible digital media training has become. With the rise of remote learning, it’s no longer necessary to take an on-campus degree to enter the industry. Online digital media programs at top institutions are NASAD accredited, while also being 100% coursework. This gives digital artists much more flexibility to create their own portfolio of work as they train.
Musicians seek the expertise of these trained digital media artists to align their design needs with their artistic vision. Highly skilled visual communicators can take full advantage of the growing opportunities in the digital landscape. Digital media professionals can keep up with the ever-evolving creative industry and take advantage of flexibility in design.
There is room for these professionals to forge a new path in design with abundant opportunities to merge a passion for art and music. New technological developments and fresh aesthetic sensibilities have changed the way we consume music. There is now a need for creative thinking and digital visual strategy in the music industry — and album art is a great way of showcasing that.
How to create an eye-catching album cover art
Now that we better understand why creating eye-catching artwork for your album is so important, let’s have a look at some top tips to make your album memorable.
Stick to your identity
You can narrow your design options by focusing on your identity as an artist or band. Whether you’re a rock band, a country singer, or a pop artist, your identity should shine through your album art. It should capture the attention of your intended audience.
You can likewise take notes from the digital presence you’ve already established and maintained. Figuring out your identity and the key elements of your music can help you find the proper subject for your album art, whether you choose photography, typography, or abstract art as your primary medium.
Use design concepts
Because music often feels intangible, it’s helpful to harness the power of visual elements to evoke specific responses. You can look into color strategies such as color psychology and color schemes to create dynamic visuals. For instance, monochromatic schemes can tap a certain mood or signal the listener that the artist wants the music to speak for itself.
Using design concepts in your album cover art, such as minimalism, grunge, or retro art, will also give listeners an idea of the music on the album.
Maximize your medium
Your album artwork will heavily rely on the medium you use. Whether you decide on a photo, illustration, or graphic, the medium will determine the strength of the emotional connection you will have with your audience.
For example, the famous cover album of Nirvana’s Nevermind, which features a baby swimming after a dollar, has sparked timeless nostalgia and continues to be iconic 25 years after its release. Some albums have also utilized digital alterations of paintings to convey a particular message.
Collaboration and creativity are vital to creating unique and timeless cover art. The visual component of how we enjoy music is increasingly recognized as an integral part of our online listening experience.
After designing a one-of-a-kind artwork, it’s also important to share it on the right channels. Vampr is a great place to get feedback on your album artwork. Connect with other musicians, producers, designers, and more and ask what they think. Are they getting the messaging you were trying to convey? You might even offer a perk for anyone sharing valuable feedback with you.
Remember, artwork just like music is subjective. Feedback is helpful, but you are the one that the artwork needs to resonate with long term. Create something you are proud of and release it into the world!
Ideas to create a memorable album artwork
Your album artwork should capture the attention of your audience and give them an idea of the music on the album. But if you’re an emerging artist, you may not have much budget to make your album cover art.
That’s not a problem. We’ll show you how to create album artwork on a budget.
Making an album cover on a budget
First, you need great photos.
Here some of the best places to look for royalty free images (some are free):
Then, you need a tool for editing images and making them your own. Some of the best ones are (some are free):
Album cover art specifications
Another important thing to keep in mind when creating your album cover is the size and specifications of your artwork.
Major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music require that album arts meet certain criteria in terms of size, shape of the image, format, quality, and so on.
For example, Spotify has the following cover art requirements:
- Format: TIFF, PNG, or JPG using lossless encoding
- Highest resolution available
- Minimum 640px wide and tall
- 1:1 aspect ratio
- Encoded with an sRGB color space, 24bits per pixel, with color profiles applied directly
- They don’t allow upscaling images and they don’t support embedded color profiles and orientation metadata.
Creating the best album cover art
All in all, album art is a key element of an album as they are key to the audience’s first impressions and music discovery.
To make a memorable album artwork, you should stick to your identity, use the right design and choose the appropriate medium.
The good news is that you can create album cover art on a budget. There are plenty if free tools to look for royalty free images and edit images that allow you to create beautiful designs without spending much.
Want to release your music? Make sure you have all bases covered with our Music release checklist for emerging musicians.
By Queenie Kirk, edited by Leesa Snider and German Rodrigo