How to Design Awesome Album Cover Art

Since the age of physical records began, album covers have been an integral part of the music listening experience. There is nothing like walking down the aisles of a record store, flipping through the dozens of records adorned with suitable cover art. What used to be on the front of records is now portrayed on sites like Soundcloud, Spotify, and YouTube.

Hiring someone to or developing your own album cover is an important process, so here are a few tips to help you on your way.

1. Think about scale.

So you just drew out a sketch of what you want your album cover to look like, and it looks great! The only problem is that 8 x 11.5 sketch is going to be only a few centimeters wide on people’s computer and smartphone screens.

Today, scalability is everything. Messages you portray on the macro must be equally intelligible when they are shrunken down. So before you give the go-ahead on that concept art, try looking at it on your phone.

2. Your album cover should be yours alone.

It can be tempting to go with the flow and copy/paste that same album cover every rock artist or rapper or piano player is using. To stand out, your album art should be both recognizable, but also intriguing and unique.

Don’t be intimidated, though; this doesn’t mean your cover has to be earth-shatteringly profound. Just try out some object or shape or design that is unique to you or your band.

3. Don’t clutter it with writing.

Album covers should do one thing better than anything else: portray the underlying theme and idea of your music in a fraction of a second. Cluttering your album cover with lyrics, names, titles, dates, etc only serves to confuse the buyer and turn that moment of intrigue into disfavor.

Obvious options that can be prioritized are your band name or some word that describes you well. Things like that can and should still be put on album covers.

4. Daring art pays off.

Some of the most memorable album covers are those that really stand out from the crowd and did something different. Look to the Beetle’s almost cinematic cover art or ACDC’s unforgettable lightning bolt.

If you really get stuck, hiring an artist to conceptualize and design an album cover is a great idea, but make sure to never lose your core focus.

Album covers might seem old age, but they are everywhere on Spotify, Soundcloud, and other music sites, along with most smartphone music players. Album covers represent the entirety of a band or musician with a single idea, word, or design. Such a task to design one may seem daunting, but with these tips, any musician can stand out from the crowd.

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Sean Harris is a writer in the midwest US who plans on majoring in computer science or physics at college. He enjoys listening to music, blogging, and reading.