Image isn’t everything when it comes to successfully releasing an album, but an eye-catching aesthetic can go a fair way in piquing interest in albums from independent artists. Independent artists don’t get the same privilege as established artists, where any image can become an iconic one, such as the light prism on Pink Floyd’s 1973 record, the Dark Side of the Moon.
Unless art or graphic design is your forte, first and foremost, we would advise outsourcing the artwork. You will need to put the DIY pride to the side if you want to make a good first impression with your music, and that is exactly what good album art helps you do. What if the Velvet Underground and Nico decided to make their album artwork for their debut instead of Andy Warhol?
The days of people choosing records by wandering into a record shop to discover new music are over but good artwork still goes a long way on streaming platforms and highly visual platforms such as Instagram.
There is no rule book with what you can use for album art. From surrealism to retro graphic design to Dadaist imagery, the world and the realm of technology is your visual oyster. Get creative with it.
How to Make an Album Cover
- Make it Representative
If you have an amazing album artwork idea but it doesn’t gel with you as an artist or what you have created aurally, scrap it and draw your listeners in with artwork that fits with the cohesive vision of your new release.
The rule of don’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t apply to albums. The right artwork will attract the right listeners; the wrong artwork will attract the audience your music never stood a chance with in the first place. Always make the effort to know the aesthetic preference of your fans.
- Learn Colour Psychology
Every time our brains process the visual information of colour, it will trigger an emotional response. Not everyone will notice a strong emotional reaction when they look at colour, but that doesn’t mean the reaction isn’t effective and present. For example, red can represent love, anger and passion, yellow can represent hope, blue can reflect sadness, and purple can evoke feelings of royalty or creativity. Find the overarching tones and themes in your album, reflect them in your artwork. Another psychological trick to take advantage of is the tendency of music fans to be more likely to purchase an album if it has a face on it. This goes a fair way in explaining why so many artists put themselves on the cover of their albums.
- Don’t Get Lazy on the Fonts
Creating great album art takes so much more than simply choosing an image and slapping your artist moniker and album name on it. The positioning, blending, font, and text size are important considerations. Don’t just be tempted to use the first font you see on photoshop. The font can say as much as the artwork itself. For example, for scrawled handwriting on an album, you’d expect something intimate, with massive block lettering, that’s usually a sign that the music will be as big as the font. Along with deciding on the front cover font, you will also need to consider the text on the inner jacket and the tracklist.
- Make It Fit All Formats
Your album artwork looking good on photoshop, or whichever program you use to knock it up, is one thing. Getting the image to look good across all formats and platforms is another. If you’re planning on releasing vinyl copies of your album, this will need to be a massive factor. Yet, you will also want to make sure it stands out just as much as a thumbnail. It’s a delicate balance.
- Experiment with Programs and Software
If you’re not a photoshop pro, there are several platforms – such as Design Hill – which makes it easy to create artwork with relatively little skill. Services such as these may not be free, but they will be far less expensive than hiring a professional artist.