How to design your next album artwork

Your cover art is an integral part of your music. Learn how to make your own album cover with these tips.

Making a striking cover art can be a huge part of your music release. You want it to look unique whilst also representing you or your music in some way. It doesn’t have to be difficult either!

Here are some simple steps to make your album art shine.


Find the right album image

Outside of technical requirements, your coverart needs to be eye catching and consistent with the music connected.

You need to decide what you want first. You can use a photo or multiple photos or you can draw/paint/design your very own original image. Whatever you decide on, think about how you want to represent your release.

Your album cover is going to be an image; whether you go for an all black background or an explosion of colours and illustrations, it is in itself an image.


Adhere to licenses

composition copyright routenote explainer

The number one source of great, copyright images that match your vision for your music is… Your own images. Take your own photos, paint your own paintings, etc: if you do it yourself then the copyright is 100% yours.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of images you can use available that aren’t your own. But you have to check the copyright permissions and the licenses of any image to ensure that it is free-to-use commercially.

If you plan on using an image by someone else check exactly what the terms for using their image is. Remember that using an image on your album artwork counts as Commercial Use!

Creative Commons copyrights licenses are the most common that you’ll find for using other people’s images online. Creative Commons are a simple way to grant copyright permissions over creative work.

Creative Commons licenses will outline how a piece of content can be used and to what extent. That includes: Copying, distributing, editing, remixing, and building further upon. They will state whether the original author requests crediting for their content.

Licenses differ greatly between content so make sure you know exactly what terms apply to anything you use. Remember if it is for Commercial Use then Fair Use laws won’t apply.

For more information on Copyright:

Be sure to remember: Whatever you use, you must have the full rights to use commercially. If it’s your own photograph or creation then you’re set! If it’s someone else’s, you must have legal permission to use it.

If you haven’t got your own image to use, we have an article listing the best places to copyright free images for free here.


Design your cover art

While the industry standard program to jump to is Photoshop, there are plenty of free tools online to help you design something unique that stands-out with no graphic design experience.

Canva have many dedicated templates for album covers. This can be great for designing your cover or promotional material for your social pages. 

Another useful site to checkout is Unsplash. Unsplash host over a million free-to-download and royalty free high quality photos that can be a great backdrop for your album art. Find more image sharing sites here.

It’s not always just as simple as having an image you like. It may be that you have a square photo or image that you’re set on as is, but often you’ll want to give it some design to really shine.

Something as simple as giving your image a colourful border around the outside can make a world of difference. You could even edit multiple images together to create a montage of imagery that all give more life to your art.

Lets look at an example of how we could spruce up a plain image with something as simple as some coloured edges.

Take this generic looking, copyright-free image. It looks kind of cool but it doesn’t really stand out, there’s certainly nothing making it unique from hundreds of other images of oceans.

Now look at how immediately it becomes more stylised and given it’s own personality, simply by adding a border.

It’s nothing special, but suddenly there is something that is noticeable that you can associate with yourself that sets it apart from the original image. How about if we doubled the border up now?

The colours and thickness of the borders and entire design is of course up to your own personal taste – but you can see how it suddenly becomes your own.

Now a little bit of text to add context; let’s say your artist name is Jon Bovi and your album is called Surfing on the Sun.

This is just a simple example and you can create yours in any way you like and probably much better!

You can see though, that just a few additions take your album cover a long way to becoming yours.


Distribute your music!

Now you have a great album cover to go with your music, it’s time to release it to the world.

You can upload your releases for free distribution to the world’s biggest digital music services like Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, and many more with us at RouteNote. Simply create a free account and upload your release today.

First you need to make sure your artwork meets a few standards so that it can be used to take your music around the world.


What do RouteNote require from your artwork?

When you upload your music with RouteNote for distribution, your artwork must meet the following, otherwise it will cause delays.

Make sure your image is:
  • 3000 x 3000
  • Less than 25MB
  • JPG
  • RGB colour space
Don’t include:
  • URLs
  • Contact info (email address, phone number, social media tags, usernames)
  • Social media/store logos
  • Pornographic images
  • Pricing information
  • Copyrighted images
  • Blurry or pixelated images
  • QR codes
  • References to physical media (scans of CDs, barcodes, compace disc logos)

This simple video explains all you need to know to get your music online with your own, unique cover art.


Head here to find out how to upload your music to RouteNote for unlimited free distribution today!

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