Album Art 101

The basics of creating your own album art.The tools for music production and online distribution are now at your fingertips. This means more and more indie artists are taking the do-it-yourself route to getting their music out there. Many have even taken to making their own album art using Photoshop or similar software.

If you do decide to make your own album art, here are three basic rules to consider.

Format

For starters, use the standard square. Nearly all platforms are set to display square album art and you don’t want yours being distorted to fit their interface.

If you publish your music through services like CD Baby or Tunecore they will often tell you the optimal size of your album art image file. Typically it’s between 1400 x 1400 pixels and 2000 x 2000. To be safe create yours in the larger 2000 x 2000 size and make the resolution 300 pixels per inch (print quality, but also looks better on retina displays). If you want to make a vinyl record cover, it’s 3750 x 3750 (12.5 in x 12.5 in). By starting bigger, you can always export into a smaller image size that’s optimized for whichever service you’re using.

Always upload an optimized file when you have the opportunity. As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to let Photoshop process your image to the correct size than whatever automatic resizing feature exists in a website.

Style

Think about the context in which your art will be displayed. If you’re putting your music on iTunes or SoundCloud, think about the fact that your art will be displayed mostly as a large thumbnail. This may influence your decision to use certain text and fonts. Try and design something that looks great in multiple sizes, knowing that’s inevitably how it will be viewed.

Beauty

Because the tools for creating professional-looking media have become more accessible, the standard of quality has certainly gone up. There’s more competition out there and you can no longer get away with producing something that doesn’t look excellent. The bar has been raised and so make sure your artwork looks beautiful.

It’s never been easier to produce an album. Album artwork is no exception to that. By following these simple guidelines, you can create a lasting visual identity for your work with the tools already at your fingertips.