How to create beautiful album cover designs
Each meditation or hypnosis recording you create will require original album cover design, regardless of how you intend to distribute it.
Album designs are usually quite easy to organise, but there are a number of different ways to go about this.
If you intend to produce CDs of your recording, then you will need to have a design that can be printed, and I recommend that you use the services of a professional graphic designer if this is the case. Some people are keen to create their own album covers in order to save money, but unless you already have experience in designing graphics for printed media, I generally don’t recommend this approach. Printing companies sometimes have very specific technical requirements for any art they will accept.
If like most people you plan to only distribute your recording in a digital format (either as a download or via a streaming service or app), then the process of creating album designs becomes markedly simpler, and you may even be able to create your own designs. If you have some basic image editing skills (many people do these days) then it’s not difficult to create attractive designs that can be resized to fit in with the layout of your web pages or to meet the specifications of digital download services like Apple Music.
Having said that, even if you only need basic album designs for online presentation you may still choose to contract the services of a graphic designer. Chances are that most graphic designers will do a better job at creating compelling, professional designs than you or I can, so let’s not overlook that option by any means. But if you are on a budget or if you just like the idea of creating your own designs, then I’ll spell out a few tips in the course of this lesson that will help to make the process of D.I.Y album designs a lot easier for you.
A simple tip for saving on graphic design costs (and for finding inspiration)
Graphic designers usually charge by the hour, so anything you can do to speed up the design process will save you money.
To get the design process going, you're going to have to be able to describe to your graphic designer what you want your album design to look like. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much you can really describe with words alone. As a result, one of the trickiest and most time consuming tasks that your graphic designer will come up against is the process of creating a first round of designs that satisfies your artistic requirements. Initial attempts can be a bit hit and miss.
But what if you could SHOW your designer what you want? Or at least, give them some clear visual direction, rather than just written direction?
This is easily accomplished by browsing royalty free image libraries and selecting images that fit in with your ideal design theme. Sometimes, just by browsing through images, you’ll come across one or two (or more) that really strike a chord with you.
It can be hard to describe your ideal album design to a graphic designer in words if you can’t first see it in your mind, and sometimes you won’t even know what you’re looking for until you see it - all the more reason to use royalty free image libraries for creative stimulation. Here are a few of my favourite royalty free image websites:
Try these websites out for yourself. Visit one of them and try searching for images using keywords that are in keeping with the theme of your recording, or keywords that represent a design that you might already be imagining.
For example, go to iStockphoto.com and search for “calm forest” or “ocean sunset”. You’ll get thousands of results, many of which will be useless to you, but some will leap out at you and be very suitable background images for your album cover design. Some images might lead you off in a new direction and inspire new searches. This can be a fun process.
There are literally millions of images to choose from, so keep trying new searches until you find a design (or a few designs) that you like, or that feature elements that are representative of what you want. You can then refer your graphic designer to these images.
If you can show specific images to your graphic designer you will take some of the guesswork out of your desired designs, thereby shortening the design process and cutting design costs.
Searching for images by yourself is a very "hands on" process and is perhaps not for everyone. For some people it’s more fun to just let their graphic designer come up with something original and surprise them. But for others, especially those with a certain design in mind, having access to these royalty free image sites is a wonderful convenience.
The tools you’ll need to create your own album artwork
Provided that you have some basic computer skills, and hopefully an eye for good design, you can create your own album artwork for pennies.
All you’ll need to get the ball rolling is a graphics editing program and a royalty free background image. You may also derive additional creative inspiration from having some additional fonts on hand. Links to all these resources can be found in the resources section below.
Preparing artwork for digital distribution
When preparing artwork to display on your own website, you will probably only need a small image to display. But when it comes to distributing your music to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, you will need a high resolution copy of your design.
I recommend creating your album art with a resolution of no less than 3000 x 3000 pixels in size, in either JPG or PNG file type. This is the size specification required by Apple Music and other streaming platforms and is the largest you are likely to come across. With this in mind, make sure that any royalty free images you purchase are at least 3,000 x 3,000 pixels in size. Start with a large design, and scale it down for your own website if need be. Never start with a small design and then stretch it to make it larger as doing so will result in a fuzzy, pixelated image.
Links to image, font and graphic design software resources
Royalty free images
As previously mentioned, Shutterstock, 123RF and istockphoto and are my favourite sources for royalty free images.
www.dafont.com and www.fontspace.com offer vast quantities of fonts for free. These websites also have online text previewers, so you can quickly preview how a specific word or phrase will look in a wide variety of fonts. Very cool, totally free and very easy to use.
Free graphic editing programs
GIMP is often described as the best free alternative to Photoshop. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a graphics editing application for Windows and Mac. GIMP provides a lot of professional editing and retouching tools and is the most well featured program in this short list.
Paint.NET is a very popular image and photo editing program for Windows PC's. This program offers plenty of great features (more than you’ll ever need for basic album artwork designs) and offers the support of a strong online community to whom you can always turn for help should the need arise.
Lunapic is an online photo editor that is limited in features but extremely user friendly. You don’t need to install any software, you simply upload your photo to Lunapic and edit it online. The available tools are fairly basic, but it will allow you to crop images, add text and so on. This is a good option for techno-phobes.
4 more ways to get album artwork created for you
Outsourcing websites give you access to thousands of graphic designers around the world. With such a large global pool of designers vying for work, you can often contract designers for quite low rates. Start by posting a graphic design job on one of these websites and then review applications from a number of different designers. Choose a designer with a good profile of album designs and then communicate with them directly to describe your needs. This can be a very convenient way to get album artwork created.
These outsourcing websites allow customers to rate their designers, which means that the designers tend to be polite, professional and work in a timely fashion in order to achieve a positive rating. Here are a couple of well known outsourcing websites:
I’ve made good use of 99Designs.com in the past for logo design, album artwork and the design of various website elements. At 99Designs, you pay a set fee and publish a description of your required design work on their website. Dozens of different designers will then create designs for you. You can choose your favourite designs and request as many revisions as you like until you get the design you are after. Whoever creates the winning design receives the design fee – a fee that you only pay if you are happy with the result. This might not be the absolute cheapest way to get a great album design, but it can be very fruitful.
Fiverr.com is an interesting online resource that can be very helpful in some situations. Fiverr specialises in quick design jobs that cost as little as $5. For example, let’s say that you only need some basic album artwork, but you don’t know how to add title text to your background image. For $5 someone will do that for you. On Fiverr, you can also find people who can perform simple tasks like mixing your voice recording with background music. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful things that people will do for $5. For example, I’ve seen people advertising a service in which they will yell at you for 5 minutes for $5! There’s something out there for everyone, no matter how strange. Keep Fiverr in mind as a resource for handling small tasks quickly and easily.
NEXT LESSON - How to produce CDs.