How To Make An Amazing Album Cover Quickly

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Getting your album cover just right is everything for an artist. It may seem like such a small thing compared to the music itself, but the album cover is a huge component of your final work.

Good album covers can make someone listen to your music even if they’ve never even heard your name.

They’re more than just a way to capture the vibe of your album — they’re a visual time capsule that will immortalize your work. No pressure, though.

Designing an album cover doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars or take months to pull off. Using free design software, you can make your own album cover online in an hour or less.

The album cover you make can promote a single or your entire record, but one thing is certain: it has to fully capture the essence of your sound and appeal to your audience.

You don’t want any album cover to look or feel like an afterthought. That’s why we’ll kick off this guide by delving into what makes a good album cover, as well as some tips on how to create the perfect idea for your own.

We’ll also take a look at three solid online design platforms you can use to craft an album cover for free or with a professional designer.

Let’s get started!

What Makes a Good Album Cover?

As with music in general, “good” is a subjective term, so you have to start off with what feels right for you.

While the cover does influence your image, it also reflects your own ideas and tastes.

At the end of the day, you have to craft something that feels 100% authentic and honest. From there, you can make adjustments that align the album cover to suit your genre and appeal more to your target audience.

Your target audience, by the way, is your fanbase, both current and future. They’re the people who you should always keep in mind when you design things like album covers, t-shirts, vinyls, and other merch.

As for what makes a good album cover, there are generally three factors to note:

  1. Color scheme
  2. Image
  3. Font

Some artists like to go full-on minimalist and only print their name on a solid background. Others use a high-quality photograph of themselves, their band, or something that speaks to the theme of the album.

You should consider the type of impression you want to leave as well as the statement you hope to make through your music. This will lead you to album cover ideas that feel on-brand and appropriate for your sound.

Speaking of brand, that’s an important element to cover before you design your album cover.

Branding as a Musician

Branding is essential to a strong, instantly recognizable image. You’ll want an album cover and online presence that people see and immediately identify.

Despite music’s inherent nuance, there is a commercial element you can’t overlook, especially when promoting your music online.

Think about your favorite albums of all time. Their covers are probably just as special as the sound. They’re impactful, whether through complexity, simplicity, or imagery.

While other brands have logos, musicians have album covers. They create a memorable image that will stick in fans’ minds whenever they think of your music.

To express your music visually, it’s helpful to think about your identity as an artist.

● Who are you?

● What do you want to convey through your music?

● What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?

● What ideas or movements do you promote?

When you answer these questions, you can get a better idea of what image would best suit your visual identity.

Consider crafting a mood board on Pinterest to start pulling album cover ideas together. When it comes time to narrow down ideas, think about these questions:

  1. What are three feelings that describe this album?
  2. If this album were an object, what would it be?
  3. What are three colors that capture this album’s sound and vibe?

How to Make an Album Cover Yourself

We’ve broken down the album cover design process into five easy steps to help you make yours quickly.

Contrary to what some might say, good art doesn’t take forever to make. You can create a stunning album cover in an hour, just like you can write your best lyrics in a flash of inspiration.

So, don’t overthink it. Follow these steps, have fun, and let your intuition guide you as you put your cover together.

1. Research for Inspiration

Think about your favorite album covers. What stood out the most to you?

Look at current artists in your industry, including famous names and new releases. Are there any common themes or qualities?

While you don’t want to copy anyone’s album cover (how boring would that be?), you do want to see what’s working for other artists in your genre.

This helps you get a better idea of what your audience is most likely to respond to.

Don’t underestimate the value of good art on an album cover — it can convert a random scroller into a passionate fan in a single click.

If you’re still struggling to put a general design idea together, look for album cover templates. Canva is the best place to get started.

By signing up for a free account, you’ll get access to hundreds of album cover ideas that you can freely edit.

2. Decide on Colors and Font

Colors and fonts go together like peanut butter and jelly. When they’re good, they’re great, and when they’re bad… well, let’s just say no one will be eager to experience them again anytime soon.

Fonts and colors pair well when they complement one another or artfully contrast.

So, a big, bold font in a neutral white or black can have a strong effect, just like a thin, unassuming font can immediately capture someone’s attention when it’s in a brighter hue.

Of course, as with life and art, there are exceptions to the rules. Consider a solid black background with a bold font in a bright color — like Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled record.

This guide on colors and typography can help you choose the right combination for your album cover.

Want even more? Check out Colors and Fonts, a free tool that crafts color palettes and fonts from Google, which are all free for commercial use.

3. Use High-Quality Images

There are three options when it comes to album images:

  1. Buy a photograph with a commercial license.
  2. Use copyright-free photography.
  3. Shoot and use your own images.

The first is always going to be the most expensive, and in today’s culture, it’s largely unnecessary.

You can either use free images for commercial use online, all of which are shot in high-quality and come in a number of download sizes to suit your needs.

Check out Pexels and Unsplash for thousands of free images you can use in your album art.

You can also shoot your own images, whether they’re of a nature scene, something artsy you dreamt up, or a professional image of you or your band.

Whatever route you take, just make sure that your image is high-quality and has good lighting and framing. This means everything you want on the album is included in a square-shaped box that will easily fit onto an album template.

Typical digital album covers are 1400 x 1400 px; physicals are 4.72in x 4.72 inches. Ultimately, as long as it’s a perfect square, you should be good to go.

As for high-quality, we mean images that are at least 300 pixels per inch (300 PPI). An average smartphone shoots in 300 to 460 PPI, so this shouldn’t be an issue if you’re taking your own pictures with minimal equipment.

4. Find the Right Design Program

The design software you use could be professional, like Photoshop, or you could just use a free design program online.


Canva is the world’s most used graphic design software. You can sign up and create your album cover entirely for free. You get access to templates, fonts, design elements, photos, and more.

There’s also an affordable premium option that you can pay $12.99 per month. This lets you use Canva Pro assets, such as photos, designs, and illustrations, for commercial use. You can also collaborate with up to 5 users. Did someone say album cover design party?

Canva is straightforward, easy-to-use, and super easy to share in a number of formats. You can download your album cover directly as a png or jpg, share it to social media, and more.

While its free assets can sometimes feel restrictive, Canva is by far the best free graphic design software for album covers on the market.


If you’re wondering how to design an album cover without doing any work, there’s 99Designs.

This marketplace lets you place an order for a cover, get submissions from real designers, and pay for your favorite.

There are four options for 99Designs album covers:

● Bronze – $199. You get 30 album concepts, full copyright, and a 100% money-back guarantee.

● Silver – $299.  You get 40 album concepts, full copyright, and a 100% money-back guarantee.

● Gold – $599. All the perks of Bronze, plus 50 design concepts and work exclusively from a mid or top-level designer.

● Platinum – $999. You get 40 design concepts, all the previous perks, top designers only, a dedicated manager, and prioritized support throughout the design process.

With flexible pricing, this is a good option if you have enough money to pay for a professional’s work.

Some artists like the experience of designing their own cover. Others prefer to ideate while a pro does the technical work.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with letting a pro handle the design aspect. They can take all your great ideas and put them into a single image that packs a punch.


UpWork is a freelance marketplace that allows you to post a gig and receive quotes from real designers.

You can also browse designers’ work and place an order with one you like. Most charge between $35 to $75 for their work.

The album artwork will be sent to you as a downloadable file, using copyright-free assets. You can directly message and collaborate with your designer throughout the entire process.

Many artists on UpWork also offer original concept art and illustrations. If you don’t have your own images to use, they can design something for you or even draw a unique cover design.

Final Tips for Designing Your Album Cover

As you prepare to release your music into the world, your album cover will become the face of your music to your audience.

Choice is always good in this case, so don’t settle for just one cover. Make at least 3 or get a designer to send you at least 3 concepts. Some artists make many more before settling on a winner.

You should also consider the way this album will reflect your future, too. If it’s your debut, what statement do you want to make about your journey as a musician?

If this isn’t your first time at the rodeo, what’s different this time around? How are you going to delight long-term fans while still giving them something new to enjoy?

Your album cover at any stage of your career is a chance to visually express who you are and what you sound like in this moment.

Remember that if you get any artwork made, it can be printed on merch like shirts, stickers, and pins to further solidify your brand.

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