For many independent DIY artists, designing their own artwork can seem like an intimidating prospect, particularly for those who don't consider themselves designers, but when hiring a graphic designer is outside the budget, a solo operation can often be their best bet. This article outlines how artists can use the free service Canva to build their own professional looking album art with little to no experience.
Guest post from the ReverbNation Blog
As an indie artist, most of the time you end up doing everything yourself from recording your album to taking your own band photos to promoting your new release. One of those do-it-yourself items is creating your album artwork. You may be thinking “but I’m not a designer” or “I don’t know how to use Photoshop.” An alternative route would be to pay a graphic designer to put something together for you. But what if that’s not in your budget?
In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create your album artwork for free using a website called Canva. With Canva, you don’t have to know how to use Photoshop or pay a graphic designer. It’s very user-friendly and they even have templates you can use for social posts, album artwork, gig posters, and lots more.
Before we begin the tutorial, let’s talk about the importance of well designed album artwork, design principles, and artwork requirements for distributing your music.
The Importance of Album Artwork
Your album art has the power to make you look professional or like an amateur. It can make you stand out in a sea of other artists. It’s also a great way to convey your brand and genre of music. For example, if you’re a folk artist with an acoustic sound, you might want to stick with organic imagery.
Basic Design Principles
Without giving you a full-on art class lecture, here are some basic principles to take into consideration when designing your artwork.
When using typography, less is more. Stick to two or three fonts at the most. Also, try to use fonts that contrast with each other like a serif font combined with a sans-serif font.
White space, otherwise known as negative space, is the unused space in a design. It can be a powerful way of drawing the user’s attention to a particular element in the design.
When in doubt, keep your artwork minimal. Don’t busy it up with a bunch of text or elements that are competing with each other for attention.
Repeating objects or patterns help strengthen the overall look of the design and keep it consistent.
Color conveys certain moods and meaning. For example, red is considered an emotionally intense color. It is the symbol for love and can stimulate a fast heartbeat and breathing. So take what colors you use into consideration when creating your design.
Album Artwork Requirements for Distribution
If you plan to release your music at all, there are requirements you’ll need to follow when using digital distribution:
- Must be at least 1500 x1500 pixels.
- Must be high quality and not blurry.
- Cannot have drugs, nudity, or extreme violence.
- Cover art may only have text that matches the release details you provide and is limited to your release name, artist name, featured artist names, and record label.
- You may only include logos and websites to which you own the rights.
If you don’t follow these requirements, your artwork might be rejected and this can delay the release date of your music.
What is Canva
Canva is a website that makes it easy for non-designers to create graphics like social media posts, flyers, business cards, album artwork, and more. They have lots of pre-made templates that you can use or you can create your own custom designs. Although you do have to pay for certain features, you can do a lot with it’s free options.
In this example, we’re going to recreate one of their pre-made templates. The reason for this is that their album artwork templates are defaulted at 1400×1400 pixels and you need to have a paid account in order to edit the dimensions on their templates. And in order to have your music accepted for distribution, 1500×1500 pixels is an artwork requirement. So I’m going to show you how to get around that for free in Canva.
First step is go to Canva and sign up for a free account.
Once you’re signed in, you can click on “Explore Templates.” There’s a lot of categories to choose from. If you click on “CD Covers,” you’ll see Cream Rustic CD Cover is the example we’re going to recreate.
So go back to your dashboard and click the green “Create a design” button to the left and then click “Use custom dimensions” in the top-right.
Type in 1500 x 1500 pixels and click “Design!”
From here, it will bring up the custom design tools. Let’s add in that cream/off-white background color by clicking on “Background.” Click the “+” symbol under Document Colors and it will bring up the color picker. Choose an off-white color. In this example, I used the color code # fff5fb. Once you choose your background color, it will automatically pop up in your design.
Next, we want to add a frame under the “Elements” section. Once you click on the frame you want, it’ll automatically show up centered in your design.
Now we want to add our image that’s going in the frame. Click on “Uploads” and you can upload your image from there. I chose this snowy mountain landscape photo from Unsplash, a free stock photography website. Side note: if you use any photography, make sure you have the rights to use it.
After you’ve uploaded your image, drag it over the frame and it will automatically be added to it.
You can also play around with image filters. I chose the filter “Edge” to give it that blue-ish/purple hue.
Now, let’s add our artist and release name.
Remember for your artwork text you can only have your release name, artist name, featured artist names, and record label. In this example, we’ll be adding the release name and artist.
Click on “Text” and then “Add a little bit of body text.” That will add some text to the center of your artwork. Drag it to the top left corner. It will automatically help you align it to the corners of the artwork. Type in your artist name. Then choose the font Glacial Indifference, size 18 and make it bold.
Now we want to space out the letters to give it that modern look by clicking on “Spacing” and move the slider to 580 for the Letter Spacing. You can leave the Line height as is.
To add the release name, you can select the artist name and copy and paste it. Then, drag the release name to the bottom right hand corner, again, allowing Canva to help you align it to the corner.
Type in your release name and then drag it out to make it fit on one line, if needed. You can unbold this text.
Now that you’re finished, you’ll want to export your file so you can use it for distribution and other places on the web.
Click the “Download” button in the top-right corner and choose JPG as the file type and hit download. Now you have a file that you can use that meets the requirement for distribution.
And here’s the finished product.
As you can see, Canva is great tool that makes it easy for non-designers to create album artwork that looks professionally designed.
Do you have any tips on how to use Canva to create album artwork?