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How to design an album cover

5 design tips to help you create iconic cover art for your music

So you’ve recorded your music, put it through production, and now you’re ready to share it with the world. There’s just one step left: designing your album cover.

Luckily, there are no rules for how to design album covers. Just think of how The Beatles’ used a photo of themselves for the cover of their debut album Please Please Me, but made the cover of their ninth album — The Beatles — completely white.

But both album covers have one thing in common: they’re iconic ✨ So while the creative process is all yours, we’ve got five tips to help set your album cover art up for success.

Let’s take a look!

5 tips to design an iconic album cover

These design tips will help get your creative juices flowing and help keep your workflow efficient — no matter what kind of album cover art you’re going for:

1. Start with a moodboard

Every great design starts with a vision — and there’s no better way to develop it than with a moodboard! Moodboards are essentially collages, and they’re a handy way to get a feel for the overall vibe and aesthetic you’re going for. You can use them to collect all kinds of visual elements like images, colors, or typography that you feel represent your album’s concept.

On top of developing a clear goal, a moodboard can also serve as a reference throughout the design process — helping you make sure all your design decisions stay true to your vision.

Related: Learn more about moodboards in our ultimate guide!

2. Design for the right dimensions

If you know what platforms you’ll be distributing your music on, it’s worth finding out what dimensions your album cover should follow. Spotify, for example, recommends a 1:1 aspect ratio of at least 640 pixels. Vinyl cover art also uses a 1:1 aspect ratio, but they tend to be much larger — typically 1600 pixels wide and tall.

In Sketch, you can make sure you’re designing for the right dimensions using Artboards! Just hit A to trigger the Artboard tool, draw one out anywhere on the Canvas, and customize its dimensions in the Inspector. You can create as many Artboards as you want.

You can create multiple Artboards and give each one unique dimensions.

3. Add images — and make them your own

Images are a quick way to fill up a blank canvas. And you don’t always need to organize a major photoshoot to get started. There are plenty of websites offering royalty-free photos you can start using today, like Unsplash or Pixabay.

Once you’ve found an image you like, you could even edit it to make it your own, whether you want to blur it, give it a filter, add shapes and text, or even illustrations!

Adding a Gaussian Blur is one of many ways you can customize images in Sketch.

4. Save time with an album cover template

Not in the mood to design your album cover from scratch? Try using a template! If you’re designing in our Mac app, all you’ll need to do is head to the menu and choose File > New from Template > View all Templates. Then, scroll down to the Mockups section and choose the CD Cover Mockup template. From there, you can customize the template with your preferred colors, images, text — or any other design elements you want to tweak!

An image showing various Mockup templates in Sketch.

Save time by using design templates like our CD Cover Mockup.

5. Export to the right file formats

Once you’re happy with your design, it’s time to export it. So make sure you know what file formats your distribution platforms prefer. Spotify, for example, requires you to upload your album cover art as a TIFF, PNG, or JPG file.

If you’re using our Mac App, you can easily export your album cover art to these formats and more. Just select an Artboard, head to the Inspector, and click Make Exportable. From there, you can customize your export settings, and hit Export Selected when you’re done!

Exporting your design is as simple as clicking Make Exportable in the Inspector and customizing your settings.

Ultimately, your album cover should aim for a unique design that visually expresses your music. Experiment. Be bold. Be iconic. Most of all, enjoy it!

And if you do end up designing your album cover art in Sketch, feel free to share it with us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MadeWithSketch 🤩 We’d love to see what you’ve done with yours!

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