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Designing CD Cover Art: A Guide for Desktop Publishers

written by: KateG•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 6/22/2011

If you want to branch out into the design of CD cover art, this article's tips can help you make your own CD covers.

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    Even if at some point in the future the physical CD becomes a thing of the past and all music goes MP3, CD cover art seems to be here to stay. If you do not believe this just check out iTunes. Cover art is used not only in the store, but as a way of browsing your purchased music. Even the iPod Touch allows you to see cover art. The bottom line is that people like a visual representation of their songs. That means that even if future generations never by a CD, learning to make great cover art can be a useful skill for desktop publishers. This piece aims to teach you the basics of creating cover art.

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    The Client

    A step by step guide to working with the client

    1. Get a feel for your client. A punk band will have a different cover than a pop princess. Talk to your client about colors and elements they want to include. Remember that this may take longer then a usual client sit down.

    2. Make a draft and let your client review it. Discuss changes.

    3. Alter the cover and repeat step two as needed.

    It sounds really easy right? Well, it is far from easy. Just in case you do not happen to be a natural let’s look at some tips.

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    The Creation Process

    1. Draw multiple versions of an individual cover element. A skull may, at first glance seem like a skull, but there are lots of things to consider. Is it face forward ¾ profile view? How big should the sockets be? Is it cracked anywhere? Doing lots of versions will help you later on.

    2. Keep all of your elements on separate layers and do not merge until you are done.

    3. Arrange all elements in place. Then save a copy.

    4. Switch out any elements for alternate versions. Try out several combinations and save any that you like.

    5. Print out your top 3 to 5 options. Then walk away for a few minutes.

    6. Look for similarities, differences and elements of one that can be used in the final draft.

    7. Merge as much as you can without compromising the quality.

    8. Save your final version and now you can merge your layers if you want.

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    Art Tips

    o Use a high quality resolution. You never know when cover art will be blown up.

    o Think square not rectangle. Sure the case is a rectangle, but you will do better of by thinking of a square when designing. There is not much in the way of rectangle and stretching is easier then designing for a small difference in length.