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How to design your album artwork

Coming up with a name

Before you design your album artwork, you need an album name. This name is important; it gives your album a story, concept, or a mere glimpse inside your piece of art. However, it isn't an easy task, especially if you have a mixed bag of tracks. It took us a while to brainstorm a name we felt truly happy with.

Here is our guide to this difficult yet enjoyable and worthwhile process!

Brainstorm - lots!

  • One option is to decide what the strongest song on the album is and use the title as your album name. Alternatively, you could pick a prominent lyric from the song, one that stands out.

  • Consider themes that occur in and across your songs. Are there any similar themes that occur in a few of your songs?

  • Is there a common message you are trying to convey?

  • Ask friends in order to gain a new perspective. Getting a fresh pair of ears on your music may help draw out themes you may not have considered.

  • When you’re settled on your theme - think of words which fit around this. Using a thesaurus is a useful tool to help construct your list and the internet can work wonders.

When considering our EP title, we used these options and came up with lots! When the name we chose suddenly came to us, it seemed as if it had been right in front of our eyes the whole time. We considered what our songs were expressing; which emotions, feelings, what messages?


Coming up with artwork ideas

So you've got your album name. Now it's time to fit an image to accompany that name.

The image idea may be immediately obvious, but if your album name isn't so tangible and concrete, you may find it more of a challenge, as we did.

We started with Google (of course) and Pinterest was a brilliant resource for coming up with inspiration. We knew at this point we wanted a drawing and we wanted the setting to be a nature theme. We typed those keywords into the site and a multitude of brilliant images came up. We then selected our favourites and put them in a folder for reference.

Decide on a medium - ensure it suits your style

As much as I (Ella) would've liked a highly abstract or intricately detailed album cover, we realised it just isn't really 'us'. Our music is stripped back, so we wanted a stripped back design to match that. Our music isn't abstract, it covers real-life topics, so we wanted something realistic. We decided a simple drawing would be well suited to our folky sound.


Check out similar artist’s art work

We got ideas from our inspirations and artists who have a similar sound, and found this to be very useful. We noticed that most of their album art was either photographic or a simple drawing, which is what we were initially considering. This just helped to cement those ideas further. We liked the artwork by The Staves; the sketchy style drawn within a circle.


Get sketching!

Even if you aren’t particularly artistic, toying with a few ideas on paper really helps. We must have produced around 15 sketches before deciding on the final idea. We would draw 5, decide which we liked from those sketches and produce more, using those ideas. We repeated the process, until we had a fully-refined idea.


Our process

  • City vs nature scene (we produced both types of images and decided we definitely preferred the nature scenes).

  • Whether to include a subject (we decided we wanted a person in the picture).

  • What is the person doing? (Walking? Cycling? Sitting? We toyed with a number of ideas)

  • Forest scene vs. water scene? (We realised we wanted a bit of both!)


Our EP cover - a work in progress

Picking a colour scheme?

Do you want striking bright colours or a more pastel look? Think about what will suit the tone of the album, and the style you’re going for. We decided we wanted a limited colour palette, but we wanted to use 2 contrasting colours to make certain parts stand out.

At this stage you should have a well-refined sketch or drawing of what you would like your album cover to look like, which has been coloured in or annotated with the details and requirements.

Using photography

If you intend to use photography, your process will probably be slightly different. Once you have decided the setting/ location of your photograph and the subject of the image, you will carry out your shoot, taking as many photos as possible. Play around with different angles, poses, outfits and different backgrounds.


You should finish your shoot with a variety of images to select from

For our past photo shoots, we've ended up with around 100 shots. We usually narrow this down to around a third of the images we like, ensuring we ask others for their opinion. From this selection we’ll again narrow these down into a smaller selection of around 15 images. Keep narrowing down your images until you have one you are happy with. Tidy up the images on Photoshop, and decide whether you want to manipulate or edit the photos in any way. Again you should think about what style and colours you want; as natural as possible? Black and white? Low saturation? High contrast? Or a wacky filter?


The photo we went for when creating our first demo album cover 2 years ago. We wanted a summery outdoor photo, and loved the dappled sunlight in this one.


There you have it! Everyone's album art design process will be different, some musicians out there may not even need to do all of this as they may have a clear idea right from the start. But for those of us who don't have a clear idea from the get-go, these tips are a good place to start. After all, having spent many days and nights carefully crafting and recording your songs, it is important that your album title and cover complements them.

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