The recording is done. You’ve mixed every song. Your album sequencing is perfect. And you’re done mastering. Perfect! Time to distribute your music right?
Hang on… There’s still one more important step! And it’s just as creative as the rest of your workflow: Your album or mixtape cover art.
Album art is still important. But the truth is, it’s usually an afterthought in the creative process.
It makes sense—you spend enough time honing your music and probably don’t have time to become a Photoshop wiz too.
No sweat. We put together this quick guide on how to create your album cover online for free—including where to find free photos, album cover templates and how to use online photo editors to make it your own.
1. Start with free images
The first step is finding royalty free images to work with. Just like audio samples, your album artwork has to be copyright cleared to use.
Many free image resources provide royalty free photos that you can download, edit, remix, chop up and mix to make album artwork that’s all your own.
Here’s 8 royalty free image resources:
Canva goes way beyond a simple stock photo resource (but it’s that too). It’s also a full featured editing suite to edit your images, add text, change fonts and basically do all the stuff you need to do before you release.
You can create any kind of design incredibly easily, including album covers
Use any of the photos or layout templates for free, anytime. Just signup with your email for access (more than worth it for what they offer).
Unsplash is “over 550,000… free high-resolution photos” that can be used however you want. That includes album art for your next release.
Type in a keyword, browse the results, find something you like and edit it to fit your album. No fuss, just good images ready to use and hassle free.
Just like the URL says, Free Images is a giant site of over 600,000 (you guessed it) free images.
Browse by collection or keywords to find the perfect image.
Note: Some of the images included are from the paid service iStock, but a lot of the search results are free to use and cleared to go without paying any fees.
Every photo on Pexels is free to use for commercial or non-commercial use.
Plus, every high-quality photo is handpicked from photos uploaded to Pexels or from other free image resources to ensure a wide array of choices.
Pexels is browsable by handy collection tags or by keyword—Perfect for when you need to match an image to the mood of your latest album.
Burst is a free stock photo platform from Shopify.
While it’s not as extensive as some of the other resources on this list, it does provide a lot of superb high-quality images for free.
Browse by category, collection or keyword to find photos or inspiration for your release.
Free Photos bundles photos from several other free photo resources all in one place to make browsing and finding the right image quick and simple.
Like every other resource on this list, the images on Free Photos are 100% royalty-free for personal or commercial use.
Stocksnap provides another extensive database of high-quality images all covered under the CC0 license.
Which means they’re all good to go for your album art.
Find all kinds of album art inspiration via search, tags, or categories, edit them to fit your vision and you’re ready to go.
Pxhere is another CC0 stock photo gallery great for finding starting points for your album art.
Search by tag or keyword, or if you’re really stuck use the helpful random tool to generate some ideas to get you started.
2. Edit your image to make it your own
Your album art is the visual representation of your music on all streaming platforms and stores, so you need to take time to make it unique.
Every image from each of these resources isn’t just free to download, they’re free to edit too… So edit them!
You don’t have to be a top notch designer either.
Here’s some online image editing tools:
Use them to collage several images together, change the colors, add some layers and overlay your album title and artist name with a font you like.
It’s completely up to you.
Your album art needs to represent you and your music. Don’t just settle for the first raw image you find.
Take the time to find the right visual and tweak it to make it your own.
3. Album cover size and specifications
To distribute your music to Spotify, Apple Music and ever other major streaming platform, your album art has to fit some criteria.
Follow these guidelines and you’ll be good to go when it comes time to release:
Album cover size:
Minimum 3000 x 3000 pixels
Minimum 72 DPI
JPG or PNG format
Album cover specs:
No blurriness or pixelation
No URLs, hashtags or handles
No pornographic images
No references to brands
Use the image editing tools I mentioned above and your album art will be all set when it comes time to release your music.
The finishing touch
Your album art matters.
These tools and tips will give you everything you need to make something meaningful and appealing in no time flat.
So take the time to do your album art right. And release your music knowing the it sounds and looks its best.