How to Design an Album Cover for Free

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Designing cover art for a music album used to require time, patience, someone well-versed in art and design, and a way of printing the design onto the album itself. New technology now allows anyone with an idea and a computer the opportunity to see their designs become actual album artwork for absolutely no cost. Whether you are coming up with a design for your band's first album or simply would like to personalize your music collection with unique album artwork, making your own album cover is now cheap, easy and lots of fun to do.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Digital image manipulation software
  • Internet connection
  • Printer
  • Brainstorm design ideas for the album artwork on a separate sheet of paper or on illustrator software. Choose designs that complement the music. Turn on the album and sketch out some initial concepts while using the music to inspire your ideas for the design. Use different colors, shapes and styles that illustrate what you want the overall album to look like.

  • Find stock images online at websites such as Flickr.com and upload them to your design software. Use these as a general basis for the album design. Play around with altering the colors and layout, and determine where you might want the title to go. Make sure if you are going to sell this album that you have permission to use the image for retail purposes.

  • Learn the software basics for the program you are going to use if you have not done so yet. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are simple to use and provide a host of professional tools that allow you to add layers, filters and cool effects to your basic design in order to personalize the album cover. Thirty-day free trials of these rather expensive programs are available at adobe.com.

  • Tinker with all of the design elements, using your original sketches as the basis for the final product. Add images that reflect the music, or even just ones that catch your attention and might look good. Consider whether you want to put a track listing on the inside of the back of the CD case of if you would rather have the art wrap entirely around the case. Play with the fonts for the wording until you find one you like.

  • Finalize the draft of your album cover by making one final sketch layout of where everything will go and how you want the final design to look. Go back into your image manipulation program and add finishing touches to every element of the design.

  • Once the draft is finalized determine the final settings and ensure that the sizing and spacing of the images and words match up with the CD case. Take extra care to line up the spine of the album art with where it will fall in the jewel CD case.

  • Print a hard copy of your design using a good ink jet or laser jet printer and double check it for any flaws or issues that may have gone unnoticed until now. If you notice any, simply go back into your image design software and correct them now. Once you have the issues fixed, print out your completed album art, slip it into the jewel CD case and show it off.

  • If you would like to add your personalized album artwork to your iTunes digital music collection, save a separate file of the completed artwork. Crop it so that only the front album art work is showing, and save this file as a .jpg or .gif file. Finally, open iTunes, select the album you would like to edit and add the artwork to the album's information.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not be afraid to make drastic changes or to completely scrap the design if it is not working for you anymore. Simply start over with a new concepts, or use your previous ideas as a launching pad for further ideas.

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