Making Album/ EP Art in Photoshop

If you’re about to release a new album or EP and are low on a budget, you might want to try and create your own artwork. Don’t underestimate the power of a nice cover. Nice artwork can make it a lot easier to blog about your work (and of course we know). We’ll guide you through some basic steps and tips on how to quickly create something decent without having great Adobe Photoshop skills.


1. Creating a file:

The size of a CD cover is 12 cm x 12 cm (4.75 inches x 4.75 inches) often folded double with information inside and on the back.
If you’re interested in making a backside as well: 11.8 cm x 15 cm ( 4.625 inches x 5.875 inches) (0.6 cm (0.25 inch) folds on each side).
Also, if you’re planning on actually getting these covers printed and have good quality pictures to use with, change the resolution from 72 (DPI) to at least 150 DPI (300 will be perfect). The standard resolution of 72 is meant for images that are only being showed on screens/ the web.
One last thing; if you want to print it; start out with a CMYK document instead of RGB. Keep in mind really bright colors will look very different when printed!



2. Filter Jungle:

What we often see is that people who aren’t in to art/ graphic design, love to apply tons of effects on their work. Think about Drop Shadows, Bevel and Emboss, Strokes etc. It’s like drowning your pasta in Ketchup, enough is enough. Or as people who have nothing to say would suggest: “Less is more“. So we’re just going to say it before you actually start; don’t play around with that stuff alright.




3. Making any Photo look cool as f*ck:

So your friends don’t have a Canon 5D Mark II or any other big ass camera but you still want your picture to look very professional? Don’t worry, it’s possible. Start by placing a photo in the CD-document. Drag it in there or click File –> “Place”. Now it’s time to add some layers to spice this image up. Check “Layer” window and see if you can find that Yin Yang look-a-like symbol, it will be your best friend. Move your cursor over it and it will say: “Create new fill or adjustment layer“. In the image below you can see how the menu looks.


Let’s start by adding a “Brightness & Contrast” layer. Play around with both values until you’re satisfied with the result. The nice thing about these layers is that you can always change them! In the next few steps we’re going to add more layers, and you’ll find out playing around with colors, balance and levels might influence the image so much that you want to adjust your “Brightness & Contrast” again in the end.


A next step could be adding a Photo Filter. This can be found in the same menu we got the “Brightness & Contrast” layer from. You can use this filter to give your image more warmth, or you can make it icecold. Whatever you want. Once again, just play with different presets or your own colors.


Now you probably got the hang of it; I suggest you play with other types of filters as well. Start by using “Color Balance” and maybe you even want to play around with “Levels” and “Curves“. Nothing can go wrong really, if a layer doesn’t look and you just want to get rid of it, simply click the BIN.



4. Typography:

Time to add some text. Personally I like to use these phat fonts used a lot in Swiss Styled posters. Use fonts like: Arial, Myriad Pro or Helvetica. Try to keep some free space around your text. Select the desired font-size. As you can see below I chose for 48pt, next to that I changed the “leading” from “Auto” to 40pt. This will make the spacing between “Young” and “Emo” a bit smaller, making it look like one piece.


You can change the Opacity or Layer-mode to make it blend in with the background image. In the example below, I changed the Layer-mode from “Normal” to “Substract“.



5. More good sauces:

Now it’s time to get creative yourself! Try some things yourself and see if they work out or not. Just make sure to Save your work on time!
You can create new layers that you fill with one color .
1. Hold the SHIFT and COMMAND (CMD) key and press “N” (if you’re using Mac that is).
2. Fill this new layer with a nice colour by using the Paint Bucket Tool. Press “G”, select a nice color and fill your layer.
3. Once again, play with opacity and or Layer-modes.
4. Repeat, or use different shapes; rectangles, squares, circles. Just make sure you hold your SHIFT-key when your using the selection tool (“M”) to create a shape. This will make sure your circle won’t end up looking like en egg.



6. Saving and resizing:

Once your finished, save your project as a .PSD file and save it as .JPEG or .PDF so you can get it printed. After you’ve done that, you might want to use a smaller version to put online. In the top bar, go to “Image” and click “Image Size“. Instead of 1417×1417 pixels you could change it 500×500 pixels and save it as a .JPEG file.


If you’ve done that, you’re all finished and ready to promote your work! You know it works, because you’re probably wishing you could click the image below to check out Young Emo’s latest album. Too bad it will never get released ;)


Please keep in mind this is just one way to make a cover; this is a basic tutorial so of course you can add a 3mm Bleed, work with Blurs and a few filters to make it look better. But if you have any questions or need help, you can always ask us.

Edit: 20-02-2015:

Make sure to also check the following articles.
One on how to make patterns in Illustrator and one with a list of 10 beautiful free fonts you can use for your logo design or (album) artwork.