How to design cover art that will increase streams?
You’re finally done with your final draft of your album or song and you can’t wait to post it online. Hold up, don’t forget spending some time on the cover art.
In this article we will talk about the following:
1. What to consider when creating cover art:
a. Color Scheme
2. Resources you can use:
a. Websites and applications for designing
3. Optimizing your cover art for the digital world including layouts to consider
4. How Netflix uses data to decide colors, title names and covers
People still judge a book by its cover. Similarly, music cover art plays an important role in people making the decision to listen to your song or not.
96.2 percent of people say that visual dimension is the #1 influencing factor. Having an eye-catching artwork for your single or album therefore becomes an important marketing tool.
If you’re an upcoming artist, the first impact you will make on someone discovering your music is through your album artwork. There have been times when I’m swiping through my Spotify discover, and I stop and listen to a song because the album artwork caught my attention.
So how can you go about creating an eye-catching artwork that also speaks about your music?
Firstly, through looking at data from previous song plays and identify your audience. If you don’t have the data yet, you can always have a potential target audience who you think will resonate well with your music and build off of that.
This is important because different kinds of visuals appeal to different audience groups. For example, women prefer bright colors, whereas men don’t have a preference on the brightness of color.
96.2 percent of people say that visual dimension is the #1 influencing factor.
Here are some things you should broadly consider:
1) Color scheme is important
2) The theme of the artwork should be related to the content of the song or album
3) Originality is key
How to pick a color scheme?
Depending on who your audience is, you can pick a color.
Blue is an all-time favorite!
Around 57% of Men like blue, whereas 35% of women like blue.
Here is a diagram explaining the usual color schemes. Using color schemes will help you make effective and eye-catching designs.
Types of color schemes:
1) Monochromatic – multiple shades of one color
2) Analogous – similar colors
3) Complementary – opposite/different colors
4) Triadic - three colors forming a triangle
How to choose a theme for cover art?
Generally, your theme should reflect what your song or album is about. However here are some broad guidelines on what works well mostly.
1) Faces - These can display expressions on cover art that can be eye-catching. They make a bold statement.
2) Minimalism - It is often looked at with curiosity and drives interest of the audience.
3) Consistency - It helps you distinguish yourself in a sea of cover artworks. For example, if you have a consistent symbol you use, or a graphic style, your fans will be able to recognize your songs easily when they are scrolling through playlists. Russ uses this strategy for his singles.
How to be original?
Well, you know that best. Sometimes intuition is the strongest asset we have. Only advice would be to trust yourself and your intuition.
Here's my personal favorite.
(Notice the blue and yellow and slight red triadic color sheme used)
How does one start? Are there any resources out there?
We have created a list of resources that will help you in your process
Here are a few websites and applications that you can use to create your cover art on.
Canva.com - The website is easy to use and offers a variety of templates. It's great for creating simplistic covers and if you want to play with different fonts and shapes. but might not be great for editing pictures and creating complex imagery.
Adobe Spark – Simplistic to use. It's best feature is that it aggregates free photos from numerous sites. However, the free version puts the adobe spark logo on your design. You could buy the paid version for 9.99 USD per month to get rid of that logo.
Photoshop - This is used most often considering you can do a lot on one application itself but does have a steep learning curve. I personally like learning through tutorials on Lynda (they have a 30 day free trial version). Photoshop Cafe is also a great resource for learning techniques.
Assembly - "Graphic design for everyone". This is an innovative application that lets you create designs using basic shapes and colors. Try using the app with an iPad since it's easier to design on a bigger screen.
Union – This application is good for blending pictures together. It's 4.99 USD on the app store though but they do have tutorials on the application.
Of course, original pictures are the best because they show case originality but yes, sometimes you do need royalty-free photos (maybe for meshing or effects). Here two sites that I observe have great quality photos after researching more than 20 sites.
Unsplash – I personally love this site. They have amazing pictures which are all free to use.
Death to Stock - They have some beautiful photo collections and add up to . You can try it out for free for 14 days.
You can usually find fonts in the application you are using to design your cover itself. However, for additional fonts here are a few resources:
1. Fontspace - This has numerous fonts available for you to download and use for free
2. Photogra - This is an application that let's you add text to photos for free
3. Behance - I recently downloaded a free neon font that I love from here. Behance is a portfolio website that lets designers display their work. However, you can get a lot of freebies including graphics, mockups and fonts.
4. Unblast - The website let's you download free fonts, icons, mockups etc. It's handy for anyone designing almost anything.
How to optimize cover art for the digital world?
It should be considered where your cover art will be displayed. Here are a list of places it will be displayed in:
Here are some places the cover art will be viewed:
a) Album cover
b) Playlist and Library viewing
c) Locked iPhone Screen
Spotify on an iPhone
Spotify on a laptop
Apple Music on an iPhone
These are a few examples. You will then have to consider what your album art might look like on TV (playstation, google chrome cast etc.), cars (Apple play), android phones, record sleeves and most importantly, marketing material including printouts, social media posts (Facebook shares, Instagram stories and more), link thumbnails etc.
More and more artists are not using names or titles on their covers because it can be viewed on the music platforms anyway. They want to utilize the space more effectively for imagery. Another thing to notice is that Spotify has a dark background, whereas apple music has a white background. You must keep this in mind considering that contrast changes how a picture looks.
Album cover extends on to the theme for marketing, tour posters, track listings etc. which should all have a sense of consistency between them.
For dimensions and sizes for different platforms view this article.
Here's some food for thought.
Netflix uses data to decide its titles, colors and covers. By understanding its audience, it looks at questions such as:
What covers appeal to what kind of customers?
Should there be one cover for a series or multiple covers targeted at different audience groups?
The cover for Netflix's original series, House of Cards was also created by understanding customer data.
Here's a link to the article explaining more.
It's time to strategically think about your cover art. Analyzing your target audience will help you pick the right colors and themes that will grab the attention of that audience. Considering that music distribution is mostly digital, looking at dimensions and layouts of how the cover art will be displayed on different music and social media platforms will help in optimizing your design.
Even so, intuition should also be factored in and of course, controversy also helps sell.
We hope you like the resources and examples we provided.
Please comment below if you have any other ideas, examples or resources!
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