The Ultimate How to Guide for Designing an Album Cover

It’s almost funny to think about how much you need to attach strong visuals to sell your sound in music. It isn’t unlike the way the visuals of food present a strong connection with our enjoyment of a meal.

Humans simply love to get more than one sense engaged when seeking leisure pursuits. After you’ve crafted your opus, you need to sell it with an album cover that will get people to tune in.

If you look at the sales reported by the RIAA, it would seem that music is dying. Music still makes money, mostly through digital streaming services.

A key way to get added to a playlist is to have thumbnail art that grabs attention. Read on to learn how to design an album cover that gets plays.

Make an Impression

The most important thing that album art needs to do is grab attention. You want people to see your cover and wonder what your music sounds like.

Tailor the impression to the style you represent. Shock value for shock value only works in a few genres, and even there, that aims for the middle of the pack.

Make a Statement

Tailor your album cover ideas to your sound and image. Consider how you would explain your music to someone in five words or less.

Take those keywords and use them to build up a visual lexicon. This will give you a way to convey your sound visually.

The Problem of Lyrics

With web-based repositories for lyrics, leaving room in your jacket or booklet for lyrics isn’t necessary.

A quick link to your website (especially with an interpretation forum area) suffices.

Only include lyrics in the album art if you can make the visuals strong. A wall of text, much like a wall of text online, will get skipped for something quicker and easier to process.


Consider the different sizes that an album cover design might be presented in. A vinyl cover is bigger than a CD. A thumbnail on a website or within a streaming app is only going to be so big.

You want something that communicates the best at your preferred outlet. Try out some default canvas sizes in a program that specializes in album cover art.

If you have the ambition, consider making a transformative image that appeals at different sizes specifically. Visual illusions and images within images work well for this kind of scalable presentation.

The Human Element

People identify with faces more strongly than objects and objects more strongly than concepts.

Consider incorporating a face, even an animal face, to draw in that primal instinct to identify and infinity with faces.

As horror films have shown us, making some uncanny valley adjustments will garner a lot of attention. Be careful to balance that attention with ideas or you end up with ‘that creepy album’ as a moniker.


Art Nouveau and Art Deco can’t decide if they are in or out. Both rely on underlying minimalism which is definitely in.

Minimalism keeps things clean enough to be viewed at different sizes and keeps you from getting cluttered in your presentation.

Get Inspired and Create the Best Album Cover

While you don’t want to copy your favorite group’s album cover outright, they can be a great source of inspiration. Consider what you like about the covers you identify with strongly and pull those elements out.

Just like your music, your album cover ideas improve with practice. So get out there and play with some ideas and make a statement.

Stay tuned to our site for more music insights.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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