If you’re like 99% of the musicians out there hustling, you don’t have money to hire a professional album cover designer. In today’s oversaturated music market, the hardest parts of marketing your music or band are getting someone to click on your song. A cool and eye-catching album cover can entice listeners to click on your song or album. What if you could design an album cover for free?
This tutorial will guide you through creating cool and interesting album covers for free. You won’t need access or knowledge of expensive graphic design tools like photoshop. You are able to complete an entire album cover design by using your smartphone. With a little practice, you can finish an album cover in a few minutes.
The album covers you design will be high quality and will have to correct image specifications for most streaming and music sale websites. Feel free to use your new album covers on Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Spotify, Beatport, or your own website. I’ve been using them for the DJ mixes that I host on Mixcloud. Come check them out at Don Stone on Mixcloud.
The Best App for Designing Free Album Covers
You can easily design your new album cover while using your smartphone. While there are plenty of apps that will let you design free album covers, we will be discussing using Canva to design and publish your covers.
Using Canva to design your new album cover
Canva is available for Android and iPhones. There is also a web-based version for laptops and desktop use. The free version of Canva provides all the tools needed to make striking designs and interesting album covers. With just a few minutes of practice, you’ll be able to create new works of art for all your music.
You’ll be able to choose from hundreds of free design templates for your new album. These templates are easy to use and change. There is also a huge library of free stock images available if you don’t have high-quality images of your own to use. I strongly suggest using your own photos. Any smartphone can take photos that will look great as an album cover. Canva allows you to connect your Facebook, Instagram, and Google Drive giving you easy access to all your original images that you’ve posted.
Let’s start designing an album cover with Canva
Once you download and log in to Canva, you can get started right away with your new design. When you first enter the app, you’ll be greeted by a huge list of templates. To design an album cover just type “CD Cover” or “Album Cover” in the search box. Once you’ve chosen a template, it’s time to design an album cover for free.
Choose a template and edit it for your album cover
You can start with a blank design or choose from the many different free design templates. For this example, I scrolled down and found the “Storm Tide” template.
Once you’ve chosen your template it’s time to edit it. Canva makes it extremely easy to edit your designs. There are few controls which makes it easy for beginners to get a grasp of the app quickly. To edit the text or images in the design, simply click on them and they will highlight. It may time some time to get used to the selection feature (especially if you have large fingers)
If you have selected the background image, you can select “replace” at the bottom of the screen. Here you’ll be presented with any media you’ve already uploaded, the camera roll on your phone, and millions of free photos to choose from. The album cover I’m designing is for an underground chilled out melodic house, so I found a cool sunset photo I took at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. I’ve found that photos that aren’t ‘busy’ are best for album covers.
Editing your Album Design
Across the bottom of the app, you have the main controls that will change depending on what you’re editing. While editing your background image, you add effects, filters, adjust the image, crop it, animate it, and resize it. Feel free to mess around until you find something that matches your music and your unique visual aesthetic
Double-click on the text to edit the text on the cover. If you plan on adding more text I would note what font you are using so the design stays consistent. You’re able to edit the font, color, size, and style of your text right in the app. You can also move any text or make the text space larger with a swipe of your fingers.
Once you’re happy with the image and text, it’s time to download it. On the top of the screen choose to download. Within seconds you’ll have a new album cover ready and in the images on your phone. The desktop version will give you many different file types to download and you should choose jpg or png for web or streaming service use.
The final album cover design
So here’s the final album cover for Don Stone The Mixtape Episode 21. I also added the logo for the website on the cover as well. With a little practice and some cool photos, you’ll be able to create new artwork for every song, mix, or album you produce.
Album cover samples for our DJ mix show
Below is a gallery of DJ mix covers I’ve done using Canva. (You can find my DJ mixes here). Other notable apps and tools I use include NEONCAM and PicsArt. These two apps can add interesting artistic elements to your photos and album covers. NEONCAM can transform your photos into neon, cyberpunk, or vaporwave style images. PicsArt has an extensive array of cool effects, tools, and brushes to easily edit and improve your photos.
Have you tried to design your own album covers for free? What other apps have you used? I’d love to hear other suggestions that can help out struggling musicians from around the world!