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Why Cover Art Matters

By Eric N. Boston @EricBoston3 | December 5, 2020

Some people may tell you that cover art doesn’t matter.

They are wrong.

Some people may tell you that you need to spend a lot of money on a good cover.

They are wrong.

Like with a lot of the “extras” that come along with being an independent artist, cover art do’s and dont’s can be confusing.

Let me provide a few simple, basic rules of thumb to follow.

First of all, yes, cover art can be a costly expense depending on the designer you are working with. However, most of the people charging top dollar, even in a space like Christian Hip Hop, have put in the work to do so. The key for you as an artist is to understand your budget. There are people out here, such as myself, that truly want to see you grow and are here to provide quality services for people with limited funds.

No, this is not a shameless plug for my own freelance work, that is not the point. But, if you’re interested in seeing what I bring to the table check this out.

So when you start your search for a designer, begin by having a dollar amount in mind that you can afford.

DO NOT OVERSPEND, THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS (which we will discuss).

Now, if you have a specific style of imagery in mind for your cover, you may need to seek out a certain individual for it to come to life. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that every designer can do every style. That’s just not how it works. Some designers are good illustrators; others excel when it comes to composition; there are those who have a well-rounded skillset.

Do your research and know who has the skills you need at the price you can afford.

Let’s discuss what you need to know if you currently need to DIY your artwork, or let your significant other do their best on your next cover.

There are two main bits of advice that I would give you:

  • Make sure the size is right
  • Keep it simple

Size

The first mistake that I see made is that artists submit “cover art” that is not square. Your artwork needs to be a SQUARE!

Rectangles, screenshots, and any other non-square that your mind can dream up is not what you want or need.

Sure, if you’re not planning on releasing your artwork to digital retailers or music sites…do what you want I guess. As someone who sorts through music submissions on a regular basis, the quickest way for me to skip over your song or project is getting a cover image that is not a square.

For distribution purposes, the standard is a 3000px x 3000px overall size. I definitely wouldn’t go smaller than 1600px x 1600px.

Not sure what “px” means? Look here.

Simple

If you are currently creating your own artwork but have limited skills when it comes to design, remember KISS.

Keep It Simple Stupid

Don’t try to pull off something that you are not ready for. At the same time, don’t excuse away a terrible cover because “it’s the best you can do”. If it looks like it was created in Microsoft Paint, or if it actually was created in Microsoft Paint, then go back to the drawing board.

Don’t overthink it.

Find a nice, free-to-use image and add some simple lettering.

Sites such as Unsplash and Pixabay provide high quality, royalty-free images that you can instantly download. Pick an easy to read font and make sure to use a color that balances well with your imagery.

The honest truth is that a cover that only consists of simple text, when done right, can be much more appealing than a “busy” cover with no actual direction.

This is a nice example of a simple cover that does a great job of being appealing at the same time. One thing to notice is that a single font is used, but having the artist’s name in all caps creates a contrast with the song title. Another tip, do not use more than three fonts in a design. I would probably try to stick to two if possible.

Software

As far as what to use to put your design together, I would recommend using Canva as a free option to get started. It is user-friendly and gives you several options.

Of course, Photoshop and the Adobe Suite allow for more in-depth options, but again I would never tell you to spend money monthly if you are not ready to do so. I’d rather you just focus on the music.

Have other questions?

Hit the comments below and I’ll be glad to answer them the best I can!

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