How to Create Album Artwork for Free Using Canva

As an indie artist, most of the time you end up doing everything yourself from recording your album to taking your own band photos to promoting your new release. One of those do-it-yourself items is creating your album artwork. You may be thinking “but I’m not a designer” or “I don’t know how to use Photoshop.” An alternative route would be to pay a graphic designer to put something together for you. But what if that’s not in your budget?

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create your album artwork for free using a website called Canva. With Canva, you don’t have to know how to use Photoshop or pay a graphic designer. It’s very user-friendly and they even have templates you can use for social posts, album artwork, gig posters, and lots more.

Before we begin the tutorial, let’s talk about the importance of well designed album artwork, design principles, and artwork requirements for distributing your music.

The Importance of Album Artwork

Your album art has the power to make you look professional or like an amateur. It can make you stand out in a sea of other artists. It’s also a great way to convey your brand and genre of music. For example, if you’re a folk artist with an acoustic sound, you might want to stick with organic imagery.

Basic Design Principles

Without giving you a full-on art class lecture, here are some basic principles to take into consideration when designing your artwork.

Typography

When using typography, less is more. Stick to two or three fonts at the most. Also, try to use fonts that contrast with each other like a serif font combined with a sans-serif font.

White space

White space, otherwise known as negative space, is the unused space in a design. It can be a powerful way of drawing the user’s attention to a particular element in the design.

Minimalism

When in doubt, keep your artwork minimal. Don’t busy it up with a bunch of text or elements that are competing with each other for attention.

Repetition

Repeating objects or patterns help strengthen the overall look of the design and keep it consistent.

Color

Color conveys certain moods and meaning. For example, red is considered an emotionally intense color. It is the symbol for love and can stimulate a fast heartbeat and breathing. So take what colors you use into consideration when creating your design.

Album Artwork Requirements for Distribution

If you plan to release your music at all, there are requirements you’ll need to follow when using digital distribution:

  • Must be at least 1500 x1500 pixels.
  • Must be high quality and not blurry.
  • Cannot have drugs, nudity, or extreme violence.
  • Cover art may only have text that matches the release details you provide and is limited to your release name, artist name, featured artist names, and record label.
  • You may only include logos and websites to which you own the rights.

If you don’t follow these requirements, your artwork might be rejected and this can delay the release date of your music.

What is Canva

Canva is a website that makes it easy for non-designers to create graphics like social media posts, flyers, business cards, album artwork, and more. They have lots of pre-made templates that you can use or you can create your own custom designs. Although you do have to pay for certain features, you can do a lot with it’s free options.

In this example, we’re going to recreate one of their pre-made templates. The reason for this is that their album artwork templates are defaulted at 1400×1400 pixels and you need to have a paid account in order to edit the dimensions on their templates. And in order to have your music accepted for distribution, 1500×1500 pixels is an artwork requirement. So I’m going to show you how to get around that for free in Canva.

First step is go to Canva and sign up for a free account.

how to create album artwork using canva

Once you’re signed in, you can click on “Explore Templates.” There’s a lot of categories to choose from. If you click on “CD Covers,” you’ll see Cream Rustic CD Cover is the example we’re going to recreate.

how to create album artwork

So go back to your dashboard and click the green “Create a design” button to the left and then click “Use custom dimensions” in the top-right.

canva album tutorial

Type in 1500 x 1500 pixels and click “Design!”

custom dimensions in canva

From here, it will bring up the custom design tools. Let’s add in that cream/off-white background color by clicking on “Background.” Click the “+” symbol under Document Colors and it will bring up the color picker. Choose an off-white color. In this example, I used the color code # fff5fb. Once you choose your background color, it will automatically pop up in your design.

choose a background color canva

Next, we want to add a frame under the “Elements” section. Once you click on the frame you want, it’ll automatically show up centered in your design.

add a frame in canva

Now we want to add our image that’s going in the frame. Click on “Uploads” and you can upload your image from there. I chose this snowy mountain landscape photo from Unsplash, a free stock photography website. Side note: if you use any photography, make sure you have the rights to use it.

After you’ve uploaded your image, drag it over the frame and it will automatically be added to it.

add an image to a frame in canva

You can also play around with image filters. I chose the filter “Edge” to give it that blue-ish/purple hue.

add an image filter in canva

Now, let’s add our artist and release name.

Remember for your artwork text you can only have your release name, artist name, featured artist names, and record label. In this example, we’ll be adding the release name and artist.

Click on “Text” and then “Add a little bit of body text.” That will add some text to the center of your artwork. Drag it to the top left corner. It will automatically help you align it to the corners of the artwork. Type in your artist name. Then choose the font Glacial Indifference, size 18 and make it bold.

add text in canva

Now we want to space out the letters to give it that modern look by clicking on “Spacing” and move the slider to 580 for the Letter Spacing. You can leave the Line height as is.

add letter spacing in canva

To add the release name, you can select the artist name and copy and paste it. Then, drag the release name to the bottom right hand corner, again, allowing Canva to help you align it to the corner.

Type in your release name and then drag it out to make it fit on one line, if needed. You can unbold this text.

add text in canva

Now that you’re finished, you’ll want to export your file so you can use it for distribution and other places on the web.

Click the “Download” button in the top-right corner and choose JPG as the file type and hit download. Now you have a file that you can use that meets the requirement for distribution.

export an image out of canva

And here’s the finished product.

how to create album artwork for free in canva

As you can see, Canva is great tool that makes it easy for non-designers to create album artwork that looks professionally designed.

Do you have any tips on how to use Canva to create album artwork?

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RebeccaHow to Create Album Artwork for Free Using Canva

11 comments

Join the conversation
  • Trevor Edore - September 19, 2017 reply

    Someone help me out, it’s not available for Android

    John Stringer - September 20, 2017 reply

    Trevor, use the desktop version in a browser. I use this for everything my team designs (posters, business cards, flyers, social media flyers, facebook banners, blog images and covers, etc.. First learned about it at a marketing conference in 2014 and have loved it since! One note: another great resource for free high quality images is pixabay.com!

    Tina - September 21, 2017 reply

    pixabay is not really for commercial use..

  • John Stringer - September 20, 2017 reply

    Good job on getting the word out about this tool, Rebecca / Reverbnation!

  • Jermerry King - September 21, 2017 reply

    Crikey, that’s all right, that is- thanks for letting us know about it. Very nice.
    Jeremy and Poitín

  • Pete - September 21, 2017 reply

    Why say ‘create album work for free’ when half way through you say you need a paid account to pixel to 1500×1500 industry standard. So now I have a useless piece of artwork that’s not album art. Oh I see because It’s clickbait garbage and you need the traffic.

    Rebecca - September 25, 2017 reply

    Hi Pete, if you continue to read the article, I show you how to re-create the artwork at 1500x1500pixels for free. Hope that helps clear up any confusion!

  • Colleen Brown - September 21, 2017 reply

    Curious if there’s an equivalent program for creating album art for physical manufacturing? It’s easy to make the front/back/inside panel artwork, but to drop it into a template that will fit printing specs can’t be too much harder?

  • Eric Vera - September 21, 2017 reply

    I’ve been using Canva for every artkwork of mine for a couple of years now. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one doing it and making really cool artwork with it. Thanks for sharing it. (:

  • Rod Brandt - September 24, 2017 reply

    G’ Day, looks very interesting
    and I think that it will be very handy for us. For some years now we have designed our own C.D. Covers using Publisher and ,either our own photography or Microsoft clip art. They come out very well and those in publication now are very well accepted. . However, it’s always handy to have an substitute available in case one can’t find what one wants on the regular one. I looked at the first page but there wasn’t any thing I could see that said Musician so I clocked on Artist. Hope that suits .

  • Ethan Teel - September 27, 2017 reply

    Clicking on the link now, and the entire page is nothing but text. Thinking site might be down. Is this normal for Canva? What’s going on?

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