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Elaine Lennon's 5 Top Tips on How to Create Captivating Digital Music Artwork (that will grab someone’s attention and get your music heard!)

So...you have your original song all written and recorded and are as excited as a wee kid on Christmas morning to just get it out there for the world to hear! Well, get ready to add another skill to your musical toolbox – crafting eye-catching cover artwork for your digital music release that grab's attention and helps get your music heard! Let's delve into the significance of crafting compelling single and album cover artwork.


In 'Elaine Lennon's Top Tips on How to Create Captivating Digital Music Artwork' guide, I've outlined what I think about when creating artwork for my own releases. From decoding distribution rules to mastering the art of design the key is to find a way to make your music stand out in the vast digital ocean.


Top 5 Tips for Creating Captivating Digital Music Artwork:


1 - Think Strategically


Think of your cover art as the visual ambassador for your music, the face that introduces your sonic masterpiece to the world. In the vast realm of music discovery, where first impressions wield significant influence, captivating artwork serves as your initial handshake with potential listeners. Particularly in the digital sphere, where countless tracks clamor for attention, standout cover art can be the difference between being scrolled past and being clicked on.


Moreover, beyond its aesthetic appeal, album cover art plays a strategic role in music promotion and distribution. It functions as a potent branding tool, communicating your artistic identity and style to your audience. In essence, investing in thoughtfully designed cover art is akin to investing in your musical persona, enhancing your visibility and resonance in the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry.


In the below thumbnails from Elaine Lennon Music on Bandcamp, the same fonts and colours were used to create a strategically visual link for 'Trouble' and then 'Only Love Can break Your Heart' which were the first two singles from the debut album and were released in quick succession.


Examples of cover art designed by Elaine Lennon
Examples of cover art designed by Elaine Lennon


2 - Image Originality, Authenticity and Representation:


When it comes to designing cover art, remember to keep it fresh and original! Choose unique images that resonate specifically with each release, avoiding the temptation to recycle the same old visuals.


Authenticity is key, so make sure your cover art stays true to your musical style and vision, accurately representing the content of your release. If you're incorporating photos or digital images, be sure to obtain the necessary rights to use copyrighted material, opting for authorised images cleared for commercial use.


When using original drawings or paintings, like in the cover art below for my release 'Christmas Time', ensure the work fits with the feeling of the song too, for example this one was created by one of the children, Matthew Carroll, who attended the school and creates a heartwarming feeling that represents the kind of song you will hear before you have even pressed play! Head over to Spotify now to see how it looks as a thumbnail too!


Additionally, maintain professionalism by steering clear of any explicit or inappropriate imagery. Finally, ensure your artwork aligns seamlessly with your music and brand identity, utilizing fonts, colors, and imagery that reflect your distinctive style and personality.


Cover art for Elaine Lennon's release 'Christmas Time'. Original drawing by Matthew Carroll
Cover art for Elaine Lennon's release 'Christmas Time'. Original drawing by Matthew Carroll

3 - Text & Fonts Guidelines:


Keep your cover art clean and clutter-free by including only essential text, such as the artist name and release title, ensuring it aligns precisely with your release info and metadata. Avoid time-sensitive phrases like "New Release" or specific dates to maintain the timeless appeal of your artwork.


Alternatively, opt for text-free images, as most music platforms conveniently display relevant info alongside the cover art. If you do choose to incorporate text, ensure the font accurately reflects the content of your release.


Text only cover art can also be impactful - I opted for for this on the artwork I created for my 'What a Wonderful World' release with Boo Hewerdine. I selected a vintage font as a nod to the era of the original Louis Armstrong release and chose the red colour for interest and to attract attention, while selecting a soft yellow colour for the font which reflects the colour palette popular in that era too.


In my artistic endeavours, I typically lean towards using the same font, which aligns with my overall artist branding suite. However, there are exceptions, such as in the case of 'What a Wonderful World'. Utilising a consistent font across your body of work serves as a valuable tool to visually connect your pieces and reinforce your overarching artistic branding. This principle is exemplified in the artwork for 'Uncharted Waters', where you can observe the seamless integration of the chosen font, contributing to the cohesive visual identity of the project.


Remember to prioritise legibility by selecting easily readable fonts, especially considering the smaller sizes of thumbnails. While artistic fonts can add flair, it's essential to ensure they remain clear and understandable to your audience.


Elaine Lennon's cover art design for What a Wonderful World with Boo Hewerdine.
Elaine Lennon's cover art design for What a Wonderful World with Boo Hewerdine.

4 - Embrace Minimalism for Maximum Impact


When designing your cover art, remember the golden rule: less is more! Keep thumbnail visibility in mind by crafting your artwork with the one-inch size limitation in consideration. This ensures that even in the smallest thumbnails, your artwork remains visible and eye-catching.


Maintain optimal contrast and legibility by steering clear of cluttered backgrounds and overly intricate designs. Instead, opt for simplicity and minimalism, particularly in electronic music genres where streamlined visuals can make a significant impact. By embracing a less-is-more approach, you'll ensure that your cover art stands out amidst the digital noise and captures the attention of potential listeners effectively.


This is what stands out for me in Kris Kesiak's minimalist design for my self-titled debut album cover seen here below.



Cover Artwork Kris Kesiak created for Elaine Lennon's Debut Album.
Cover Artwork Kris Kesiak created for Elaine Lennon's Debut Album.

5 - Size Really Does Matter


When it comes to crafting your single or album cover art, it's crucial to adhere to specific specifications to align with the standards set by major music retailers and streaming services. Failure to meet these guidelines could result in rejection by music distributors, hampering your music's reach.


Fear not, though, as these best practices not only ensure compliance but also provide invaluable insights for producing top-notch album cover art.

  • Ensure a minimum size of 3000 x 3000 pixels, maintaining a perfect square aspect ratio.

  • Aim for a minimum resolution of 72dpi, though 300dpi yields optimal quality.

  • Save your artwork in JPEG file format; note that not all music retailers accept PNG or GIF formats.

  • Opt for RGB colour mode to achieve the best quality; CMYK may not display accurately.

  • Maintain image clarity, avoiding blurriness, pixelation, misalignment, or any other quality issues.


These are just some of the key factors I consider when creating the cover artwork for my own releases. By following these guidelines, you are one step closer to creating compelling cover artwork that not only grabs attention but also effectively represents your music to potential listeners.


What to do now:


  • Create a few versions of your artwork and ask your friends which one catches their eye and why?

  • Visit your favourite digital platform to see my other cover art designs and see how they look as thumbnails.

  • Follow me on Spotify to see my future artwork cover ideas!

  • Read some of the other Elaine Lennon blog posts I have created for aspiring songwriters who are self-releasing as independent artists

  • If you'd like me to create the cover art for your next release get in touch at info@elainelennon.com

  • Follow me on socials for updates on my projects and avoid missing out on future tip tips





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