Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Getting Artwork for Your Release

So you've slaved away for months on your latest musical masterpiece and it's been sent off to mastering.  Now would be a tempting time to just kick back and relax, but of course, even if you're doing a simple digital release, you still need to give your album/ep/single a visual identity - the cover art.  If you've never done this before, it can seem a bit daunting, but it really doesn't need to be.  The options are out there and just depend on how personally involved you want to get.

1.  Hire Someone to do it for You
If you've got a bit of a budget to work with, probably the best option is to hire a professional graphic designer to create your artwork for you.    If you're going to pay for it, it is not unreasonable to ask any prospective designers for examples of their work.  Specifically, you probably want to work with someone who has worked on album art before.  Don't settle for less than what is going to make you happy.

Some things to keep in mind:

• What you pay will depend not only on the experience or demand for the graphic designer, but on how extensive what you need is.  If it's a digital-only release, perhaps only a front cover image is needed.  Or if you're doing a full physical release, you might need a tray card, cover image, an multi-page booklet.  How extensive you get is up to you, but keep in mind it will effect the cost of the graphic designer, but also the printing costs.

•  Make sure you and the graphic designer are on the same page and get everything in writing.  It's important that everything be clear ahead of time with regards to who owns the rights to the artwork and how it can be used.  For instance, do you intend to use the cover image on t-shirts, posters, or other merch?  Some graphic designers might want more money for those rights. Have clearly defined deadlines and approval processes in place.   Just be sure both sides are clear on how the artwork will be used and you'll save yourself a lot of potential headaches.

•  Also make sure that the details for approval are clear to both sides.  You should be able to request changes within reason and issue any corrections that need to be done.  You can avoid a lot of problems in this area by having the artist do rough mock-ups of their ideas before moving on to creating the full-fledged final piece, but chances are at least minor revisions will need to be done.

2. Find Someone to Volunteer to Create the Artwork for You
If you're running a bit low on cash, don't despair!  There are tons of graphic design students and recent graduates looking to build up their portfolios who may be willing to do the job for free.  There are lots of really talented people out there who can help you, but there are some important downsides to this approach, too.  The first, and most obvious, is experience.  Students and beginners may be more prone to making rookie mistakes, or simply creating sub-par work.  So it can be a bit of a gamble.  The other is that since the artist is basically doing it out of the kindness of their own hearts, you don't have much leverage when dealing with things like missed deadlines, etc.

3. Do It Yourself
Are you pretty handy with Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign?  Have some experience in text layout?  Then maybe considering doing it yourself.  You'll have full artistic control, can ensure deadlines are met, and the only artistic temperment you'll have to deal with is your own.  If you've never done this before, let me assure you it is harder than it looks, but not impossible if you have patience and a willingness to learn.  Save yourself heaps of problems by finding out what format, resolution, etc. the manufacturer or digital distributor needs the finished work in.  Many manufacturers even provide templates for CD artwork layouts on their sites.   Not much of an artist?  No problem.  Services like iStockphoto offer millions of images of every description that could be the basis for a slick-looking album cover.  If you want to get up to speed on learning some of the popular graphics design programs such as those from Adobe, I recommend checking out the Classroom in a Book series.


MOOD90 said...

tankx 4 the tips!

Anonymous said...

why aren't we paying you for these posts? :P

Adam Dubbleu said...

There used to be a donate/paypal link, but it gone now.

papernoise said...

I hope this doesn't sound too much like shameless self-promotion (though it kind of is:D ): I'd really love to do album artwork! if anybody is interested, check my work here:

Tom said...

Not shameless self-promotion at all, papernoise, thanks for posting!

Unknown said...

I was a fine young artist back in the 1990;s and early 2000's using GIMP, Photoshop and Lua, GLua scripts to do artwork and many of the artworks were album cover like, but for those of you who are there without much experience in photoshoping take some pictures yourselves with a camera and then print them with a printer and get those photocopied at kinkos or where ever and scan the picture and then add text to it with the GIMP because GIMP is free and for MAC, Windows and Linux....this is a great way to have artwork for low-budget musicians, back in the cassette days sometimes the official releases were like this...just photocopied J-Sleeves for their Demo Tapes...but this works with CD's also