Album art seems less and less important these days to some, where in reality it is still greatly important and an important way to make your release stand out. In order to do it right there are many considerations and little details that are easy to mess up. Hopefully, we can help you to avoid those in this series.
Once you have a vision, you now need to put that vision t0 a canvas. Unfortunately, many otherwise great artists skip this step and make a masterpiece without having it in a format a printer/digital outlet can take it into. Whether you are doing an all digital release or a physical throwback to only 10″ vinyl, 8-tracks and cassettes you need to get some templates to put your art into so that it is able to be reproduced. Digital
For digital releases you don’t have much work to do. While iTunes will let you do some fancy things like iTunes LPs or even upload your album artwork to them, most releases don’t go there. All you need is a 1,600 x 1,600 pixels square piece of art to associate with your release. You want to make sure when you create this image in the digital world that you start off with art that is in this 1,600 x 1,600 resolution otherwise it will look stretched and blurry. Many digital distributor and some bloggers will not accept your art if it isn’t in this spec, so save yourself some time. Once you have created this wonderful piece of art, you should save it as a .gif and .png so you have it available for whatever may come your way.
CDs, LPs and Other Physical Formats
If you plan on making a physical version of your record you are going to need to download the templates from the manufacturer you will be using, otherwise you can end up paying big fees to get your record formatted properly. If you do not know who will be pressing your record yet, you can get started by downloading the templates from some well-known manufacturers. NationwideDisc has some templates we have used for CDs and PiratesPress have all the common vinyl template you could ever ask for vinyl needs.
Once you have these templates filled in with your artwork you need to make sure you output them properly. Most of these pressing plants ask for you to give them a.gif, .jpeg or .png version of the art as well as a collected version of your Photoshop file (also know as a .psd). The reason they need this Photoshop file is to ensure they properly recreate your artwork and can fix if you did not do something right. You will also need to include the elements you used with the Photoshop file. Most plants have the capacity to take this file in a zipped version or on DVD. No matter what, you will need to provide them with this to get your artwork to them.
It is often a good idea to work on the vinyl and digital artwork first since they require being a larger size than the CD. Once the vinyl is right make sure it translates to the CD.
One of the other reasons it is helpful to have the .PSD document is that in the event your release does go on to bigger and better things you will need to repurpose this art. Advertisements, websites and merchandise often incorporate elements of album art and without the .psd document this can be a real huge pain. Saving all of your .psds for the future can take up a good amount of space on a drive but can really help in the long run, especially for that retrospective box set you have been planning in your head.
Before you ever get started on your art, get the right templates so you don’t open a can of headaches later.