Album artwork is essential if you want your DJ mixes to stand out visually. Ideally, every mix you create should come embedded with an individual piece of artwork which advertises your mix, brand and musical theme.
Not having an album cover included with your mix makes it look sloppy. Also, the lack of an album cover means your DJ mix won’t look good when it’s displayed on a Mixcloud, Soundcloud or any of the other DJ mix sharing sites. Plus, it’ll look rubbish when it’s displayed in a media player.
These days you can make a decent looking CD album cover without Photoshop. You also don’t need to be a graphic design expert to make great looking artwork. Especially if you’re willing to spend a few dollars.
In this guide, I’m going to show you some of my own methods on how you can create fantastic DJ mix artwork on the cheap.
How to use Canva for creating a DJ Mix cover
Canva is a free and simple online graphic design tool. You use a simple drag-and-drop format when creating any media using the online application.
A free Canva account provides you with access to over a million photographs, graphics and fonts.
Canva includes a few free CD cover templates to help you get started.
To find them simply type ‘CD cover’ in the search box after signing up with the site.
Once you’ve done that you’ll be presented with a selection of free and paid templates which you can edit. Again, editing is simple: you simply drag elements on to main artwork page and then customise them.
To edit a template just click it, and then it will appear in the edit window in the centre of your screen. You can then start to personalise them with your text, logos, DJ mix blurbs, etc.
Many of the Canva templates are created by pro designers. And they do an excellent job of combing the correct fonts and images. Meaning you don’t have to worry about your font selections contrasting images.
You can also add your own images too. Canva does allow you to upload them and add them to designs.
One bad thing about Canva is that the free templates look a little basic.
One thing to watch out for is that Canva mixes the free and paid templates together. This includes CD covers template too.
The premium CD cover templates more professional, but you must pay to use them. However, the price of the covers is reasonable – they start at around $1.00 per template.
Here’s a tip. You can upload your own pics and images to Canva. You don’t just have to rely on the stock images which they have on their site. So, if you can’t find anything which suits the theme of your DJ mix, try finding uploading your own images.
How to create your own pro CD covers using Photopea and Graphic River
Photopea is a free online image editor. It comes with many powerful features such as spot removal, lots of free fonts, the ability to open PSD file (Photoshop files), and it can even open vector images. This makes it an ideal replacement for Photoshop.
Unlike Canva, Photopea doesn’t come with a range of pre-made album cover templates for you to use. However, for a couple of bucks, you can buy professionally designed CD covers from a stock image/GFX websites. The one I like to use is GraphicRiver.
There are many stock image websites on the internet. Some big and some small. However, the more popular stock images websites tend to be expensive.
One of the cheaper websites, which sells album cover templates is Graphic River. You can pick album cover templates up for as little as $3.
Better album cover templates are a little more. But even the most expensive isn’t more than $15.
A word of warning! Please be aware you are buying an album cover template. After purchasing it you will still need to customise it to suit your needs. You’ll need some form of graphic design software to manipulate your CD cover template. If you don’t have access to something like Photoshop use Photopea instead. It’s free and it’ll work on any type of computer.
The downside to using Graphic River and Photopea is that you will still have to do a little bit of work. But you can get great results without having to spend much money. And your DJ mix album covers can look like they’ve been designed by a pro.
Personally, if you’re new to all this I’d recommend buying a cheap template for a couple of bucks. Play around with that and get used to editing it and adding your own customisations. Once you’re familiar with the process of editing and customising, then move on to buying the most expensive templates for your future mixes.
How to outsource your CD artwork to Fiverr
If you lack the patience for any of the above methods, your next option is hiring someone to create your album artwork.
Fiverr is probably the cheapest place to find freelancers who can create a CD cover for your DJ mix.
If you don’t know what Fiverr is let me explain.
Fiverr is a market place where you can hire freelancers from around the world for various jobs or gigs (as Fiverr like to call them).
You can hire someone for pretty much any media related thing you can think of on Fiverr.
You can also hire GFX designers on the site for reasonable rates too. Often at a lower rate than you would have to pay a local graphic designer.
When hiring someone through Fiverr you are able to hire people from around the world, often from places where hourly rates are much less.
How to use Fiverr for creating CD artwork for a DJ Mix
Getting artwork is easy. Just go to the site and type in CD artwork, CD cover, mixtape cover in the search bar.
Once you do this you will be presented with a range of sellers who can provide you with CD covers designs.
Freelancers are given ratings by people who have used their services or gigs. However, you will find that the popular freelancers are more expensive than their unpopular counterparts.
When getting art created on Fiverr your budget is going to be the biggest factor in who you hire. So, you’ll need to figure this out for yourself before you hire anyone.
The easiest way to find a Freelancer to suit your budget is to filter them. To do go to the CD covers section, and towards the right-hand side of the screen, you’ll a filter button. If you click this, you’ll be given a few options.
If you want good quality work, it’s best to filter the sellers using the bestselling filter. These freelancers will cost more but they’ll do a better job.
If you’re on a budget, filter the freelancers using the newest arrivals tag. The newest arrivals filter allows you to view freelancers who are brand-new to the website. Their prices will often be cheaper because they have not built up a reputation yet. And because they lack reviews, they will often create work for a cheaper rate.
The downside of using a new freelancer that they might not be that good. So, you’ll be always taking a little bit of risk if you decide to hire a freelancer at the cheaper end of the Fiverr spectrum.
A word of warning. Because you are hiring people from around the world, sometimes there can be a language barrier. This can create problems because the freelancer grasp of English isn’t that great. The more complex your design brief the more this will matter.
So, if you are wanting a complex album cover design it might not be the best idea to go for the very cheapest freelancers on Fiverr.
What size should my DJ Mix album cover be?
If you’re planning to get your CD covers printed, most printers require your artwork to be around 4.724×4.724 inches for the CD cover.
And if you’re wanting in inlay card, that wants to be around 5.906×4.646 inches.
Also, when it comes to getting any type of artwork printed your finished media ideally want to be around 300 DPI (dots per inch).
If you plan to print your CD artwork will need to make sure that you use high-quality photos and images when creating your designs. Again, you’ll want to try to use 300 DPI images or vectors GFX throughout your project.
Also, if you are dealing with any freelancers, you’ll need to request them to save your artwork at 300 DPI as well.
You will get superior results if you can do all this.
What’s the best DJ mix artwork sizes for Soundcloud and Mixcloud?
These days, most DJs probably won’t want to ever print artwork for physical CDs. Most will use their DJ mix artwork for embedding into a music file, or as artwork for their posts on SoundCloud, Mixcloud. And they’ll need to use their artwork when posting to any social media profiles.
Both SoundCloud and Mixcloud use square thumbnails when displaying DJ mixes. So, a square resolution size is suitable when saving your final artwork. I’ve often found that images of 1600×1600 pixels work best when it comes to CD covers for DJ mixes.
These sizes will look good when used on SoundCloud, Mixcloud and they look good when they’re displayed in a media player. There will also look good when they are displayed in a media player.
Posting your CD cover artwork to your social media profiles
Using your CD artwork for your social media posts is where this whole process can get difficult.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the other social media sites all use different image sizes when for their posts. And the size varies wildly.
There’s no single perfect size when it comes to posting your artwork to your social profiles. To get the best results, you will have to resize and alter your artwork to suit the social media site you’re posting to.
Here’s a handy list of the optimum social media image sizes. A word of warning they do change from time to time.
How to embed your artwork in music file
When it comes to embedding cd covers into music files, my favourite programme for this task is an MP3 tag. It’s a free program and very simple to use. And It can also edit pretty much any type of music file format there is.
To embed your artwork simply:
- Download and install MP3 tag.
- Open the program.
- Locate the folder where your music file is located.
- Towards the left-hand side of the window panel, you will notice an artwork panel.
- If you right-click the crosshairs looking icons, you see the ‘cd artwork’ options.
- Select ‘add cover’. And then browse to the location where your artwork is located and select it.
Whilst you’re in MP3tag you can edit any meta tags if you need to.
Once you don’t just click the save button in the top menu.
And that’s it. You’ve successfully embedded your artwork into your DJ mix.
- You don’t need Photoshop to make decent album artwork. Just use Photopea instead. It’s easier and it’s free.
- Try to use good quality images when creating your artwork. If you put good images in at the beginning of the design process you will get better results at the end. Basically, shit in = shit out.
- If you’re using your own photos for your covers, make sure they have been taken with a decent camera or smartphone. And that they are of good quality, they look sharp and they’re not blurred. If you’re wondering why, see my last point.
- If you want the very best designs use Fiverr and choose an expensive designer.
- If you plan to print your artwork, ensure that use high-quality images only. Ideally, your images want to be 300 DPI before and after editing. They will look much better when they are printed.
- Square artwork is often the most suitable for most DJs posting their DJ mixes to SoundCloud and Mixcloud. 1600 x 1600 size is often good enough. However, when posting to social media you may have to resize your images.
How do you like to create your album artwork images? Share you thoughts in the comments below. Cheers