Being confined indoors throughout most of 2020 has made it more than a little difficult to collaborate. Especially when it comes to things like photo shoots that typically require meeting up in person, or paying designers when you’re broke, you might be on your own these days to bootstrap solutions for album art.
I mean, just because the world has slowed down to a halt doesn’t mean your music has to! So to help you go on releasing all the music you’ve probably been making at home this year, let’s find some solutions to the missing visual media in your life.
Here are five creative hacks you can start playing around with today for generating unique album artwork concepts.
1. The illustration route
When you’re not able to go and take photos in person, hiring a graphic designer or illustrator can be an awesome alternative. Not only is it a great opportunity to refresh your branding with new colors, typefaces, and even a potential cartoon concept, illustrators almost always work remotely — so there’s no need for an awkward outdoor masked meeting.
But, well, what if you’re broke?
No problem. You can try some ideas out yourself at home, such as; finding cool images and laying paper over them to trace some of the shapes and draw them yourself for free. You can also head to free font websites to try to find new and exciting fonts to rebrand your artist logo.
Prepping some new illustrated concepts is an avenue that could open up a ton of new doors; from album artwork to new merchandise, future posters to social media content, and beyond.
2. The childhood documentarian route
Call your mom, your dad, your aunts and uncles (you should do that anyway, by the way, they miss you). Have them dig up some old photos of you from childhood.
Those adorable heirlooms have been used by tons of bands either to show where they came from, give their audience a sense of nostalgia, or tie in some of the lyrical themes of an album. But on top of all that, sometimes those photos are just super cute.
As an added bonus, it will feel like you’re giving your fans a little behind-the-scenes look into your life with awesome art at no expense to your wallet whatsoever. I’d call that a win-win!
3. The DIY collage route
Are you an artist in more than one discipline? Or do you feel like you’ve got a decent sense of aesthetic taste? Well there’s no time like right now to put those creative sensibilities to your best advantage!
Take some time these days and compile a bunch of newspaper clippings, old magazines or photographs, color swatches, and anything that speaks to you aesthetically, and see if you can start cutting them up and collaging them in a way that represents how you’re feeling.
Nobody can deny that it’s a strange time to be making art right now, so creating something unexpected yourself might reveal some beautiful inner truths! Whether that’s a collaged picture, something you’ve crocheted or knit, a smiley face you scribbled on a napkin, or something more elaborate, the sky's the limit to your creativity, which means it's the same for your album art.
4. The “back to basics” route
If you’re looking for something a little simpler than that — something you can do on your own without much skill or time — there are plenty of free stock images and backgrounds on the internet that are like readymade mood creators.
To add interesting, personalized characteristics, you can crop or divide an image, recolor it, turn it into black and white or sepia; but for the most part this “back to basics” approach simply requires you to just add your name and title somewhere.
5. The “stay at home” solo photo shoot route
The “stay at home” photo shoot is the perfect excuse to doll yourself up and whip out those selfie skills you’ve been perfecting for the last six months.
Of course, if you’re living with a roommate or a partner, you can always ask them to take a few photos of you — maybe in your home studio, or posing somewhere in your house or garden. But if you’re living alone? All you need is a phone with a photo timer and a tripod, or just go full-selfie and use something that might feel like an elevated Instagram post for your album cover.
But in all seriousness, it’s absolutely possible to take some great photographs at home. Find a blank or well-textured wall and try to fill the house with decent lighting — like colored gels or Christmas lights, both of which you can order online and get delivered — and from there just work on getting the perfect framing. If you’re feeling fancy, you can even use some of your favorite items or furniture as set decoration, or pour some milk in the bathtub to create that murky water effect.
With just a small amount of Photoshop knowledge, you can pretty much make any of these quarantine artwork hacks look beautiful and cover ready. So, whether you want to send the artwork you’ve created out to be professionally edited, or keep it all “in house” (literally), you’ve got plenty of alternatives to finalize artwork that’s right for you and your project.
Sammy Hakim is an up and coming young songwriter based in Los Angeles.
In May 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.
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