If you’re a small digital record label or an artist selling your music directly to fans you’re probably on a limited budget. Certainly you can’t afford a graphic designer to create all your album covers. Everyone should have some basic knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator but knowing those programs won’t give you visual flare or a sense of style.
iStockphoto.com is the most popular royalty free stock photography and illustration online store. They host over 2.5 million images from 40,000 contributors. Images are quite inexpensive ranging from about $1 for a photo to $10 for a complex illustration. What’s terrific for independent musicians and small label owners is you can use these images for album covers.
You can search images by colors, keywords or contributor. You can create Lightboxes which are basically folders of images you want to remember. Once I know an album’s subject I will go to iStockphoto.com and over a weeks time throw related images into a Lightbox for it.
The site is also a social network with populated forums. You can follow other members’ choices or contributions. There are blogs and you can make your own blog posts too. There is a section under each image for a rating and review. Other niceties include a Free Vector each month and tutorials scattered around the site.
There are some caveats you need to be aware of. You will need to purchase an extended license if you want to use the album cover on a T-shirt, sticker or something similar where the image itself is the main show. An extended license does cost much more. Be aware that unless you purchase the extended exclusive license the image you choose can also be sold and used by other people.
As musicians, we can appreciate skill and craft it takes to create good visual art. I know we are all capable of putting an album cover together but why not let real artists with experience handle it for you? Today it’s an affordable option.