How to Design a Modern Album Cover in Photoshop

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How to Design a Modern Album Cover in Photoshop 

 

Final Comp

 
For this tutorial we are going to be creating an Album Cover Artwork in Photoshop. 
I’ll try to make this as simple as possible. 
 

Let’s break this tutorial down: 

  1. Setting up Photoshop (Canvas, Resolution)
  2. Getting the Photos & Masking the Photos
  3. Darkening the Photos
  4. Adding the Sun & Glows
  5. Adding Water Reflection
  6.  Adding Stars
  7. Write your Text & Add Your Logos
  8. Bring the Image to Life (Final Adjustments)
 

Step 1. Setting Up Photoshop

Create a Photoshop Document with a size of 3000px x 3000px (square) and a Resolution of 150 Dpi

You’ve got a Perfect Square! 

Step 2. Getting & Masking the Photos

Water Image (Sea)

Sky

Stars

Once you’ve downloaded the images, bring the Water Image / Sea Image in first and crop it to fit the canvas. It should look like this. 

sea

Next we’ll bring in the Sky image and place it over the Sea Image. You’ll should only be able to see the Sky image now. 

sky

I have increased (transformed) the size of this image to increase the size of the clouds and make sure the trees and buildings are below the horizon line of the sea. We will be masking out the trees and the buildings. 

While your Sky image is selected, click on the layer mask icon at the bottom of the panel. 

Screenshot 2020 07 20 at 2.07.28 PM

You should see a layer mask added to your photo. Make sure the layer mask is selected. Notice how the layer mask is highlighted when selected. 

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 7.40.31 PM

Press G on the keyboard to pull up the GRADIENT TOOL (G), now place the cursor over the mouse and drag from top to bottom. 

Don’t forget your foreground and background should be set to black & white. 

Screenshot 2020 07 20 at 2.20.20 PM

You’ve now masked the “sky” and got rid of the trees and buildings. 

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 7.46.53 PM

sky sea

Bring down the Opacity of the sky to 50%

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 7.49.58 PM

sky sea opacity

Step 3. Darkening the Images

Add an Exposure Adjustment Layer & a Black & White Adjustment Layer above the images. 

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 8.13.59 PM

On the Exposure Adjustment Layer bring down the exposure to around -2.5 and the Gamma to 1.13

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 8.17.01 PM

sky sea BW

 
Step 4. Adding the Sun & The Glows to the Sun 
Select the Ellipse Tool and  draw a circle above all of the layers in your panel. 
 Fill the Ellipse with a Yellow Color – #ffa123
 
Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 8.21.40 PM
 
Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 8.32.16 PM
 
sun
 
Just as we did with the Sky, we need to mask this circle (sun) so it looks like the Sun is rising from the water. Refer to Step 2 of this tutorial. I already showed you how to mask. 🙂
 
sun mask
 

Time to make the Sun Shine! 

 
Yellow Glow – #ffda0c
Orange Glow – #ff8a0c 
 

Create a New Layer and call it Orange Glow

Press B on the Keyboard to Bring up the Brush Tool and select a Soft Round with the Hardness set to 0 and the Opacity set to 100% and a Color #ff8a0c.  

Oh! Make sure the BLEND MODE of the LAYER IS SET TO HARD LIGHT. This is very important. 

Make sure that the size is slightly bigger than the Circle/Sun. (Brush size will vary depending on the dimensions of the album cover)

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 8.40.20 PM

 Place your brush in the middle of the Circle/Sun and left click once to add the Orange Glow – #ff8a0c 
 
sun orange glow
 
Create a New Layer and call it Yellow Glow and follow the exact steps as you did for the Orange Glow. (Make sure the blend mode is set to Hard Light)
 
sun yellow glow
 

Step 5. Adding Water Reflection

Just like you did with the glows on the sun, use those same colors and paint on the water. 

Press B on the Keyboard to Bring up the Brush Tool and select a Soft Round with the Hardness set to 0 and the Opacity set to 100% and a Color #ff8a0c.  

Oh! Make sure the BLEND MODE of the LAYER IS SET TO OVERLAY. This is very important. 

Make sure that the size is around the same size as the Circle/Sun. (Brush size will vary depending on the dimensions of the album cover)

water glow 1
 

Create a New layer and paint with the same yellow #ffda0c but this time CHANGE THE BLENDING MODE TO Linear Dodge (add) and bring down the opacity to 50%

water glow 2
 
Finally we will create a New layer and paint with the orange again #ff8a0c but this time CHANGE THE BLENDING MODE TO OVERLAY with an Opacity of 100%. and paint towards the bottom edge of the canvas. This adds a nice reddish orange to the water and gives the image a little more depth. 
 
water glow 3
 

It’s good practice to group all your layers and name them appropriately. 
Bring all your Water Reflection/Glow Layers below the Sun Layers. 

I put all the layers in groups to create a little order in the layers panel. With so many layers it can get a bit daunting and chaotic.

For a little drama, I added a white silhouette of a man. I did a google search by typing
man standing silhouette  and I got exactly what I was looking for. Because the Silhouette was in BLACK I inverted the silhouette to white (ctrl or cmd + i) bring down the opacity to 60 (use your discretion). 

man

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 10.16.46 PM

Step 6. Adding Stars 

Bring in the STARS photo and place it in the canvas. Transform it so it fits nicely in the canvas. I prefer to have the stars as small as possible. 

stars

Change the Blending Mode of the layer to “Screen”, this way every thing that is BLACK will be REMOVED and only the white will show. Bring down the Opacity to 50%.

Erase a little bit of the bottom portion so. the transition is smoother and you don’t see the harsh edge of the image. You can use the masking technique I showed you earlier. 

stars screen

Step 7. Adding Text & Logos
 
I don’t think I need to explain how to do this, if you’ve come this far, you probably know how to add text in photoshop. It can’t get simpler than that. 
 
As for the logos, I made up some logos using simple text and added it to the image to make it look like a legit album cover. 
 
text logos
 
Step 8. Bringing the Image to Life

 

This is where we’ll add the final adjustments to make the image pop. 
First off download the GRADIENT MAPS. I’ve included. Pretty Basic Gradient Maps but I want to save you the trouble. 
 

Download Gradient Maps

Once you’ve downloaded the gradient maps. We will add a Gradient Map Adjustment layer

By default you should see the Gradient Map Adjustment set to Black to White. 

Change the Blending Mode of the Adjustment Layer to Overlay at an Opacity of 40% (incase you don’t see the Black to White Adjustment layer, I’ve included it for you)

Gradient Map 1

To get the dark bluish tint we need to use our next gradient. 

Make a Gradient Adjustment Layer and this time click on the color bar of the adjustment layer. 

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.08.32 PM

Click on the Color Bar 

You’ll be presented with a Dialog Box called the GRADIENT EDITOR where all the gradients are stored. 

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.09.20 PM

Click on the little Gear Icon and select Import Gradients from the fly-out menu.

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.09.38 PM

Locate the Gradient file you downloaded  and click open

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.09.58 PM

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.10.04 PM

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.10.22 PM

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.10.42 PM

Click on the Grey to Blue Gradient and then select “reverse”. 

Change the Blending mode of this Gradient Map to Soft light. 

Bring the Grey to Blue Gradient Map Adjustment layer below the Black to White Adjustment layer. 

Gradient Map 2

And with both adjustment layers turned on it should like this…(see below)

Gradient Map 12

Finally, we’ll add two Curves Adjustment layers to bring in some contrast and add some shadows (darkness) to the composite. 

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.25.36 PM

You’ll be better off just copying this curve. It’s super simple. 

After adding the Curve Adjustment Layers

album artwork

Let’s add one more Curves Adjustment Layer. Bring down the opacity of this adjustment layer to 80%

Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 11.25.50 PM

After adding the Curve Adjustment Layer

album artwork

That’s it! Thanks for staying with me through this tutorial. 
 
I took out some extra time and made some enhancements to this image, it’s on Sale here – New Day Album Cover
 
Have fun and Play around! 
 
 
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