The last time that I wrote about designing an album cover, I focused on photography. I intended to show how easy it is to design an album cover. Things are going to be a little bit more tricky this time, as I am going to ask you to do something that – perhaps – you haven’t done in a while: draw.
Drawing can seem a bit daunting even more when you haven’t drawn anything since you were a little kid. However, I am a firm believer that drawings don’t have to be perfect. Drawing can be therapeutic. It can also be meditative. It depends on what you wish to accomplish from drawing. But enough about what I think about drawing.
The first thing you want to do before drawing is choosing your tools. Do you want to use a rollerball pen, a pencil, markers, perhaps a fountain pen or chalk? You might want to consider the type of paper you want to work with too. Do you want to use the very basic, super affordable, crispy white printer paper? Or do you want to go with something that is a bit more pricey and has more texture like etching paper?
Asking yourself these questions will help you define the overall feel and aesthetic of your drawing. But these are optional and can be skipped if you don’t want to think about that and just want to get drawing.
If you are still too nervous about drawing perhaps asking someone else to draw might be your best bet. For instance, if you have kids, or have friends with kids, you can take a photograph of one of their drawings. This works particularly well if your music is intimate and DIY.
As you can see, the cover above isn’t perfect. The drawing is weirdly cropped with some weird shadowing happening in the bottom-right corner, and we can notice the wrinkles on the paper on the left-hand side. Regardless of that, the cover works as a whole and is very fitting for both the artist and his music.
The other option you have if you want to have a drawn album cover but can’t draw at all is to screengrab a scene from your favourite childhood cartoons. This technique is trendy within the Lofi HipHop scene.
Now let’s get you drawing! The easiest kind of drawing you can do is abstract. It is the easiest way to draw because you do not have to think about it too much. You can, but you don’t have to. All you need to do is grab your favourite colour markers or pencils, some paper and get drawing. Obviously, if you want to use more tools – such as rulers and such – you can.
Above is a cover I did for one of my songs, Gizèle. All I did was cut a piece of paper in a small square – 5cm x 5cm – and draw on it using colour pencils. I didn’t have any specific idea in mind. I just listened to my track on repeat and started drawing. Once finished, I snapped a picture with my phone and cropped the drawing. I found this to be the easiest and most immediate way of producing an album cover without any design skills.
Below is a more high-grade example of what a drawn cover might look like. Portland-based illustrator Theo Ellsworth drew a simple yet detailed portrait for the cover of Flying Lotus’ Pattern + Grid World EP – which I featured not long ago in the Loving Covers series.
In an interview for Redefine Mag regarding the process of making the illustration, Ellsworth explains that after a few phone calls, Fly Lo sent over links to some of Theo’s art “that reminded him of what he was picturing”. He then says that Warp Records sent him a copy of the unmastered EP that he played a lot while working, which gave him “the sense that the music was the atmosphere that dictated the imagery”.
If you wish to paint rather than draw, the principles explained above are similar. The main difference will be the materials as you will need a canvas, some brushes and paint. If you don’t have a canvas, you can use watercolour paper. You will also need to allow for some drying time before photographing the painting. But the results can be really cool with a lot of textures and washes.
Now you’re probably wondering how to get a super realistic drawing for your cover and are probably upset that I didn’t cover that. The fact of the matter is that you have two options here: either draw it yourself or request help from an artist. In any case, don’t worry about the standards and expectations that surround you. Just make what feels right for you and have fun with it.