3 Things You Need to Know About Cover Art

[Updated October 8, 2015]

By Jacqueline Rosokoff, Editor

In order to distribute music to digital stores, there are a few things you need: Audio files, metadata (album title, track titles, artist names, release date, etc.), and cover art.  And these required components must be up to store specs.

Today we’re talking cover art: getting your artwork in the appropriate format so it flies through to digital store shelves.

All About Format

In order for the stores to accept your artwork, it needs to meet several technical criteria:

-Perfect square
-At least 1600 x 1600 pixels in size
-Best quality RGB Color Mode (this includes black and white images)
-If you’re distributing your music to the Amazon On Demand store (for printing physical CDs), you need a resolution of 300 DPI.

Don’t Do It!

A few weeks ago we talked about the requirements for formatting the text in an album, single, or ringtone.   Well, the same applies to artwork. There are certain rules the stores have that dictate what can and cannot be included on your artwork.

Here’s what you CAN’T include:

-email addresses, URLS/websites, contact info (this includes Twitter handles), pricing,
-stickers from your artwork from a scanned copy of physical CD
-something that suggests format of the release “CD, DVD, Digital Exclusive, disc”
-cut off text or images
-an image that’s compressed into one corner with white space
-names of digital stores or their logos
-words that express temporality, like “new”, “latest single”, “limited edition” or “exclusive”

Artwork Formatting

Also, this may sound like a given, but make sure the image isn’t blurry or pixilated. No one, including the stores, wants to have to squint to see your art.

If you do include some of those things in the list above, the digital stores will likely reject your release, and it’s tough to generate sales when your music isn’t in stores!

Game. Set. Match.

It’s really important that the text on your artwork match your artist name and album title.

Sometimes artists release a single off an upcoming album, in advance of the album release.  If you do this, you just need to make sure the artwork for the single is specific to that single.

Here’s what I mean:

You’re distributing a single “I Can’t Remember“ off your upcoming album Amnesia. The artwork for your single MUST say “I Can’t Remember “ as the title, NOT Amnesia, even though it’s a single from the upcoming release Amnesia.

Also, make sure that the artist name on the artwork matches the artist name in the release information.  Adding extra artists to the cover art who aren’t actually performing on the release isn’t a good idea.  For example, if you’re covering a song by John Lennon, his name can’t be on your artwork.

Your artwork can also just include the song/album title or just the artist’s name—it can even have no text at all.

Whatever you do, just make sure there isn’t a mismatching situation going on.

If You Have a Booklet…

Do you have a digital booklet to include with your release?  iTunes accepts digital booklets, and we can attach them for you so long as they meet iTunes’ specifications.  Go here for all the information you may need about booklets.

Need Some Art?

Don’t have your own artwork?  Not to worry! We’ve got you covered.  When you get to the ‘My Artwork” step in creating your release, just click the green button that says MAKE MY ART.  Then you can comb through pages of art options until you find one that speaks to you.  You’ll be able to add text to customize your release.

If you have any trouble while you’re uploading your artwork, make sure to contact our artist support team BEFORE you finish distribution. We’ll help you out and get your music on its way.

Ready to upload your artwork? Get started now.

  • rprentice

    Very good and informative instructions.

  • Jo

    Isn’t DPI a printing term and therefore irrelevant for on-screen-only artwork?

    • tunecore

      You’re right, we’ve corrected the line about DPI above. Thanks!

      • kimcliftrn

        What if I just want to use pictures of my artist as my artwork

        • tunecore

          Hey there – just as long as you don’t include text that doesn’t match with the title of the release or the artist, you should be fine.

          In the event that your artwork is not in the right format, there’s no need to worry! You’ll promptly receive an email from a member of our Content Review Team when they begin reviewing the release. They’ll give you instructions on how to fix any errors, and once you do so and email them back directly, your album will be ready to be approved and sent to stores!

    • xvond

      It’s not irrelevant when setting up a raster image file.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.hartnett2 Daniel Hartnett

    Man l love this blog great content here

  • http://PeteBensen.com/ Peter Erik Bensen

    Very good info, IMO.

  • Gelio Marcus

    It didn’t menion anything about the resolution for the artwork. Best I could find anywhere else was 72p/in

    • tunecore

      Hey Gelio,

      Resolution should be at least 72 dpi (300 dpi is better)

      More info here: http://bit.ly/1ru6SlN

  • http://www.tuneupmedia.com Tuneupmedia

    Great read! informative blog.
    Thank you

  • Kelley

    If you plan to print your work, you’ll want CMYK then convert it to RGB for digital, that way there isn’t a drastic difference between your digital version and your hard copy. Also, please just hire a designer, you probably don’t want to have the same artwork as someone else with a different text overlay.

  • Herman

    i uploaded my single with a full HD 1700 x 1700 JPG-file cover art. But here on spotify, the resolution is extremely low ! What happened?

    • tunecore

      Hello, Herman! We apologize but we only deliver exactly what is uploaded from your account to all the stores. Unfortunately, we do not have any control over how the stores themselves convert artwork or audio files that fit to their store formats.

  • http://www.clippingpathspecialist.com/photoshop-retouching/ Suman Rahman

    Definitely some important points has been sorted out here that all the artist should be aware of. I have a question on the format of artwork, which format is better jpg or gif?

  • Bobbi

    I’m stumped. I looked online for a converter: 1600X1600 Pixels to inches for my design. It said 5.33 inches. But my art was rejected. WHAT is the size in inches?

  • Abe

    I want to hire my aunt to create my own artwork. I assume I would then need to scan it in. Are there any good guidelines you recommend? I was told by a friend that I should probably have the artwork done larger and then work to scale it down as needed. I working toward a mainly digital release…any info would be greatly appreciated.

    • tunecore

      Hi Abe,

      If it is being done by hand, yes you will need to scan it to get it online. The larger artwork is, the less you’ll need to stretch it out and possibly compromise the work.

      I recommend checking your computer’s resolution, (PPI/DPI), and converting 1600X1600 pixels to inches based on that. That way, you’ll know how large or small of an image to start off with in inches. Learn more about our requirements here: http://bit.ly/1ru6SlN

      • Abe

        Great. Very helpful. Thanks for the quick response!

        • tunecore

          You got it, Abe 😉

  • samefacemuzik

    Can I put the record labels logo on the cover?

    • tunecore

      Hey there! You can add record label logos on the cover as long as the label is listed with the other metadata when you’re filling everything out.

      • jclaude66

        Is it okay for me to use Chinese/Japanese letters if I use them for design purposes? I have an Album with full Japanese words but they are not the name of the album/artist.

        • tunecore

          At this time TuneCore’s systems are not set up to deliver content with Chinese text and characters to iTunes and the other stores.

          For Album cover art design, iTunes can be pretty stringent when it comes to *matching* the artist/title of the album with the metadata you submit. This would be case-by-case – as long as you have the name of the album and artist clearly displayed and the symbols you’re using do not suggest otherwise, you should be fine.

          Regardless, before anything gets sent to iTunes, our Content Review Team will contact you via the email associated with your account to let you know if you need to make any edits. Hope that helps!

  • Tyler

    Should I add the parental advisory in the corner? or is that done somewhere along filling out the information in iTunes?

  • guna

    how do i change single cover if already distribute or release?

  • Vaughn

    Should I add the parental advisory in the corner? or is that automatically generated as you select explicit lyrics?

  • Komplicated Savage

    ARE YOU GOING TO PUT THE PARENTAL ADVISORY STICKER ON THERE FOR ME! Two people ask this question and I didnt see not ONE response from you TUNECORE!!

    • tunecore

      Hi There – if you’ve marked your release as ‘Explicit’ in the distribution/uploading process, it will be marked as such in digital stores and streaming platforms. Please read more here: http://help.tunecore.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/102/

      • Komplicated Savage

        Thanks Tunecore

  • jasoncampbellsmith@hotmail.com

    Do I need to add specific artwork for each individual track on a 7 track album?..if I do not will the cover for each track automatically be the same as the album artwork?

  • http://www.zyekil.com zyekil

    I’m specialized in album cover art design and logo design.I have worked with many musicians coming making various styles of music from chilling songs to death metal. My work can be found on my website http://www.zyekil.com I also have some premade designs for sale on my shop page http://www.zyekil.com/shop …..also be sure to check my fb page http://www.fb.me/zyekil for my recent projects updates.

  • Alan Gartner

    Hi, I want to know how can I do to upload my artwork that is not square. It’s like a DVD format. Thanks!