Today, we’re going to find out exactly how to make awesome cover art using AI, by using only free tools.
Now a lot of us musician folk aren’t renowned for being amazing illustrators or photographers, that’s no secret. Even just 6 months ago the only real route available was to either try your hand at drawing, artsy photography or even 3D modelling, depending on what you were looking for. Of course, you could also pay a professional artist to make you an awesome album cover, but if you don’t have major label money, then this might not be an option.
Luckily, progress in the field of AI has come in leaps and bounds over the last year or so. Every day there seems to be a revolutionary new tool powered by AI which completely changes the game. It comes as no surprise that many of these tools are incredibly powerful, but also expensive.
That’s why I decided to make this guide – I promise that by the end of this quick article, you’ll be creating your own unique album covers which suit your exact needs in minutes, and completely free. Sounds good? Let’s not waste any more time and get straight into it.
1. Sign Up For an OpenAI / DALL.E Account (Free AI Image Generator)
Firstly, you’re going to want to head over to OpenAI and sign up for a free account. This company does offer premium services, and has a handful of options which you need to pay for, but for what we are needing to do you don’t need to pay.
It’s worth noting that you may need to enter a mobile number when signing up for an account. Don’t worry, the main reason for this is to stop people from creating a load of duplicate accounts.
Right, now that you’ve got your free OpenAI account set up, head on over to DALL.E 2. If you’ve never used this service before, it’s an AI image generation tool. There are two options for using it, which we will get into in the next section.
Come Up With a Good Prompt
Now we’re going to generate an image! There are two main ways which we can use to create a great album cover. Firstly, there is the text-based approach. All you need to do is come up with a brief instruction, or prompt, describing the image you are looking for.
Secondly, you can also upload an image and it will work off of this to create variations. This can be useful if you have a picture you like but want to create a more unique, artistic version of it.
Today we’re going to focus on the text based approach for creating our album cover. From what I understand this is the more popular method of creating images, because it’s easy to generate very abstract covers which you may have never even though of. Credits are limited month by month, so to save you from wasting credits and getting bad results, here are a few quick tips:
- Be careful when asking for a very specific person or brand: DALL.E is great at generating realistic images, but if you ask it for something which is very recent, or very specific, it may have issues creating a relevant image for you. An example of a bad prompt in this instance would be something like “Obama sat in a Volkswagen Golf”. It’s probably not going to nail the car, or the person. On the other hand, something like “a man in a suit sat in a hatchback car” is more likely to yield reasonable results.
- “In the style of”: Using the phrase “in the style of” is very effective for emulating a certain style. For example, “a golf ball in the style of a Picasso painting” is going to be (subjectively) better than just “a golf ball”.
- “Digital Art”: This is a bit of a life hack. Asking DALL.E to generate almost any image but adding the term “digital art” will yield better results.
- Specify the colour and medium: when you give explicit instructions for what colours and art styles to use, you are a lot more likely to come out with an image you are aiming for.
Now that we’ve covered the basics for coming up with a good prompt for generating awesome AI album cover art, let’s combine them all together and check out the results together.
Let’s say I’ve just finished making a Deep House song. I’m looking to give a mysterious, atmospheric aesthetic to the song through the cover art.
Let’s try: “A mysterious figure on top of a sand dune, with a purple sky. Digital art.”
Here’s what it came up with:
Pretty cool, huh? Once you’ve got a great image generated, let’s perform some minor editing and some final steps to make this a release ready album cover.
Use a Free Photo Editor, e.g Pixlr
You might have noticed the image you downloaded has a little watermark in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The image may also be too low-res for you to be able to upload it in it’s raw form to your digital music distribution service. I tend to upload cover art as a 3000×3000 PNG image, so let’s quickly fix that.
If you’re looking for a great free online photo editing app, I would definitely recommend you check out Pixlr. This is a freemium image editor, which comes absolutely packed full of features, and you help you make any sort of minor adjustments you would like.
For this image, I want to make it look more lo-fi and grainy. I’m just going to add some grain from the adjustments tab, and make a few other edits using the effects section. In here you have a load of filters for everything from colorisation to adding some glitchiness to the image, there really are tons of options, which is amazing from a free app.
Pixlr can be free to use, but it’s worth mentioning that at the moment you are limited to 3 free image saves per day, so it’s worth making sure that you only download the album cover once you’re fully satisfied with it.
Okay, now that we’ve done a few quick adjustments to the original image, I’ve got this as the finalised cover to use. It doesn’t look like it took just a couple of minutes to create if you ask me, what do you reckon?
If you want a quick and easy set of adjustments you can make to turn you photograph into an edgy, retro version then try this out:
- Change the “grain” to 100
- Apply, and then repeat again
- Go to effects and add one of the filters under “colorize”
- Play around with the exposure and contrast to your liking. This can help make the image more bright and eye catching, but it’s easy to go overboard.
- (optional) Go to effects, and add a randomized glitch effect to the image. If you don’t like how it turns out, roll the dice again by hitting the random button.
Conclusion – DALL E + Pixlr are Great For Creating Awesome Album Covers For Free
Regardless of what genre of music and visual art you would like to accompany your music, I’m sure you will be able to create some amazing cover art which not only looks professional, but would also be very hard to tell is AI generated.
These days, there’s no shame in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence if the end product is even better, so why not give it a try?
Digital art is one of those spaces where technological advancements have come in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, and with the direction we are headed, it could become quite exciting.
Heck, some people are even making music videos with the help of AI. Take a look at this recently released music video by Hueman Instrumentality as an accompaniment to Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” as a great example: