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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Album Cover
Design

How to Make a Cool Photo Effect Album Cover Design in Photoshop

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today, we will be putting together a unique, colorful piece of album cover art in Adobe Photoshop! We will not only be going over how to make an album cover but also looking at album cover size and album cover dimensions so you will be confident your cover will print as intended. 

When creating an album cover, it's also a great idea to use an album cover maker online like Placeit to finish off your album's title and text, so today we will be looking at one of their many album cover templates.

This tutorial will also include how to create a surrealistic body paint Photoshop portrait effect that you can use in your everyday art, not just on an album cover!

Let's get started! 

What You'll Need

To complete this project, we are using the following resources:

Find more resources on Envato Elements and Placeit! Here are some of the best photo effects you'll find:

1. What Are Standard Album Cover Dimensions?

The standard CD cover dimensions are at least 1600 x 1600 pixels in size with a DPI of 300. These dimensions will not only ensure your CD cover prints at the correct size but also guarantee a crisp, clear quality! 

Step 1

Create a New Document with a minimum size of 1600 x 1600 pixels and a DPI of 300. The DPI is otherwise known as the Resolution. 

Download and drop the subject onto the middle of the canvas.

place subject

Step 2

Use the Patch Tool to remove the metal spikes going up the model's back. Keep the spikes on the arms. 

Use the Stamp Tool to finish up any areas of skin that might look a little blotchy or oddly colored. The skin does not have to be perfect, however, as we will be adding an interesting texture over her skin later on. 

remove spikes

2. How to Mask Hair in Photoshop 

This next step is all about Photoshop hair masking! We will be looking at my favorite way to mask hair in situations where you don't need to change out the background.

Step 1

Using the Magnetic Lasso Tool make a rough selection around the subject's hair. No need to be precise! 

Duplicate the subject, adding a Layer Mask to the duplicate in the shape of the selection. 

Step 2

Double-Click the hair's layer mask to open the masks' Properties panel. Click on Select and Mask. 

As we are working on the image's original background, I suggest changing the View Mode to Overlay. Make sure the Refine Edge Brush is selected, found on the left-hand side panel. 

Edge Detection Settings

  • Radius: 3 px
  • Smart Radius: Checked

Global Refinements (Optional)

  • Contrast: 26%
  • Shift Edge: -2%

Step 3

Drag the Refine Edge Brush across the edges of the hair. Hold Alt to subtract from the selection and Control-Z to undo.

Play around until you are happy with the selection and then press OK.

extract hair

Step 4

Enlarge the hair significantly!

enlarge hair

Step 5

Align the larger piece of hair over the original hair the best you can. Mask Out any of the edges of skin that are left over from the larger hair. 

Finally, access Warp Mode by choosing the Move Tool, making sure Show Transform Controls is checked, clicking on one of the Transform Controls, and then switching from Transform Mode to Warp Mode on the right-hand side of the top toolbar. 

Once in Warp Mode, warp the hair into its final shape!

blend hair

3. How to Apply Textures to Skin and Hair

Applying textures to skin and hair is not all that different from applying them to anything else! The main thing to keep in mind is the natural flow of the body, and making sure the textures don't flatten the subject!

Step 1

Download and place texture "01" from the Multi-colored Striped Waves Backgrounds texture pack. Set the texture to Overlay.

Shrink and move the texture around until you find the sweet spot where the texture flows with the contour and shape of the subject's body and face.

place texture

Step 2

Create a selection of the subject using your preferred method. Mine is the Pen Tool typically, but in this case, a super exact selection isn't needed, so I used the Magic Wand Tool's automatic Select Subject button and then refined the selection it gave me with the Lasso Tool. 

Once you have your selection, add a Layer Mask to your striped texture. The mask will take the shape of the selection. 

Further, mask out any hard edges around the hairline using a soft Brush. 

blend texture

Step 3

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above all current layers. 

Mask the layer so that it only shows on the hair. 

Hue/Saturation Settings

  • Hue: -159
  • Saturation: +70
color hair

Step 4

Create a New Layer, setting it to Soft Light. 

Use a soft round Brush set to black and white to paint contrast onto the hair. We are focusing white in the front and black on the back of the hair. 

light hair

Step 5

Finally, use that same "01" texture from the body to bring some color into the hair. Set the texture to Soft Light.

Shrink the texture slightly more than the body texture and position it where it flows best in the hair.

Create and fill a Layer Mask in with black. 

Using a soft, round Brush, slowly mask some of the texture onto the hair. 

texture hair

4. How to Paint Gradients in Photoshop

Next up, some final touches using gradients!

Step 1

First, repeat Step 5 of the previous section to increase the contrast of the hair further, giving it more dimension and depth. 

add contrast to hair

Step 2

Create a New Layer, setting it to Screen.

Use a very large, soft, round brush to paint a red #d90000 gradient over the subject. This gradient should fill up most of the canvas. 

Bring down the gradient's layer Opacity to 12%.

add gradient

Step 3

Create a New Layer above the red gradient layer, setting it to Soft Light. 

Bring the layer's Opacity to 25%.

Using a soft round Brush, paint slightly harsh black along the edges of the canvas. The edges should be very smooth but noticeable, almost as if you are creating the illusion of a spotlight on the subject. 

add shading

Step 4

Finally, repeat the above step, only this time paint a very soft seamless gradient along the corners of the canvas. 

Use Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to get a very soft, no-edge blur!

add vignette

5. How to Create a Vivid Color Grade in Photoshop 

Now on to the color grade! Today's color grade will consist of just five adjustment layers that will all be grouped on top of all other layers, into a group named "Color grade."

The adjustment layers are listed from the bottom up!

Step 1

Create a Color Lookup adjustment layer.

Color Lookup Settings 

  • 3DLUT: Fuji Eterna 250D Kodak 2395
  • Opacity: 49%
fuji eterna color lookup

Step 2

Create a second Color Lookup adjustment layer.

Color Lookup Settings 

  • 3DLUT: Filmstock
  • Opacity: 43%
filmstock color lookup

Step 3

Create a third Color Lookup adjustment layer.

Color Lookup Settings 

  • 3DLUT: Horror Blue
  • Opacity: 50%
horror blue color lookup

Step 4

Create a Selective Color adjustment layer.

Color Lookup Settings: Reds 

  • Cyan: +27
  • Magenta: +15 
  • Yellow: +11
  • Black: +16

Color Lookup Settings: Yellows

  • Cyan: -47
  • Magenta: -21  
  • Yellow: +53
  • Black: +13

Color Lookup Settings: Cyans

  • Cyan: +25
  • Magenta: +72
  • Yellow: -40
  • Black: +25
selective color

Step 5

Create a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. 

Brightness/Contrast Settings 

  • Brightness: 42
  • Contrast: -12
  • Opacity: 60%
  • Layer Mask: Mask out the edges of the adjustment layer, creating a spotlight effect to brighten the subject's face.
brightness and contrast

6. How to Add Text in Placeit

Finally, to finish everything else, we are going to add a title to go along with our cool album cover! Today, we will be bringing our image into Placeit, using one of their many album cover design templates! 

Step 1

Save your CD cover image as a PNG or JPG at full size and resolution. 

Step 2

Search Placeit's library for the Electro Beats Album Cover design template.

Once you have found it, click on the template. 

placeit template

Step 3

Import your image into the template by going to Background > Custom Image.

Find where you saved your image and select it. Placeit will ask you to crop the image, but ours should be a perfect size! Just hit Crop without changing anything. 

import image

Step 4

On the left-hand side of the page, you will see the Text panel—that is where you will change the text to your own!

Select the text you want to change and type out your own. I will be naming my mock CD cover "Living sound | Instrumental."

Select your font of choice from the dropdown menu below each text box. I will be using Montserrat.

change title

Step 5

Enlarge the text just as you would in Photoshop, by clicking and dragging the Transform Controls found around the selected text. 

enlarge title

Step 6

Change the text's color by clicking the white colored button located next to the font menu. 

I changed "Vol.07" to a yellow-orange color. 

change font color

Finally, download your image by clicking Download near the top of the page, and you are done!

We've Done It!

And there you have it: a beginner's guide to CD covers and a couple of photo effects to go along with it! Looking at various photo manipulation and portrait effects is a great way not only to gather up some album cover ideas, but also to keep you up to date with the current trends and effects that are out there! 

And if you are in a real creative slump, checking out sites like Placeit and using their templates as a jumping-off point is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

So, as always, keep experimenting with different techniques and practicing, and don't forget to post your version below, along with any questions, comments, or critiques!

final image

Looking to learn more? Why not check out the following photo manipulation tutorials:


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