Text in Context on Album Artwork
Text on artwork isn’t always the easiest thing to figure out.
Especially if, like me, you’re not properly educated in the world of visual design, typography, and all those other things that a formal education can bring. We’re kind of playing around until something fits right, and doesn’t feel jarring to the eyes.
In all likelihood this is a very obvious fact of general graphic design, that maybe that everyone else knows instinctively and only I’ve more recently come to learn. But it’s been sat on my mind for a while, and it’s a question that comes to mind on any cover I create. How do I make the text fit into the artwork, and avoid just having the text slapped over the top of it?
So a few ways on how to make text fit, based on my own limited experience, featuring a few examples of my own work. Perhaps it will help you with some inspiration, if you decide to have text at all! This is not a formally structured piece, as I write these mostly for fun, so if I double-back or things seem out of place, that will be why!
Consider the Font
Font choice is important. You’ll likely get a feel if its right or not just from trying different ones. A rustic Old Western film looking font probably won’t sit right on a sci-fi looking cover. So expand your font library a little!
There’s a lot of fantastic resources out there for free fonts. It’s always worth checking the licenses on those fonts though. For instance, dafont.com has a great libary, but a number of different license types. The one I see a lot is ‘Free for Personal Use’, which essentially means you can’t use it for any public-facing or potentially-money-making purpose, so best to ignore those.
Myfonts.com occasionally emails about a series of freebies.
designcuts.com (really fantastic resource) has freebies constantly, not just for fonts, and I’ve picked up a few of their paid packs in recent months.
creativemarket.com has weekly freebies every Friday, also not just for fonts.
There’s tons more, but those come to mind first and foremost.
Black/White Text Almost Always Looks Good
I’ve found that in almost any scenario, black or white text laid over a scene will simply work. I personally think it gives a nice simple elegance.
Put that Text in Perspective
Got a wall or something else you can warp/wrap the text on to? See how it looks! It’s a fun way to achieve a grafitti style look at times.
Complement the Text Colour to the Artwork
Especially when you’ve got two predominantly featuring colours, take the lesser used one and have it complement the artwork.
Knockout Text with a Colour Block
Once I’d learned how to do this I just kept trying it everywhere, and if you’re struggling to pick a colour again, like our first point, you could create a white/black block and knock the text out from that to let your scene peek through. If it doesn’t look right immediately, try out colours from the scene.
Obscure Text Elements with the Scene
You’ll already have seen that I’ve done this in two examples above, and you can do it either with solid objects like a person or solid piece of scenery, but equally if there’s a less solid item you can use that to partially obscure the text, like behind a wave crest, fire, smoke, or whatever you can make use of in the scene. Usually easiest to do this with some masking on the text, or on a layer in front of the text.
Another one while I look at the above example is to make use of Blending Modes. The band name here was white text initially, but with an overlay blend mode (I think, it’s been a while since I made this one!) applied to let that little touch of colour travel through it. Definitely experiment with blend modes.
Add Effects onto the Text to Match the Scene
If you’re able to, try and match some of the overall mixture of textures and colours from your scene onto the text. It’ll make that typography puzzle piece fit so much better than just slapping text on top of everything. Take some of the highlight and darker colours from the scene, maybe an accent, and splatter them over the top of your basic text.
Match the Text Style to Elements of the Scene
Usually this will work easier if there’s some kind of basic geometry in the overall artwork. With the example for this one, where I placed a very thin border going around, I found a suitably elongated ‘thin’ font to match the thin border.
Even just a touch of masking can make the text more fitting
Occasionally you might need to make the text stand out more against its background. Here’s an example of a recent commission where I had to do that with a slight black drop shadow, but even so just a touch of splattered masking on the text to give it a more rained-on feel makes it fit that much better compared to without.
In essence very similar to masking a texture effect over the text layer. Up to you and what looks best to your mind whether thats painting something on, or importing a texture image.
I’m not saying any of these ideas will necessarily help you, or that I’m an expert (Definitely not!) but if you’ve taken anything away from it then my job is done! It’s also by no means exhaustive of clever ways to get with text, and if you have any hot tips let me know!
I think when you can combine a few of these tricks into one cover, it can really bring the look together. Attached is one final example where you’ll see I’ve matched the text colours to the scene, obscured some of the title, and added a little bit of texture onto the text to match the grain of the original photograph.