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The dos and don’ts of podcast cover art: The complete guide

August 2, 2019
Everything you need to know about designing your podcast cover art

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When you decide to start a podcast, you’re likely focusing on what your podcast topic will be, all the great interviews you’ll have with guests, and how you’ll connect with your audience. You’re a storyteller, after all, so it makes sense that getting your stories out into the world would be top of mind.

But, since podcasting is often a passion project, entrepreneurial in nature, or a DIY endeavor, there are a lot of other details a solo podcaster or one on a small team must consider—the accessories that complete and enhance the outfit, if you will. One of those critical pieces is your podcast cover art.

Podcasts are more popular than ever, so listeners have an abundance of choices. That’s why you need podcast cover art that will stop them in their scrolls. If you’re not well versed in art or graphic design, you probably have a lot of questions right now, like “how do you make podcast cover art?” and “what should be on podcast cover art?”

You’re in luck because Spotify for Podcasters allows you to create beautiful podcast cover art with a free in-app cover creator. Whether you use the cover art tool or design your own podcast art, you need to know the best practices for creating a podcast cover design that will best represent your show and command the attention of new listeners. Discover what you should and shouldn’t do in this guide to podcast cover art.

Do: Define your podcast’s visual identity

Don’t: Start designing a cover before understanding your podcast’s visual identity

Before designing your cover art, it’s important to do a little soul-searching to figure out what your podcast is all about. Your cover art should be visually pleasing, but it should also accurately represent your podcast’s overall message and brand. Answer these questions to get a better understanding of how to approach the design:

  • How would you describe your podcast? Make a list of keywords.
  • Then form your elevator pitch. Try defining your podcast in one or two sentences in order to really hone in on your idea.
  • Who’s your target podcast audience? What community or interest group aligns with your niche?
  • What makes your podcast special and different from others?
  • What other podcasts inspire you, and what do you like about their cover art?
  • Is your podcast for your brand or business? How will those professional elements factor into your podcast brand?

After you’ve considered these defining characteristics of your podcast, you can integrate them into your podcast image. For example, if you have a comedy podcast that’s silly and irreverent, you might feature bold colors and a caricature drawing of yourself. If your podcast discusses serious or difficult topics, you might go with something clean and minimal.

Do: Use high-resolution photos

Don’t: Stretch photos that are too small

Whether you decide to go with photography or illustrations, make sure you’re using high-resolution images. So, what size is cover art for a podcast? For the best visual quality, aim for dimensions between 1400x1400 to 3000x3000 pixels, keeping a ratio of 1:1. This will ensure your art looks crisp across all podcast listening platforms.

Do: Use simple, high-contrast imagery for the best podcast aesthetic

Don’t: Use too much text and/or different colors and fonts

The saying “less is more” certainly applies to design. If you start using too much text, colors, or fonts, you run the risk of diluting your podcast cover art and not making it as bold as it can be. Solid background colors and gradients can work wonders in helping your art pop off the screen.

If you are using text on your cover, make sure the color contrasts well with the background. Limit yourself to using no more than two fonts. Pro tip: use a combination of sans serif and serif for the best results. Play around with your design elements to determine how the colors, fonts, and other effects will look the best.

Do: Design with large and small sizes in mind

Don’t: Design for one size fits all

Your cover design will appear on different platforms, websites, and devices, so you need to keep visibility and accessibility in mind when planning your cover artwork. Your cover art should look just as clear and attractive when you resize it for a poster as it does as a thumbnail image on a podcast app.

Do: Pick complementary colors that work well together

Don’t: Pick colors at random

There’s a whole science behind color theory. Different colors evoke different physiological responses. For example, yellow can make us feel warm and happy, while blue instills a sense of trust and dependability. Think about what you would want your potential listeners to feel when they see your cover art, and let the psychology of color guide you.

Use the color wheel as a reference—complementary colors that are on opposite sides contrast with each other and can create eye-catching images. Analogous colors or colors next to each other on the color wheel, like pink, red, and orange, can create a sense of cohesiveness. This can also be a way to attractively display your podcast logo on the cover design. For a balance between complementary and analogous, triadic colors placed equidistant from each other around the wheel allow each color to shine on its own without fighting for attention.

There are always exceptions to these rules, of course, so don’t be afraid to take creative liberties. Adobe Color is a great tool for finding colors that work well with each other.

Do: Ensure text and typography are clear, prominent, and minimal

Don’t: Use tiny text or additional text alongside your podcast title

Since the majority of podcast discovery and listening happens on mobile devices, you’ll want to make sure your cover art is optimized for small screens. Keep your text limited to the title of your podcast (pro tip: you don’t need to include the word “Podcast” in your design), avoid tiny text, and make sure you pick a solid, easy-to-read typeface.

Using custom hand-drawn lettering to create your cover art is also a good option, as long as you keep a good balance between simplicity and high contrast. If you’re having trouble with legibility, try using a block of color behind the text to separate it from the image.

Do: Use simple illustrations and patterns

Don’t: Mix too many creative elements together

If you love to draw, creating original illustrations and patterns can be a cool way to set your podcast apart from the rest. Incorporating no more than one bold pattern and one illustrative element is a good rule of thumb for keeping your cover art visually balanced. If you use too many competing elements together, though, their meaning might get lost.

Do: Use photography with clear subjects on a simple background

Don’t: Use photography that is too busy

Photography can be a great option if you feel that it relates better to your podcast’s message. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have professional equipment either. You can get great shots using your smartphone camera. Simple imagery is best. You can edit your photos in Photoshop, VSCO, or Canva if you want to go for a collage look or experiment with different filters and layers. Avoid using photography that has too much going on, as you’ll want to make sure your text stands out on the photograph.

Do: Feature your podcast logo prominently in your cover art

Don’t: Leave off your logo design

It’s easy to confuse a podcast logo with podcast cover art. While the logo is an element of the cover art, it’s usually not the entire design. At the very least, you’ll have a background behind the logo, or the logo might be one component of several, including additional photos or illustrations. Your logo design should follow the same best practices as your overall cover art and should include just the name of your podcast with no additional text.

The main difference is that your cover art represents your podcast on all of the listening platforms and podcast directories where it’s available, but you may use your logo independently of the cover art for other purposes. For example, you can choose to include your logo separately in marketing materials, like social media profiles and content, podcast merch, business cards, press kits, email signatures, etc.

Don’t forget to check out other podcasts on Spotify that you love that are similar in topic and tone to yours for inspiration. Now, go forth and unleash your inner artist!

Feeling inspired?