You want your CD cover to be eye-catching at any size.

What’s the best way to achieve that? Through contrast, simplicity, and double-checking your work as you go. Read on. 

  1. Use contrast — more than you think you need

Make sure the title and band name really stand out against the background, and are large enough to read in a thumbnail. Remember, your cover will be a tiny square on CD Baby or Amazon. It needs to work just as well there as on your merch table.

Contrast comes in many forms: dark vs light, bold vs thin, saturated color vs dull, complex detail vs simplicity. However you slice it, contrast tells your eye where to look.

A good title is big enough or bold enough to get attention right off the bat. You can still be elegant or refined, as long as you use enough contrast one way or another.   

If your system fonts don’t cut it, there are good choices on or

In the picture with this post, all of the covers work with varying degrees of success, but only a few of them are truly readable in a smaller size. You can see how thinner fonts get lost easily, even if they are fairly large in the overall design. (Note: we did not design Scythian’s Dance. All. Night. — but we included it because it is such a great example of simple, effective design, and we have been Scythian fans since forever!) 

  1. Simplicity — be picky about images

Images with at least one big “simple” area work best behind text. If the background is complicated, your text will be harder to read. Try putting a shape behind it.

Tip: if you don’t want to feature a band pic, then find great photos and graphics, free for commercial use, on sites like,, or

  1. Zoom out or blur your eyes to check readability 

That’s the real test, and it’s worth doing throughout the design process. You’ll thank yourself later. Images blown up on computer screens are deceiving.  

If you follow these tips — use contrast, be discerning about images, and double-check by zooming out — your design will be successful at all sizes.

Do you have a CD project coming up?

We will check your art as part of the flight check process, or we would be delighted to set up your design for you. Give us a shout to get started!