Album cover example build

This is an example ‘break apart’ layered image of an album cover, using various images I have located on the web. It uses blending, blurring, masking, and layering. Although I did not strictly follow the path I am laying out here, it is always best to build up an image from bottom to top. This is not exactly a ‘tutorial’ per say, but more of an ‘analyze the image’ and how it was built situation. Tutorials make you dependant on them in my opinion, and I prefer to look at other peoples work and break it apart in my mind, so I hope this can help you get started on that path. At some point, it will become elementary as to what another artist did to build that ‘awesome image’.


Download the included files before you proceed, and open them in photoshop.

A quick look at the image cover tune.jpg will reveal the primary images that I used to create the final, as the other elements in question are easily and quickly created in photoshop without much effort. Use these images to compare against the layered images, and you will get a better understanding of what took place in the layered .psd file.


This image is created for demonstration purposes only, the images are owned and remain copyrighted by their prospective owners.

(1) The bottom layer – the Sun. This was just a shot I found, and it was perfect for the purpose I had in mind, untouched and unaltered.

(2) (Next layer) Sheet Music scan. I edited this somewhat, removing titles and authors, adding some blur for effect, and to push the music in to a more ‘general’ format. I set this on multiply, to drop out the white background. I also dropped the opacity to 42% to prevent dominance.

(3) (Next layer) Keyboard. This is a shot of a piano keyboard at an angle, which I duplicated and flipped vertically, placing it at 63% opacity (transparency) and at linear burn to maintain some of that sun and music background, and the light in the sun image.

(4) (Next layer) Synth. This image is set at 68%, and set to lighten, as color dodge is just too severe. Maintain the light without going overboard with contrast and color, and there is room for more imagery. The image drops nicely onto the keyboard, which also blends and fades quietly into the background.

(5) (Next layer) Bird/sun. Although somewhat out of character for the imagery, it does add moodiness and light. The reeds pop up like chinese lettering, and the bird is only there if you really look, lending a jazz feeling, at this stage. Color Dodge, 100% for bright color.

(6) (Next layer) Color gradient. This is a light brown to white color dodged at 64%, removing some of the static feeling to the image, and giving the light a direction to flow.

(7) (Next layer) Color gradient 2. Same element but to a far lesser degree, a red brown to a red brown/yellow tone, color dodge at 42%. This removes some of the blue cast to the image, while helping some elements to fade, and others to come forward.

(8) (Next layer) Sound waves. This is just a quick cropped image, with a wave file snapshotted from soundforge or other sound editor. I dropped this in, and removed the background (after changing
color) by setting the image to screen, forcing the black background to drop away. It’s not overpowering, so I did not lower transparency.

(9) (Next layer) Guitar shadow. In order to push the guitar out just a bit, I added a slight shadow created from the guitar, by duping the image, selecting it, filling with black, moving it somewhat and then selecting / using the top guitar image – deleting what interfered. (60% transparency)

(10)  (Next layer) Guitar image. This is a duplicate of the top image of the guitar, but changed to a different lighting/blending type to bring out the guitars color while adding transparency. 53% color burn was sufficient.

(11) (Final layer) The guitar (top). The original guitar image had a wood wall backdrop, which I masked away, using a detail oriented method. The main element was the shape preservation, and then I blurred the mask somewhat before I deleted the backdrop, leaving the edges somewhat blurring into nothingness. I set this at 42% opacity, because I wanted a somewhat transparent look to the top layer, because it would need for the elements below to ‘shine thru’ it somewhat, evidenced by the synthesizer text.

The layering choices have a similar ‘painting’ effect of color mixing & blends – for example, the music notes do not stay black as they weave through the image.

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