Guide to creating 3D Album Art

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One of the terrible things about the modern day world is that it is hard to really show off your music collection, or your movie and films, in the same way before. Gone are the days when guests would flick over all of the CDs you have, and be able to comment on like minded artists and styles of music.

However, I’ve recently discovered a way where I get to show off what music I do listen to, including all of my goth albums, while also getting to flex my creative muscles and, simultaneously, do something pretty cool with technology. That is, creating 3D album covers.


You will need:

  • A Printer
  • Photo Paper
  • A hobby knife (inc blades)
  • Scissors
  • Foam Pads
  • Empty CD Cases
  • A copy of Photoshop (or ability to adapt for your art program of choice)

Optional, but cool:

  • NFC Tags
  • NFC enabled phone or tablet

Find your album art

The first step is to look for whatever particular album you want to display proudly. As we will be picking out shapes to cut along, I favour designs that are simple with one or two elements, and some obvious clean lines to cut out from. Painted pictures, computer generated graphics, and photos without wavy hair are perfect for this kind of art and craft. Some abstract patterns are also good, but anything too complex can cause problems in trying to find a nice way to layer your design.

When looking for albums on Google Images, a good tip is to select “search tools”, then drop down to “size” and select large. You will want to find the largest size version of your chosen album as you can.

Step 2: Load up your image in Photoshop

Once you have found your chosen album, you can now load up photoshop. You will want to set your paper size to A4, and your resolution to 300 DPI.

You may as well also save this blank document. This is the template you will use for every 3d Album picture that you make.

Import the image you save saved, and use the free transform tool to change it’s size to 4.75 inches x 4.75 inches

Step 3: Start Separating out the elements

A good number of layers to do for your first 3D album art is three layers, although typically, you can squeeze up to six full layers into a CD case.

You always want one image which is just simply the full art of the album. This is your base, and as long as you keep the 4.75 inch dimensions, will allow you to make sure that the cover does fit into your CD case.

From there, duplicate the full size album, and repaste it. Then, use the eraser tool to take out the areas of the image you don’t want on your second layer. Let’s say, for example, a background, leaving a person standing.

Duplicate this, and create a third layer, and once again, remove the elements that you don’t want again. With bold enough text, we could maybe take out everything but the artist and album title.

Step 4: Print and cut

Fire up your printer, put in your photo paper, and start printing.

There are two reasons why we are using photo paper. The first one is that it does add an extra nice look to the graphics you print out than using normal cardboard. The second is that the strength of it will help out when cutting and sticking the layers on top of each other.

With the main image, you can simply cut out with a pair of scissors. However, for everything else in the album art, it would typically be too difficult to manage to gently get out all of the elements with a pair of scissors. So, this is where your knife and cutting board comes in.

It is a good idea to not cut out everything all at once, but instead do a layer at a time. This way, if something comes to mind after you have stuck on layer 2, you can go back to photo shop and the printer and make a new layer.

Step 5: Start sticking

Now you have some pieces, take your foam pads and carefully cut out a small section of it to put on the back of the second layer pieces, and them carefully arrange onto the album size graphic.

For smaller pieces, it is recommended you use tweezers to help you position them.

Do be aware though, depending on what brand of foam pads you got, it is possible that the moment that contact is made that the pieces will be very much stuck together. This means that you will need to place each peace very carefully to avoid messing up your work. This can make you particularly nervous when you are working on the fifth, or even sixth, layer of your masterpiece.

But, once you have stuck all the layers down, you are done! Unless you want to go the extra mile and actually have your album play.

Step 6 (optional): Use NFC Tags

This is a guide for Android. Although this should be possible with an iPhone, as I don’t use an iPhone I wouldn’t know where to start with setting this up.

With the completed album, place one of the NFC stickers that you have brought on the back of it. Then, download the Trigger application.

Simply follow the instructions in this app to both write to your NFC tag, and to set up the action of playing an album once the tag has been read.

From here, all you now have to do is touch your phone to the album art, and it will start playing.

A perfectly cool way to show off your music cred while still keeping everything digital!

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