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11 Best-Practices to Make Podcast Cover Art That Works

11 Best-Practices to Make Podcast Cover Art That Works

We’ve all heard the age-old wisdom that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

But let’s face it—we all do anyway.

Even podcasts, which are an almost exclusively audio experience, can’t avoid the cover problem. Much like a book, podcast cover art can make the difference between someone taking a chance or taking a pass. 

And of course, podcast cover art is required to be submitted to the major directories or featured on Apple Podcasts. So even if your audio quality is top-notch, you won’t get far without a podcast logo and cover design.

That’s why in this post, we’ll give you the ultimate list of tips to ensure your podcast cover art is eye-catching, relevant, and engaging for your potential audience. Then, we’ll explore a few options to get that design from the idea stage and out into the world.


1. Let Your Content Lead the Way

You may be excited to get a visual representation of your brand-new show—but hold your horses. 

Don’t start designing your cover art until you have a clear understanding of your entire plan. After all, your final cover art graphic should reflect the show’s:

  • Topic
  • Tone
  • Personality
  • Style
  • Genre

Is your personality the central factor of the show? Perhaps the main design should be a picture of you. 

For instance, Office Ladies and Armchair Expert are both hosted by celebrities. The shows’ main draws are the conversations by their celebrity hosts, which is why it makes sense that the cover art features photos of the podcast creators.

Image source: Office Ladies
Armchair Expert podcast cover by Dax Shepard
Image source: Armchair Expert

Is your show about a hobby or favorite topic? Depict that thing. In Still Watching, hosts Joanna Robinson and Richard Lawson discuss the latest popular TV phenomena, which is why an icon of a television set is the clear choice for the cover art. 

Still watching by vanity fair podcast
Image source: Still Watching

And in Epic Gardening, urban gardener Kevin Espiritu chose images of succulents for his cover art design.

Image source: Epic Gardening

Are you promoting your business or organization? In that case, it’s a good idea to use recognizable business logos or fonts, as seen in the Motley Fool and The Good Place official podcasts.

Motley fool money podcast
Image source: Motley Fool
The Good Place The Podcast - cover art
Image source: The Good Place

Then, sit down and write out a plan for your show’s tone and style. What approach will you take? Will you be wacky? Witty? Modern? Casual? Formal? 

Whatever you choose, your cover art’s color scheme and design style should reflect the show’s tone and personality, so it’s advisable to have a clear understanding beforehand.


2. Consider Your Audience

Once you have a clear and detailed idea of your show’s unique style and personality, the next step is to come up with a detailed picture of your audience.

Have you created a listener persona yet? A listener persona is a hypothetical profile based on the target audience for your podcast. To develop your listener persona, answer the following questions about the ideal listener:

  • How old are they?
  • What is their gender?
  • Where do they live?
  • What kind of occupation do they have?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • Why do they care about your podcast (what problem are you solving for them)?

Many new podcasters hope to appeal to everyone, because if you appeal to everyone, you’ll have a larger potential audience, right? But that’s a mistake. 

In reality, if you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. That’s why developing a detailed listener persona can help you keep your target audience in mind and customize every aspect of your podcast (including its cover art) for that ideal listener.

After all, many new listeners will stumble across your show on their podcast directory, and the first thing they’ll see is your cover art. Don’t you want that art to appeal to them?

So take your target audience’s demographics into account when deciding on cover art. Bright colors may appeal to a young audience, while a muted, formal style may appeal to business professionals seeking out a podcast on marketing or finance.

3. Make Sure Your Cover Art Meets Directories’ Requirements

Next, keep in mind that your cover art will need to meet certain requirements if you want to list it on all the popular podcast directories. 

A podcast directory is an app your listeners will use to download, listen to, subscribe, and rate, and review your podcast. The most popular podcast directories are Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.

Most directories have the same or similar requirements for podcast cover art. For instance, Apple Podcasts requires:

  • Image size of 3000x3000 pixels (but if your show is submitted via RSS feed, Apple will accept cover art ranging from 1400x1400 to 3000x3000—but the largest size is always preferred) 
  • Resolution of 72 dpi
  • JPEG or PNG file type
  • RGB colorspace

Apple and most other directories also specify that podcast artwork should not be blurry or pixelated. It should also not contain explicit language or graphic/inappropriate content. Most directories also suggest that your artwork contains your show’s name in clear, large font.

4. Podcast Covers Should Look Great in a Variety of Sizes and Settings

Keep in mind that today’s podcast listeners experience your show on a wide variety of devices. Some might listen exclusively on their mobile phone, while others toggle between their desktop computer, phone, and even tablet. 

You’ll also likely use your cover art as a thumbnail in other settings, such as YouTube, Soundcloud, your social media accounts, your own website, and your business cards. Podcast cover art needs to work on the same level as a podcast logo, and be consistent with the rest of your branding.

Your cover art should look great at big and small sizes, and everything in between. That’s part of the reason why using a large, clear font is so important; the cover art needs to be clear and readable even at thumbnail size.

A good rule of thumb is to export your cover art design at 55x55 pixels to make sure it looks good at that size.

5. Less Is More

Since we’ve established that your cover art needs to be versatile, we should also mention this advice: don’t make your podcast artwork too busy. 

You might be tempted to include a complex blend of images and shapes, then toss in your show’s title, tag line, and names of all the hosts. Resist this temptation!

Less clutter will look better in smaller formats, so try to limit yourself to five words or less and two or three primary colors. Stay away from crowded or busy designs in favor of a streamlined and clean look. 

6. Leave a Margin at the Edges of Your Cover Art

When designing your cover art, don’t forget about the various settings where it will be displayed. Even if you create different sizes and ratios for different platforms, it’s still likely that the cover art will be automatically cropped to fit the platform in question. 

Another reason not to place elements too close to the edge is that they could be obscured by play progress bars. Give the contents of your cover art a wide margin to ensure they’re not obscured.

7. Let Color Do the Work for You

If you’re new to design, let us introduce a tried-and-true design secret: the color wheel is an easy way to come up with color combinations that sell subtle messages to your audience.

Traditionally, great choices are to choose colors right next to each other on the color wheel, otherwise known as analogous colors. These colors together often signify harmony or cohesion, and can often appear mature. Formal or business podcasts often choose analogous colors for their cover art.

Analogous colors wheel
Image source

For instance, The Daily incorporates blue, green, and yellow to appear both calming and mature. And it doesn’t hurt that these colors evoke a sunrise, which matches the morning news show’s topic.

the daily podcast cover art new york times
Image source: The Daily

Complementary colors are directly across from each other on the color wheel. They contrast from each other in a visually appealing way, allowing for simple designs that really pop and catch the eye. Podcasts with vibrant or loud personalities might choose a complementary color pair.

complementary colors
Image source

The National Geographic kids’ show Geeking Out uses blue and orange to pop and appear fun and vibrant to its target audience.

greeking out podcast cover art
Image source: Geeking Out

Colors on an equilateral triangle are known as triadic colors. They’re great choices for those who would like to create complicated logos or graphics since these three colors are visually distinct yet complementary to each other.

triadic colors
Image source

The Book Review from The New York Times uses reds, yellows, and blues to create a complex image with multiple focus points while still seeming put-together and cohesive.

the book review podcast cover art
Source: The Book Review

8. Color Temperature Also Matters

We’re not done with color yet!

Remember when you sat down and figured out your show’s specific personality and tone? Use that knowledge to choose which color temperature your art will display. 

Color theory dictates
that each color represents specific emotions and psychological states of being. Warm colors signify energy and action, while cool colors signify calm and peace. For instance, red is a warm color that traditionally evokes passion, love, or even anger. True crime podcasts or shows about love might choose red.

Source: ‎Murder In Alliance on Apple Podcasts

On the other hand, green is a cool color that signifies nature, renewal, and abundance or wealth. Podcasts about gardening and finance are both drawn to the color green when designing their cover art.

NPR planet money podcast cover art
Image source: ‎Planet Money on Apple Podcasts

9. Choose Typography that Represents Your Podcast’s Subject, Tone, and Style

While color is extremely important for grabbing the right potential listener’s eye, font choice also says a lot about your podcast. Which of the following options best reflects your brand personality?

  • Serif fonts are the oldest typefaces. A “serif” is that little line at the conjunction of letter lines, as seen in the classic Times New Roman font. Serif is considered easier to read in print format, and it also has more old-fashioned and authoritative connotations.
Pod save the world - podcast cover art
Image source: ‎Pod Save the World on Apple Podcasts
  • Sans-serif fonts are, literally, “without serifs,” as seen in the font type Arial. Because they lack the little flourishes at the end of line strokes, sans-serif fonts are easier to read in smaller and lower-resolution settings (like digital format). Sans-serif is considered modern and casual.
the doctor's farmacy - podcast cover art
Image source: The Doctor's Farmacy

Other fonts include script fonts—which are stylized and cursive styles—and slab fonts, which are blocky, typewriter-style typefaces. Many cover art designs make use of some combination of simple and decorative fonts.

In general, it’s best to err on the side of readability when designing cover art for your podcast. Don’t fall prey to overly distracting and flashy fonts, and try not to use more than two fonts on the entire image.

10. Consider Dark Mode

Many podcast directories transition to dark mode after sunset, meaning the background is black or shades of gray. It’s a good rule of thumb to check your design against a dark background and make sure it looks good against a variety of color tones. 

11. Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good

You should make the best cover art possible before launching your podcast—but that shouldn’t stop you from getting started

Make (or commission) the best cover art you can, and then launch your podcast. Don’t stay frozen at this stage trying to perfect your cover art. 

In the end, while cover art can draw in potential audiences, it’s better to publish quality podcast episodes than to hold back perfecting your cover design. After all, you can always change your cover art later as your show evolves or your tastes change.

Resources for Designing Podcast Cover Art

Creating a podcast cover design takes implementing the right tools—and sometimes you’ll need to hire the right professionals to help you. Below, we’ll give you tips and tricks for creating the podcast logo and artwork of your dreams, regardless of your resource or time-investment level.

Graphic Design Tools to Help You DIY Your Podcast Artwork

If you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of free and affordable tools out there to help you bootstrap your own design. Some of the most popular include:

  • Canva—the free version of Canva comes with hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics, along with more than 250,000 free templates and over 100 design types, and 5GB of cloud storage.
  • Adobe Spark—this free tool includes thousands of free images and icons, branded templates, and professional themes.
  • Tailor Brands—this platform has AI that creates a custom podcast logo design based on your brand name and industry. You can also customize the design to your personal tastes.

And if you’re on the lookout for photos for your designs, check out sites like Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, and Freepik, which provide royalty-free stock images.

Hire a Pro to Help You

Of course, not everyone has the time or inclination to design their own cover art or podcast graphics. Fortunately, there are always design experts available at all budget ranges to help you out.

  • The Podcast Design Company—this service can deliver completed projects in three business days or less, with unlimited revisions to ensure you’re happy with your result. They also offer fixed prices, meaning there are no hidden or unexpected fees involved.
  • 99designs—this graphic design service by Vistaprint involves professional designers collaborating on your podcast art project for anywhere from $299-$1499 USD.
  • Jenny H. Design—Jenny H. has designed several recognizable podcast covers. Her custom podcast squares start at $250, or $500 for a Podcaster’s Package Deal, which includes a Facebook cover image and Twitter banner.

Prices for professionally designed cover art can vary depending on the size of the project and the type of design service you choose. But typically, you get what you pay for. 

However, for the extremely budget-conscious, Fiverr is another option. This service platform connects freelance artists to their clients at an affordable rate. Many graphic designers’ fees start at $10 on Fiverr. 

There are several extremely talented artists using the platform for its ease and convenience—but we suggest checking the reviews and experience level before signing a contract with a Fiverr artist, just to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Make Cover Art that Works

Even though podcasts are an audio medium, podcasters still need to create a cover that’ll make passersby want to stop and listen. 

Great cover art only comes from a deep understanding of your podcast topic, tone, and audience. And don’t forget to ensure that it works well in various sizes and in both night and day modes. Finally, consider how the psychology of color and typography will affect potential listeners’ perceptions of the show.

Starting a new podcast is complicated! It takes more than just recording a script into a microphone—it involves quality equipment, studio-quality recording software, and podcast artwork that reflects your unique personality. If you’re looking for more tips as a beginner podcaster, check out our Beginner’s Manual to Starting a Podcast in 2021.

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