Design an Indie Rock cd cover in Photoshop

Design an Indie Rock cd cover in Photoshop

Today I’m going to explain how to realize a retro cd cover in Photoshop. We will photo-manipulate a sunset scene, then we will combine other elements like textures and vector resources to finalize the composition. At the end I will show you how to apply the final design to a cd case mock-up template.


indie rock cd cover

indie rock cd cover


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Step 1

Let’s start by creating a new 1000×1000 pixels document in Photoshop with a high resolution (300 pixels/inch since it is destined to print).

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 2

Fill the background with a subtle grey (#a4a5a5).

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 3

Download the first stock image that we need for this composition: the image of a sunset on a beach land. Merge the image into the Photoshop canvas and re-size it (press ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform tool).

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 4

With the Dodge tool, click over the sun to lighten that area. The Dodge tool allow you to choose a specific brush, so make sure to select a round, large and soft (hardness 0%) brush.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 5

Let’s switch to the Burn tool to darken the edges of the composition. Set the tool to “Shadows” mode and gently paint always with a soft brush.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 6

At this point, grab the Blur tool. The aim is to give depth to the composition. So paint again over the edges, always with a soft, large brush. Here is my result:

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 7

Set the layer blending mode to soft light. In this way the beach will merge the grey background. The result is not so cool but, don’t worry, we will fix it soon.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 8

Press ctrl+J to duplicate the beach layer. Now a step a little bit tricky: with the duplicated layer selected, add a layer mask by pressing the “add layer mask button”, which is at the bottom of the layers window. Make sure to have black as foreground color and press alt+delete to fill with black the layer mask. What happened? The duplicated layer disappeared. This is due to the layer mask filled with black. We could use a white brush to replace pixels simply by painting over the mask. And this is exactly what we will do: grab a large soft white brush and make a spot over the center, and the central area will be replaced.

Why using the layer mask when we could simply erase the edges of the duplicated layer with the Eraser tool? The power of the layer mask is that it allows you to delete and replace pixels at any time. This is why I always prefer the Layer mask rather then the Eraser tool.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 9

Create a new group and title it “Adjustments”. Here we will put in all the color corrections. Take in mind that this group will be always on top of all the other layers.

The first adjustment consists in lowering down saturation. So go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation and reduce saturation to -70.

Indie Rock cd cover

Then add a Gradient Map layer going from purple (#6f156c) to green (#00601b) to orange (#fd7c00). Set the layer to Overlay with opacity about 30%.

Indie Rock cd cover

Finally create a new layer and fill it with a color of your choice (it’s not important). Then right-click on the layer thumbnail and select Blending options. Reduce fill opacity to 0%:

Indie Rock cd cover

Add a gradient overlay going from Pink (#e1006a) to Yellow (#ecdb1f) to Blue (#025b94). By clicking on the arrow on top of the color picker, you can set up the opacity of each color. Reduce the values so the effect will be more soft.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 10

Remember that the adjustment group needs to be always on top. Create a new layer – below – and fill it with black. Go to Filter>Render>Lens Flare and select the 50-300mm zoom lens.

Indie Rock cd cover

Set the layer to screen…et voilà! The cool lens flare effect!

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 11

Now that the background is complete, you can put in whatever you prefer. In my case, I decided to play around the concept of time, so I downloaded the image of a hour glass. Open the image in Photoshop and use the pen tool to extract it:

Indie Rock cd cover

Paste the image into the main canvas and re-size it (ctrl+T).

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 12

As you may notice, there’s a problem with the transparency of the glass…the problem is that the glass is not transparent! Let’s fix this bug. Duplicate the hourglass layer (ctrl+J) and set the duplicated layer’s blending mode to multiply with opacity 90%.

Indie Rock cd cover

Zoom in and, from the layer set on normal – below, erase the area that should be transparent.

Indie Rock cd cover

Select the layer set on multiply and erase the area where there’s the sand. In this way, the sand of the layer below – more saturated – will appear.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 13

To enhance the hour glass, we can use one of our Radial Vectors. You can open the .AI file in Illustrator or use the Photoshop brushes version. They are both available into the .zip file. Select the radial you prefer, then copy (ctrl+C) and paste it (ctrl+V) in Photoshop as a smart object. Feel free to re-size it at your pleasure: since it is a smart object, it’s scalable. Put it below the hour glass.

Indie Rock cd cover

Reduce fill opacity to 0% then add a light blue (#599fac) color overlay with opacity 80%.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 14

For the text, I’ve used a sans-serif and minimal font, Cicle. Anyway any clean font will work fine. The only effect added to the text is a 1px drop shadow, just to enhance it a little bit.

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 15

To complete the composition, let’s play with a couple of our textures. Let’s start with one of our Folded and Scratched Paper Textures. You can use the free sample and, if you like the texture, consider to download the entire set (or you can download all our 2500 design resources for just $7/month).

Merge the texture into the canvas and re-size it. Apply the sharpen filter (Filter>Sharpen>Sharpen) to enhance the details.

Indie Rock cd cover

Set the layer to overlay and reduce opacity to about 30%. Cool result, don’t you agree?

Indie Rock cd cover

Step 16

Download one of our Subtle Grunge Textures and paste it into the canvas. Set the layer to overlay with opacity 50%. The composition is now finished!

Indie Rock cd cover

How does the graphic look on a cd?

You can show to your clients/friends how the graphic looks on a cd template. Download our cd case mock-up and open it in Photoshop. My choice was the cover template. To customize the design, simply double click on the smart object thumbnail. A new window will appear.

Indie Rock cd cover

Put in your graphic and save. Then you can close the window and see how the mock-up looks updated.

Indie Rock cd cover


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(+add yours)
  1. Simply awesome!

  2. Anton Axenov

    Beautiful result. Thank you for good tutorial.

  3. ineteresante

  4. W illiam

    I just rocked this. Awesome tut. Love the style, please please please, keep more coming like this. I am totally digging the textures, mockups, brushes/vectors and everything you guys have been rocking. Everything you guys provide is well worth the premium membership.

  5. Sweet tutorial! Thanks for putting this together.

  6. Oh woaw, thank for using some of the resources we created for you guys in a tutorial! We feel kinda part of the design :-)

    And it looks pretty awesome too.

  7. thank!!! you for the tutorial

  8. Very creative and nice tutorial.

  9. rui198000

    great tutotial, really nice use of texture in the final image

  10. Ogbeifun

    I am indeed Grateful. I just found your site and i will go try this out. Thanks alot

  11. ras

    Very good tutorial, just one thing I don’t get it. In step 11, you have 2 images of hourglass. I did select just the hourglass and pulled it, but the color on the hourglass still grey, did you colorize or treated in anyway before pulling it? bcus, both hourglass in STEP 11 didn’t match in color(the first image is grey shaded and the next one is tinted yellow. Pls explain. Truly appreciate!

  12. i like u tutorial
    very useful (y)

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