Creating Artwork for CD or DVD On-Body Printing
Always use a template
This sounds fairly obvious, but there are a few very good reasons why you should always design using a template.
1. If you're printing onto a printable CDR or DVDR using an office inkjet printer then you need to carefully measure the printable area of your chosen disc because they can vary wildly in terms of exterior and interior diameter.
2. If you're going to be supplying your completed CD or DVD artwork to a professional printing company then they will have their own printable area constraints for the particular brand of CD or DVD that they supply. In some instances the printer may print right up to the centre hole of the disc but other printers may prefer not to. Check with them before beginning your design work and ask for a template to be supplied.
3. A template supplied by a professional CD and DVD printing company will be at the correct resolution (300dpi to 400dpi) and will specify any additional requirements such as inner and outer limits for any text that is included in the artwork. There is often a requirement for text to be at least 3 to 4 mm clear of the inner and outer edges of the disc. Also, the acceptable file formats of the finished artwork will be specified.
4. Always allow for artwork bleed. If you can supply an artwork file for CD or DVD printing that allows an extra 2 or 3mm outside of the external and internal printable disc surface diameters then this is ideal.
Most of the artwork supplied to us by experienced packaging designers is a 124mm square artwork that contains all the pertinent features well inside the printable area of the CD or DVD.
In our experience, most project delays with artwork, occur because the designer wasn't working to the correct printable disc area size or has supplied artwork at a resolution lower than 300dpi which would result in a poor quality print.
A Typical CD or DVD Template
Consider the Appropriate CD or DVD Printing Process
Screen Printing - If your design consists of solid block colours then the most effective print process for your CDs or DVDs would be screen printing. Screen printing involves producing fine mesh screens, one for each colour in the artwork, and then using a screen printing machine to apply UV light sensitive ink in the appropriate colour. This process can only apply up to 6 separate colours and should not be used where there is any colour gradient; the colour should always be solid and consistent.
If you're design features any specialist ink requirements such as metallic ink or fluorescent ink, then this will be the process used and the rest of your artwork will need to conform to the requirements for screen printing.
Lithographic (Offset) Printing - For complex images, such as photographic images or artwork featuring colour gradients, litho printing is used. This process involves using a rubber sheet wrapped around a cylinder to transfer the ink from a printing plate to the disc. Very high resolution prints can be achieved using litho printing but there are still a few constraints to be aware of, such as:
Don't use subtle colour gradients (transitions from one colour to another) over large areas. This can result in a "banded" print where there are not enough shades of colour to make a smooth transition from dark to light or colour to colour.
Don't use photographs taken in poor light conditions, they may look cool and artistic on a computer screen but when printed the subtleties of a dark figure against a slightly lighter background will most probably be lost unless you alter the exposure of the photograph which will open up another can of worms.
Avoid having large areas of one, solid colour in designs destined for lithographic print. It can be very difficult to litho print a large, flawless block colour area and you would more than likely get inconsistencies.
Creating Artwork for CD or DVD Packaging
The process used to print onto cardstock packaging is a digital printing process. The card will normally have a semi-glossy silk finish as standard. The packaging can then be finished with a gloss or matt laminate if required, depending upon your artwork requirement. Some of the considerations for CD packaging or DVD packaging artwork are the same as for CD or DVD on-body artwork, such as not using subtle gradients over large areas and not using dark photograph images, but there are also a whole host of other considerations due to the variety of CD and DVD packaging available and how it is printed and manufactured.
A typical template for a basic card wallet will have the front panel on the left hand side and the rear panel on the right with the spine area marked. There are variations available such as extra folded printable panels or a "gatefold" design where there is a printable panel to either side of the centre panel which houses the disc.
When designing artwork for card wallets, you will need to give some thought to the following:
Crossover images - If the artwork for the front and back of the wallet is a completely different colour then you will have a hard colour transition at the spine fold. Movement may occur during the digital print process which could cause slight misalignment of the front and rear images, so wherever possible, try to use images that blend into one another or use a consistent colour for front and rear artwork.
Creasing - If your artwork is very dark and particularly for black artwork, you can sometimes experience a "cracking" effect along the spine or folded edges of the card where the dark ink at the fold cracks away from the card and you see white card exposed beneath it along the crease. You need to run a test print and try carefully creasing the spine if you're doing your own printing, to check whether your material will suffer from this effect. If you're using a professional printing company ask to see samples of dark coloured, folded card packaging to check the creasing process used by your printer won't cause this effect.
Text Position - Keep any text in your design at least 4 to 5 mm away from any edge in case of slight printing misalignment.
CD Jewel Case Booklets or DVD Case Booklets
Very often, CD or DVD packaging will require a booklet of some sort to accompany the disc. In the case of audio CDs they usually contain lyrics and acknowledgements of anyone who worked on the project. In the case of computer software supplied on CD or DVD, the booklet would contain instructions on how to use the software.
The printing material is obviously a lighter grade than that used to make card wallets but the same considerations need to be acknowledged.
A dark print needs to be creased correctly to prevent "cracking" as in the case of the card wallet folds.
Crossover images need to blend into one another, again, as with the card wallet
Text needs to be kept 4 to 5 mm away from any edge as well as the crossover edge down the booklet spine
When a booklet contains many pages, an effect known as "creep" occurs because of the bulk of the folded paper which causes the inner pages to extend further out than the outer pages when they are folded. The creep will vary as the number of pages and the paper thickness increases. The greater the number of pages in a booklet, the greater the need to ensure all text, graphics, images and objects are kept a minimum of 10 mm inside of the vertical trimmed edge.
If your booklet contains more than 2 printed panels bear in mind that booklets can only be made with page numbers that are a multiple of 4 (4,8,12,16 etc.) as each new sheet will have 4 printable panels.
When laying out the design for your booklet, consider carefully where each page should be positioned on the template. For example, in an 8 page booklet pages 1 and 8 will be printed on the same sheet with page 1 on the right and page 8 on the left. The rear side of this sheet will feature pages 2 and 7, with page 2 on the left and page 7 on the right.
Create a rough mock-up of your booklet before beginning the design work in order to understand clearly how pages are positioned in relation to one another when printed.
A digipack is a cardstock CD or DVD packaging solution with a plastic CD holding tray glued onto the inside right-hand panel, where the design is printed onto one side of the template.The template is then folded and glued to form a robust and stylish package. As with the Card Wallet above, you will need to consider the position of crossover images but also this is one packaging option where you will definitely need a template to understand how the panels that make up the finished product are positioned so that all images are correctly orientated.
Hopefully, the information contained in this article will assist you in creating your CD or DVD disc and packaging artwork and help to eliminate some of the commonly made and potentially costly errors that are possible when embarking upon your first project of this kind.
Even for experienced disc art and packaging art designers there remains a need to check and double check that the artwork meets the printer's requirements as different printers will often have different working parameters.