Whether your disc is up for sale in a shop or online, a lot may ride on getting the design right for your package. For audio CDs, the packaging needs to:
- Catch the consumers eye
- Convey the theme of the recording
- Make it obvious to the consumer who the recording artist/artists may be.
For software, especially console or PC games, the game theme needs to jump out of the packaging to attract the consumer’s attention in order to make the sale ahead of the competition.
The following guidelines are aimed at assisting both those new to CD/DVD and packaging design and experienced professionals, to help you get the best out of the resources available whether the project budget is large or small.
1) Use Supplier Disc and Packaging Templates
If you have settled on a duplication and packaging supplier, then ask them for their templates for the disc and packaging type that you intend to use. If you begin by using the correct templates and specification for your design work then it saves time and effort later on if you find that you need to make alterations to the design to make it fit within template parameters.
All professional CD duplication companies will have a set of templates on file for you to use and most will be only too happy to help you set out your artwork and understand how to use the templates at no extra charge for their service. You will normally be able to download the more commonly used template types from a company website but if you are working on a bespoke packaging project or something a little less widely used then you will need to consult your printing contact.
2) Choose the Right Software Package for disc and packaging design
If you want your design to look professional and to convey a quality feel, then you will need to use a quality software package to produce the design. The Adobe suite of design programs are ideal (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign), also QuarkXpress, the CorelDraw graphics suite and Xara Designer Pro will fit the bill and there are enough tutorial videos available to view online, free of charge, to make it a relatively straightforward process as long as you are reasonably competent with computer software packages.
The wide range of special effects and photograph manipulation capabilities of these software packages enable anyone with little experience to create professional looking, high quality designs and experts to work wonders, very quickly.
3) Use CMYK image files or Pantone Ink colours
Most images to be displayed on a monitor, such as on a website, are created in RGB (Red, Blue, Green) mode. When images are destined to be printed onto card stock, paper or any print receptive surface, they are printed using CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) inks. So if you intend to produce the design yourself, when creating your image for print make sure you work in CMYK mode or that you convert your finished image file before you submit it to your printing company.
Sometimes CMYK colours don’t look as vivid or as pure as colours in RGB mode so, if you’re at all unsure how your image will look when printed with CMYK inks, then make sure you get a printed sample before going for the final production run. The image on your screen and the printed image can often look quite different. Printing companies usually charge for this service, so it is important to be aware of this and to incorporate the cost into the project budget.
If your project is to be screen printed then Pantone colour codes will need to be specified for each separate colour used in the design so that both designer and printer know what to expect with the resulting product. Most good artwork software packages will allow you to view and select Pantone colours during the creation of the disc or packaging design.
4) Resolution of images to be printed on discs or packaging
If you intend to use existing photographs or images, or you intend to take your own photographs, make sure that the final image selected has a resolution of at least 300 dpi.
Most web images are set to 72 dpi so that the file size is low. File size isn’t too much of a concern to a printer so set your digital camera to its highest resolution get snapping. Try not to overcompensate, however, images at 600 dpi may be really clear but then you’re into the realms of gigantic file sizes which may be difficult to transfer if required. 300 dpi is the optimum resolution.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can take a huge image set at 72dpi, reduce it in size and change the resolution to 300dpi. That just doesn’t work, the original image must be set at 300dpi or higher to be used for printing. A similar rule also applies for resizing small images. If you have a small image at 300dpi and you increase it to twice its former size, you then have an image at 150dpi – which, again, is not good enough for printing.
5) Fonts and Text Printing
If your design contains unusual fonts then make sure that you make a note of the font names and that you supply font files for these to your printer. High resolution fonts in an Adobe Photoshop design are usually fine but if the text is very small or the font is very intricate then using a vector based design program such as Adobe Illustrator or Quark is highly recommended for crisp, clear font prints.
6) Remember to include allowance for “bleed” around the edge of printed parts
The “bleed” zone around the edge of a printed paper part template is usually a zone about 3mm in width around the outside of the visual part of the template. It is important that your design extends out to the bleed zone particularly if your image is complicated or is a photographic image. Remember to keep all text at least 3 to 4 mm inside of the edge of the template (not including the bleed zone). The bleed zone is there to make sure that the outer edge of the paper part, once cut, does not have any white edges appearing as a result of a very slightly inaccurate cut. If your design features a solid coloured border then this colour needs to extend out into the bleed zone as well.
7) Be wary of using solid colour backgrounds with photographic elements on discs
The discs will either be screen printed or lithographically printed. Where a design features a dark solid colour background with small photographic elements within it, then the disc would need to be lithographically printed. Printing dark, solid colours using the litho printing technique can lead to inconsistencies in the disc surface coverage. Screen printing would be the technique to use for solid colours. If you think your design may fit into this category, consult your printer for further advice.
Combining photographic images with solid colours in your disc artwork is not recommended.
8) Printed Panel Orientation for Card Wallets and Digipacks
If you are using the correct template for your CD or DVD Card wallet or digipack design, then it should be fairly obvious how each panel needs to be orientated for printing. When printing a basic CD card wallet, for instance, the front image must be on the right hand side with the rear image on the left so that the rear image can be folded under with the package spine on the right hand side.
The layout of images gets a little more complicated when it comes to packaging such as 4 panel digipacks. The template will require that the front image is to be placed in the lower right hand position with the rear image to its left.
The inside images (pages 2 and 3 effectively) need to be positioned above the front and rear images but in the opposite orientation so that the top edges of all images meet along the centre folding line.
9) Last minute changes to your CD, DVD and packaging artwork
Should you need to make any extensive last minute changes to your artwork, then make sure that you check with your printing company that the changes won’t affect the price quoted for the project. If you suddenly find yourself in a position where the project can only be printed using the litho printing technique rather than a more straightforward screen print, then you could find that you will have to pay more for the job than you originally budgeted for.
Following the above guidelines should help you in getting the most out of your disc and packaging design project. Remember, if possible, to leave yourself enough time for all stages of the project, as mistakes are often made when team members are under pressure. Also, ask your supplier for assistance; they are unlikely to charge you for work that takes them, as experts, no time at all but which might take you hours to complete.