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A Guide to CD Packaging

When you start thinking about your album or EP artwork design, you need to consider the different packaging and stock options available. The finish and style of casing will have a massive impact on the overall look, and by using the options available effectively you can create a cohesive feel to the final finished product.

Here is a guide to the most popular packaging styles, along with some of the effects that can be used.

2 Panel Cardboard Sleeve

This is a basic option that consists of two square panels of card that have been sealed on three edges (the fourth side is left open for the disc to be inserted). Popular for EP’s and singles, the comparatively small amount of space for artwork means that you need to think carefully about what information needs to be included. This is also viewed as a reasonably environmentally friendly choice as the entire sleeve is card, with no plastic included. Also great for people who are travelling or planning on posting a lot of copies in the mail, as they are the lightest and most compact packaging option.

4 Panel Gatefold Sleeve

The 2 panel card sleeve’s big brother, this is a wallet style card sleeve that opens to reveal a pocket where the disc sits inside. A half moon cut out on the pocket makes it easier to insert and pull out the CD, and means that the disc is a little more secure. Four full size square panels mean that you have more room for artwork, with most people choosing to have their track listing on the back and thank you‘s or credits on the inside front cover. It’s also reasonably portable and light, making it a good option for people who have a full length album and are touring frequently. Gatefold sleeves are also available with two pockets for either two discs or a disc and a booklet, or can be extended out to have 6 or even 8 panels in total.

4 Panel Digicase

This is also a wallet style case that opens up, but the disc sits in a plastic tray- Similar to a jewel case. This gives it a sturdier and more solid feel, and it is about the same thickness as a jewel case which means that that they can be displayed together. However it’s still slightly lighter than a jewel case, and doesn’t have the same issues with cracking or snapping when they are transported. It’s also a less common option, which increases its novelty value. A digicase can also include a pocket for a booklet, or can be modified to 6 or 8 panels allowing for options such as two trays.

Jewel Case

The traditional packaging style, this option is popular because of its sturdiness and how well it protects the disc. It can hold a 16 page booklet comfortably (and a 20 page booklet at a stretch) so there’s plenty of room for additional artwork, song lyrics and credits. Still used by most major artists, the biggest downside is the heavier weight in bulk and difficulty of transporting them without potentially cracking some of the covers.

Slim Jewel Case

Just like how it sounds, this option is about half the thickness of a standard jewel case. This means that it takes up less room and is a great option for singles or a first EP release. There is no room for a printed tray inlay at the back, but the tray is available in either black or clear, and a two or four page booklet fits comfortably at the front.

Stock Options and Finishes

When ordering 500 + copies, there is a range of different finishes available to match the overall theme of your release. These range quite drastically in price, so it’s a good idea to get a rough quote before your heart is set on a specific design.

Uncoated Stock

This is the same price as standard stock- They just print on the other side. A great option if you are looking for a more matte and textured finish, it does print less ‘sharp’ as the ink can bleed slightly as it’s absorbed. This also means that colours can print darker then they would do on a standard stock, which is something that’s worth keeping in mind at the design stage.

Matte or Gloss Laminate

This is an additional coating that is applied to the stock after it has been printed. A matte laminate has a silky, matte finish that works really well with solid dark colours while a gloss laminate gives it an extra shiny finish.

Spot UV

This is a coating or varnish used when just a section of the text or image needs to have a high gloss finish. It’s often used in combination with a matte laminate, and the contrast in textures really highlights the area that has the spot UV applied.

Silver Foiling

This is an effect that gives a highly reflective and shiny finish, and can be used just in specific sections or across the entire sleeve which creates a mirror effect. The foiling can give a luxe or even futuristic effect, and really draws attention to the image or text.

Embossing/ Debossing

This either raises or ‘presses’ a section of the artwork, which creates a tactile and three dimensional effect. Just keep in mind when designing that there needs to be a minimum of 1cm between the edge of the embossed/ debossed section and the edge of the panel, or the manufacturer won’t be able to glue that edge. Embossing requires an additional step in the production process, which means that it can be quite expensive.

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