How to Professionally Print CD Covers

Printing professional-looking CD covers can greatly enhance the quality and appeal of your music release or multimedia project. With some planning and preparation, you can create stunning CD packaging, whether printing just a few copies yourself or ordering a large commercial print run. Here are some best practices for designing and printing CD covers and inserts.

Plan Your CD Packaging

Before starting your CD cover design, think about the overall packaging you want to create. Typical CD packaging includes:

  • Front cover
  • Back cover (tray card)
  • Spine labels
  • CD surface label
  • Interior booklet or insert

You don’t necessarily need all these elements, but planning ahead for what you’ll include can help guide your design process.

Create High-Resolution Artwork

CD covers are printed professionally at 300 dpi or higher. Any images or artwork should be created or scanned at 300 dpi at full print size to ensure crisp, clear resolution. Using lower resolution images will result in a pixelated, blurry print.

For a standard 4.75″ x 4.75″ CD cover, your file should be 1425 x 1425 pixels.

Use the Correct Color Format

For professional offset printing, artwork must be formatted in CMYK color mode. RGB files will print unpredictably.

If you are printing digitally yourself, you can use RGB colors, but CMYK will still provide better color accuracy.

Add Bleed to Background Graphics

Any background images or colors that print to the edge of the page should extend 0.125″ past the trim lines on all sides. This “bleed” ensures that no white edges show if the print is slightly off-center.

Follow Templates for Standard Sizes

Using a template correctly sized for CD covers, tray cards, and inserts makes formatting your files much easier. Most online printing services provide downloadable templates.

Choose Your Printing Method

You have several options for printing CD covers and inserts:

Home Printing

  • Inkjet printers – Easy and affordable for short runs. Quality varies widely depending on printer/paper used.
  • Laser printers – Offer excellent print quality but require using laser label sheets for printing directly on CD/DVD surfaces.

Professional Printing

  • Digital printing – Fast turnaround, ideal for shorter runs of 1-500 copies. Offers print-on-demand flexibility.
  • Offset printing – Best method for large print runs of 500+ copies. Provides exceptional print quality and color accuracy.

Paper Stocks for Covers and Inserts

For CD covers and inserts, 100# gloss text or cover stock provides a thick, professional feel. Uncoated stocks can work for a vintage style.

Use premium label stock for printing directly on CD/DVD surfaces, compatible with the printer type.

Design Tips for CD Covers

  • Focus the design around 1-2 visual elements
  • Align text and images in an asymmetrical, diagonal composition
  • Use an attention-grabbing photo or illustration
  • Make sure text is clearly legible at small sizes
  • Consider how the spine will look on the shelf

Preparing Files for Print

Before submitting artwork files for professional printing:

  • Convert all text to outlines
  • Flatten any layers in Photoshop files
  • Embed or package any placed images
  • Proof carefully for any errors

Careful preparation of your artwork files will ensure the best print quality and avoid any printing issues.

By planning your CD packaging, creating high-quality artwork, choosing the right printing method, and properly formatting your files, you can produce stunning, professional-level CD covers and inserts for your music or media project.