How to prepare a CD for print?

So, you’ve just recorded your new album, and you’re ready to show it to the world? Hold your horses! Take your time and prepare your latest output accordingly so that you may get bigger and better feedback. You’ve spent a whole lot of time and money already. Your sound is just how you wanted it to be. Now it’s time to put a little effort into how you’ll show your record to the world.

Warning: if you’re all about digital (Bandcamp, Spotify, or YouTube), you can pass on what I wrote here. Stay with me if you cherish the physical aspect of experiencing music, the packaging, the design, the texture of printed paper, and even the smell of it 😉

The professional and DIY approach

The easiest way to prepare your new album for release is to let a professional handle it. There are a lot of problems that you can face while preparing for a physical release. Trusting someone who does it for a living is, in my opinion, the best choice. But if you don’t have the money or prefer the DIY approach follow these guidelines. They will save you a ton of time and money so that you can focus on getting gigs for your band. But, first things first.

The artwork and design parameters

It doesn’t matter if you’ll release the album on a physical medium or go fully digital. Cover art is a must. Think about hiring an illustrator, a painter, or a designer. You don’t want to end up with badly Photoshopped images from Google (been there, done that). Original art or photograph is always better. Support your local artist or contact someone famous. They will do the job nicely. But, if you have the skills, you can design it yourself. You can use the industry standards: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or a free alternative like GIMP. Remember that the minimum required dimensions for cover art are:

    CD – 12 cm x 12 cm (with additional 0.3 cm bleed) in 300 dpi resolution
    VINYL – 31,5 x 31,5 cm (12,5 in) + additional 0,3 cm bleed in 300 dpi resolution
    CASSETTE TAPE – 6,5 cm x 10,15 cm (add bleed 0,3 cm and design it also in 300 dpi)
    DIGITAL (Bandcamp, Spotify, and so on) – 1417×1417 px in 72 dpi resolution, RGB color palette

Don’t forget that all the designs must have a minimum 300 dpi (dots per inch) resolution and an additional 3 mm bleed. They also must be converted to a CMYK color palette. It’s always wise not to put text too close to the edge of your design. So push it another 3 mm inside the print area. There will be less chance of something being cut during the printing process.

For an all-digital release, you’ll only need only 72 dpi cover art since it’s the standard for computer/smartphone displays. But I suggest you think big. The bigger, the better. The smaller the chance you’ll have pixelated artwork. Since our screen viewing capabilities are growing, you should have the best resolution available.

The packaging

When you have the cover art ready, it’s time to prepare the packaging. For CDs, you can go with the classic jewel case, the fancy super jewel case, digipak (or digipack as some call it), and, of course, all sorts of other types (like eco-pack, media pack, DVD pack, and so on).

Since the most popular and affordable option is the jewel case, I’ll point out some things that you should know about preparing your design. First of all, you need to focus on the booklet.


The optimal amount of booklet pages is 8. You can also go with 12, 16, or 20 pages, but you must remember one thing. The more pages, the harder it is to get the booklet in or out of the tray). When you’re doing an 8-page design, you’re making four distinct 24×12 cm rectangles + 0,3 mm bleed. After you design the inner booklet content (with standard pages sequence 2-7 and 8 & 1) “cut” your design. The final sequence of the pages will be 8 & 1, 2 & 7, 6 & 3, 4 & 5.


Your typical inlay will be a 15 cm x 12 cm rectangle with a 3mm bleed; the spine is ca. 6mm (that’s the part with the album title you see when the jewel case is positioned along with your other CDs). It’s better to design both sides, the inner where the CD is and the outer since the pressing companies mostly use transparent jewel case packaging so you can have more nice artworks included in your design.

CD print

As for the CD, you should go with a 12 cm x 12 cm square. It will be easier and safer to cut the CD from a square shape. Don’t forget to put any text or logos too close to the edges. Also, be mindful of the transparent middle part.

When you have all this above, you should not forget that you have to use the CMYK palette and save the files as PDFs. Your text should be converted into curves, so that it looks good, and you should try to avoid using fonts smaller than 6 pt (in a 300 dpi environment). You can also use Adobe Illustrator files for best text output quality.

What about the audio?

Good question. Most of the sound studios will provide you with a DDP image of the entire record from which you can directly press a CD audio. So you won’t have to do anything. If you have WAV files, please note that if you got the nowadays popular 24-bit files, you will have to convert them to 2 channels of LPCM audio, each signed 16-bit values sampled at 44100 Hz. But I think that you will get both types anyway from the sound recording studio. If not, ask them to do that for you, because for CD, you’ll need a 16-bit version of your record.


If all this sounds a little bit too complicated, hire a pro! It will save you a lot of time and stress, and the outcome will be better if you’re beginning your design adventure. I’ve printed over 140 CDs and assisted in the process of dozens more. At Via Nocturna, we can take care of the process for you. Just contact us, and we’ll take it from there.

And if you can’t afford to spend a few hundred bucks, try it yourself. Now you have the most rudimentary knowledge of the subject, and it should be easier. Don’t rush it. Do it accordingly and take some time with your design. People will judge your music also by looking at your cover art. Do your best! Your music deserves it! After you have the design ready its time to look for a pressing plant. But that’s a whole another story…

PS. We’ll be updating this article from time to time. So please bookmark it 😉

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