What Software Should I Use to Create My CD or DVD Artwork?

After recording your album, having it mastered and pressed, you head over to your disc duplication facility’s website to place your order. Reading up on the ordering process you notice that you have the option to have artwork printed on the disc face, and can also have tray card and insert artwork printed. This is a great idea, as it allows you to give your project a more professional look and feel. You can either hire a print designer, who will hopefully already know all of the proceeding information. Or you can have a go at it yourself, utilizing one of the many different graphics creation programs available. If you are choosing to create your own artwork, read on.

There are many different programs out there that can be used to create print artwork. One of the more popular programs is Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator is a vector based drawing program, available for both PC and Macintosh computers. You could also use, CorelDRAW, Paint Shop Pro, or even Adobe Photoshop. I will go into a little bit more detail about what the differences are between some of these programs later on in this article, and why some of them are better suited for print design. Here is a list of 3 terms you should be familiar with before starting your artwork project.

1. Raster Graphics

Raster graphics are also known as bitmap graphics. This form of graphics image is a data file or structure representing a generally rectangular grid of pixels, or blocks of color, on a computer monitor, or other display device. Think of a raster images as a checkers board, with each square (pixel) on the board displaying a different color. This collection of colored dots (pixels), in turn form the full picture. The quality of a raster image is determined by the total number of pixels (resolution), and the amount of information in each pixel. Raster graphics are practical for photographs and photo-realistic images because of the way that they display images. Pretty much all photos you will find on the internet, and all photos you take with your digital camera will be raster images. You may want to use photographs for your CD or DVD’s artwork, but you must mind a few certain things:

A. DPI –
I will go into this a bit further in the “DPI” section of this article. In a nutshell, any photograph that you would like to use for print must be 300 DPI (dots per inch) or higher. DPI refers to the density of pixel information in a photograph.

B. Color Mode –
There are two basic modes of color: RGB and CMYK. All you need to know really is that all print artwork must be created as a CMYK document, as this refers to the colors of ink that a printer uses to recreate your artwork. If you create your artwork as an RGB document, the printed document will most likely shift in color. For more info on this, please refer to my last article. What do you need to start a CD duplication project?

2. Vector Graphics

Also known as geometric modeling, this form of graphic uses geometrical primitives such as points, curves, and lines to represent images. Instead of displaying blocks of color to represent a photo vector images rely on set points to determine the outline of an object, using mathematical formulas to determine the curve of the lines between said set points. Vector graphics are ideal for simple or composite drawings that do not need to achieve photo-realism. I suggest that you used vector objects for all of your artwork’s areas that are not photos.

3. DPI

Dots per inch, (DPI) is the number of individual dots of ink a printer can produce within a one-inch space. This translates as, the higher the DPI, the sharper the image. Although, most commercial printers will tell you that anything over 300DPI would be considered “print-quality”. I recommend that you make sure that your artwork is at least 300DPI, with 600DPI being the optimal setting for your artwork.

After all this technical mumbo-jumbo, you’re probably scratching your head, still unsure of what program to use to create your artwork. The truth is you can use pretty much any graphics program to create your artwork, providing that you correctly set the DPI and color mode of your document. Personally, I usually use a combination of Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator to do all of my print artwork. I edit all bitmap images in Photoshop and create all of my vector content in Illustrator, combining the two in Illustrator. My advice is now that you have the basic background knowledge, experiment to figure out what works best for you!