How to Design a Music / Band CD Insert in Photoshop

December 17, 2009 in Featured, Photoshop by admin

Designing A Music CD Insert / Cover
( Adobe Photoshop CS4)

Welcome to "Designing A Music CD Insert / Cover.

In this tutorial I will be using Adobe Photoshop CS4. You should be able to follow along with just about any version of Photoshop. Those using other software have knowledge and concepts to gain from this tutorial as well, since most of the concepts are universal.

*Note* This CD Insert was designed for my band and it reflects the nature of Heavy Rock/ Alternative Metal.

Author: Ryan W. Knope

Ryan W. Knope is a freelance 3D Artist / Consultant / Musician with 13 years experience in the 3D and 2D industry. His main artistic love lies with interior and exterior rendering although he takes on just about every type of graphics work. Ryan is also the architectural / interior voice for 3D Artist Magazine’s Question and Answer Panel. He lives with his wife Krista, in sunny Denver, Colorado.

Tutorial Details

  • Programs: Adobe Photoshop CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced (Prior Knowledge of Software is a plus.)

Step 1: Setting Up Your New File

Open up Adobe Photoshop and decide how many panels you need for your CD insert. Each panel has a finish size of 4.715" Height, 4.75" Width. I am creating a 3 panel folding insert, so my finish size is 4.75" Height, 14.25" Width. When designing items for print like this it is best to work with a bleed. I always work with a 1/4" bleed just to be safe. So my document size will be 5.217" Height, 14.75" Width.

Press CTRL N and enter in this size. Make sure your resolution is at 300 pixels per inch. Press Enter. Turn on the rulers by pressing CTRL R. Click and drag guides from the rulers to the 1/4" markers all the way around your image. This will show you where your cut lines are while you are designing. Create another set of guides 1/8" in from the original ones. This will show you your "live" area. You should try to keep all text or important items inside the live area. If you go outside just a bit it wont hurt, but try not to make a habit of it.

Sometimes projects should use a 1/4" instead of 1/8" for the live area, although because of my printing method I will be going with 1/8"

From your left side cut line measure up 4.75" in and create a guide. Repeat this step from the left cut line. Now you know where your folds are. You should now have a screen similar to what is below.

Step 2: Defining Your Concept

For my CD insert, I wanted a dark and menacing look. Coloring with Black, Reds, Yellows etc. I also wanted to create a insert that people could take out and look at for a while and notice different details each time, thinking about what they all mean.

When coming up with your concepts remember to try to portray what the band and music stands for. Writing a list of ideas or sketching while listening to their music is a good idea. I often listen to their music and open up photoshop and just paint with colors, this gives a scheme to work with and a feeling of blending the music with colors that it makes you feel.

Step 3: Starting The Cover Panel

For this CD insert I wanted to make the cover a little different than the rest of the panels. If you want the cover to flow into the rest of the panels using the same image / style then I would focus on the whole set at once.

For starters I changed by background to black (CTRL I). Next I look for a image that fits my idea / scheme. For this CD Insert I just looked on Google because it is not going to be mass produced, it is only for family and friends.

If you are creating a "commercial" CD package then you will need to purchase images, use Royalty Free images or use ones from your own library. You don’t want all your hard work going down the drain when you don’t have the rights to the collateral data.

I found a image of a nasty looking tornado near a car driving down the road. Perfect! I placed this image and fit it to my left panel making sure, where it is important, to have it go to the bleeds. I also let it lead into the next panel slightly… because we may be blending this image into the next panel.

Step 4 – The Band Logo And Cover Text

There are several good spots to place the band name and CD title. Generally , top, bottom, corners or the middle. The layout of the text depends on the background as well. For these reasons I chose the middle of the top and the lower left. To make the band logo a bit different I changed the "o" and added a design that went through the o.

Unless you are designing your own bands cd cover, you will most likely be supplied with a logo or font to use.

Step 5 – Defining Elements For The Cover

So far the cover is very dark and does not have much color. I want to bring in a bit more color. To help with this I created a masked design in black. This design was brought in and put at the top of the panel with a layer effect, outer glow. (Red) (Layer > Layer Style > Outer Glow)

This helps a little, but I want something holding up the left upper side a bit more.

Step 6 – Balancing The Cover

With that prior thought in mind we will drop in something locking in the left side. I chose a planet and edited it to have 1/2 burning. Then I pulled out lines sections of it by making a selection and using the transform tool. The blending mode for the planet layer was set to "Screen" and the layer was placed above the design with the red glows. This combination created a interesting hatch pattern.

Now the upper right side doesn’t seem to measure up. To fix this problem. I found a fire image that I liked and placed it into the psd, placing it just a bit into the cover panel. I turned the blending mode to lighten, which helped it blend a bit better.

The CD title also needed an element to bring attention to it. The theme of the CD cover was danger, there is a carload of people running away from it. So, wouldn’t it be interesting to have someone sitting right there waiting for it. I added a layer of a man sitting on a park bench. The blending style was set to Soft Light.

Lastly I added an American Flag and set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and brought the layer opacity down to 82%. This should finish off the cover panel for now.

Step 7 – Finishing Off The Panel Backings

For the right panel I found a image of a fire in a warehouse with a man in a fire suit. This worked out perfectly, except it was too short width wise. To remedy this issue I duplicated the layer and flipped the copy. Then I matched both middles together. Next you should merge those 2 layers (CTRL E), and turn the blending mode to screen. This will allow the fire from the lower layer to show through.

The fire on the middle panel could do with a fun element. So I put a picture of my face in the fire and set the blending mode to multiply.

*Note* The face that I put in the fire was already fire oriented and was made for a personal project about 3 years ago. I may create a tutorial eventually on how I created the effect..

Step 8 – Center Panel Type Layout

I started off with typing out my track listing. I used "Adolescence" as the typeface. It was funky enough to match the backing layout and weird enough to read to make me happy. After seeing what the type looked like when using normal casing I decided to make odd letters caps here and there at random. This adds to the distress that I was going for with the insert design.

Next, I laid out the band info in a font slightly easier to read since it is much smaller. I used Bank Gothic LT BT for the rest of the type on this panel. I wanted everything left justified from here on out, until we get to the bottom. I wanted the bottom to create a heavy base with paragraph text spanning both left and right.

Select your large bottom text layer and go to Layer > Type > Convert To Paragraph Text. Then click the button highlighted below.

All of the type other than the tracks have a opacity of about 90%.

Just a note, I wanted the thank you section to be a bit harder to read, so I know who pays attention and actually reads it, just a personal thing, you would not want to do that for most commercial projects.

Step 9 – Right Panel Type Layout

All of the type on this panel is Bank Gothic LT BT as well. My design sense on this panel, for the song vocals, was to create a blocky almost random filling in of the entire live area. Although I left the spot with the man in the fire suit open, because I thought it was interesting enough to showcase. Again, I wanted to keep the type semi transparent.

In the song titles I added a glow and continued a set of dashes horizontally to the end of the live area. The important thing is to keep the elements consistent.

Step 10 – Taking It A Step Further… Side 2

If you have gotten this far then you have completed the 1st side of your CD insert. Great Job! You can apply all that you learned from this side to finish off your 2nd side, although I will be going over a few steps shortly of how I created my 2nd side. The 2nd side is a bit more detailed in the background compilation.

The type layout follows the exact same setup as we did on side 1. We will focus on blending styles, layer order and added elements / features.

The goal for this 2nd side was to show off the lyrics, but at the same time have a scene of fire and destruction blend into a shot of me singing on stage without losing the feeling of the rest of this panorama.

Step 11 – Starting The Layout Of Side 2

The first thing I did was add a layer with a burning building. I sized it to my layout and kept everything else standard. I even left the right edge cut off… we will be covering that area up with many layers shortly.

Adjust your levels and contrast if you like. How the image came in was suitable for me. This should be your bottom layer or the layer above your black fill.

Step 12 – Covering The Right Side Dead Spot

In the upper left corner of the image below you can see the picture I used for the right side of the layout. You can also see where I painted out the areas I did not need. You can either use the Eraser tool with a soft edge on the layer itself or you can create a layer mask and preserve your data.

I transformed this image to fit and made it so the tornado was coming from the other side of the fire truck, creating a higher sense of urgency. For this layers blending mode I used Hard Light.

The tornado also provides a nice change in the transition to the stage shot that I wanted.

Step 13 – Adding The Stage Scene

I broke my stage scene into 2 parts, the drums and me singing. I wanted 2 dynamics with this. I aligned them both with the fire truck. The layer of me singing was paced at the top of the raster list (Top before Type) and the blending mode was set to Color Burn with an opacity of 93%. The drums were placed below it with the blending mode set to luminosity at 26% opacity.

Step 14 – More Distress Lines

The next layer I brought in and placed it right under my stage singing layer. I brought this in to add some lines to break up the fire image a bit. This layer was set to "Darker Color" and the opacity was set to a very low 10%. If you want even more of a distressed look you can raise the % and add some wobble.

Step 15 – Horizontal Design

Below you can see the top horizontal design. I created the design by making a selection and filling it with white. I added a black stroke via layer effects and brought the layer opacity down to 18%, blending mode was kept at Normal.

Step 16 – Bottom Design And More Lines

In this final step of my background panorama I added another stock design from my library. You can see below where I painted out my layer mask. I also stretched the bottom left yellow lines with the transform tool and then blended those out softly.

Step 17 – Conclusion

In the end I was happy with the results of the CD Insert and I think it will work well and serve it’s purpose. A lot of the design was created by experimenting with Blending types. When creating your design try not to use too many different fonts / type styles.

If you are creating a CD Insert for a commercial project then you will be supplied with quite a bit of necessary type. Often the record label has a standard type of branding and they want it in a certain place.

This brings us to the end of this tutorial. I hope it helped you on your quest for a beautiful CD Insert. If you have any questions regarding this tutorial please do not hesitate to contact me.