CD Packaging - Finding a Reputable Supplier

The text below chronicles the experiences of a designer working for a large interior design company specialising in large public spaces. The designer finds herself in need of a large run of CDs and packaging to go with them, to hand out to potential clients at exhibitions and business to business networking events. The aim of the article is to provide an insight to others who may find themselves in a similar position to help avoid the potential problems that may be faced by someone who is new to this type of project.

September 2014 – The CD Printing and Packaging Project

Jane works as part of the design team for a well-known interior designing company who specialise in layouts and décor for large public buildings. As well as the design work, she also takes responsibility for marketing the company at exhibitions, conferences and business to business events. She has found that, more and more often, potential clients are asking for information about the company’s previous work and experience on a CD, also she has noticed that many of their competitors are handing out CDs at exhibitions and similar events as well as distributing printed information. As the business has grown, the exhibitions they attend and the stands they occupy are also growing and in order to sustain that growth Jane needs to reach more potential clients. During a meeting with her team, it is decided that they will produce a document that will work within a web browser that can be put onto a CD. The CD, when inserted into a laptop or desktop PC disc drive, will automatically launch the document which showcases the company’s work and capabilities.

Their competitors are handing out CDs in eye-catching, high quality cases containing information booklets with instructions on how to use the disc and also further advertising their businesses. Jane volunteers to work on sourcing the printed CDs and CD packaging as she has some experience with producing artwork for printing.

Sourcing The Right CD Printing and Packaging Supplier

Jane has previously worked with a local print shop that produces high quality promotional material for her when required. She speaks to her contact at the print shop and asks whether they can recommend someone who offers a CD printing and CD packaging service. Jane is given some contact details of a potential supplier but she also does some internet research to find a UK based supplier of these services. She finds several suitable companies with good websites and positive customer feedback and so she places enquiries and requests quotes for a run of 500 CDs.

Jane is contacted by a project manager for the CD printing and packaging company recommended by her print shop contact. He has also provided a quote for a run of 500 printed CDs which is competitive when compared with the other quotes and so she begins to try to arrange a meeting with him to discuss the project further. Jane has allowed herself 3 weeks to get the CD project completed in order to have the CDs available for their next big exhibition. Unfortunately, she finds that her new contact is not returning telephone calls or emails in a timely fashion and she begins to run out of time.

Jane decides to contact one of the other potential suppliers on her list who have a reputation for good customer service as well as high quality products. Their quote was a little higher than the competition but better service is a good trade off. She speaks to Greg who is a project manager and designer and he recommends a meeting the following day at their manufacturing unit as time is running out on the project.

Meeting with the Project Manager to discuss the CD Packaging

Jane meets up with Greg the next morning at the company where he works which has the CD printing and CD packaging facilities all on the same site. Greg knows that there isn’t much time left for the project so he gets straight down to business and discusses the CD printing options with Jane. She has had small batches of CDs produced before by another local supplier who specialises in very small runs, so she has some experience of the CD printing methods available. She decides quickly upon a 3 colour screen print for the CDs featuring the company logo on a coloured background with the silver surface of the disc showing through in some areas to create an eye-catching effect for the disc.

The CD Packaging Options

Jane has only ever had CDs supplied in plastic wallets previously but this time she needs something much more substantial and impressive to get the potential clients attention.

The options discussed are as follows:

  • Paper or Plastic Wallets – These provide only rudimentary protection for the CD printed and recorded surfaces and are the cheapest packaging option available. It is possible to put a printed insert into the plastic wallet if necessary, but again it could only be used to hold the minimum of information required.

  • Clamshell and Trigger Cases – These cases are made of a durable, flexible polypropylene material that offers good protection to the discs and can be manufactured in several translucent colours. They are eye-catching and quirky but don’t offer an ideal way to hold printed information.

  • Jewel Cases – These are made from a rigid polycarbonate material and are usually transparent. They are the type of case used for mass produced music albums and most will be familiar with these having purchased a music album in a retail environment. The cases hold the CD on a tray which has a central spigot to secure the disc in place. This tray can be either black or transparent dependent upon whether the printed rear tray card is printed on both sides. The rigid material used to make CD jewel cases can be prone to cracking or shattering under duress but they do have a provision for a front booklet to hold information about the contents of the disc or in support of the content. A well designed front booklet and rear tray card can make for an impressive end product. Jewel cases are also available in a slim-line format which is about half the width of a standard jewel case, and in a dual or multi disc format which can accommodate from 2 to 6 discs if required.

  • DVD Style Cases – These cases are manufactured using a polypropylene material which is more pliable and less rigid than the polycarbonate material used to make the jewel cases above. They are usually widely available in a black or clear material but can also be sourced in a range of bold, bright colours if necessary although the cost tends to be higher. A DVD style case is the type of case you would normally expect to find a DVD movie in, in a retail environment but they are equally capable of holding a CD with the advantage of being able to hold a large information booklet and a printed case wrapper which slips inside a clear plastic cover glued to the outside of the case. These cases come in a slim-line format if required and also in a multidisc format capable of holding from 2 to 10 discs.

  • Jakeboxes and Presentation Tins – These are the premium packaging types on offer. Jakeboxes are constructed using card which can be gloss or matt laminated. They have a clever mechanism which presents the disc to the user when the package is opened much like the “pop-up” mechanisms found in some children’s books. The presentation tins can be manufactured as required to a bespoke design or standard round tins can be sourced and printed with spot colours.

CD Packaging Artwork

Jane decides to go for the DVD style case after considering that she needs her CD packaging to hold an information booklet about how to use the CD which also contains further company information.

The Bleed Zone and the Booklet Layout

Greg provides her with templates for designing the booklet and wrapper which show an allowance for ink “bleed” and page positions. The “bleed” zone is usually 3mm around the outside of the printed sheet and the printer will ask that any background image used on the sheet should extend into the “bleed” zone so that there are no tiny white edges visible if the cropping is slightly inaccurate. It only takes a discrepancy of a fraction of a millimetre to produce a tiny white edge if the image does not extend into the “bleed” zone.

The page positions are marked on each template. Jane needs a 16 page booklet and these must be printed in a certain way to allow for assembly of the book. For instance, the cover of the book has the front image on the right hand side with the rear image on the left. Inside the cover, page 1 is printed on the left hand side and page 15 is printed on the right. It is important to pay attention to how the book needs to be printed for correct assembly in order to save time with correction of possible errors.

Using Photographic Images

Greg discusses the photographic images that Jane wants to use in the booklet and on the DVD style case wrapper as some of them are quite dark. Dark photographs can be difficult to digitally print as they may come out darker than they look on a PC screen which can spoil the effect required. Test prints are essential so that you can determine how an image will look when professionally printed and any exposure adjustments can be made to the photo if it needs to be lightened or if colours need to be enhanced.

Working in CMYK mode for Printing

Another important consideration that Greg discusses with Jane is the printing format required to suit their process. Many artwork software packages allow user to work in RGB or CMYK modes. RGB mode is usually used where the image is destined for a website or screen display. CMYK mode is the required mode for printing. Users need to be aware that, sometimes, colours can look quite different when viewed in RGB mode and then switched to CMYK mode. Block colours can be given a Pantone reference code which is a colour standard used by printers enabling clients and the printer to be sure of an exact end result, particularly where a well-known company logo is used and a specific colour is part of that logo.

The Project Conclusion and Summary

Once Jane has her artwork in order, the CDs and paper parts are printed, the CDs are then duplicated and the CD packaging assembly is carried out. The process takes 4 working days so she has her order 2 days in advance of requirement. The project has gone smoothly for Jane and the following bulleted points should be followed to enable similar projects to go just as well:

  • Research your suppliers on the internet or by word of mouth – Find a supplier with a reputation for good customer service and prompt communication. The lowest price shouldn’t always be the primary consideration. A cheap, poor quality product delivered late is unnecessarily stressful.
  • Allow enough time – Discuss any timing issues first with your supplier, to allow them to check whether they can deliver your job on time. Jane’s run of 500 CDs in DVD style cases with printed booklets took 4 working days from receipt of the master CD and approval of the artwork and this is typical for the industry. Any errors or delays in a short notice order can be catastrophic and, again, very stressful for both parties.

  • CD Packaging Artwork – Discuss this with your supplier so that you are clear what format the artwork is required in. A good supplier will work with you to ensure the artwork is correct and will result in a high quality end product. Most suppliers will have an artwork team who can produce the artwork for you if required. Proofread any text on the artwork, and ensure that there is no potential copyright infringement with any images used.

  • CD Packaging Selection – Consider exactly what your requirements are for the packaging and if possible create a mock-up to ensure the end product will be fit for purpose.

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