kathy ridl

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about cd covers and artwork

this page is for those producing their first cd package and need a place to start. it may be helpful for those familiar with the process, as well. (feel free to email me with other ideas, updates or links you think would be useful.)

on this page:

getting started • the art part • the nitty gritty • manufacturers • text issues

working with kathy • where do we start • how does it end?

getting started...

you've recorded the new cd, or are in the process. now it's time to think about the cover, the package and getting it manufactured. where do you start?

think of it in two parts:

the ART PART: getting ideas for your cover art and package design

the NITTY GRITTY: the non-art, non-music things you'll have to decide on when putting out your own cd, like manufacturing, text gathering, etc.


some musicians have an idea for a cover image before they even start the recording process. others don't. for those of you who are still trying to decide what visual image is going to represent the music you've worked so hard to produce, here are some tips:

a great way to start thinking about your cover artwork is by checking out your own collection of cds. which are your favorite covers? why? are you attracted to certain color groups? do you like the covers with designs on them, or do you like photographs? get a general feel.

simple as it sounds, i believe your cover needs to be something you personally like to look at. chances are, if you like it, it will reflect the music you have just recorded. is there an image that comes to mind -- a photograph? a drawing? or would you like a designer to come up with something for you? personally, i think the title (and the style of music) will say much about what the art should reflect.

think simple. too much stuff on the front can get lost. although cd covers are pretty small, they can be powerful visual imagery if designed right. talk to a designer to check out ideas, or talk to your manufacturer's art department.

if you already have an idea, it's just a matter of getting it designed and laid out in the right format for the company who will be printing it. all the technical requirements will be provided to you by the manufacturer. if you are using a designer, they'll take care of it for you. (see working with kathy, below)

enjoy the process! coming up with a great cover is the icing on the cake that is your music. anything is possible! and remember, it's still about the music.


• you'll need to choose a manufacturer.

• decide what kind of cd package you want:

for instance, a common economical choice is a regular jewel case with a 2-panel insert. refer to manufacturers (and your own cd collection) for options. consider also how much text you have - it may determine how many pages the insert needs.

• how many cds do you want to print?

think of what you want to do with the cd. many indie bands/musicians end up doing a run of 500 cds, enough to sell at gigs and cover a small distribution. if you are going to be giving away a bunch of promotional copies, or if you have a big listening audience (or a huge family) consider 1000 - there are good price packages on pressing 1000. check with your manufacturer.

• when do you want the finished cds in your hand?

depending on who manufacturers your project, you may get your cds in 10 days (after all the files are checked out and actually in process) and it could take up to 6 weeks. if you are scheduling a release party date, best to give yourself extra time to allow for unexpected delays.

• what information do you put on the cd package and on the discs?

I have compiled a basic list of information that is found on many cds. it is a good place to start when compiling text for the cd package. click here for kathy's mega list.

• who will design your cover and prepare the art files?

you have a few options for getting a good cover design/layout: 1) do it yourself. 2) use the manufacturer's art department. 3) hire a graphic designer.

feel free to email me with questions about this process: kathy@kathyridl.com

if you are planning on working with me on your cd cover, see working with kathy, below, for some details.

a note about liner notes...

remember, what you choose to put in your liner notes often ends up in reviews, and often word for word. for the reviewer, the liner notes are an insight into you as a performer and into your music. I have heard countless stories from musicians wondering why in the world a reviewer would publish personal information or, on the other hand, trivial stuff that seems to have nothing to do with the recording. 9 times out of 10, the info came directly from the cd package.

promo packets...

whether you are looking for gigs, trying to get airplay, or shopping your cd to record labels, it is important in today's music industry to make your promo packets look great. use your cd cover to tie in a design for the whole look. use good paper and good print quality (and this is possible without spending another arm and leg). keep the information brief but important to the project. don't make them search for anything. be creative, but to the point.

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working with kathy on your cd cover...

• where do we start?

we need to have a conversation about your project, discuss your ideas for cover art, check schedules, etc.

then i'll need all the text (see kathy's mega list), and any artwork you are considering.

in the world of computer art, anything is possible. I have used every media you can think of for cd cover art: regular photos and snap-shots, high resolution photos, drawings, paintings, sketches, scanned items. If it means something to you and you want it as part of the cover design, i try to use it. the goal is to have something that looks good, that works for you, and that is true to the music. if you don't have any specific ideas for artwork, let me play around with it and come up with something.

once i have the text and artwork, i have a better idea of how the layout will look, and how long it will take to complete. in general, people first contact me sometime during their recording process or shortly thereafter, so that by the time they are done with mixing and mastering, the layout will be nearing completion as well.

• do i need to hear the recording?

it isn't necessary, but i prefer it. it doesn't have to be mixed or anything, maybe just a few cuts... it helps to have an idea what your music is about.

• what do we do when the design is completed?

when the design is done and everyone is happy, and you've proofed it and i've proofed it and we've proofed it again, I give you a complete package to give to the manufacturer. it has all the art files on disc, print-outs, and any special explanations that need to go to the manufacturer. you will hand that package to the manufacturer along with your audio files and the other stuff they have asked for.

• how does it all end?

...when you're happy, i'm happy, the manufacturer is happy, and you are waiting by the door for the mail truck to arrive with your new cds... then it's definately time to celebrate! sell a million!

• read more about kathy's cd designs in an interview on AllAboutJazz.com

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