Welcome to our Art How To! We’ve made a lot of titles over the years! Our clients are exceptionally creative, which is probably why they chose us to make their title. We can share some lessons learned, and tips & tricks to help make your project a success the first time!

Lessons Learned include hiring the right graphics artist, prepping the art and media files correctly, and proofing adequately.

“I wish I had proofed that better.” <–Don’t be this guy.

Graphic Artists

Hiring a Graphics Artist
Should you hire a professional artist? It depends on your level of proficiency but one thing we can say, you want to make sure whomever you hire has experience with physical, commercial printing – not just digital art. The art needs to translate into a physical 3D product that can be commercially printed. Make sure they understand paper stocks, bleed, film layout / printers spreads, and can make a folded mockup for you.

Art How to – Prepping Files

No Flattened Templates
Don’t flatten your layers please – we need them for film output. Especially don’t flatten the template into your art, unless you want to print the template (!). Each layer is needed for film output.

Special Effect Example Package
If you want to see how special effects are incorporated into the artwork, we can place an example file in your Project Dropbox to help out. Just remember, each effect needs its own layer for film.

Digipak set with spot uv gloss, matte lamination, embossing
Example Art File Available for Special Effects Printing

Rich Black
The best way to create a deep black color is to use Rich Black in cmyk, rather than 1C Pantone.

Reverse Side Printing
If you are making a digipak or jacket, the product is created by printing one side of the paper and folding the paper into panels. The reverse side can be printed to give you full coverage. You need to set that up in the artwork.

Note – the alternative is to apply an inner wrap to the jacket or digipak. The wrap is one piece of paper with continuous art. We use these in books.

Blue Note CD LP with inner sleeve in outward facing pocket with disc
Inner Wrap Applied Across Inside a LP

Continuous Art Across Panels
Continuous art across different printed panels can be really tricky registration. Be careful if you are trying to line up a face across two different printed items (like the inside cover of a book and the first page of a booklet). Choose art that allows that play. Our eyes pick up on subtle misalignments on faces especially.

Special Paper Stocks are fun, but be sure you are accounting for their special features (color, texture, transparency, etc.). You should always order a press proof for special stock paper items.


As an example, fiberboard (a wonderful eco friendly option) is a brownish color with a nubby texture. Colors will not print on brown paper like they will white paper. They won’t be “true”. You might need to print white under it to help. The texture means that inks are going to spread (saturation) and you would want to avoid fine lines and small fonts.

File Naming
“My_Project_01-11-2021”. Including a date is awesome. Try to avoid things like “final” in the file name. When we release a softproof, we will place a version number at the end.

PDFs are awesome. They include all the fonts and links and we really, really like them.


If we are making a disc for you and using a DDP image, that is awesome. DDPs have a check sum built in and they always work. Unless you do something like mess with it, and add a file. Please. Don’t. Remember, what you submit to us for disc content, is what goes on the disc.

CHECK DISC (BIG TIP) – Check the disc content on your side by creating a physical recordable disc from the DDP file. Make sure the cd text is right! We do not touch the content of a disc at all.

Art How To – Proofing

-> The earlier you proof, the better it is for cost.
-> Measure twice, cut once. Anything with a custom die needs a mockup.
-> A little spent on proofing can save a lot of redo expense.
-> Special inks, papers, effects, or post printing effects, all need press proofs to see the true result.

Proof set test disc color matchprint

Available Proofing Items
PDF: A softproof is a pdf you can view on your computer. It makes sure that all art components are in the file, and is a good check for layout and typos. It does not simulate special effects / inks, paper stocks, or post printing finishes. It is the first step. Changes are inexpensive at this level as there are no material costs involved. Graphics time is charged to reprocess artwork.

Data Screenshot: If we downloaded a file, like a DDP, we can do a screen shot of the contents for you.

Test Disc: A pressed (i.e., glass mastered) disc that has the data and print. A test disc allows you to play the disc and ensure the formatting/content is correct, and to see how the art turned out on the disc. To make a test disc, we need to create the glass master from your DDP (or other type of disc image file) and films for the offset printing or silkscreening. Because of this, changing content (data or art) requires materials costs.

Digital Matchprint: A physical CMYK printout of your packaging artwork provided mostly for color representation. Printed on flat, glossy paper. Up to 22pp of a book/booklet. Not good for special effects / inks, paper stocks, or post printing finishes. Changes are relatively inexpensive at this level as there are minimal material costs involved. Graphics time is charged to reprocess artwork and if you wanted a new proof there would be an additional charge for the new proof and shipping.

Press Proof: Generated on the actual press. Requires films to make. This is the best representation of printing special effects or printing on special paper stocks. Changes to artwork requires new film / processing time and any new press proofs you may want.

Unprinted Mock-up: A hand made unit that allows you to verify dimensions before the die is made. The is not machine made so is not precise, and you may see tape or glue and uneven edges. This is a mandatory step for new dies, or at least strongly recommended. We can also assemble your printed proofs into a mock-up if that is helpful for you to see the layout of artwork on the mock-up.

Press Samples / Production Samples: We can also pull a production sample from a run to send to you. The item may be all the way through production or partially assembled, depending on what it is you need to see. We hesitate to call this proofing because the cost to change art is very expensive at this stage. However, it would not involve the final product shipping cost.

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