If you want to become a CD packaging designer, then it is very important that you know how materials work. Designing custom CD packages require not only brilliant concepts and good software skills-you need be an expert on the materials, too. It is not like printing posters or printing CD covers using templates. In designing custom die-cut CD packages, you need to do lots of research and experiment with lots materials (paperboards, foams, tins, etc) aside from getting your soft design perfect.
If you’re spending way too much time with Photoshop, then you need to step out of that computer and get to know your hard tools because they’re equally important. What good is a brilliant artwork if your actual package looks crappy because you do not know how to execute it properly?
There are lots of things you should know! You should know what paper (or any material for that matter) works best with your concept. You should know which paper works best with certain folds. You should know the right thickness of the paper. You should know what varnish or paint works well with certain papers and which don’t. You should know if certain paints smudge or peel off after a few days if applied on certain materials.
In addition, you should also know where to find these materials at low prices, how to make these CD packages faster, and how to make production easier.
You need to be knowledgeable. So, go read some books and blogs about design. Design magazines are loaded with tips and tricks. If you want something more comprehensive, you can check out some books. Mastering Materials, Bindings, and Finishes: The Art of Creative Production (Design Field Guide) is a must-read for designers.
Aside from doing good research thru reading, you should also explore the stores. Visit the biggest store and examine the texture of the different papers and materials you want to use. Smell the paints and glues, and whatnot. Go to the hardware stores and check out each tool that might be useful. Tag a designer friend along so you’ll bounce ideas and good info.
After reading and exploring, it’s time to experiment. Do buy those papers and make mock-ups of your custom CD package. Trust me- it’s the best way to learn. Put a little something to the paint so it would smell like ginger (for example). Find out which paper works well with cut-outs. If nothing works, do some more research. You might also want to call your mentors and classmates in design school and ask for their advice.
Making custom CD packages needs a lot of creativity, resourcefulness, research, and most of all patience. So keep reading, keep exploring, and don’t throw away the concept simply because you can’t execute it well the first (second, third…) time. All designers go through this and you should see it as an exciting challenge and not as a big obstacle. It should be like a puzzle that’s waiting to be solved.
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