As a custom vinyl pressing company, we frequently get a lot of questions from customers who want to get their first records made, usually about the difference between vinyl jackets and sleeves and inserts.
That is why we decided to dedicate a blog post that lays it out for you. Hopefully, this will help you select the right packaging for your vinyl records.
If you’re in a rush and want recommendations off the bat, here’s our recommendation on which sleeve/insert to choose.
If you want to know each one in-depth because you’re a geek, read up:
Table of Contents
VINYL RECORD JACKETS
Vinyl jackets are the outermost packaging of your vinyl records. It houses your vinyl records the way a jewel case or digipak would for your CDs. It is your album cover. You can have it for all vinyl sizes– 7 inch vinyl jackets, 10 inch vinyl jackets, 12 inch vinyl jackets.
This is made of cardboard and is where your artwork is printed onto. Some prefer to have paper sleeves without holes as a replacement for jackets to cut cost but it’s not as safe for the vinyl. The difference is that the jackets have spines while sleeves don’t.
The vinyl jacket was pioneered by the record company, Odeon, who published the first ever “album” entitled Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky.
They released 4 double-sided records along with an album cover which I assume was what started the record albums in 1920. These record albums were like photograph albums where people can restore their records like photographs. It can also stand like a book when put on a shelf.
In 1938, Alex Steinweiss was hired by Columbia Records as its first art director and was known for giving the idea of album covers and cover art which was then mimicked by other companies.
Alexander “Alex” Steinweiss was known today as the graphic designer who invented album cover art.
His first project was for a collection of Rodgers and Hart songs performed by an orchestra. The packaging was welcomed well by the population as the sales of Bruno Walter’s recording of Beethoven’s “Eroica” rose after the release of the new packaging. This then evolved into what we have now, the different types of vinyl jackets.
TYPES OF VINYL RECORD JACKETS:
Single Pocket Jacket
This can hold one vinyl record and has 2 surfaces that can be printed on. It’s economical, straightforward, and pretty much just the right package for one vinyl record.
The gatefold jacket can hold two vinyl records (or one vinyl and one insert) and has 4 surfaces (2 inner and 2 outer) that can be printed on. We also have single and double sided fold-over which are other ways to get more panels to print on without having to pick and spend more on gatefold ones.
The price range of these jackets depends on the number of vinyl records you ordered to a company that offers vinyl record pressing and the size of the vinyl record.
For 7 inch vinyl pressing, single pocket jackets cost around $0.45 – $1.9 while dual pocket gatefold jackets cost around $0.68 – $2.8 (both jackets depend on the quantity).
For 10 inch vinyl pressing, single pocket jackets cost around $0.55 – $2 and dual pocket gatefold jackets, on the other hand, cost around $1.46 – $5.27 (both jackets depend on the quantity).
However, there are some that are fixed without depending on the number of items you ordered, but still depends on the manufacturer. One company has a unit cost of $0.55 for the single sided fold-over jacket for 7 inch vinyl record while the double sided fold-over has a unit cost of $0.85 for 7 inch vinyl records.
VINYL RECORD SLEEVES
If you’re a musician and it’s your first time to have a custom vinyl pressing service, you’ll be asked if you’d like to have vinyl sleeves and you’re wondering if you really need them.
There are two kinds of record sleeves and that is the outer and inner record sleeves. If a vinyl record jacket houses your vinyl records and protects it from external damages, the inner record sleeves are the ones that closely hold your records inside the vinyl jackets and prevent the accumulation of dust on its grooves.
The outer record sleeves on the other hand, is the sleeve outside the vinyl jacket. It, therefore, protects the vinyl jacket and its artwork. These outer sleeves are made of polypropylene.
There are many types of inner record sleeves and the first one is the generic paper inner sleeves. These are made of plain paper and are inexpensive.
This is best bought if you are ordering vinyl records in bulk and are selling them after, since this will help you cut expenses. Paper inner sleeves also vary as they can be colored and customized. It may or may not have holes and may be plain or printed, it depends on your preference.
Second is the poly inner sleeves which are made of polypropylene to let the record slide into the sleeve with ease. This is a sleeve that does not require a hole to be cut for it is transparent enough to see and read the label on the record.
Next we have the paper with poly-lined inner sleeves which is made up of an inner layer of polypropylene to let the sleeve slide easily and an outer layer made of paper for a sturdy shape.
Lastly, we have the audiophile inner sleeves that are made of rice paper with an inner layer of polyethylene for anti-static property.
These inner sleeves are from the idea of the vinyl jackets, as I’ve said earlier, these sleeves were first used as the record’s jackets. It was also usually plain in the earlier years of its usage now these sleeves are also printed with anything, logo, design or lyrics of the songs.
When you have your vinyl records pressed, some manufacturers also give you an option of including vinyl sleeves for your records. Most manufacturers offer standard paper sleeves with holes for free.
If you have your white paper sleeves customized or colored paper sleeves customized, you will have to add payment for each sleeve. For white customized ones, you might add around $0.32 – $0.72 for each sleeve while for colored customized ones, you might add around $0.38 – $1.05 for each sleeve. That’s for 7 inch records.
VINYL RECORD INSERTS
Vinyl inserts are different from sleeves and jackets because they do not house the vinyl records. Basically, they’re like booklets. They are made of paper stock that gives your LP album more space so that you can add more content and design on it.
In these inserts, you can have your band and band members’ information printed out. You can also add another artwork or add the lyrics for your songs. You can choose the size and type of paper stock you want for the inserts.
You can have inserts in uncoated paper which are commonly used for books or planners or coated paper for promotional goods like flyers, brochures, posters, etc.
Uncoated papers may not be a good choice if you want to print images in vibrant colors as it dampens them. Cover stocks and text stocks are under uncoated papers.
The cover stocks are those used for postcards and business cards, while text stocks are used for letters and book pages. These two are also produced in a variety of colors so you can choose from many options.
Gloss stock and matte stock, on the other hand, are under coated stocks. The gloss stock is the kind you see used for magazine pages while the matte stock has lesser sheen and does not look glossy. But of course, the type of stock would depend on what is available on the company you decided to order from.
Inserts are added costs but if you are releasing a special edition LP, then might as well spoil your fans by giving them the full package.
SOME VINYL PRESSING TERMS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The round paper “sticker” in the middle of the record which does isn’t only used to put the tracks of the album but it also helps cool the middle of the record while it’s being pressed. Here are some of the coolest vinyl record labels we’ve if you need inspiration.
As with most consumer product, many records have bar codes to track your sales and it’s done during custom vinyl pressing, not just a sticker you put after you have your vinyl record and vinyl packaging. You can purchase this from us at an affordable price. If you work with a distributor, most distributors prefer each color/variant of the same release to have its own unique bar code.
This is the thin “face” of a record jacket which typically has artist/title text printed on it that you can see when records are sitting on a common bookshelf. All GGR jackets have spines, and text is encouraged to be printed on spines.
For a custom vinyl record pressing that’s smooth and easy, we’re here to help you. Get a quote now to get an estimate of our custom vinyl pressing service. We offer 7 inch vinyl pressing, 10 inch vinyl pressing, and 12 inch vinyl pressing. Get 5% discount if you’re an indie musician.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD, custom vinyl records and merch company in LA.