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If you've ever wanted to create your own Blu-ray packaging, then read on. We'll walk you through the entire process of producing a striking blu-ray inlay card and CD surface print design.
As far as techniques go, you'll use Illustrator as well as Photoshop to create error free, printer-friendly artwork. You'll also discover how to transform a flat, two-dimensional design into an impressive three dimensional pack mock-up.
This tutorial takes inspiration from the recent zombie genre revival, such as The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman's popular graphic novels – so get ready for some post-apocalyptic, flesh eating zombie mayhem!
You'll find outlined font versions of the inlay card and CD surface print files in a folder called "Illustrator_artwork" within the "source" folder. The layered Photoshop files are located in a folder called "layers", also in the "Illustrator_artwork" folder. There's additional files in the "source" folder to allow you to complete this tutorial. You'll also need the following logos, dummy text and stock photography.
- Blu-ray Logo
- DTS Logo
- Dolby Logo
- Dummy Text
- Hitter-1 by Marcus Ranum
- Gun Stock 19 and Gun Stock 16 by AilinStock
- Zombie One
- Zombie Two
- The medium version of Zombie Three
- The medium version of Zombie Four
- The medium version of Zombie Five
Before You Begin
First, gather your stock images, then sit down and sketch out some ideas. From here use the Magic Wand (W) or the Quick Selection Tool (W) to quickly isolate the figures to assemble a draft. Remember, this is just a rough, so don't get bogged down with too much detail at this stage – just concentrate on making the composition work for both the inlay card and CD surface print.
In the initial steps we'll create the inlay artwork for the blu-ray case. Launch Illustrator and create a new document. Name it "Inlay_artwork" and change the Document Profile to Print from the drop-down menu (this will automatically change to Custom when you enter the document dimensions). Leave the Artboard field at 1 and set the Width to 270 mm and the Height to 148 mm. Finally, add 3 mm bleed an all edges and expand the Advanced button to ensure the Color Mode is CMYK and the Raster Effects are set to High.
Next, we need to add printer's crop marks. Set your Fill and Stroke values to None, highlight the Rectangle Tool (M) and click anywhere on the Artboard. In the next window enter your document dimensions (270 mm x 148 mm) and hit OK. Highlight the top left square on the Reference Point Locator and set the X and Y fields to 0 mm.
Keep the rectangle selected and choose Object > Create Trim Marks. With your trim marks now selected hit Command/Ctrl + 2 to lock them.
Hit Command/Ctrl + semicolon to View Guides. Add another rectangle 5 mm smaller than your document size (265 mm x 143 mm). Now use the Reference Point Locater to position it dead centre to leave a 2.5 mm border, then press Command/Ctrl + 5 to Make Guides.
Press Command/Ctrl + R to Show Rulers, then hit Option + Command/Ctrl + semicolon to Unlock Guides. Use the Reference Point Locator to add a centre guide (X = 135 mm), then 2 guides for the spine (X = 128 mm / X = 142 mm). Now add centre rules for the front and back cover – but position slightly away from the spine to allow for the fold (X = 206.5 mm / X = 63.5 mm). All these guides should share the remaining dimensions: Y = 0, W = 0, H = 148.
Double-click the default layer thumbnail and rename it "Base image". Select your box guide, then Shift-click your vertical guides and Copy (Command/Ctrl + C) and Paste in Front (Command/Ctrl + F). With the duplicate guides still selected add a new layer called "Guides", then drag the duplicate guides (indicated by the blue square to the right of the layer name) into your new layer and activate the lock icon of your "Base image" layer. With your duplicate guides still active press Option/Command/Ctrl + 5 to Release Guides. You can now color these guides with a 100% Magenta Dashed Line at 0.5 pt. Finally, press Option/Command/Ctrl + semicolon to Lock Guides on your lower layer.
Note: I've disabled the visibility of the guides (Command/Ctrl + semicolon) for clarity in this screengrab.
Add an upper layer, label it "Artwork" and lock your "Guides" layer. Grab the Type Tool (T) and add the main title in white. Choose a font that has a lot of impact and has a good range of weights – I used Helvetica Neue. Press Command/Ctrl + U to enable Smart Guides and use the Paragraph tab to centre the text and snap it to the centre guide as shown.
Click between characters you wish to adjust with the Type Tool (T), then hold down Option and tap the left or right arrow keys on your keyboard to kern in or out. This will increase or decrease the space between character pairs by 20 em in the Character Palette (an em is defined as a measure for 12 pt: a pica). In Illustrator’s preferences, you can set the default em spacing to something lower which will increase or decrease the spacing in smaller increments if you wish. You’ll see that I’ve visually adjusted the spacing between certain characters.
Note: It’s vital when using large font sizes to adjust the spaces between individual characters. This is called kerning and should not be confused with tracking which adjusts the spacing between whole words.
Highlight the Selection Tool (V) and Option-drag to duplicate the text to the pasteboard. Now press Shift + Command/Ctrl + O to Create Outlines and fill with black. Next, double-click the Scale Tool (S), then in the next window check the Uniform option, enter 200% in the Scale field and hit OK. Finally, Copy the outlined text the Clipboard.
Switch to Photoshop, create a new document and accept the Clipboard preset. Leave the Width and Height fields as they are, but set the Resolution to 300 pixels/inch, then change the Color Mode to Greyscale and the Background Contents to Transparent.
Paste your selection, check the Pixels option in the next window and hit Return to accept the command.
Load the "grunge_brushes.abr" from the "source" folder. To familiarize yourself with them, open a new canvas and have a play; as these brushes are image-based, you'll find they work best used in a stamping fashion, also open the Brush panel from the Options bar and experiment by rotating and flipping them to avoid repetition. When you're happy, add a layer mask and use an assortment of the new brushes to apply the distressed effect – but remember the text still needs to be legible, so don't overdo this stage.
When you're finished, flatten the file, then choose Image > Adjustments > Threshold and enter a value of 117 to eliminate the gray tones. Now Save your file as a .TIFF to a memorable location.
Switch back to your Illustrator document and delete the outlined text. Go to File > Place, navigate to your distressed text file, then check the Link option and hit the Place button. Next, go to Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options, select the default Black & White setting and click the Trace button.
Next, click the Expand button in the Control palette. Next, grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select any white filled path from the text, then go to Select > Same Fill Color and hit Delete. Now select your remaining black text areas with the Selection Tool (V) and fill with white.
You can now double-click the Scale Tool (S) and enter 50% to return the text to its original size, then replace your original text with the new distressed heading.
Add the movie tag line, but use a bold extended version of the same font at a smaller size as shown.
Repeat the previous step to distress the text, then Live Trace and replace over the original.
Next, use a heavy condensed version of Helvetica for the main quote and Zapf Dingbats for the star rating. Finally, use a smaller, lighter weight of Helvetica underneath and snap it to the bottom guide.
Place three more star ratings at the top, then click the Vertical Align Top and Horizontal Distribute Centre buttons in the Control palette.
Group the main heading and tag line, then duplicate. Rotate clockwise, resize and position centrally on the spine.
Open the "logos.ai" from the "source" folder and Copy > Paste them in position over the cover and spine as shown.
Color the Blu-ray logo white and place at the bottom of the spine, then add a serial code in a condensed version of Helvetica.
On the back cover grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and to snap a box (122 mm wide x 35 mm deep; Fill: None / Rule: white 0.5 pt) to the left and bottom guides. Now add three white rectangles (two at 41 mm wide x 22 mm deep and one at 34 mm wide x 22 mm deep), then divide with 0.5 pt rules. Next, use the Align options in the Control palette to space them equally.
Place the "barcode.ai" from the "source" folder, then repeat the age restriction logos, plus the legal requirement text, again in the same font.
Add the white out legal requirement text – I copied this from an actual printed cover, but for speed use some dummy text if you prefer. I've formatted the text in 5pt Helvetica Thin and Bold Condensed.
Now we'll add the movie credits. I used Univers Compressed Thin, Justified in dummy text, then applied a Baseline Shift to selective words as shown.
Add another quote to the top guide as shown.
Now place some body text below it and use a mix of Helvetica Black and Medium Condensed.
Finally, add another block of text in the same mix of fonts.
Now choose New Swatch from the fly-out menu on the Swatches palette and Copy these settings. Be sure to check the Global option, as this enables you to change all instances of your swatch on-the-fly. Now color up some of the headers as shown.
Now we'll create the layered artwork for the inlay sheet. Set your background color to black, then create a new canvas 27.6 cm x 15.4 cm – this includes the required 3 mm bleed. Name the file "Inlay_artwork" and set the Resolution to 300 pixels/inch in RGB Mode with the Background Contents set to Background Color.
As our artwork is destined for commercial CMYK printing, press Command/Ctrl + Y to activate CMYK Preview mode – this stops any RGB colors that are beyond the CMYK printing gamut being displayed on-screen, as well as avoiding nasty surprises when it's printed.
Double-click the default layer to unlock it and in the following window rename it "Black". Now add a folder called "BACKGROUND" and place the layer within it. Next, we'll use a shortcut to add some central guides; press Command/Ctrl + R to activate your Rulers, then Command/Ctrl + semicolon to View Guides. Next, snap the Crop Tool (C) to the canvas bounds, then snap a horizontal and vertical guide to the centre of the crop area. Finally, select the Don't Crop prompt in the following window and hit Shift + Command/Ctrl + semicolon to Lock Guides. This is a much quicker method to add guides than placing them via the View menu.
Now we need to import the Illustrator rules and artwork which will serve as template layers. Switch back to your Illustrator file, target the "Guides" layer and lock the remaining two. Now highlight the button to the right of the layer name to select all the layer content and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste above your "BACKGROUND" folder using the Smart Object option and snap the layer content to your centre guides.
Repeat this process to Copy > Paste your Illustrator "Artwork" layer, then place both layers within a folder called "GUIDES/TEMPLATE".
We now need to extract Hitter-1, but first, use the Crop Tool (C) to remove the excess background.
Switch to your Channels tab and cycle through each channel in turn to determine which holds the most contrast – in this case it’s the Blue channel. Drag its thumbnail over the Create new channel icon at the foot of the palette to duplicate it. Now hit Command/Ctrl + L to access the Levels dialogue box and set the Input sliders as shown.
Set the Dodge Tool (O) to: Range: Highlights / Exposure: 50% and use a medium-sized brush to bleach the background around the model's hair as indicated.
Now set the Burn Tool (O) to: Exposure: 72% / Range: Midtones and use a medium-sized brush to darken the inner edges of the model. Next, use a medium, hard-edged black brush to infill as much of the model as possible – Don't worry about the non-contrast areas on the legs, hand and gun, we'll fix these next.
Set the Pen Tool (P) to Paths in the Options bar, then draw a series of closed paths to encompass these areas. For best results, zoom in and toggle the visibility of the top RGB composite channel and take your time – Remember, you can fine-tune your path at any time by holding the Command/Ctrl key to access the Direct Selection Tool (A) to adjust individual direction/anchor points as required. When you're done, Command/Ctrl-click your path thumbnail to load it as a selection and return to the Channels tab.
Ensure the duplicate is the target channel, then press D to restore your Foreground/Background colors to the default black/white. Now press Option + Delete to fill the active selection with black. Next, use a large, hard-edged white brush to remove any remaining background grey.
By default, white areas act as channel selections, so hit Command/Ctrl + I to Invert the channel to a negative. Your duplicate channel should now look like this.
Command/Ctrl-click your duplicate channel to generate a selection, target the RGB composite channel, then jump to the Layers tab. Activate any selection tool, then hit the Refine Edge button in the Options bar.
In the next window choose On Layers (L) from the View drop-down menu, then check the Smart Radius button and set the Radius field to 1.4 px. Now activate the Decontaminate Colors option and set the Amount value to 100% and hit OK.
When the Refine Edge command has finished you'll notice an additional masked layer has appeared and the visibility of the original layer switched off. You can now drag the mask into the trash icon at the foot of the palette and click the Apply button on the following dialogue box.
Duplicate the the Green channel from Gun Stock 19, then use the same workflow as the previous step to isolate the figure.
Import both figures into a new folder called "MAIN FIGURES" below the "GUIDES/TEMPLATE" folder and name them "Girl" and "Man 1". Resize both figures and position them centrally as shown.
Now add the "clouds.jpg" from the "source" folder within the "BACKGROUND" folder. Resize and position to encompass the cover and spine, then label it "Sky".
Now import the city as a new layer above the "Sky". Next, change the Blend Mode to Multiply, scale/position as shown and name it "City".
You'll notice that the blending change has left a hard line at the top. To fix this, first add a layer mask, then set your Foreground to black. Next, set the Gradient Tool (G) to Foreground to Transparent, then hold down Shift and drag a short Linear Gradient from the top of your canvas.
Note: Toggle the visibility of the "GUIDES/TEMPLATE" folder as you work for clarity.
With the main composition complete, we can now start to add some color and tonal adjustments. Target the "Sky" layer, then click on the Levels icon in the adjustments panel. Now set the blackpoint and midpoint sliders as below.
Add a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer and copy these settings.
Next, darken the "City" layer with a Levels adjustment layer.
Now add a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer.
Let's wreck some chaos and destruction to the scene! Import "fireball.tif" (from the "source" folder) below the "City" layer and name it "Fire 1". Change the Blend Mode to Screen and resize/position behind the buildings. Duplicate the layer a couple of times. Now Command/Ctrl + T, then press Control/right-click and choose Flip Horizontal from the Transform menu and resize. Rotate and reposition some of the duplicates as well.
Duplicate more fire layers and place them around the scene. Because the "City" layer is set to Multiply, the fire will highlight parts of the building, also try setting some fire layers to a Blend Mode of Lighten to reduce their effect.
Target the "City" layer mask, then use an assortment grunge brushes to remove areas and reveal the fire. For a realistic result, use your brushes sparingly and if you overdo it, reinstate the mask with white. My mask is shown in isolation at the bottom of the screengrab.
Use the same technique to mask areas of the sky to reveal the black base layer. Again, don't labour this too much – concentrate on areas as shown below.
Place a new layer at the top of the stack within the "BACKGROUND" folder and name it "Base grad". Change the Blend Mode to Multiply, then use a combination of soft-edged and grunge brushes at full strength to paint the base of your canvas black.
Repeat on another layer called "Base shadow" at the top within the "MAIN FIGURES" folder.
Now it's time to add some zombies; we'll start with the figures furthest away and work forward. Open the first zombie and set the Magic Wand Tool (W) to Add to selection, a Tolerance of 33 and check Contiguous in the Options bar. Now click on the the background, remembering to include the inner white areas around the figure's hips. Next, choose Select > Modify > Contact and enter 1 px in the following window.
With the selection still active, press Command/Ctrl + J to Copy as a new layer. Now delete the original layer and add a new upper layer in Multiply Mode. Command/Ctrl-click to load the copied base layer as a selection and target your upper layer. Next, set your Foreground to # 551d0d and use an assortment of grunge brushes to paint some grime and blood within the selection.
Hit Command/Ctrl + E to Merge the upper layer then place it within a new folder called "BACKGROUND ZOMBIES" above the "BACKGROUND" folder. Name this layer "Zombie 1", then scale, flip horizontal and position as shown.
Now apply a Levels adjustment layer to darken the figure as below.
Next, add a Color Balance adjustment layer.
Highlight your "Zombie 1" layer, then hold Shift and highlight the top adjustment layer thumbnail to select all three. Drag them over the Create new layer icon at the foot of the palette to duplicate them. Now move the duplicate zombie to the left and flip horizontal.
Repeat step 22 on the second zombie and place as a new layer within the same folder. Resize, flip horizontal and place as indicated. Name this layer "Zombie 2". Now apply a Levels adjustment.
Use the channel and path extraction technique explained in step 12 to extract the third zombie. Place as a new layer and label it "Zombie 3", then resize/flip horizontal and place as shown. Add a Levels adjustment, then use a small, soft brush at low opacity on the adjustment mask to lighten the left side of the figure.
Next, apply a Color Balance adjustment layer and copy these settings.
Extract and add the fourth zombie to the right and label it "Zombie 4". Resize, then add a Levels adjustment and gently mask the left side.
Now apply a Color Balance adjustment and copy these settings.
Extract the final zombie, then resize/position to the left and name it "Zombie 5". Now add a Color Balance adjustment layer, but this time uncheck the Preserve Luminosity option to keep the image darker.
Finally, add a Levels adjustment layer, then mask the left side of the figure.
To make the background figures more prominent, duplicate a couple of the fire layers (from the "BACKGROUND" folder) and move them up the layer stack below the "Base grad" layer. Rename these layers "Fire 7" and "Fire 8". Both layers can now be changed to a Blend Mode of Lighten and their opacities reduced to 60%.
Add a new folder below the "BACKGROUND ZOMBIES" and name it "BACKGROUND FX". Place "shatter_1.tif" (from the "source" folder) within the new folder and label it "Explosion 1". Resize/position over the left buildings, then change the Blend Mode to Overlay.
Note: I've disabled the visibility of the "BACKGROUND" folder in the bottom half of the screengrab for clarity.
Duplicate the layer and rename it "Explosion 1 motion blur". Now choose Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and enter Angle: -42 degrees, Distance: 39 px in the following dialogue box.
Add "shatter_2.tif" on the opposite side, name it "Explosion 2" and set the Blend mode to Soft Light. Duplicate this layer and call it "Explosion 2 motion blur". Now hit Command/Ctrl + F to access the same filter window and apply a slightly different amount of Motion Blur.
Place "apache_1.tif" and "apache_2.tif" (again from the "source" folder) at the top of the stack within the same folder and label accordingly. Position both layers at the top of your canvas as indicated.
Now let's move onto the back cover. Import "texture.jpg" from the "source" folder. Place it below the "Base grad" layer within the "BACKGROUND" folder and name it "Grunge".
Apply a Levels adjustment layer as shown, then mask the base with a Foreground to Transparent Linear Gradient.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer to boost the red and yellow tonal range.
Our text still needs to be legible over the background, so reduce the "Grunge" layer Opacity to 87%. Next, add a mask and use some grunge brushes to hide areas as shown.
Import Gun Stock 16 within a new folder called "BACK COVER FIGURES" below the "GUIDES/TEMPLATE" folder. Resize/flip horizontal and name it "Man 2". Add a mask, then use an assortment of brushes to hide the figure's legs and background.
Now add a Levels adjustment layer as shown.
Next, apply a Color Balance adjustment layer and copy these settings.
Now we'll incorporate some undead limbs; I had originally intended to photograph these, but remembered having some 3D rendered arms from a previous project which I've included in the "source" folder.
Open "hands.tif", place as an upper layer within the same folder and label it "Zombie hands". Add a mask, then use a selection of grunge and soft-edged brushes to blend them into the background.
Next, clip a Color Balance adjustment layer and copy these settings.
With the composition almost complete, it's time to sit back and make any last minute alterations. I noticed the lead male character had a slight amount of grain and the girl had none. To fix this, target the layer and choose Filter > Noise > Add Noise, then set the Amount to 2.5% and check the Gaussian and Monochromatic options.
As a tweak to "Zombie 3", add a Photo Filter adjustment layer. Activate the Color button, click the color chip and select # 682b09, then set the Density to 82% and uncheck the Preserve Luminosity option.
Add a new folder below the "GUIDES/TEMPLATE" and name it "DISTRESS BRUSHWORK". Place a layer within this folder and label it "Brushwork 1". Now set your Foreground to # 7d0d04 and use a large grunge brush to stamp the red shape beneath the text.
Place another layer called "Brushwork 2" and continue to add further brush shapes sparingly around the design with # 8c280a.
Next, we need to slightly reduce the overall saturation. Collapse all your folders, then add a new one below the "GUIDES/TEMPLATE" and label it "ADJUSTMENTS". Now add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within the folder and apply the following settings.
Note: Because this adjustment is not clipped to a specific layer it will affect all layers stacked below it.
Now we'll apply a non-destructive dodge and burn technique to add highlight and shadow; for this to work, we first need to establish our light source – in this case top-right for the cover and top-left for the back cover.
First, add an uppermost layer within the "ADJUSTMENTS" folder and label it "Shadow/highlight". Go to Edit > Fill (Shift + F5) and select 50% Gray from the Contents drop-down menu. If you change the layer's Blend Mode to Overlay the grey will disappear. From here create a layer-based selection from your fist background zombie, then use a soft-edged brush to paint shadows and highlights with black and white respectively at 15% Opacity. Repeat this technique on the remaining zombies, then progress to the foreground figures.
Tip: If you make a mistake and need to reinstate 50% Gray, set the layer back to Normal Blend Mode and pick up the color with the Eyedropper Tool (I), or use the Color Picker to set all three RGB fields to 128, then paint at 100% Opacity.
The inlay artwork is now complete, so be sure to save it! Switch off the visibility of the "GUIDES/TEMPLATE" folder, then flatten and accept the warning in the next window. Now hit Shift + Command/Ctrl + S to Save As a .TIFF file.
Switch back to your "Inlay_artwork" Illustrator file and target/unlock the "Base image" layer and delete the black solid. Now choose File > Place and navigate to your .TIFF file. Check the Link option and press the Place button.
Now we'll flow the back cover text around the figures. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a closed path as shown with a Fill/Stroke of None.
Select the shape and text box, then choose Object > Text Wrap > Make and click OK in the following window. You can also select Text Wrap Options from the same menu to adjust the Offset value as required. I left mine on the default setting of 6 pt.
Now we'll move onto producing the CD surface print artwork. Create a new Illustrator document and copy these settings.
Use the Reference Point Locater to place a temporary black square to the dimensions of the Artboard, then add central guides.
Name the default layer "Base image" and lock it. Now add a new layer called "Guides" and snap the magenta (dotted) and red 0.5 pt circles at the dimensions shown to your guides.
Follow the same technique in the later part of step 2 to duplicate your circles as guides on the "Base image" layer.
Copy > Paste these elements from your "Inlay Artwork" document onto a new layer called "Artwork" and position as shown.
Snap a central circle with a diameter of 111 mm and a Fill/Stroke of None on the same layer.
Grab the Type on a Path Tool (located under the main Type Tool) and click on the circle. Now add the legal disclaimer text, or some dummy text if you prefer. I set mine in Helvetica Thin Condensed at 5.5 pt.
Inspect the Paragraph palette and ensure your text is centered. To fix the type's orientation, grab the Selection Tool (V) and select the circle, now hover your cursor over the green central hairline, then drag it up beyond the circle. Now snap the hairline to your centre guide.
Next, place another red keyline to represent the bleed on your "Guides" layer. Now select the content of the "Guides" layer and Copy to the Clipboard.
Revisit your "Inlay_artwork.psd" Photoshop file and delete both "Vector Smart Object" layers, then Save As "Disk_artwork.psd". Now Paste the selection as a Smart Object in the same folder. Return to your Illustrator file and Copy the contents of the "Artwork" layer. Paste as another Smart Object layer (again, in the same folder), then target the folder thumbnail and position over the cover as shown. Don't sweat about the guides extending beyond the canvas area – we'll fix that next.
Use the Crop Tool (C) to extend the bottom of your canvas to include the missing guides. Target the base "Black" layer and use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to fill the hole with black.
Now fill the same area on any remaining layers with black, such as the "Sky", "Girl" and "Man 1". Next, use the Lasso Tool (L) to encompass areas from your "Brushwork 2" layer and reposition with the Move Tool (V). You can also copy segments of brushwork to new layers and Transform as required.
Note: If you find the "marching ants" annoying, hit Command/Ctrl + H to hide the visibility of the selection – just remember to deselect when you're done.
When you're happy, snap the Crop Tool (C) to the outer bleed edge of your first Smart Object and accept the Crop prompt.
Disable the visibility of the "GUIDES/TEMPLATE" folder, flatten and Save As a .TIFF file.
Switch back to your Illustrator "Disk_artwork". Delete the black square and place your finished image on the "Base image" layer. That's the surface print completed – next, we'll move onto creating a pack mock-up.
To keep things manageable, we'll create half-sized Photoshop versions of our Illustrator artwork. Revisit your "Inlay_Artwork.ai" and turn off the visibility of the "Guides" layer. Now hit Shift + Command/Ctrl + S to Save As. In the next window name it "Inlay_artwork–small", choose PDF from the Format drop-down menu and hit the Save button.
In the next window choose the Illustrator Default Preset, hit the Save PDF button and store in a handy location.
Switch to Photoshop and Import the PDF. Enter half the actual dimensions in the Image Size fields and copy the remaining settings as shown in the screengrab.
Keep the file to one side, then revisit your Illustrator file and disable the visibility of all layers except for the "Guides". Now repeat the Save As command to create another PDF ("Inlay_artwork_small_guides"). Now repeat the Import PDF procedure keeping the dimensions halved.
Shift-drag the guide layer into your first imported PDF. You should now have a half-size Photoshop version of your Illustrator artwork.
Target the base layer and drag a rectangular selection over the front cover and Copy to the Clipboard.
You'll find a layered file called "mock_up.psd" within the "source" folder – this image contains everything you need to create a mock-up, apart from the graphics of course!
Start by adding an empty layer called "Case front graphic" below the "Highlight 1" layer.
Press Option + Command/Ctrl + V to access the Vanishing Point filter. In the following window, you'll note that the Create Plane Tool (C) is active by default. Zoom in and click in the order shown to create your initial perspective plane, then adjust any corner points as necessary, but don't click OK just yet.
Note: A plane that turns yellow or red indicates it's invalid or inaccurate to the laws of perspective.
Here comes the fun part! Paste your cover selection and drag it over the plane and it will snap into perspective. From here press Shift + T to scale in proportion.
Revisit your reduced Photoshop inlay sleeve and use the guides to Copy the spine. Add another empty layer below the "Case front graphic" and label it "Spine graphic". Access the Vanishing Point filter again and Command/Ctrl-drag the centre handle of your plane to add an additional perpendicular one as shown.
Next, Paste/drag your selection over the second perspective plane and resize to fit.
Add another empty layer called "Case back graphic" below the "Front case shadow" layer. Now add a new plane and follow the same workflow to position as shown.
At this stage your mock-up should look something like this.
Repeat steps 50 – 51 to create a half-sized Photoshop version from your "Inlay_artwork.ai" file, then add some central guides. Now grab the Elliptical Marque Tool (M), then press place the crosshair dead centre and Shift + Option-drag a selection just short of your canvas. Next, target the base layer, then choose Edit > Stroke, in the following window set the Width to 5 px and change the Color to # b0b0b0, then set the Location to Inside. Keep your selection active for the next part.
Hit Shift + Command/Ctrl + I to Inverse the selection and hit Delete. Now use your guide layer to generate the inner circle selection and hit Delete again. You can now trash the guide layer, but keep the selection live.
Add a new layer and fill the selection with the same gray as the outer stroke (# b0b0b0). Now generate a smaller selection and press Delete again.
To create the darker inner rings, generate two inner selections and use these Stroke/Location settings on the same layer with # 716f6f.
Finally, reduce the Opacity of the upper layer to 50% and hit Command/Ctrl + E to Merge Down. Now Copy to the Clipboard.
Switch back to your "mock_up.psd" file. Add an empty layer above the "Case front graphic" layer and label it "Disk". Now access the Vanishing Point Filter and enlarge the back cover grid, but keep its perspective true.
Now Paste your selection over the grid and scale/position accordingly. If at this point you need to reposition the disk shadows, be sure to unlink the mask on the "CD shadow 1" layer.
For some added realism, add a Bevel and Emboss Layer Style to your "Disk" layer and copy these settings.
Now we'll add a subtle shadow on the edge of the case; target your "Spine" layer and apply a Levels adjustment layer and copy these settings. Mask the base of the spine with a black to white Linear Gradient if required.
As a final touch, we'll remove the distortion artifacts caused by the Vanishing Point filter around the straight edges. First, target your "Case front graphic" layer and choose Select > Modify > Contract By 3 px, then hit Shift + F6 to access the Feather dialogue box and enter 5 px. Inverse the selection, then go to Filter > Blur > Blur More. Repeat this on the "Spine" and "Case back graphic" layers, but leave your "Disk" layer intact.
Conclusion and Scope
Once your design is approved, replace the dummy text with actual wording and after a final client sign off your Illustrator files will be ready to print. It's also good practice to talk to your printer before sending over any artwork, this is because printers' requirements will vary; but usually a press-ready PDF is fine – just remember to disable the visibility of your "Guide" layers.