Packaging design can be an intimidating subject for new designers. Visualising how something may appear and function as a 3D object can be difficult when creating flat templates, particularly in absence of any industrial-scale printing equipment at home. A smaller product, like a fold-out card CD sleeve, is a great place to start experimenting with packaging design. InDesign is the perfect software to use, as you can easily set and monitor measurements throughout the design process.
In this tutorial we’ll be creating a basic CD Sleeve template in Adobe InDesign and using a bit of Illustrator too, incorporating some funky vector artwork from Yulia Sokolova as we go. The finished sleeve can even be printed and finished at home if you have access to an A3 printer, some card, a craft knife and glue. The template for the sleeve is designed to fit on a single A3 page, but you can create mock-ups using 2 A4 sheets stapled or glued together to get an impression of the product before you send it to print. I did just that, and it still works a treat!
When designing a 3D product using a flat, 2D template you have to always keep in mind how the product will look from different angles. Will the back of the sleeve look as good as the front? Will there be details on the sides, so it can be recognised when stacked with other CDs? What way will text be read once the packaging is folded and glued? Will the inside of the sleeve, once opened, have any extra color or artwork? Keep these questions in mind, and you can’t go wrong!
1. Create a New Document in InDesign
Open InDesign and select File > New Document. In the New Document window set the Intent to Print and set the No. of Pages to 2. Deselect Facing Pages.
Under Page Size select ‘A3’ and set the Orientation to Landscape.
Leave the Margins at their default value and set the Bleed to 0 mm all the way round. Click OK.
Page 1 of the document will be the Outside surface of the Sleeve, and Page 2 the Inside.
2. Define Layers for the Template and Artwork
It’s important to keep the CD Sleeve template and the Sleeve artwork separate. This allows you to easily make edits to the artwork without mistakenly moving any of the template guides.
Open the Layers Panel by going to Window > Layers. Double-click on the default ‘Layer 1’ name and rename this Layer ‘Notes’. For now, Lock this Layer by clicking in the blank box to the left of the Layer name.
Click on the Create New Layer icon at the bottom-right of the Panel and Double-click on the default ‘Layer 2’ name. Rename this Layer ‘Template’. As before, Lock this Layer.
Repeat the process in Step 2 to create two more Layers above the ‘Notes’ and ‘Template’ Layers. Name these ‘Artwork’ and ‘Text’.
Lock these two new Layers and return to and Unlock the ‘Notes’ Layer.
For ease of reference, drop in a sub-title in the top left-hand corner on each page using the Type Tool (T). Type ‘Outside of Sleeve’ on Page 1, and Edit > Copy > Paste in Place the note onto Page 2, renaming it ‘Inside of Sleeve’.
3. Measure Your Template
It can be a challenge making a packaging template from scratch. Always look at other examples of the sort of packaging you’re trying to create, and open them out flat if you can. Get your ruler out and make notes of key measurements. Sometimes the simplest template designs work the best—I found a couple of chart-topping albums used a packaging template similar to the one we’ll create here. You want to allow the CD or other product to fit comfortably into your packaging design without damaging the product by making it too much of a tight squeeze or alternatively allowing the product to move about too much inside the packaging.
In this example, we’re accommodating for a standard CD, with a 120 mm diameter. You should allow enough breathing space for the CD to be inserted easily into the sleeve, and you may want extra room to insert a small brochure or leaflet in there as well. In the template we’ll create here, we’ll allow for an extra 3 mm on all sides of the CD to allow it to be easily inserted and retrieved.
Navigate to Page 1 of your document. Lock the ‘Notes’ Layer in the Layers Panel and Unlock the ‘Template’ Layer. Go to View > Rulers if the Rulers are not already visible.
Drag a vertical Guide from the left-hand Ruler to 120 mm. Drag a second vertical Guide to 246 mm.
Drag a horizontal Guide down from the top Ruler to 86 mm. Drag a second horizontal Guide down to 212 mm.
This marks out a neat 126 mm by 126 mm square between the Guides, which will form the central part of the Sleeve. Drag your mouse across the Page to select all four Guides and Edit > Copy; navigate to Page 2 and Edit > Paste in Place.
We can add small folded edges to the sleeve to give the CD extra space inside and also allow a small space for inserting some text, as you would on the spine of a CD cover.
Return to Page 1. Drag a Guide from the left-hand Ruler to 250 mm. Drag a second vertical Guide to 116 mm. Drag a horizontal Guide from the top Ruler to 82 mm, and then another horizontal Guide to 216 mm.
4. Create your Template
Now the basic guidelines are set up you can start to build your template. Fold lines will be marked out with a dashed line, and Cut lines marked with a solid line.
Remaining on the ‘Template’ Layer, use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a square 126 mm in diameter (hold down Shift to create a perfect square). Set the Stroke to [Black], Type to Dashed and Weight to 0.5 mm. You can set these values in the top control panel, or in the Stroke Panel (Window > Stroke).
Position this frame in the center of the Guides.
Back to the Guides! Drag a vertical Guide from the left-hand Ruler to 376 mm. This takes into account the 4mm fold, plus another 126 mm to create the complete fold-over of the CD sleeve.
Use the Line Tool (\) and hold Shift to create a perfect horizontal Line 130 mm in Length extending from the top right-hand corner of the dashed square to the new Guide. Set the Color of the Stroke to C=0, M=100, Y=0, K=0 to distinguish this line from the dashed fold lines. Set the Weight to 0.35 mm.
Select the line created in Step 2, above, and Edit > Copy. Paste in position below, with the left-hand edge resting against the bottom right-hand corner of the dashed square.
Select this second Line and go to Edit > Copy > Paste. With the Line selected, Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Rotate 90 degrees CW. Reduce the Length to 126 mm and connect each end of the Line to the other two solid lines to form a second square shape.
Select the Ellipse Tool (L). Hold Shift and drag to create a circle 23 mm in diameter. Set the Stroke Color to C=0, M=100, Y=0, K=0, as before, and the Weight to 0.35 mm. Position the circle centrally along the right-hand solid line, on the 376 mm Guide.
Use the Scissors Tool (C) to snip once on the top and bottom of the circle where the circle meets the straight line. Delete the right-hand section of the circle.
Use the Scissors Tool (C) to snip once on the vertical line at the top and once on the bottom where the edges of the half-circle meet the straight line. Delete the vertical line left within the circle.
Use the Line Tool (\) to create a vertical line 25 mm in Length. Set the Color to C=0, M=100, Y=0, K=0, as before, and the Weight to 0.6 mm. Position this at X position 313 mm and Y position 136 mm.
Introduce a new Guide from the left-hand Ruler at 53 mm.
Drag to select the right-hand cut lines, minus the short line introduced in Step 6, and Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste in Place. Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Flip Horizontal.
Move to the Free Transform Tool (E) to keep all the lines together and manoeuvre into position to the left of the dashed square. Rest the left-hand edge against the 53 mm Guide.
Adjust the Length of the top and bottom straight lines to 67 mm to meet the top-left and bottom-left edges of the dashed square.
Introduce some flaps for glueing the sleeve together. We are going to set the Height of these to 16 mm, which leaves plenty of room for glue and creates a strong, secure sleeve.
Pull a horizontal Guide down from the top Ruler to 66 mm. Use the Line Tool (\), holding Shift, to create a horizontal Line 114 mm in Length. Set the Weight and Stroke Color to the same values for cut lines as in previous Steps.
Position the line along the 66 mm Guide and center it above the dashed square. Then use the Line Tool (\) to connect the edges of the new line to the corners of the dashed square.
Optionally, by selecting two lines at a time and going to Object > Paths > Join, you can create more easily manageable and seamless groups of lines.
Select the group of three lines created above in Step 8, and Edit > Copy > Paste. Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Flip Vertical. Position this in the opposite position, on the lower section of the template.
Navigate back to the left-hand side of the template. Select the half-circle and Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Flip Horizontal. Position this to the far left-hand side of the template.
As a final step to create the template, use the Line Tool (\) to introduce Fold Lines running along the Guides lying just outside the dashed square on all sides. Hold down Shift while creating them, and set the Color to [Black], Type to Dashed and Weight to 0.5 mm.
Navigate to Page 2 by scrolling down or clicking the Page 2 icon in the Pages Panel (Window > Pages).
In an earlier step we copied and pasted the Guides from Page 1 onto Page 2. You can maintain these as they are and Edit > Copy > Paste in Place the whole template from Page 1 to Page 2 if you’re planning to send the Sleeve to an outside printer.
However, if you want to print the Sleeve at home and plan to print the artwork as a double-sided single sheet you will need to flip the template into the relevant position. Remaining on Page 2, drag a vertical Guide from the left-hand Ruler to 53 mm. You can also delete the two central vertical Guides which you pasted over at an earlier stage. Keep the horizontal guides as they are.
Return to Page 1 and select the whole template by dragging your mouse across the page. Go to Edit > Copy, navigate to Page 2, and Edit > Paste in Place. Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Flip Horizontal; then rest the left edge of the template against the 53 mm guideline.
5. Print a Mock-up of the Template at Home
Before you proceed with adding any artwork or text to your template, be sure to print a mock-up copy of the template on your printer at home. This can be as haphazard as you like, using one double-sided A3 sheet or two or more A4 sheets stapled or glued together. Aesthetics don't matter at this stage, but the question of whether your template measures up and fastens together does!
This also helps you to visualise where artwork and text should feature on the final design. Here’s an example I put together at home using an A4 printer and a whole bunch of staples!
6. Add your Grunge Artwork to the Sleeve
Once your happy that your template measures up, you can start to add an artistic design to the sleeve. In this tutorial, we’ll be using artwork for the front of the CD Sleeve created by Yulia Sokolova. Check the tutorial first, or create your own design in Illustrator, then come back here to put it to work in your CD cover design.
Open the vector artwork in Illustrator. Ensure that any template lines (Cut lines, Fold lines etc) are not visible by switching off the visibility of relevant Layers.
Go to File > Save As and name the file ‘Artwork for Front’. Select Illustrator EPS (eps) from the drop-down menu. In the EPS Options pop-up window, select [High Resolution] from the Transparency Preset drop-down menu. Click OK.
Return to InDesign and the Template File. Go to the Layers Panel (Window > Layers) and Lock the ‘Template’ Layer. Unlock the ‘Artwork’ Layer.
Navigate to Page 1 of the document. Go to File > Place and select the vector EPS file. Click Open. The file will be placed at Actual Size.
You may need to adjust the size of the image a little (Double-click inside the frame to directly select the artwork and hold Shift while dragging to maintain the proportions), to allow the artwork to flow right up to the edges of the template.
In the Layers Panel, grab the ‘Template’ Layer and manoeuvre this above the ‘Artwork’ Layer so that the Cut and Fold Lines are visible. Don’t worry if any artwork goes over the edges of the Cut Lines, as this will be discarded after printing and cutting.
7. Add Color to your Sleeve
Taking inspiration from the vector design, use a simple Blue colour palette across the inside of the CD Sleeve.
Remaining on Page 1, select the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the Tools Panel and hover over the image of the elephant. Click once to pick up a blue RGB swatch from the image. In the Tools Panel, Double-click the swatch in the ‘Stroke’ hollow square icon close to the bottom of the panel to open the Color Picker window.
Click once in the C, M, Y or K value boxes and select Add CMYK Swatch. Click OK.
Navigate to Page 2 of the document and drag your mouse over to select all the outside Cut Lines, but not the Fold Lines. Go to Edit > Copy.
Return to Illustrator and go to File > New Document. Go to Edit > Paste.
Release any Clipping Masks (Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) > Release Clipping Mask) so that only the Lines remain. Select all the lines and Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) > Join. With the newly-joined Shape selected go to Edit > Copy.
Return to InDesign and Page 2 of the Document. Edit > Paste to drop the shape into the ‘Artwork’ Layer. Manoeuvre the shape into position behind the template.
In the top control panel, alter the Stroke Color to [None] and the Fill Color to your new blue swatch. In this example, C=93, M=58, Y=18, K=2.
8. Introduce Text to your Design
Here we’re going to select two Fonts for use on the CD Sleeve. Both Fonts should enhance the grungy, modern feel of the vector artwork. I’ve chosen the clean and graphic Tracks Type and the grungier Destroy.
Navigate to Page 1 of the InDesign document. Lock the ‘Artwork’ Layer and Unlock the ‘Text’ Layer.
Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame about 9 mm in Height and 110 mm in Width. Position this below the elephant image, within the dashed square, allowing a narrow margin of 3.5 mm between the edge of the text frame and the Fold Lines.
Type ‘Album Name’ and set the Font to Tracks Type Regular. In the Character Formatting Controls panel, running along the top of the screen, set the Size to 30 pt, Tracking to 30, Color to a new Swatch, C= 71, M=0, Y=7, K=0 (Window > Swatches > New Swatch, with a CMYK Color Mode), and Orientation to Align Left.
Use the Type Tool (T) again to create a second text frame about 30 mm in Width and 15 mm in Height. Type ‘Artist Name’ and set the Font to Destroy Regular. Set the Size to 22 pt, Leading to 30 pt, Tracking to 30, Orientation to Align Left, and Color to a dark blue shade to mimic the shadows in the elephant's trunk, in this example C=100, M=87, Y=33, K=23.
Position this frame to the bottom left of the elephant's head, just above the Album Name.
Introduce a third text frame on Page 1 using the Type Tool (T) 29 mm in Height and 50 mm in Width. Position this on the right-hand section of the template at the bottom left corner, next to the Fold Lines as indicated.
Here you can list the track names on the CD. Set the Font to Tracks Type Regular, Size to 10 pt, Leading to 12 pt, Tracking to 30, Orientation to Align Left and the Color to alternate blue swatches, C= 71, M=0, Y=7, K=0 and C=93, M=58, Y=18, K=2.
You can also introduce text along the spine of the sleeve, in the position as indicated below. With the text frame selected Double-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) > Transform > Rotate 90 degrees CW.
Set the Font Size to 7 pt, Tracking 30 and Align Center, and use both Destroy and Tracks Type, as well as two different Color Swatches, to distinguish between the Artist Name and Album Name.
Add a Drop Shadow, as in Step 3, but adjust the Opacity to 100% for extra impact and legibility.
Your CD Sleeve design is now finished—great work! Before printing, move the ‘Template’ Layer to the back of the artwork to minimise the visibility of Fold and Cut Lines in the final printed product.
You can extend the Length of the Fold Lines beyond the edges of the Cut Lines, i.e. outside the main template, to be able to view where the card should be folded without the dashed lines appearing on the final artwork.
You can now choose to either print at home on A3 card above a 350 gsm Weight or Export to PDF (File > Export, selecting Adobe PDF (Print)) for sending to a professional printer.
If the latter, be sure to check with the printer in advance regarding their requirements for the layering of Cut and Fold Lines in the PDF file, and how they should be colored and weighted on your artwork.
Awesome work! Your CD Sleeve design is finished and ready for printing. It's looking great!
I hope this tutorial has inspired you to try creating some packaging designs of your own using InDesign. Simple, origami-inspired shapes are a great place to start. Why not try designing a folding box for displaying beer bottles or perfume? Or how about a simple cover for a passport or special notebook? Share your ideas with the Tuts+ community in the comments below!