Unlimited PS Actions, graphics, videos & courses! Unlimited asset downloads! From $16.50/m
  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Illustrator

Design Brand Identity and CD Packaging for a Rock Band


In today's tutorial we'll walk you through the process of producing all the elements that go into the making of a professionally produced CD.

To start off we'll use Illustrator to produce a slick, calligraphy-style vector logo, then a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator to create print-ready artwork for a six-page tri-fold cover and lyric booklet as well as a reverse inlay card. Finally, to wrap up the packaging design you'll create the CD surface print artwork.

If an album cover is all you’re after, Placeit’s album cover maker is the perfect tool for you. Design an album cover for a rock band, hip-hop artist, or even an indie band in seconds! 

Tutorial Assets

You'll find outlined font versions of the inlay cards and CD surface print files in a folder called "Illustrator_artwork" within the "source" folder. Due to redistribution issues the CD logo and decorative boarder have been omitted from these artwork files – see links below. The layered Photoshop files are located in a folder called "Layered_photoshop_artwork", also in the "source" folder, as well as some additional files. The following resources are also required to allow you to complete this tutorial.

Initial Design Concepts

A logo is the single most important marketing device for any company. A logo will appear in both web and print applications; it must also be designed in such a way so it can be applied to a variety of promotional products such as a brochures or T-shirts and work in color and mono as well as being legible at different sizes – from a giant billboard to a fax header; but above all the design must be simple and effective. Below is an early concept visual showing just that.

Before starting on the CD packaging it's worth sketching out some ideas; the best way to do this is open up an existing pack and take it apart to familiarize yourself the different elements. I opted for a six-page tri-fold or letter fold booklet that slips into the front of the CD lid. You'll also need the double-sided sheet that slots into the back tray which also makes up both spines, and of course the CD surface print.

My initial idea was to give the logo a scratched metallic look, as if forged out of steel. Although a great concept, it lacked impact when compared to the simpler white-out version when applied to the cover artwork.

Step 1

The first stage is to create the band logo. Illustrator is undoubtedly the tool of choice here – mainly because the file remains resolution independent, meaning it can be scaled up or down without any loss of quality.

Create an A4 portrait Illustrator document, then add four separate blocks of text using this font at the sizes indicated, then overlap and centre them visually.

For professional results it's vital when using large font sizes to adjust the character spacing, or kerning. To do this, click between each character pair with the Type Tool (T), then press Option and tap the left or right arrow keys on your keyboard to kern in or out. This increases or decreases the space between the characters by 20 em (an em is defined as a measure for 12pt: a pica). In Illustrator’s preferences, you can set the default em spacing to something lower which will adjust the spacing in smaller increments if you wish. You’ll see that I’ve visually closed up the spacing between all characters for a pleasing result.

Note: Kerning should not be confused with tracking which adjusts the spacing between whole words.

Next, I'll show you a technique of using donor parts from the same font to produce a unique logotype. First, grab the Selection Tool (V) and Option-drag the word Rock to duplicate it below the original. Now press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + O to Create Outlines.

Next, use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a closed path (Fill: black/Stroke: None) over the text, excluding the area we want to keep. Finally, select both shapes and hit the Minus Front button in the Pathfinder tab to remove the excess.

Move the flourish path over the ascender of the k in the word Rock and resize/rotate to meet the tail of the "s" of the word Gods.

Duplicate the path, then double-click the Reflect Tool (0), then in the next window check the Vertical Axis button and enter 90 degrees in the Angle field and hit OK.

Duplicate the path again, then resize/rotate and place over the top of the same character as shown.

Use the same Pathfinder technique to create a different flourish, this time using an outlined duplicate donated from character G. Place this over the ascender on the d as shown.

For this part to work we need all the text as paths, so Select All (Cmd/Ctrl + A) and Create Outlines again. Now select each word in turn and hit Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + G to Ungroup them. Each character should now be an independent path.

Select each character and its accompanying flourish and click the Divide button in the Pathfinder tab. Select the unwanted overlapping shapes with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and delete. You can now select the remaining character and flourish paths with the Selection Tool (V) and click the Unite button in the Pathfinder tab to create a single path.

Repeat this process to join your remaining characters and flourishes to complete the logo.

When you're done, your logo should look something like this. We won't need the logo again until later, so Save it to a handy location.

Step 2

In this step we'll create the Illustrator artwork for the six-page inlay that slips into the front of the CD lid. As I mentioned earlier, this will be finished as a tri-fold or letter fold, so we need to take into account the short fold when creating the artwork.

Remember: Always check with your printer before producing artwork – different printers will require different artwork set-ups; they may also have existing templates or cutter guides that could save you both time and money!

Create a new Illustrator document as shown, remembering to select two artboards (one for each printed side).

Name the default layer "Guides", then go to your left-hand page (the outer) and set the Reference Point location to top-left. Press Cmd/Ctrl + R to Show Rulers, then hit Option + Cmd/Ctrl + semicolon to Unlock Guides. Now drag across a vertical guides, then use Reference Point locator accurately position it to: X = 238mm, Y = -3mm and H = 126mm. Add a second guide at: X = 118mm and keep the remaining coordinates as the first one. These represent the fold lines.

Remember: As this page is the outer, the short fold panel is positioned far-right.

Use the Rectangle Tool (R) to place a 0.5 pt dashed magenta margin at: X = 5mm, Y = 5mm, the size should be: W = 348mm, H = 110mm. This represents a safe area (5mm away from the edge) in which to place artwork.

Now use the Pen Tool (P) to add three centre guides for each panel. Copy the X coordinates as shown and keep the the Y and H settings the same as the safe area.

Next, add four more bashed rules as shown to represent a 5mm margin between each panel.

Move over to your second page and use the same process to add the following dashed rules. Remember: This is the inner spread, so the far right panel is the short fold.

Finally, use these coordinates to place a final, page-sized dashed box to the edge of both pages.

Step 3

Save your artwork to the same location as your logo as a .pdf file ("CD_inlay_6pp"). Now open the page one of the .pdf file via Photoshop and copy these settings.

Name the default layer "Guides". Add a layer below it and fill with # 5c6e89. Name this layer "Blue fill". To make the guides more visible, Cmd/Ctrl-click the layer thumbnail to load a selection and fill with white.

Our Photoshop artwork will be more precise if selections and layer content are allowed to snap to guides, so go to View > New Guide and place two vertical guides which take into consideration the extra 3mm left bleed.

Add a group folder called "FRONT & BACK PANELS" below the "Guides". Grab the Marquee Tool (M) and snap a selection across the two right-hand panels, then click on the Add layer mask icon at the foot of the palette.

Place the first sky photo as a new layer within the folder and set its Blend Mode to Soft Light. Enlarge to cover the two end panels and label it "Clouds 1".

Open the second sky photo and choose Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Horizontal. Place as new layer within the same folder, then enlarge, leaving a space approximately a quarter of the canvas depth at the top. Now change its Blend Mode to Screen and name it "Clouds 2".

Open the final sky photo and choose Image > Image Rotation > 180 degrees. Place as new layer within the same folder, position as shown and set its Blend Mode to Multiply.

Next, we need to eliminate the hard edge from the middle sky. Target the "Clouds 2" layer and add a layer mask. Set the Gradient Tool (G) to the Foreground to Background preset and choose Linear Gradient from the Options bar. Now Shift-drag as indicated by the arrow to blend.

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above "Clouds 2" and Reduce the overall Saturation to -60. This adjustment need to affect all layers below it, so if you've got the clipping option enabled (located bottom left corner) in the Adjustments panel, simply Option-click between the adjustment and "Clouds 2" layer thumbnails to unclip it.

Place a Color Balance unclipped adjustment layer above the previous one and set both the Midtones and Shadows as shown.

Step 4

In this step we'll extract the raven and sythe and add it to the cover design. First choose Calculations from the Image menu, then copy these settings to create a composite channel containing the most contrast between the subject and background.

Switch to the Channels tab and you'll see the new channel ("Alpha 1") sitting at the bottom. Target it, then set the Dodge Tool (O) to Highlights in the Options bar and use a medium-sized brush around the edge of the raven and sythe to bleach out the background pixels. Next, darken the inner of the crow and sythe using the Burn Tool (O) set to Midtones.

While the Dodge and burn process had achieved a fairly good result, the channel still needs some extra work. Switch to the Paths tab, then set the Pen Tool (P) to Paths in the Options bar and draw a series of closed paths over the areas you need to fill black. My paths are indicate in red on the screenshot for clarity.

Tip: Toggling the visibility of the top RGB composite channel as you work will make this step easier – just make sure "Alpha 1" is the target channel you're working on.

When you're done, Cmd/Ctrl-click your path thumbnail to load it as a selection. Target your channel mask ("Alpha 1"), hit Cmd/Ctrl + Delete to fill the selection with black. Hit Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I to Inverse the selection, then use a medium-sized white brush to carefully remove any black areas around the edge of the raven and sythe.

By default, white acts as selective areas, so hit Cmd/Ctrl + I to Invert the channel to a negative.

Cmd/Ctrl-click your channel thumbnail to load a selection, then target the top RGB composite channel and jump back to the Layers tab. Choose any selection tool and click the Refine Edge button in the Options bar. In the next window choose On Layers from the drop-down menu and copy these settings. Because of the Output To option in the last window you'll see a new masked layer appear and the original's visibility disabled.

Drag over the masked layer the top within the folder, then resize and position over the cover panel, keeping within the safe zone guides. Rename this layer "Raven", then Cmd/Ctrl-click the mask thumbnail to load white as a selection and then Inverse. Use a white, medium, soft-edged brush at 50% Opacity to gently reinstate areas of the raven's sky. If you go too far, use a black brush at 50% and 100% Opacity as required. My mask is shown in isolation at the bottom of the screenshot

Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the "Raven" and drop the Saturation of the Blues to -29 to blend the raven's sky into the background more.

Revisit your Illustrator logo and fill the paths with white, then Copy/Paste As a Smart Object at the top within the folder, then resize and position centrally as shown. Rename this layer "Vector Smart Object Logo".

Add a mask to the logo, grab a small, black hard brush and paint within a selection from the "Raven" mask to hide the logo overlapping the raven's beak.

Step 5

Add a new folder called "SHORT FOLD PANEL", then place a new layer within it called "Green fill". Create a selection beyond the fold guide with the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and fill with # 132022.

Open this engraving, then go to Image > Mode > Greyscale and click the Discard button in the following window. Now press Cmd/Ctrl + L to access the Levels dialogue box and set the Input sliders as shown to increase the contrast.

We now need to add more background above the skulls, so grab the Lasso Tool (L) and loosely select the top as shown, then go to Select > Modify > Feather by 1px.

With the selection still active hit Cmd/Ctrl + J to copy the selection to a new layer and nudge up. Duplicate the layer twice and nudge these up as well.

Flatten the engraving, then place it as an uppermost layer within the new folder and label it "Line drawing". Resize to cover the panel and over your guide, then change the Blend Mode to Overlay.

Finally, snap a selection from your first guide and over the two right-hand panels and mask the folder as before.

Be sure to save your layered file ("6pp_inlay_outer.psd"), then Flatten and Save As a .tif (""6pp_inlay_outer.tif".

Step 6

Let's now move onto creating the inner artwork. We'll eventually be adding white-out lyrics over this spread, so we'll keep it fairly dark. To save time opening your Illustrator file and placing new guides etc. reopen your layered outer file ("6pp_inlay_outer.psd"), check your guides are unlocked and choose Image Rotation > 180 degrees to make the short fold fall on the right side, then Save As "6pp_inlay_inner.psd".

Delete the "FRONT & BACK PANELS" folder, then change the "Blue fill" fill color to # 132022 and rename it "Green fill". Now drag the "Line drawing" layer out of the remaining folder which you can then delete. Rotate the "Line drawing" layer 180 degrees, rename it "Line drawing 1" position over the middle panel and mask to your guides.

Open this engraving, then convert to Greyscale as before. Grab a large, soft-edged white brush and carefully paint around the outer of the engraving to create a vignette effect.

Perform a Levels adjustment direct to layer and copy the following settings.

Press Cmd/Ctrl + I to Invert the image to a negative, then place below the "Guides" layer and name it "Line drawing 2". Enlarge and position over the left-hand panel, set the Blend Mode to Overlay and mask to the guide.

Duplicate this layer, Flip Horizontal, then Shift-drag over to the right-hand panel. Fill the mask with white, then reapply the mask to the panel guide.

Save, then save a flattened .tif version ("6pp_inlay_inner.tif"). That's the six-page Photoshop work completed – the next stage is completing the Illustrator artwork.

Step 7

Revisit your Illustrator artwork and add the following text beyond the bleed area on both pages. This will act as a reminder to where things need to be placed.

Target your "Guides" layer, then go to page one and add a rectangle the size of the artboard (358mm x 120mm) with a Fill and Stroke of None. Use the Reference Point locator to position it at X= O and Y= 0. Now choose Object > Create Trim Marks, then delete the box. Repeat this for page two.

As our Photoshop files are completed, we no longer need the magenta dashed rules. Select them and choose press Cmd/Ctrl + 5 to convert them to guides. Again, apply this step to both pages.

Now use the Reference Point locator to add page folds in a dashed 5pt magenta rule. Make these the same depth as the trim marks (12.7mm) and as these will print, ensure they don't encroach onto your artboard. Again, apply this step to both pages.

To ensure nothing on this layer accidentally shifts, Select All hit Cmd/Ctrl + 2 to Lock Selection.

Add a lower layer and name it "Base image", then click the eye icon on the "Guides". Ensure the "Base image" layer is highlighted in the Layers palette, then go to File > Place and navigate to your "6pp_inlay_outer.tif". When it's been imported place it at X= -3 and Y= -3 on page one. Repeat this using "6pp_inlay_inner.tif" on page two.

Step 8

Place a top layer called "Artwork" and lock your lower layers. Now add the album title as a single line at the base of the cover and centre it as shown. I used a commercial font (Mason Alternate Bold), but feel free to choose your own.

Now centre the album tracks within a text box on the back cover using the same font. Format your text with a fair amount of leading and tracking to fill the space.

Next, add a few paragraphs of dummy text on the on the short fold a regular weight of the same font. You can replace this with actual copy when your client has approved the design.

Move over to page two and snap six text boxes 51mm wide to the 5mm safe zone and margin guides.

Select these your text boxes and choose Type > Treaded Text > Create to link them.

Type the track titles in capitals, then add dummy text for the remainder.

Select all your text and set it in Adobe Garamond Pro. Highlight the first heading and change to bold, then double-click the default style in the Paragraph palette and rename it "Heading". Continue to add "Body" style for the first paragraph, then "Body Indent" (based on "Body") with a first line indent of 10pt. Now you can select and format the headings and paragraphs text. As Illustrator does not have an end of column special character, place additional returns to force text to flow onto the next column to create sensible column breaks.

Your finished six-page design should now look like this.

Step 9

Let's move onto the artwork for the sleeve which sits within the tray behind the CD. Create a new Illustrator document and copy these settings.

Use the same workflow as you did on the six-page artwork to add crop/fold marks and guides as shown, then name the layer "Guides".

This artwork is less complex than the six-pager, so there's no need to open an Illustrator .pdf – instead, switch to Photoshop and set your background color to # 132022, create a new canvas to Illustrator's trim size and select Background Color under the Background Contents menu.

A quick method of adding 3mm bleed is to snap a guide to each side of your canvas, then choose Canvas Size from the Image menu (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + C) and copy these settings.

Now place two vertical guides in the same position as the first page of your Illustrator artwork.

Add the same engraving (as used in the six-pager) in Overlay Mode within a new folder called "INNER".

Duplicate the folder and rename it "OUTER", then Shift-drag the "Line drawing copy" slightly to the left.

After saving, disable the visibility of the upper folder and make a flattened version called "Inlay_inner.tif". Reopen your layered file, enable the visibility of the upper folder, disable the lower folder and make a flattened version called "Inlay_outer.tif".

Switch back to Illustrator and Lock the "Guides" layer. Place each .tif file on a lower layer called "Base image" and use the Reference Point locator to position them accurately.

Add an upper layer called "Artwork", then place a 9mm wide box to the bleed box as shown. Fill this with a rich black (70% C, 50% M, 30% Y, 100% K. / Stroke: None) This strip will fold inwards on the packaging and the reverse print will be the spine.

Note: 100% K on its own for fine text and thin rules, but for large solid areas always use a rich, or four-color black for best results.

Now we'll create a patterned strip on the left side which will be visible through the lid; the remainder will sit below the CD on the final packaging, so most of it will be obscured from view. Copy > Paste the bottom middle decorative border, then duplicate a few times to make longer as shown. Now press Cmd/Ctrl + 8 to create a Compound Path.

Snap another rectangle filled with 82% C, 61% M, 60% Y, 58% K, / Stroke: 0 next to the first black one, then select your decorative border and press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + ] to Bring to Front. Now fill the border with white and change the Blend Mode to Soft Light in the Transparency tab. Now resize and position over the green strip.

Select the green strip and Copy, now press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + V to Paste in Place, make its fill None, then Shift-click to add the border to the selection and hit Cmd/Ctrl + 7 to apply the top object as a Clipping Mask. That's the inner side completed.

Move onto the outer artboard and snap two rick black fills to the bleed and fold guides to create the spines.

Place three separate lines of text in 7pt Garamond for the band and album cover and Helvetica Condensed for the product code. Ensure their baselines align and they're placed within the safe zone.

Group these lines of text, duplicate, rotate clock-wise and position over the opposite spine.

Add the logo centrally within the safe zone, then Copy > Paste the track list from your six-page document and also position centrally. Now adjust the font size and leading accordingly, but remember to leave space at the bottom for the next step.

Open "Elements.ai" from the "source" folder and Copy > Paste the logo and barcode, then recolor and add the CD logo. Finally, add some 7pt disclaimer copy, then use the Align and Distribute buttons in the Options bar to position these elements as shown.

That's the reverse inlay card completed.

Step 10

The final stage will involve the CD surface print artwork. Create a new single artboard Illustrator document 122mm x 122mm with 3mm bleed all round. Use the Reference Point locator to place central guides, then add three dotted magenta circles from the centre. Now place a dotted magenta box to the bleed area and name the layer "Guides" and Save the file (CD_artwork.pdf).

Follow the same process as explained in Step 3 to open the .pdf via Photoshop. Label the default layer "Guides" and make them white for clarity. Add a bottom layer filled with # 132022 and name it "Green fill". Add the etching as as a middle layer in Overlay Mode. Now use the safe zone (second from outer dotted rule) and the exclusion zone (inner dotted circle) to keep the key areas of the illustration within the print area.

Save as a layered file, then turn off the visibility of the "Guides" layer and save a flattened .tiff version ("CD_artwork.tif").

Place the "CD_artwork.tif" on a "Base image" layer below the "Guides", then add the title and logos on an upper "Artwork" layer.

Snap a central circle on the "Artwork" layer with a diameter of 113mm and a Fill/Stroke of None.

Grab the Type on a Path Tool (located under the main Type Tool) and click on the circle. Now add the legal disclaimer, or some dummy text if you prefer. I used Helvetica Thin Condensed at 6pt.

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 and snap it to your centre guide.

Double-click your "Guides" layer and uncheck the Print option in the next window – this neat feature renders them non-printable on the final product, but visible on-screen.

Printers usually request Illustrator .pdf files with fonts converted to outlines, but always check before sending artwork. For the six-page and two-page inserts, additional bleed can be added when saving the final .pdf to include the printable magenta fold marks.

Conclusion and Scope

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and also discovered that by combining Photoshop with Illustrator you can create precise, error-free artwork every time.

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.