How To Create DVD Cover Art

Lately, most of my clients want digital copies of their images.  While I can and do deliver online or via flash memory, I like to give my clients something that they can keep - something that they will cherish.  I don't think there is any medium to deliver digital images that can be personalized and have lasting power as a DVD with cover art.  This week, I'll explain how to produce beautiful DVD cover art.

The Most Important Tip

Before we even start working on our DVD cover art design, the most important thing we need to do is to get a template to work with.

If you are printing this yourself, you may be fine with any template from the web, but if you are sending your design off to be printed, you want to get the manufacturer's template.  The reason for this is that their printing and cutting machines are calibrated to work perfectly with art designed around their template. Results may vary otherwise.  Also, if your printer has to conform your art to their standards, it may go into a queue and take longer to turn around and it may not come out as you expected.

My go-to printer for DVD cover art, disc printing, cases, and other related material is Disc Makers.


Preparing Our Template

On the Disc Makers website, click 'Templates'.

Click 'Templates'


You are presented with a screen that has a selection of templates for download.

Templates Page

Since we are creating DVD cover art, we'll select the 'DVD Templates' option.

Select DVD Templates option

If you downloaded your templates from Disc Makers, you should have received a .zip file with the template in multiple formats.  Extract that .zip file and place the folder somewhere accessible.

Since I use Adobe Photoshop, I am going to open the .psd version of the template.  It should look like this in Photoshop:

Template in Photoshop

Let's take a look at the guides in the upper left-hand corner.

Template Guides

In this guide, the blue line represents the Bleed area, the solid pink line represents the trim line, and the dotted pink line represents the fold point.

Even though your design will be cut at the trim line, you want to extend your background or image to the bleed line.  The reason for this is that the paper can move slightly in most printers.  Extending your design to the bleed line ensures that there are no areas left empty if the paper moves slightly in any direction.

The green line here represents the margin area.  For best results, try to keep important elements of your design, such as text inside of these areas.  Once again, the paper may move slightly during printing and you don't want your text being cut off during trimming.

Got it?

It is at this point where I normally go to File > Save As... and give my file a different name so that I don't overwrite the original template.


Let's Get Started

Notice in the layers panel that the Template Guides are locked and on top.  Throughout our design, we should keep this layer on top so that we know where our lines are.

Template guides should always be on top!

I like to design in layers, so the only thing I normally put on the 'Your Artwork' layer is  solid white so that I can see the guide lines better.

Fill with white.

Let's start on our background.  You can use solid colors, textures, images, or anything else you want for your background.  Since I am a photographer first, my designs tend to be around a photo.  When I am shooting an event, I like to get there early, or sneak away during the event to get nice detail pictures that I can use in my designs.  This is the type of image I am going to use for this background.

Let's load the image into our Photoshop project.  Remember to keep everything UNDER the 'Template Guides' layer.

Bring image into Photoshop

I want the flower to be on the front cover and the out of focus portion to be on the back, so I am going to flip the image horizontally.

Flip image horizontally.

As you can see, The image is well beyond the bleed area.  I don't want to waste this much of the image, so I am going to resize it so that it just barely goes over the bleed line for the front cover.  Since the aspect ratio of the image is different that the aspect ratio of the DVD cover, some will hang off of the back cover (which I don't mind).

Resize image to fit bleed area.

At this point, I know that I am going to put the title on the spine of the case.  In order for the text to stand out, I have to make the spine less distracting. I don't want to move the flower, because that will throw off the rest of the case. I will simply fill the area with white using the 'Rectangle Tool', then lower the opacity.

Use rectangle tool to create a white block on spine and lower opacity to 74 percent

In case you haven't noticed, this image creates natural title space on the front of the cover.  Now we're going to add text.  I like to play with lots of different fonts until I find what looks right.  I also use different combinations of drop shadow, outer glow, and other text effects.

Use the text tool to add text. Add drop shadows, outer glow, and/or other effects.

Here is what our layers panel looks like so far:

'Template Guides' layer still on top.

On this design, I didn't want much on the back cover.  You may want to put text, design work, or even another image on you back cover.  I added my logo to the lower portion.

Added my logo to the back.

I am happy with this design.  The final thing I am going to do is turn off the guides!

Turn off the guides.

Now we have our completed comp!  Save your .psd file, and save a copy as a .pdf to send to the printer.

If you want to make art to be printed directly on the disc, the process is exactly the same.

Disc art with guides.

It's now time to send your artwork off to the printer.  Once everything is approved and produced, you will be greeted with some lovely DVD cover art in just a few days!

Questions: Have you made DVD cover art before? What was your experience? Where did you get your work printed? Comment below.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”