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The Problem With Identical Disc and Packaging Design

Some designers like to re-use their front-cover artwork on their CD disc face. While it is very tempting to re-use the front-cover design for the sake of creating some continuity between the disc and the packaging, there is a pitfall that you need to be aware of:

Even though it's the same design, the colouration of the two prints may not "match". Not everyone has the same expectation levels but, due to the fact some clients expect to see absolutely no difference in colour between the disc print and the packaging print, the situation needs to be explained.

The disc and the packaging are printed using different machines.

The machinery for printing CD and DVD discs is very specialized, so a different printer would be used for printing your packaging materials.

While four-colour process (CMYK) is the most common form of commercial printing, depending on the specific CD or DVD project there are a number of different CMYK printers that could be used. This includes CMYK digital printing, CMYK offset printing, CMYK inkjet printing, CMYK thermal printing, CMYK silkscreen printing.

Different types of machines and technologies generally mean that the types (or brands) of ink will also be different. The difference between two types/brands may produce subtle differences in printing characteristics.

Printing onto different substrates can lead to different results.

A CD or DVD disc is made of non-porous plastic, thus it requires ink that dries through evaporation. The substrates for the packaging print are typically board-stock or paper-stock which are porous materials, which require ink that dries through absorption.

The 'finish' of a CD or DVD disc is different than that of the substrates used for the packaging. Different finishes are going to affect how the print colours are represented.

Factoring in all of the differences as noted above it is logical to conclude that printing a design using different types of printing technologies, inks, substrates, and finishes, will create different results. Or in other words... they may not match.

Now the question becomes, to what degree? Unfortunately there is no way of knowing in advance.

Depending on the type of printer being used for the specific project, it might be possible for the print operator to adjust the colour output to aid in creating as close a match as possible but there is still no guarantee as to what results can be achieved. In addition, some printers may charge for such efforts.

Better safe than sorry!

Getting hard-copy printed proofs is always a good way to protect yourself from unexpected colour issues. Better to spend a little bit of money to be sure of your print colouration than get your order and not be happy with the results.

Ultimately, the safest way to go is to create a unique design for the disc face.

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