The Vinyl Record Printing Process

By Mikey Baratta

You’ve finally done it; all that time, money and effort it’s taken to produce a quality hit-record with your band is finished. The time has come to put that puppy into print, but wait, have you considered all the options there are available to you in the printing process?

Before a record can be complete, there are decisions that need to be made that will drastically change the way your album is perceived by your audience (as important as your music is to your fans, the artwork and conceptual-ideas/designs that accompany an album are equally essential). The possibilities available to bands are becoming limitless; from single color process to a full scale color CMYK process on album covers and jackets, as well as the types of finishing such as UV and matte. Here you will find the low down on everything you should know before your album is put into print.

First things first, you will need to decide on the color space your artwork will be presented in. Your two options are single-color (monochromatic scheme in one specific color) or CMYK (full color scheme, best choice for reprinting photographic images on the jacket of the album). Single color is relatively self explanatory; your art, images and text will all be represented by the same color behind either a white or brown stock for jackets, or one of several Pantone colored stocks for center labels.

CMYK is a common process used in printing to create a large amount of colors by utilizing just three: Cyan (a bluish-green color), Magenta (like burgundy, a light red color), and Yellow. A true-black ink, which is identified as K here, is added for keyline tones (also known as the outline). When specific amounts of each color and black are added together they are able to reproduce a plethora of colors that are available within the CMYK gamut. One thing to consider is that the single-color process is cheaper and somewhat easier to produce, saving you time and money.

Since each artist and every album is unique, pricing is based individually depending on how exactly your album will be printed. For an exact price quote and figure on the difference between these two processes please consult a Record Pressing associate through the website.

When you are in the process of creating artwork for your album, it is best to have everything layered in either a PDF or Illustrator file. Making sure that the technical components of your artworks file are in proper order before you hand it over to our printing technicians will save you frustration, as well as time and money.

It is important to have the correct color space (CMYK instead of RGB or sRGB, 8-bit instead of 16-bit color), the correct resolution (300dpi is standard for printing – if you’re scanning an image intended to have as your album cover, make sure your resolution is set at or higher than 300dpi if you do not want pixelation, distortion or a low-quality print as your album cover), and have the artwork separated in their own layer from the template, with all fonts outlined and all transparencies flattened. Basically, the more you have finished and ready to go for the printer or manufacturer – the faster, easier (and sometimes cheaper) the process will be for you.

Another factor that comes up when deciding on your album’s packaging is what type of paper you are planning to use for your jacket or sleeve. Here are the choices available:

Single Jacket: A thin cardboard stock jacket with a 3mm wide slot that the vinyl disk fits into; the most commonly used choice.

Gatefold Jacket: This jacket is thicker than the single jacket, making it a bit more heavy duty. The gatefold jacket is ideal for dual-disc vinyl sets or to showcase extra album artwork. The jacket opens up like a book to have artwork and/or text in between two panels. A bit more than the single jacket, but the gatefold jacket is worth every penny for a special, limited edition release.

Reverse Board: This is the backside of normal cardstock used for jackets and covers. Perhaps you want your album to have a more textured or grainy vintage feel to it, then reverse board is the way to go.

Inner Sleeves: A standard paper stock usually a half inch smaller than the size of the jacket itself to be able to fit inside; this paper is used to not only hold and protect the record, but it may showcase song titles, lyrics, special thanks, recording information or to showcase even more artwork. Similar to jackets, inner sleeves can be printed in a single color or full color CMYK process.

Matte Finishing: A smooth, muted and less vibrant finish. This finish complements rustic-looking album artwork; such as photographs, or anything with an antiquated feel.

UV Glossy Finishing: A shiny and reflective finish. This finish is great for artwork with loud or vibrant colors. This conveys a cutting edge and exciting feel to customers; a great way to draw in your fans.

Embossing: A process in which a mold or press creates a raised image, design or text in your jacket or sleeve. It is an effect that you can see and feel, adding something extra to your artwork.

Debossing: This process is the exact opposite of embossing; a stamp like process where an image, design or text is pressed into the sleeve or jacket to make a depressed, below-the-surface effect.

Foil Stamping: A process in which metallic paper is applied to a sleeve or jacket using heat and pressure to add a shiny and unique design to your artwork. The foil is available in a few colors- such as gold and silver.

Another element that is sometimes overlooked, is the center of the vinyl. Would you want a small or large hole? An image or text in the center of the record? Single, double, triple or full color process design? Record Pressing uses a special, flame retardant stock that is actually baked right into the vinyl during the pressing process. It is critical to consider that because of the baking, often times colors used on the labels may come out a bit darker after pressing.

The options are truly limitless when it comes to put your album into press and Record Pressing is happy to accommodate artists with any customized requests, executed by our professional engineers and technicians.

For more information or inquiries about the vinyl printing process, please refer to our website.