Making Your Own CD Cover

You’ve just finished burning the perfect mix CD for your best friend / significant other / new acquaintance / aunt’s dog. How to finish off this masterpiece? By making a custom CD cover to slip inside of an empty CD jewel box.

There are several ways in which you can do this, with varying degrees of complexity. Sure, you could simply print up the list of song titles and artists in an interesting font, and leave it at that. But even a simple printed list could be jazzed up by adding small stickers or doodles to the margins, or by using colored paper.

If you’re willing to get a bit more advanced, print out the list as above, and then look through your stash of old greetings cards, to see if you have one with an especially fitting piece of artwork on it. Use an old CD booklet to cut the greeting card down to an appropriate size (almost a 5×5 inch square, but about 1/8 of an inch shorter than it is wide), affix the track listing to the back side of your new CD cover, and use that as a slightly more decorative way to complete the mix CD.

If you want to go all out, it takes a bit more work. I usually start with a piece of white cardstock, cut to the appropriate size, but colored cardstock would be a lot of fun as well. You definitely want it to be thicker than normal paper, but thin enough to slide easily in and out of the front of a CD jewel box. Heavier weight than normal paper is necessary to cut down on the curling that will come from gluing layers of other paper down.

Next, go through stacks of discarded back issues of magazines, looking for pictures that would work well with the mood or theme of the CD. Anything is fair game here, from the large photos that are often used at the beginning of articles, to cute and quirky things in the advertisements. Phrases, words, or letters can also be saved, if you’re interested in putting a title on your mix CD. When I do this step, I usually just cut out everything that strikes my fancy at the time, and save up stacks of old magazine clippings for any time that I want to throw together another CD cover. You probably will want to arrange the pictures you have cut out, seeing how you want them to overlap and cover the piece of cardstock. Now is the time to move things around and make decisions, because this gets much harder to do when glue is introduced to the equation.

Here’s where it gets a little bit messy. You’ll need to have some sort of glue – I recommend Mod Podge, which is specifically designed for collage making. A similar effect can be achieved by using whatever plain white glue you have around the house. You’ll want to add a bit of water if you use regular white glue, with the key word here being a “bit” – easy does it. Put down a layer of old newspaper or other scrap paper to protect whatever surface you’re working on. Using a paint brush or sponge, cover the back of your designated magazine clippings with glue, and stick them to the card stock in the appropriate spot. You will want to try to position the clipping carefully, because once it sticks, it’s difficult to move without destroying the image. Don’t worry if a little glue leaks out around the edges, you can smooth that all out later. Repeat this procedure for as many clippings as you want to use, and then set your miniature work of art aside to dry. Depending on how much glue you’ve used, it may be dry within 15-20 minutes, or it may take a bit longer than that.

After the glue is dry, or at least mostly dry, you will want to put an outer layer of glue across the top of the collage, to make sure that the edges don’t come loose later. When “painting” this layer, try to make your brushstrokes as even as possible, to give the completed CD cover a smooth finish. It will need to dry again after this stage, so set it aside yet again. This time, you definitely want to let it dry completely, or else it will never come out of the CD case. If you want to add the track listing to the back of it, you can glue or tape that down once the front is dry.

There are definitely other ways to make great CD covers. If you are good at drawing, a hand drawn cover can make your already personalized gift even more personal. The same goes for painting or even photography. (With the latter of these, keep in mind that a CD cover is slightly smaller than a 5×5 inch square, so you would need to start with a photograph larger than the size you get from standard developing services.) For those of us who are less artistically inclined, however, greeting cards or a magazine picture collage allow us to make a somewhat artistic piece without as much artistic talent!

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