When you begin to look into the packaging requirements for your project, you will discover that there is a huge array of different types of CD packaging available for a wide range of purposes. Your choices range from very simple, inexpensive packaging, such as plastic or paper wallets; up to expensive, premium packaging types such as jakeboxes and bespoke printed metal tins.
Once again, the project budget will dictate the type of packaging you use but you will need to consider the intended end use of the packaged CD. Also, you will need to decide whether or not you will use a professional service to pack your CDs and this depend upon the quantity of CDs you are hoping to package as well as the packaging type. For instance, packing 500 CDs into plastic wallets can be done by hand in a couple of hours but packing 500 CDs into jewel, inserting the necessary paper parts and then wrapping each unit with plastic overwrap would take days if you tried to do this by hand. Most short run CD printing companies will have automated CD packaging facilities that can do this sort of packaging job very quickly.
The next section of this guide will help you to decide upon the best method of packaging your discs according to your particular short run CD printing project requirements:
Plastic or paper wallets
As mentioned, these are the cheapest option available and they offer little protection to the disc. They are obviously very lightweight and slim which means that they are most often used when a disc is to be included in some sort of printed media such as a magazine or brochure. They can be secured to a page within the media using glue spots to stop the disc and packaging from falling out but protecting the page from damage when removed. They are also useful if the CDs are to be given away at an exhibition or conference due to their low cost.
Card wallets are a popular CD packaging choice due to their versatility. They are more robust than a plastic or paper wallet and offer better protection for the disc. The thicker the card stock used to make them, the better the protection offered. They can be digitally printed and either matt or gloss laminated to give a really premium feel to the packaging.
Most CD card wallet suppliers will offer a range of variants that will hold either a single or multiple discs. These variants are made using different templates; some hold the disc in a horizontal “pocket” type slot and some hold the disc or discs between two layers of card, the discs being inserted via the open end of the packaging.
Their lightweight, slim characteristics make them ideal for sending CDs through the post and, very often, if you order a CD online you will receive it in this sort of packaging. A card wallet can also be used where the disc is to be included with some form of printed media, especially where the inclusion of instructions for use of the CD are required and where indication or promotion of the contents is a project requirement.
For musicians who are selling audio CDs from a merchandise stall at a gig, CD card wallets are perfect as a large quantity of discs don’t take up too much room in the tour van but a good design and good quality wallet still means the purchasing fans are receiving a premium product.
Again, although more expensive than plastic or paper wallets, they are also great for giving away CDs at exhibitions if the project budget allows for it.
CD jewel cases are the standard packaging type most commonly associated with audio CDs purchased in a high street music shop. They are made of a clear polycarbonate plastic and are roughly square in shape. They offer great protection for the disc and can accommodate an information booklet. This is particularly useful for audio CDs where the artist wants to include song lyrics and acknowledgements, and also for software discs where instructions for use of the software are required. The standard jewel case is designed to take a booklet with up to 16 printed panels which equates to 4 sheets printed on both sides, folded and stapled along the spine.
CD jewel cases are a great presentation method for CDs but they are not particularly good for sending discs through the mail. This is mainly due to their increased bulk compared with a card wallet, but also because they are prone to shattering under heavy impact – particularly at the hinge points between the front and rear parts of the case. They would need to be well padded before sending through the post defeating the object of lowering postage costs.
If your project has encountered a requirement for additional storage and needs to be spread over multiple CDs, then there are jewel cases available that will accommodate up to 6 CDs. A case to house 2 discs will have a swinging disc tray that can hold a disc on either side and will be no more bulky than a standard CD jewel case. Cases housing more than 2 discs will have a thicker spine as they need to hold more than 1 CD tray inside. Conveniently, the paper parts still tend to be the same dimensions as those for a standard case.
Slim-line versions of the CD jewel case are also available, some of which do not require a printed rear CD tray card, should the project budget not stretch to a full size case or a thinner case is required for posting out a disc. Be aware, though, that the slim-line cases tend to be less robust than the standard cases.
These are the type of case you would normally associate with a DVD movie or PC/console game. They are generally about 190mm x 135mm with a 14mm wide spine and are usually seen in black or clear form, although they are available in a wide range of colours. The DVD style case has the added advantage of being able to accommodate a larger information booklet than a CD jewel case. They are made using polypropylene plastic which is more flexible and less susceptible to impact damage than the polycarbonate jewel case.
DVD cases have a plastic liner adhered to the outside which allows them to have a printed wrapper inserted on the outside of the case. A case with a 14mm spine can contain up to 6 discs and there are also slim-line versions available that can contain from 1 to 4 discs with a 7mm spine. There are many variants of this type of case which are commonly available and will suit most short run CD printing projects, whether you need a case for a single disc with a large amount of printed material to accompany it, multiple discs or a combination of discs and printed material.
Clamshell cases or Trigger Cases
These CD cases are made from a polypropylene plastic material that is flexible and very robust. They offer great protection for the CD and the discs can be packed into them very quickly.
The trigger case has an ejection trigger in the top left corner opposite the open end of the case where the CD is inserted. This mechanism has 2 functions. Firstly, it holds the CD inside the case and when pressed, the trigger mechanism pushes the CD out of the case just enough that it can be grasped between two fingers and removed from the case. The trigger mechanisms are usually brightly coloured and the cases are usually clear plastic so that the printed CD surface can be seen through the case.
The clamshell case has a hinge along one edge and one half has a moulded in stud which has 2 functions. The stud holds the CD securely in place and the 2 halves of the case clip together over it. Clamshell cases are available in a range of translucent colours but are most commonly seen moulded in clear plastic to allow the CD print to be seen through the case.
These types of case are great for sending CDs through the post as they offer reliable protection for the disc and they are slim and lightweight. The clamshell cases, in particular, can be obtained relatively inexpensively and so are also great for handing out CDs at an industry show or exhibition.
Premium Packaging Types – Jakeboxes and Metal Tins
A jakebox is a card CD packaging type which contains a clever mechanism for securing the CD in place, and when the box is opened, the CD is presented to the user held in a cardboard claw. It’s a very impressive type of packaging which can be fully digitally printed to give the end user a real WOW factor. The drawback is that they are expensive and are generally only used for special or limited edition releases where the user needs to be given something extra for their money. Metal tins can also be printed and can be formed into the desired shape, either a simple round tin, a DVD case sized tin or a shape of your choice relating to the contents of the CD. Again, this is an expensive packaging type as a mould needs to be made before hand to produce the tins and the material itself is more expensive than card or plastic.
Consider the intended end use for your short run CD printing project before selecting a packaging type and do your research on-line to work out costs. Speak to suppliers for quotes and weigh up the cost of your time and effort if you’re intending produce the packaging in-house, compared with an outside supplier cost.