Our Life in Pictures

We asked for a Mom or Dad with design skills to write us a note if they’d like to try our system free of charge and document the creative and production process. Andrea Buchanan, author of “Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It” (Seal Press, 2003) and managing editor of LiteraryMama.com, an online literary magazine, answered our call. Here’s Andi’s account of completing a run of photo CD’s to be given as gifts.

I was very excited to participate in this project, as I had been planning to put together a CD of photos to send as a gift to relatives, but was stuck on exactly how to create a package that would be more appealing than the standard slim CD case. Once I downloaded the files from jewelboxing.com, I decided to use the Photoshop templates – I would have preferred to use Quark, but Quark and my printer were not getting along, so I ended up designing everything using Photoshop.

I had a concept in mind for the first design – my husband had taken a series of photos that had great light and nice color balance, and I thought those would work well. I opened the PSD “king tray” template files and used them to figure out the sizing I’d need for the photos I wanted to use. Once I sized the photos correctly, I just dropped them into a new layer in the PSD template. Then I adjusted the opacity of the photo layer so I could see the guidelines in the layer beneath and make sure the photos were aligned correctly. I used the text tool to add a layer of text to the graphics. I did this for each of the templates – the inner and outer tray, the disc label, the inside and outside booklet – and my design for jewelbox number one was done.

I first printed the booklet out on plain paper using my black and white laser printer to make sure everything lined up where it was supposed to. [ed. note: while this is a good idea to check your layout, we recommend printing a plain-paper test on the printer you’ll use to print the cases, because alignment can change between printers.] I checked the printout against the actual templates and then went back to the files to nudge a few things into place based on what I saw comparing my printout to the template paper. Then I printed the outside booklet using my ink-jet color printer. It came out fine, though, due to my printer, it would have looked nicer on a glossy page. [ed. note: news on this soon] I did the same thing for the rest of the templates – printing out in black and white on plain paper to make sure things were good, then printing on the real thing in color. A few times the black and white printing helped me realize I’d forgotten to hide the background template layer, so that was a good step to include in the process.

After that first design was done and printed out, I did do some reprints to adjust a few things – the text on the CD label didn’t pop enough for me, so I changed the color; one of the photos rendered too dark on my printer, so I fixed that. Mostly, though, it was a painless process.

I had two more layout ideas, so I actually designed those right on top of the first design, creating a duplicate file for each, using the original design as a reference for size and positioning, dropping everything in on top of that, and then deleting the original layer(s). I then followed the same basic printing procedure I did with the first design (though I eliminated the printing-in-black-and-white step, since I knew the graphics were aligned correctly and would print well). I’m very happy with how all three turned out!