How to design and print your own CD/DVD labels in Microsoft Word

Despite the era of cloud computing and digital music libraries looming on the horizon, many of us are still using CD’s for music, even if just as backup. Apart from buying actual discs at music stores, the best use for the CD is as a digital mix tape, to give to someone as a personalised gift. Other uses that haven’t quite disappeared yet include digital presentations for business, like a digital portfolio or PowerPoint slideshow, and sharing home video files or other videos on DVD.

These are specifically of interest to this post, because they are created at home, or in a small business environment, without the luxury of fancy equipment and expensive machinery. In some cases, like with a digital portfolio, it’s important for the physical end product to look more professional than the usual writable disc you buy in shops. In other, more personal cases, it just adds a nice touch to the gift to cover up the marketing drivel with something more thoughtful.

Cue CD / DVD labels. Yes, it’s a bit of a mission, but the results are very rewarding and can add a lot of class to your efforts. I used this a lot while job hunting to make my digital portfolio stand out that much more (I use CD’s in conjunction with an online portfolio to avoid the problem of walking into an interview room where they have a dodgy internet connection – something that happens more often than not!). I’ve also used this a lot for personal CD’s and DVD’s.

What do I need?

First off, you DO need to buy proper printable CD labels. Don’t try and cut ones out yourself; circles are way more difficult to cut than they look; and don’t try and use paper instead of stickers, no matter what awesome kind of glue you have to stick it on with. It doesn’t work, and you run the risk of damaging your CD / DVD player and / or jamming the disc in said player. Yes, they are a little on the expensive side (around £9 in the UK for a pack of 60 at WHS, R78 for Tower Stikatag CD Labels in SA), but it is money well spent, trust me.

Secondly – the software you need depends on the level of label you want to create. This post is for a very basic label done in MS Word – I will be posting an addition to this using PhotoShop to incorporate your own artwork into the CD template.

How do I set it up? 

Go here: Find the Avery number on your pack of CD labels and match it to the template, and download the Word template. If you don’t have an Avery number, try Googling the product number of the labels you have, with the words ‘CD label template’ after it. Failing that, do the following:

No online template available

1. If you have a scanner: Take out one sheet of labels and use a pencil (so you can use the sheet again) to outline the circles of the CD on the actual label. Scan the sheet in, making sure you can see the pencil lines on the scanned image. Use this image as a template by going to a new A4 page Word, clicking on ‘Insert‘, ‘Picture’,From file…’ and selecting the image you’ve just scanned. Once in Word, right-click on the image and choose ‘Format Picture‘. On the ‘Layout‘ tab, select ‘Behind Text‘. On the ‘Size‘ tab, set the image to be the size of the paper (A4 is 210mm by 297mm) and set your margin to be against the page edges, left and top. Once that is done, you will need to add text boxes to the page. Do this by selecting ‘Insert‘, ‘Text‘ and then typing in the box that appears. You can drag this box around anywhere on the page, using the CD template image you imported as a guide. When you’re happy with your label you can go straight to Printing the design.

2. If you don’t have a scanner: find the label template that most closely matches your labels in terms of layout (all CD labels will be the same size, because all CD’s are the same size). This may need some trial and error on normal paper to get your design to line up with the label (see ‘Printing the design‘ below).

Once your template has been downloaded, you can open it in Word. You will see the circle outlines of a disc, showing the printable area of your label.

Adding personalised text

The World Label template allows you to add text easily to all areas of the disc, and you can style this text as you normally would in Word. If your template doesn’t have text boxes already, simply select ‘Insert‘, ‘textbox‘, and then type your text in the box that appears. You can drag this box around anywhere on the template and style it as you normally would in Word.

Printing the design

When you’re happy with your design, DO A TEST RUN ON NORMAL PAPER FIRST! You can print the test run on ‘draft‘ setting, or any other economy setting like black & white if you have it available. Now you can use an open window, or even your computer screen to check the label has printed correctly, by placing the test print behind a new label sheet and holding it up to the light. If your design doesn’t match up to the label, adjust the placement in your Word document, ignoring the black circles if needed.

Once placement is sorted out, I would recommend deleting the black outline on the CD template, to avoid it showing up on your print. Now you can print your label. Most label templates nowadays have been set up so that you can insert the paper any way around, because they have a mirrored layout. If this is not the case, take your cue from the test run to see which way to insert the label.

How best to stick it on?

This may seem obvious, but many CDs have been ruined by not paying attention in this final step. Once your label is printed and dry, cut out roughly around one disc, leaving about a centimeter all around. Peel back only about 4cm of the label, and fold the backing away so the sticky surface is exposed, but level with the rest of the label. Now you can position the label on your disc without having to worry about it sticking by accident, because you only have one area to keep an eye on. Stick down the exposed area, then peel away the rest of the backing slowly, sticking down the label as you go along. Make very sure the label is stuck down all around the disc to avoid it lifting up in a CD player.
It’s hard to give instructions that cater for all levels of users, so if you have any questions, post a comment and I’ll try my best to add the relevant info!

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