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Graphics software for CD layouts

Syntho

Well-known member
In the 90s and possibly prior, was there any particular preferred software for making an album’s liner notes, graphics, images etc? Taking a look at some of my old albums on CD, I wonder how they did all of that.

That also brings up a few more questions. Some of the albums’ band portraits look really crystal clear after taking a look. I imagine they were shot on 35mm photo cameras and then scanned. So that makes me wonder... the scanners they used back then must’ve been either very very expensive, or, perhaps there was a digital film scanner that they used connected to a Mac. Anyone know more about that?

One last thing: I noticed that video cards on older Macs just don’t cut it. When I use a video card that is at least on a G4, things look a whole lot better than say like something on my 9600 with the stock video card. So if people were designing CD booklets back then, how did they deal with such crap quality images that a Mac’s video card produced? The image on screen wouldn’t have been nearly the quality of what would have been printed.

 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
Any graphics software can do this. Some applications probably even have templates for CD jewel cases and CD booklets.

Look at Illustrator, inDesign, PageMaker, QuarkXPress, you could do the whole thing in one go in Photoshop, even, 

In terms of scanners: this depends on era but it doesn't take an awful lot to make a good-looking image at the size of a CD jewel case. You're probably right about the images being shot on 35mm or possibly medium format (6x45, 6x6, 6x7) film and then scanned. You could either make a print and use a flatbed scanner to scan the print or use a film scanner. There's also a higher end kind of scanner called a drum scanner, I'm unsure of the mechanics there, but I odn't know if that'd be strictly necessary for a CD case.

In terms of video cards: A lot of that is going to be the display itself. Some of it's going to be in the color depth and pixel resolution your card can achieve. It took quite a long time for high resolution at 24-bit color to be normal. I'd argue it wasn't mainstream until 1998 or later. Although, it was "easy" mechanically and equipment-wise to get 24-bit color at 640x480, 800x600/832x624 and 1024x768 in like the mid '90s.

Depending on, basically, budget, you can compromise between using a "small" display at 640x480 with high color or a larger one at low color, or by adding more to your budget so you can afford both. (That's also a compromise.) Different people focusing on different parts of a workflow might have had computers configured differently to optimize for what their part is. Somebody laying out a page might not really care what the composition looks like so much as being able to see it all at once at reasonable scaling, and so they might use a 20-21-inch display at 1152x870 in grayscale or 256 colors, trusting that the color values given to them and the images passed to them by photo editors are accurate.

how did they deal with such crap quality images that a Mac’s video card produced? The image on screen wouldn’t have been nearly the quality of what would have been printed.


Test prints. This is almost certainly still the case in high end printing scenarios like for a CD case or a magazine or a book.

 

dcr

Well-known member
There's also a higher end kind of scanner called a drum scanner, I'm unsure of the mechanics there, but I odn't know if that'd be strictly necessary for a CD case.
I remember drum scanners were able to scan in a much higher resolution than flat bed scanners of the time.  Don't really know much about them beyond that as they were far out of our budget.  In terms of resolution, they may not have been necessary for a CD insert.  But, they might have been able to scan a wider range of color than a flatbed scanner.  In that case, they would have been beneficial.

The image on screen wouldn’t have been nearly the quality of what would have been printed.
You could enlarge to zoom in to see whatever you needed to see.  In terms of color, no, it wouldn't match up.  But, you knew (and had to repeatedly tell customers (and still do)) that the colors you see on the screen and the final printed piece are not going to match up.  Monitors and prints and such can be calibrated with tools so they match up as best as possible, but it's still not going to be perfect.  RBG and CMYK (or spot color) are different, so it's never going to be an exact match.

Test prints. This is almost certainly still the case in high end printing scenarios like for a CD case or a magazine or a book.
For high end (expensive) jobs, you'd do press proofs.  For others, you could do a film proof.  That's not the right name, but I can't recall the proper name at the moment.  You'd take the negatives for the plates and, instead of burning plates, you'd expose special transparency films for black, cyan, magenta and yellow.  Then, lay those on top of each other and you can get a pretty good idea of what the printed piece will look like.  Not exact, but less expensive than a press proof for those that had smaller budgets.

 

dcr

Well-known member
Look at Illustrator, inDesign, PageMaker, QuarkXPress, you could do the whole thing in one go in Photoshop, even, 
And too many would do the whole thing in Photoshop, and those were the days before Photoshop supported vectors.  Type would be converted to bitmaps which wasn't always optimal.

 
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