Pete's Tips and Techniques: Back Panel Solutions


One of the trickiest CD labeling tasks is creating an attractive and readable back panel insert.  It's often difficult to read the track listing against a busy background image.  Below I will show you some techniques I've developed for dealing with this issue:

Back Panel Tips

Tip 1

Adjusting the Size, Position and Brightness

 The track list above is very hard to read.  This is where the background properties dialog comes in handy.  Go to Backgrounds>Background Properties.

I decided that all I really needed to get my comical point across was the mouth and the dental tools, so I raised the "Stretch Factor" to 200%, nudged the image up to where just the hands, tools and head were showing.  Besides making a more concise joke, this decreased the amount of colors and light/dark changes I had to deal with.  I lowered the brightness so that the white text could stand out more.  When adjusting brightness remember your monitor is generally going to look darker than the printed output.  I ended up with this:

You can see there's still some light text on lighter portions of the background here, but when you print it, it will look pretty good.  The text is pure white, where the image, (since we darkened it), no longer  has an absolute white point.  The subtle shades of white will become more pronounced when printed.

Tip 2

Creating Drop Shadows

For the above back panel, I adjusted the background position and brightness, but I still have trouble reading the track listing.  A "drop shadow" will help as it adds a bit of depth and contrast to the text.

First, select the tracks table or text frame while in Object Mode.  Press Ctrl-C to copy the object to the clipboard, and then press Ctrl-V to paste it.  Now there are two track lists with the new copy still selected.  Select "black" from the color pulldown.  This track list will become the shadow:

Now drag it into place on top of the original track list, but just a tad lower and to the right.  Go to Tools>Send to Back to send it behind the original track listing.  Use the arrow keys, (aka "nudge keys"), to do the final positioning, and you'll end up with a surprisingly readable track list:

(It may not look all that readable here as these images are optimized, but trust me, it works very well.)


Tip 3

Using a Text Frame Shade

Sometimes you will not be able to solve your problems with either of the first two techniques.  Consider the design below:

I wanted a very complicated and chaotic image for this CD, so I shrunk an image of an old circuit board, (also from the SureThing CD), and tiled it, using the background properties dialog.  It won't matter whether we use light, dark, or drop shadowed text here, none of these options will make the text readable.  The background is just too busy.  We'll want to use "shades".    Switch to Object Mode and double-click on the title's text frame.  This opens the 'Text Frame' dialog:

Click on the "Shades" button.  This opens the 'Shades' dialog:

Since the text in this particular text frame is white, select black for the 'Foreground Color', and click the darkest shade box.  (This means 100% black shade.)  Click OK and you'll see the back of the text frame is now black:

What a difference a shade makes!  Repeat this for each text frame along with the spines.  Use a dark shade for light text and a light shade for dark text.  You can create shades for tables, as well, but I've used a rectangle object as a shade for all the center objects.  This way the white area covers the track list, title, and artist text frames.  To do this, go to Tools>Object Tools>Rectangle Tool.  Click and drag out a box, and then double-click on it.  Set the 'Line Style' to "None", and then click the "Shades" button.  Set the shade to 100% white and click OK.  Then select the rectangle and go to Tools>Send to Back

That's it.  Now you can read the track list even against the most complicated background image!