February 2014

D.I.Y: How to Make a Record Sleeve

The Woodsmoke LP from Glottalstop is the first vinyl release from Tartaruga, and presented itself as a great opportunity to produce and print a vinyl sleeve from scratch. We could have got someone else to print the sleeves, or just sourced ready made LP sleeves to print on, but we wanted to do the whole thing ourselves for a couple of reasons. Printing record sleeves provides a great canvas to show off the artwork, and creating the sleeves ourselves allowed us to really produce something that would stand out from most other records, and immediately identify this as a Tartaruga release.

Here's a short primer then on creating LP sleeves - get in touch if you have any questions, or if you'd like to find out about any screenprinting work we can do.

1. Sourcing the Paper

The great Fenner Paper provided us with some samples to have a look at - we wanted some paper/card that was thick enough to form a sturdy and protective LP sleeve, but it also had to be the right kind of paper for screenprinting, something that absorbs ink well, and that has its own texture and character. We settled on Flora Tabacco 350gsm - recycled, uncoated paper with a slightly speckled finish. We had this cut to 720 x 400 mm, allowing plenty of extra space around the edges for artwork bleed. 

2. Screen Printing

The artwork for this was done by Oliver Barrett, and depicts a mysterious-looking building, which he assures us really does exist somewhere in France. This was done as a beautiful monochrome ink drawing, at about half the size of the final record. After getting the image printed onto acetate, the screen was prepared (coated and then exposed), and we were then ready to print all the sleeves. 

The illustration was printed in black, positioned exactly in the middle of the paper, which is important for the subsequent steps. After all the sleeves had been printed and dried, we did the second colour, which was the text printed in the doorway of the building, in sap green, and we used this same green later on for the inner sleeves.

3. Folding and Sewing

All previous Tartaruga releases had been CDs, which had been screenprinted and sewn together. We wanted to keep this aesthetic with the LP sleeves, and also by sewing the sleeves together, rather than just having the folded print, it somehow transforms it into a real record sleeve. Firstly then, the dried prints were folded exactly in half, and then the two sides sewn together. This isn't (quite) as laborious as you might think, and in fact was far easier than sewing CD sleeves had been. For starters, here you only have two straight lines to sew, and the paper is also thinner and holds together better. Hint: use strong thread and a pretty thick needle, and use a guide to make sure the stitching is in just the right place. The alternative to sewing is either to just leave the card unjoined, or to create folded tabs and glue them together.

4. Trimming

All that's left now is trimming the edges. Of course, you could just start out with paper the right size for the LP sleeve, but this way we could print artwork right over the border of the sleeve, which provides a lot more freedom for the designer. Invest in a decent guillotine if you can, as cutting 200+ sleeves on three edges is a fair bit of work. Again, use a simple guide to line the sleeves up so you can just trim the edges quickly and accurately.

Once the sleeves are trimmed, they were numbered out of 200, and inserted into a protective PVC sleeve. This is a pretty tight fit - so make sure that a) you get the right size PVC sleeves, as some are just too small, and b) be very accurate with the sewing and trimming...

5. Print the Inner Sleeve

We could have left it there, but for the final touch, we decided to print a single-colour screenprint on the inner sleeve, containing the record. This allowed us to get a print on to the label of the record, and the effect of printing on the inner + record at the same time is fantastic. We shamelessly stole this idea from Vivod, for whom we've printed all of their releases to date using this same style.   

And that's it - two hundred hand-crafted, printed and sewn record sleeves. We're hugely pleased with how these came out, and the artwork and sleeve hopefully does justice to the stunning music of the record itself.

Limited vinyl available directly from us and also Norman Records, Stashed Goods, Electric Knife, Cafe Oto, Out-of-print (Belgium), and Experimedia (US).