Oct 28

ImageAligner Design Tips – Creating your disc artwork

Using ImageAlignerto print on pre-printed discs imposes certain requirements on the designer of the disc artwork. This Blog explains how to design disc artwork to get the best finished discs possible.

There are two major considerations for the artwork on a disc when using ImageAligner to print over that artwork:

  • Creating a design which will result in the best alignment of printed text to the underlying graphics.
  • Designing to avoid disc printing problems, such as ink dropouts and image breakup.
Designing for the Best ImageAligner Results

In order to accurately line up the text to be printed over the pre-printed disc artwork, ImageAligner relies on visual “clues” in that underlying artwork to tell it just how much to rotate the printed text. A good design can enhance this pattern-matching process by providing these clues.

Create the CD artwork with good contrast:
Use colors which contrast enough to provide good definition between different areas of the disc.

Create the CD artwork with definite “angular clues”:
The pattern-matching routines which align the text to be printed to the disc depend on finding angular markings on the disc. This means basically any shape except concentric circles (circles which share

 their center with the disc itself). The worst possible artwork would be such circles with few other small features. Larger, bolder shapes are the best.

ImageAligner - Bad Example

ImageAligner - Bad Example

The illustration below shows how notto design disc artwork for ImageAligner. Notice that there are few angular clues to help the software line up the image.

One of ImageAligner’s worst enemies is glare. These bright reflections from the surface of a disc to be printed can confuse its pattern-recognition processes and make it more difficult to accurately align the text to be printed. Glare comes from any unprinted areas of a disc. While there are some measure which can be taken to reduce glare by adjusting the equipment and the operating environment, a good design can help here as well.

Cover the disc as fully as possible:
Covering the disc with a pre-printed image will reduce the possibility of glare from lights interfering with the pattern-recognition process. The inks used for printing CDs are generally less reflective than the plain gold surface of a CD-R disc. If possible, use a matte or low-luster ink or top coating, rather than glossy. (You can also have a clear matte coating applied over the entire disc surface after printing.)

Avoiding CD Printing Problems

The reason you need to be careful when designing a disc for ImageAligner is that the thickness of the silkscreen inks commonly used to print discs can interfere with the disc printer. The ImageAlignerprinter works by placing a thermal-transfer ribbon in direct contact with the disc surface. If you try to print too close to a surface feature, such as the edge of an area of silkscreen ink, the printing may drop out or break up. To prevent this, locate pre-printed elements far enough away from any area which will be printed later, and to select the size and position of these elements so they won’t interfere with the printer’s printhead.

The general rule of thumb: keep any printing at least 3 mm (about 1/8”) away from the edge of any graphic element which is silkscreened on a disc.

The illustrations below show what kinds of things to do and not to do when designing disc artwork. 
ImageAligner - Good Image

ImageAligner - Good Image

ImageAligner - Bad Image (Too Close)

ImageAligner - Bad Image (Too Close)

Notice that on the “good” disc design, the area set

up to print ImageAligner text in is a large clear space, well away from any edges of the surrounding graphic elements. This provides a nice flat surface which will take the thermal ink well and give good, clear printing results.

The “bad” disc uses a narrow area of unprinted disc surface to print ImageAligner text in. Since there are two edges which are less than 1/8” away from the area to be printed, it will be difficult to print in this area without the image breaking up. Printing results on such a disc will vary depending on the angle of rotation.

To summarize: it is worthwhile spending time up front with your disc design before planning to print text with ImageAligner. With a carefully designed layout, you can achieve professional-looking printing on every disc.