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Custom designed DIY album covers

Custom designed DIY album covers

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my art that I like record albums. I’ve been collecting records since my earliest days of college and they became a natural fit when I began taking photographs of cool things like records, books and toys. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that one of my many “someday” projects would be a set of limited edition prints packaged in a real album cover. How cool would that be?!?!

(No, sorry, no such print set is being announced in this post. But… someday!)

Future plans aside, I recently did have the opportunity to create my own record album cover, and it came out great! So today I’m sharing my experience in a “how to” tutorial for others who may be so inspired to create their own record album packaging.

The Background

Years ago, I sent out an elaborate Christmas card package, which I dubbed, “It’s a Copyright Infringement Christmas!” The package included an 8 1/2 x 11″ card and a 110 minute cassette mix tape of the coolest Christmas music imaginable — Detroit Junior, James Brown, various Motown greats, etc.  I printed all the cassette labels and inserts on a (rare, for the time) color printer, and filled the envelopes with glitter, broken cassette shells, and tangles of audio tape pulled from the destroyed cassettes. The star, though, was the music, as everyone loved the selections I made (said the former college disc jockey with much modesty).

As the years have passed, with cassette players giving way to CD players and iTunes, fewer and fewer people have been able to listen to their hand-picked Christmas collection, but EVERY year since I’ve been encouraged by family and friends to make a new version. “If you ever copy Copyright Infringement Christmas to CD,” they would hopefully plead, “you’ll never have to give me another thing!”

Promising rewards aside, dubbing the collection to CD has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but year after year the project has been pushed way, way off onto a back burner without the time to do the project right — whatever that meant, as I had no idea how I could better the original package by just dumping the music onto CD.

I then realized that I’d made the original tape in 1992, and 2012 would be the 20th anniversary, so…

I  did it!

Where the original had filled both sides of a 110 minute cassette — 55 minutes per side — in the CD era I’d be able to fit 80 minutes of music per disc. Bonus tracks could be at play!

CDs? Dude. No one uses CDs. It’s all about streaming and downloads.

Well, yes, I thought about producing the 2012 version of my illegal Christmas compilation on a USB flash drive, but:

  1. A couple of the recipients (most notably, my parents) don’t use iTunes, iPhones or iPods, and would not know an MP3 from a hole in the ground.
  2. Handing someone a flash drive and saying “Merry Christmas” seemed like a hollow offering.

My plan, then, was to produce a set of 4 CDs. The first two would reproduce the 55 minute A and B sides of the original cassette, while the last two would be loaded to the digital gills with newly discovered (and equally cool) bonus tracks. The discs would be packaged inside an LP-size album jacket, with the CDs mounted on a full color cardboard insert. Rounding out the package would be a limited edition Christmas-themed print suited to the copyright infringing nature of the music.

Got it? Good! Let’s go to work!

Geography of an album cover

In order to design my album cover I first had to figure out how an album cover is constructed. Those of us who grew up around records have the basics: an LP is about 12″ in diameter and fits into a square cardboard sleeve that’s a little bit large. Easy! Take two pictures, glue ’em together, and — voila! — album cover!

Not so fast!

Careful attention to how an album cover is actually laid out and constructed will provide a guideline for generating a design template that can be used for applying art to the front and back covers, as well as the spine you’ll see on the edge when the album is stored on a shelf. Using this template, the cover can be printed on a single sheet of paper, then cut, folded and glued to produce the final sleeve.

Template of an album cover

Template of an album cover

The template for designing an album cover is shown above. Note that the image to appear on the front of the cover is on the right, while the back cover image is on the left. Designed in this manner, if you were facing the album in a sales bin, the spine would be on the left and the record (or in my case, CD tray) would slide out from the right. Virtually all album covers are designed in this way to be consistent and prevent dust from sifting down into the record jacket.

Note
On occasion you’ll see variations on this design, with the jacket opening on the top, or the position of the front and back covers swapped. Usually, these are design mistakes that are sometimes corrected in later pressings of an LP.

The dimensions you see above are as follows:

  • The front and back covers are typically 12 ¾” tall and wide.
  • The top and bottom tabs you see on the back cover are folded over and affixed to the reverse side of the front cover. I chose to use 1″ high tabs, which seemed like a good size to get a good firm seal between the two covers.
  • Plus… the spine. Read on!

Does a record album have to have a spine? Well, no, not really. Vinyl records aren’t very thick and a 12″ LP will usually fit fairly easily into a simple spine-less (ha, ha ha) 12 ¾” sleeve. But that would be boring! After all, don’t we want to see the sideways title of our album when it sits on a shelf squeezed between other records? Sure we do!

Spine detail

Spine detail

So, between the front and back covers we also need to provide a bit of space for the spine, and the spine needs to be wide enough to accommodate whatever we plan to put inside the jacket. For an album that holds a single vinyl LP, the spine is usually 1/8″, varying slightly higher when the packaging also includes a booklet or other inserts. For my project the album needed to hold a CD tray, a limited edition print, and a very thin sheet of protective bubble wrap. I estimated that a spine of 3/16″ would be sufficient.

The image above and to the right is a detail of the spine measurements for my album cover. It is important to understand that an album cover is actually a box construction. So, if we provide a 3/16″ spine running up and down between the front and back covers, we must also provide a  3/16″ margin between the cover and the tabs, effectively forming the “sides” of the box we’re going to construct. The spine and the top margin are illustrated in the diagram.

Color note!
It’s worth noting that I chose to color the tabs dark gray, even though they were to be glued to the reverse side of the front cover. I used the color change as a visual clue when folding the tabs, and the dark gray color was close enough to the margin color (which in turn matched the front color) so as not to be visually distracting if the construction of the “box” was not precise.

Software note!
I used iDraw on my iMac to layout and design the cover you see above. Nice piece of software!

Printing the cover

Once the cover art had been designed it was time to print. Recall that we’re going to be printing everything — front, back, spine, margins and tabs — on a single sheet of paper. How big does that paper need to be? Adding up all the dimensions…

Height = 12 ¾” + 1″ + 3/16″ + 1″ = 14 15/16″
Width = 12 ¾” + 3/16″ + 12 ¾” = 25 11/16″

20 x 30" prints  on Kodak Endura photographic paper

20 x 30″ prints on Kodak Endura photographic paper

Okay, the total dimensions of a flattened album cover are roughly 15 x 26″, and that means we need to print on a big 20 x 30″ sheet of paper — 16 x 30″ if that odd size is offered by your favorite lab. While I suppose it would have been most preferable to print on lightweight cardboard to mimic the stiffness of commercial record jackets, I didn’t have that option, so instead decided to print my covers as 20 x 30″ glossy enlargements through my regular lab, myphotopipe.com on professional grade Kodak Endura paper.

Whoa! 20 x 30″ photo prints? Isn’t that, uh, kind of expensive?

Yes, it is. Making your own album covers is fun and amazing, but definitely not cheap!

Constructing the record album

Once the prints arrived (and after a few days of allowing them to lay flat), I used an X-acto knife and metal L-square to trim away the excess paper, as illustrated in the photo below.

Trimmed cover ready to be folded

Trimmed cover ready to be folded

On the right is the spine and the front cover, while the back cover, tabs, and top/bottom margins are on the left. Constructing the record album was then simply a matter of making the proper folds and gluing the tabs in place. I found it helpful to make my folds in a set order, with the printed side of the paper face down, and using the edge of the L-square as a sturdy guide to insure that the creases would be straight and square. In all, you’ll need to make 6 sharp, square folds:

  1. Left edge of the front cover where it meets the right side of the spine.
  2. Left edge of the spine where it meets the right edge of the back cover.
  3. Bottom edge of the top tab where it meets the top edge of the top margin.
  4. Bottom edge of the top margin where it meets the top of the back cover.
  5. Top edge of the bottom tab where it meets the bottom edge of the bottom margin.
  6. Top edge of the bottom margin where it meets the bottom of the back cover.

Photo paper is not generally meant to be folded, so — with a ruler or square edge in place along the crease line — go slow, and gently ease the paper up against the edge of your ruler or square edge, using pressure where you want the crease to form. Once a crease is in place along the entire width of where you want to make the fold, remove the straight edge, fold along the crease, and gradually apply pressure until you have a firm, sharp fold that is able to stand up on its own. Remember — photo paper will fight back!

After folds have been made

After folds have been made

Belated trimming tip!
Note in the photo above that the tabs, which were originally designed to be square, have been tapered slightly. This extra bit of trimming is done to allow greater flexibility while gluing, and will prevent any excess paper from from sticking out beyond the edge of the cover.

Ready to be glued!

Ready to be glued!

All that remains is to glue the front cover onto the folded tabs. I used rubber cement for this job, as it doesn’t bubble, provides a good solid bond, and is very forgiving and easily removed should you “over glue.” The tricky part of gluing the tabs is that the tabs are actually inside the cover and sit suspended in air at a height equal to the width of the spine. Yes, this is only an eighth of an inch (or, three 16ths, in my case), but still enough space to prevent a solid seal — especially at the edges — between the tabs and the cover. To workaround this problem I found magazines of the appropriate thickness that could be placed inside the cover and beneath the folded tabs to provide a solid surface upon which the cover and tabs could be glued with sufficient pressure. The magazines also made it easier to “square up” the corners where the cover, spine and top/bottom margins all meet. Once the glue had been applied, and leaving the magazines in place, books were used to weigh down the construction until the rubber cement had completely set.

That’s all there is to it!

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Last year, in the wake of a very successful and joyous celebration of Record Store Day, I wrote a summary of my adventures and exploits as I cruised around San Diego county in search of RSD exclusives. Once again, it’s time for my review, if for no better reason than to stave off the inevitable onset of Post Record Store Day Depression.

This year, I have two words that perfectly sum up this holiest of vinyl holidays:

Jayne Mansfield

What’s that? You don’t recall seeing Jayne Mansfield’s name on any of the lists of Record Store Day releases? Well, no, there sadly wasn’t a big, buxom, box set of 12″ Jayne Mansfield covers on 180 gram virgin vinyl (though, I challenge any specialty label to produce such a set!), but as I made my way into Record City on 6th Avenue in San Diego, I spotted an enticing sign just inside the door:

Record City — San Diego, CA

Well, well! Record City happens to have an excellent selection of vintage vinyl in pretty much every category you can imagine: Rock, Jazz, Blues, and all those obscure genres that happen to be a goldmine for use in my fine art photos—Vocals, Lounge, and Pop. So, after scooping up a treasure trove of brand new Records Store Day releases (which we’ll survey a bit later), I ventured off to the long aisles of waiting vinyl to begin the hunt.

Music To Remember, 1956, with Jayne Mansfield on the cover

And almost immediately, I spotted a 10″ LP with the unmistakable allure of Jayne Mansfield on the cover. Jayne was regularly featured on album covers during the 50’s and early 60’s—usually leaning forward in an oh-so suggestive way to better… uh…. Well, she leaned forward. A lot. But on this album cover, she was leaning back. And not just leaning back; she was leaning back and COVERED all the way up to her chin! Had I stumbled across a Jayne Mansfield album of Christian hymns?!?! No. Just a simple compilation of sentimental instrumental selections, so you get Jayne relaxing on a sofa wearing a frilly pink nightgown (of course suggestive in its own right).

20% off? Are you kidding? While my other Record Store Day finds and freebies will make my turntable gleefully happy for weeks to come, those slabs of rare vinyl pale in comparison to Music To Remember, which is now safely tucked away into my stacks of vintage vinyl to someday live a second life in the background of a new photograph.

In the next installment I’ll tell you about my Record Store Day shopping experiences at two of San Diego’s finest music stores, and regale you with boastful tales of exclusive new music, sampler CDs, and custom giveaway bags. Until then, enjoy these images of the used vinyl I found at Record City.

And don’t forget… only only 362 days until Record Store Day 2013!!

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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t post new blog entries anywhere near as frequently as I would like. Ideally, I’d be blogging on a daily basis, sharing news about new photos and videos, art exhibits, great books, cool records, and posting articles that dive deep into my creative process. Trouble is… I have a difficult time churning out prose without laboring over every word, sentence and paragraph. Plus, just to make matters a little worse, I can’t… stop… writing. Simple topics—hey! I like this record!—turn into exhaustive (but still, of course, interesting) accounts worthy of a short chapter in a book.

Yes, it’s a problem, but now… a solution!

RIP Jonathan Frid—the “real” Barnabas Collins!

I now have a super cool Tumblr account where, throughout the day, you can find quick and interesting posts from me and the merry minions at Wind-up Dreams Central. Everything we post is, of course, Super Cool. Take, for instance this scary photo of the recently departed Jonathan Frid. Oh, sure… I could have dedicated a 4,000 or 5,000 word blog post on Dark Shadows (and, come to think of it, I may do that), but I could spend a week or more in Creative Writing Hell in an effort to produce a Pulitzer caliber post on campy daytime horror. Instead, as quickly as a vampire could sink his teeth into an alabaster neck… there it is on:

Vintage Vinyl

My official Tumblr site!

While the Tumblr focuses on cool vinyl records, in recent days we’ve also made posts on awesome art, vintage advertising, weird toys, pulp novels, and outer space.

I hope you enjoy this foray into more frequent sharing of interesting things, and if YOU have a Tumblr, don’t be shy… feel free to reblog any of the images you find on Vintage Vinyl. We’re scouring the universe for cool finds to share with our followers, so let us know about your interesting finds!

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Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption — Deluxe Edition

I’ve posted from time to time about the digital coffee table book of my photograph, Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption, which was released this past summer, exclusively for Apple’s family of iOS devices. Creating the book was tons of fun, and I’ve been very pleased with the reception the book has received from the ebook community.

However…

Being a collector of books (and toys, and records, and art, and CDs, and devils, and, and, and…) I remain completely enamored of objects I can touch and relate to in ways that will never be matched by the bits and bytes trapped within a digital device. What can I say? I like the feel of a book in my hands, and there are great untold mysteries in slipping a sleeve from a big, beautiful album cover and reading the liner notes as black vinyl spins beneath the soft touch of a diamond stylus. Real books feel special. They smell like knowledge.

While I’m very proud of my digital book, and I’ve been quite excited to see how people have enjoyed flipping and zooming through the colorful pages on the iPad, I still wanted to produce a physical object that people could turn in their hands, explore, and connect with in ways that are difficult to mimic in a digital book.

And, so…

Over the past couple of months I’ve been hard at work creating a deluxe edition of Plastic Prophets, and I’m very excited to announce that the package is now available!!

Deluxe Edition box with cover photo printed on glass!

The Deluxe Edition comes packaged in the box you see on the right. Each wooden box is hand painted, signed and numbered, with a cover image that’s been printed on beveled glass and mounted to the lid. Inside are all kinds of collectable treasures you couldn’t possibly replicate in a purely digital release. The highlight is a 32 page full color “mini book” featuring many of the standout images from the digital book—here, reconfigured to be printed and bound in a limited softcover edition.

Hidden away in the box are other printed goodies, including a Plastic Prophets sticker, a Wind-up Dreams web card (randomly selected from a dozen different designs), and a signed, miniature, Certificate of Authentication.

Want a little more?

You’ve got it!

Your new best friend inside the luxurious Deluxe Edition box!

Lift the glass cover and inside the deluxe box you’ll find your very own kewpie doll, just like those you see in my photos! Your kewpie comes direct from Japan, and wears around its neck a miniature flash drive filled with a host of exclusive digital content.

The drive holds two digital versions of Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption. The first is exactly the same as the digital ebook available on Apple’s iBookstore and compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. And just in case you don’t have access to one of those devices, the flash drive includes the full 135 page book as a PDF that can be viewed on any personal computer.

iPad users will find another added bonus on the flash drive: 95 custom wallpaper images pulled from the pages of the book to give your iPad a custom Wind-up Dreams look that will be the envy of all your friends! Kewpies, bathing beauties, robots and presidents. They’re all on the flash drive to brighten your electronic day.

So what are you waiting for? Click on over to the Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares Etsy shop for more information!

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Sweet Feast at the House of Pink Delights

Yes, it’s a brand new photo!  Sweet Feast at the House of Pink Delights was created for a food themed group show in Los Angeles opening in mid-October.  I had a lot of fun creating this piece, envisioning a delightful restaurant scene where diners are served a very special delicacy — kewpie heads stewed in a savory broth of ice cream, pie and cake.  Mmmmmmmm!!  And your wait staff for the evening?  Why — of course! — the presidents of the United States!  It’s Benihana meets the Oval Office.

On the right side of the photo you see the kewpie pantry.  Fresh, raw, kewpie heads, each the visage of cute, cuddly mischief.  John Adams oversees the pantry, handing off the choicest cuts to his fellow heads of state who march to the bubbling cauldron at the center of the House of Pink Delights, where smiling kewpie heads bob amidst the sweet treats.

On the left, Harry Truman marches a well done entree to a pair of enraptured diners.

How would you like your kewpie head prepared?  Pink?  Red?  Or candy coated Green?

More information about the exhibit and the special framing treatment given to this piece coming soon!

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Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader

Exciting news in Wind-up Dreams land–we are now offering Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader (shown above) as a limited edition print! Unlike our other limited editions, Eve is printed on beautiful Fuji Pearl paper to give the image a brilliant, metallic-like finish (all the better to enhance Satan’s fiery gaze).  And priced at just $125, it is now our lowest-priced limited edition.  While it’s currently listed in the etsy shop, it won’t be available for shipment until Monday, July 26th because we’ll be attending Comic-Con this week. (!!!)  Reserve yours today and add some devilish fun to your world for a decidedly un-devilish price.

If you’re going to be in San Diego attending the Comic-Con convention as well, please swing by Pannikin Coffee & Tea in La Jolla and see the latest photo and slide show extravaganza, Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse.  It’s running through July 30, so you still have time to check it out.  Speaking of slide shows, have you seen the incredibly fun stop-motion animation video for the making of Eve?  Well what are you waiting for?!?!  Check it out here on our newly re-designed Videos page.  And if you can’t make it to Comic-Con, don’t feel left out!  We’ll be tweeting live, so follow @johnpurlia and/or @windupdreams on Twitter to see pics of the kookiest costumes and undoubtedly hilarious overheard conversations about Star Wars, Futurama, and loads of other geeky fun.

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Last week at the Opening Reception for the “Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse” exhibit, people really enjoyed the stop-motion animation and time-lapse videos that were created for Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader and Financial Freewheeling and the futile pursuit of the American DreamWe didn’t want to leave anyone out, so we’ve posted them on YouTube!  In the videos, you can see how the still life dioramas that eventually become the photos are created. The Eve video was created from 2,100 separately shot and edited photographs after the actual gallery photo was shot. The action was then storyboarded and the animation was shot in reverse. The entire production required about 8 weeks of work.

The Financial Freewheeling video was created from time lapse footage showing the construction of the photo.  The video was actually created during the deconstruction of the diorama, one shot every two seconds, then played back in reverse to create the effect of “building” the final scene. You can also watch the video, “The Fantastic Plastic World,” which shows the installations that were on display as part of the exhibit “And The Beat Goes On” at the New Puppy Gallery in Los Angeles last year. The four videos also feature super fun music by Fantastic Plastic Machine, Moby, and James Brown, and Nina Simone. The last new video that’s been posted is a retrospective of select works from 2004-2010. AND, we’re also excited to announce that these videos can be found on a newly re-designed Videos page on the Wind-up Dreams site. Feel free to leave comments and let us know what you think.

Of course, you can still see the videos and photos live! in person! at Pannikin Coffee & Tea, La Jolla, CA through July 30.

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Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader

Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse has arrived!  Starting today, July 3rd, John’s solo exhibit show will run through July 30th at the Pannikin Coffee & Tea, La Jolla, CA. There are new photos, old favorites from the Plastic Prophets series, a room filled with our lower-priced line of framed Album Editions, and a video installation with stop motion animations, slide shows, and other delightful treats.  Installations of kewpies (some will probably be the largest you’ve ever seen. Seriously, these guys are BIG.), robots, vintage album covers, and alphabet blocks will greet you at every turn.  The Opening Reception is tonight, 5:00-7:00pm. John will be there to answer your questions and entertain you with how he manages to make the devils, babies, and saints toe the line, even in the midst of an earthquake.  Oh, and there will be free munchies! Hope to see you there!

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Big news in the land of Wind-up Dreams…

My next solo exhibit, Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse, will be running from July 3rd through the 30th at the Pannikin Coffee & Tea, La Jolla, CA. Lots of fun surprises are planned including the latest batch of new photos, a separate room filled with custom framed Album Editions, and… my first video installation! Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares goes live on the big screen (well, actually, a smallish 22” TV with a built-in DVD player) with stop motion animations, slide shows, and other visual stimulations to frighten and delight. The gallery will also be jammed packed with cute kewpies, killer robots, cheesy record albums, and alphabet blocks.

Fun for all!!

An opening reception is planned for Saturday evening, July 3rd, from 5 to 7PM (or maybe later if we can get a big crowd). Come on by and cower in cuteness as the Pannikin falls under the transformative spell of the…

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Mother puts a little something "extra" in the morning oatmeal to get her family off to a fantastic day!

Through May 31, three great photos will be 15% off on etsy.  To celebrate Mother’s Day on May 9, we are offering Mother puts a little something “extra” in the morning oatmeal to get her family off to a fantastic day! on sale.  She waddled around bloated and nauseous for nine months, the least you could do is show her your appreciation with this fun, lovely Limited Edition print.  Also in the month of May is International Jazz Day on the 29th.  We think Last Call at the Vinyl Alibi Jazz Club is a fantastic way of celebrating this art form we can be proud to say originated right here in the good ol’ USA.  Did you know that May is also National Photograph Month?  In honor of our anonymous little photographer in the gingham shirt, Leroy and his Singing Flamingos are invited to a rose garden soirée will also be 15% off.  Head over to etsy and check out these great deals and all of our other photos today!  Mother’s Day is a mere 6 days away, and we know you want your package delivered to mom on time.  Rumor has it moms have a knack for laying on the guilt, and we don’t want that, do we?

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