How to Make Vinyl Records – Your Custom Pressing Guide


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Today, music streaming is the #1 way people listen to music. However, vinyl records have made a comeback. So, for bands, this sometimes finds them searching for how to make vinyl records.

Here’s a quick overview:

To make a custom vinyl record, budget a minimum of $1,200 for 100 copies, select a pressing company, and plan to provide .WAV files on a CD of the music that has been mastered for vinyl, in addition to high-res copies of the artwork. Expect the process to take up to 8 weeks.

Of course, this also means that more artists of all genres are now producing vinyl records. But it’s not quite the same volume as it was back in vinyl’s heyday.

This is because although vinyl has made a comeback, it’s still a small portion of the overall number of people who actively consume music.

Of course, with the return of vinyl records, record players are also being sold more often. Many music lovers purchase either a modern or old style of record player, which means they are just waiting for their favorite bands to release a vinyl with a killer album cover.

Here is a custom pressing guide on how to make vinyl records.

This will help whether you actually press the records yourself or if you need to know more about having it done by a professional company.

We’ll cover the whole process from start to finish.

How to make a vinyl record cover

Make a vinyl record cover by using a high-quality color laser printer with 135gsm paper and an image the commercial usage right has been acquired for. A 7-inch record can simply have a folded paper sleeve inside a plastic sleeve, whereas a 12” record will have the paper cover glued to a cardboard sleeve.

Of course, in most cases, the company pressing the vinyl will likely also have cover services available too. They will just be costlier than if you did it yourself.

The first step in making a vinyl record cover is to select a great image.

Some people will have more elaborate ways of doing so than others. However, some people may choose to find stock images to use for their vinyl cover.

The trick is to find something to draw the listener in, especially for vinyl.

BUT, the most important thing, if you expect to sell any large number of them, is to make sure you have the right to use the image. For that reason, the best choice could be taking your own photo and then adding the graphics in Photoshop.

But you could go old school and screen print the image.

That’s the DIY method that some people use to make their own T-shirts with ink, a screen, and a squeegee. There are a few things you need to be aware of when it comes to the image.

First, be sure that it is in CMYK color. This is very important. Also, be sure that you have 5mm of bleed on the sides of the cover. This will ensure that the image is not cut off.

Also, make sure to use a printer that is at least 300 dpi/ppi (dots per square inch/pixels per square inch).

One choice you will need to make is the size of your vinyl. You can choose between a 7-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch. Of course, the smaller size is more cost-effective.

But a 7” cover should have less information than if you were designing a larger cover.

In most cases, you will need 135gsm paper. GSM refers to the paper quality and thickness and stands for grams per square meter. Once you get as high as 160gsm, you’re basically talking cardstock. For 12” album covers, ideally, print 1 piece of paper on a 20”x30” piece of paper.

The image itself should be the following dimensions:

  • Height – 14 15/16
  • Width – 25 11/1

That will allow the printed and cut image to be glued and folded over the cardboard jacket.

For a traditional album cover, you’ll need plain cardboard jackets. Print your image on a high-quality color laser printer, and then use rubber cement to adhere your printed image to the cardboard jacket.

And when designing the cover, don’t forget about the side of the record cover. Many times, there is the band name and album name printed there.

Those record jackets are relatively inexpensive over at: https://www.bagsunlimited.com/category/206/lp-record-jackets (not a paid endorsement).

A gatefold jacket is obviously a lot more complicated, so I’m not really covering that here. As in most cases, you’ll get a company to print those rather than DIY.

This guy’s website offers custom vinyl cover templates for free, so take a look and see if he can help you https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AB9rDSc73GKkMy8&id=B652F6D0715CE5AD%2145784&cid=B652F6D0715CE5AD

But there are also tons of templates in Canva too.

How much does it cost to make a vinyl record?

Plan on spending at least $1,200 to press 100 copies of a custom record. But many of the fees incurred are one-time fees regardless of quantity, so it may make sense to print a much larger quantity.

Now that you know how to make the cover for your vinyl record, let’s talk about actually getting the record pressed.

This will require you to find a record-pressing plant. You’ll want one that has a strong reputation, rather than just being on the low end, to ensure the pressing process goes right.

Most record plants will not make less than 100 copies as this ensures they don’t lose money in the process, given their operating costs.

Some of the most expensive aspects of having a record pressed are lacquer disc cutting, which is done on both sides, and plating, which is a two-step process.

On average, the lacquer cutting step costs $380 per 100 records. The plating process costs just a little less at $340 for every 100 pressings.

Keep in mind that this process does include the sleeves, jackets, center labels, and test printing of the content.

This is the biggest reason you will want to find a quality record-pressing plant. You may be tempted to find a cheaper option, but that is not usually the best decision.

You should also be aware that there are things that can drastically increase the price. This means it is important to have realistic expectations and to save as much as possible before beginning the process of having a vinyl album printed.

Keep in mind that test pressings are needed.

This allows you to make sure everything is just right before they go printing 100. The test pressings can be the most tedious aspect of creating custom vinyl records.

Of course, some people press their records themselves.

To do this, you will need blank records, a home vinyl recorder such as the one by Phonocut, and an audio source with digital files.

These machines make the process doable in only three steps: place the blank disc, connect your audio source, and then simply press the start button.

Can you make one-off custom vinyl records?

Yes, some companies will do one-off custom vinyl records using the lathe cutting method. This is a faster process, albeit of lower quality, but does allow the purchaser to not have to order a 100-record minimum.

This is the best way to print just a few copies without a huge outlay of cash.

As mentioned before, record pressing plants typically don’t make less than 100 vinyl records. This is because printing less than this usually causes them to lose money on a project.

However, some companies specialize in one-off vinyl records.

There is a different way to make vinyl records by pressing them, and these companies tend to use this method. It is called lathe-cutting. This method is more suited for one-off or short-run records because they are hand-cut and tested.

It also takes much less time to lathe cut a record. It can take only minutes. This is because this process does not include plating or pressing.

However, it has been said that the sound production is not as good on lathe cut records in comparison to those that were pressed.

There is often some surface noise as well as some static. It should be noted that a couple of plays often gets rid of these minor issues.

Typically, a person should expect to spend $8 to $12 per record made with this process. 

Of course, you can do this yourself instead of finding a lathe cutting business to do it. You will just need the lathe cutting machine.

Other needed materials are the polycarbonate or polyvinyl chloride discs, lubricant for the discs, and you will need to master the music for lathe cutting.

This requires the audio files to be a .WAV file with a sample rate of 44.1kHz. This ensures the music will be of high quality.

Lathe cutting is similar to playing a record, except in this case, the needle cuts the record groove into the vinyl. 1 needle is typically good for about 300 pressings.

How to order vinyl records online

To get a custom vinyl record pressed, use a local record presser or a nationwide company such as United Record Pressing. Most companies require calling or emailing for a free quote.

I like United Record Pressing (not a paid endorsement) as they are the largest and oldest company in the US for pressing records.

And they do 7-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch records.

While they don’t handle the sleeve printing directly, they do coordinate the entire production process to get it done and get you a finished product.

For 7″ singles, they do have the standard 100 minimum. However, for 10-inch or 12-inch, their minimum is 300.

Test pressings typically ship about 3-4 weeks from when you pay the deposit, and you can expect the entire process to take a total of 3-4 more weeks once you approve the test pressing. Test pressings are a must to ensure quality control.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide for them to press your records:

  • Your music on a CD with the songs in order, with the space between songs how you want it.
  • Your music will be tested for audio samples and rejected if it contains them unless you can provide a master license from the company that holds the publishing rights.
  • Your sleeve and center label artwork

They also offer a handy guide for how many minutes of music you can expect to put on the record:

33 RPM:

  • 7″ – 6 minutes
  • 10″ – 12 minutes
  • 12″ – 18 minutes

45 RPM:

  • 7″ – 4.5 minutes
  • 10″ – 9 minutes
  • 12″ – 12 minutes

What format should my music be to make vinyl records?

WAV files burned to a CD are the standard format most custom record pressing plants will require to press vinyl records.

One of the most important aspects of pressing vinyl records is properly formatting your music. Failure to use the proper format will result in less than acceptable sound quality. This is an easy thing to avoid.

The industry-standard format is WAV.

Some people who are new to pressing vinyl may be tempted to choose MP3 because it’s familiar. While practically all formats are mildly acceptable, this would be a mistake. The sound quality of MP3 is vastly inferior to WAV files. Digital music is here to stay, but we want your album to sound as good as possible.

Even if you don’t use WAV, you want to use a lossless format for your music, like FLAC.

Specifically, the music should be 24-bit 96 kHz WAV. If not this, an AIFF format is also considered to be an industry standard.

Do I need to master my music to make vinyl records?

Mastering music is essential for pressing vinyl records. Mastering involved equalizing and compressing the music so that it sounds as good as possible when the record is pressed.

One of the final things to do before pressing your vinyl is to master the music. For many people, a master will already exist. However, it is important to ensure that it is properly mastered for vinyl.

After all, mastering takes the final source into consideration. And what you might need to adjust for a CD, or uploading to iTunes, could be very different from what is needed for a vinyl record.

Some people learn the mastering process themselves, but most people will need to hire a professional.

This person would be a mastering engineer. The mastering engineer is an important role in the process. One big difference is that music for vinyl is usually two WAV files. The second file is to add music to the other side of the disc.

Keep in mind that although a second file is usually used, it is not a requirement.

There is no actual need to play both sides of the record, and most listeners would not be upset if one side did not play.

Conclusion

The music industry is ever-changing, and those changes are sometimes in the form of old technology. The use of vinyl records is an example of this. This is true for artists both with and without record labels to support them.

People have many options if they want to either press their records at home or if they want to hire someone to do it. Not everyone will be comfortable doing the full process themselves.

This process requires some decisions to be made; the type of cover you want for the album, the size you want the records to be, as well as many other random concerns.

If you are pressing the records yourself, remember that it takes time to get it right. You may waste some blank records in the process, but those are not super expensive.


Image by BRRT from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Hi, I'm Jeff Campbell, a former DJ, music journalist, musician, and music lover. I'm old enough to have seen all the cool bands and young enough to still remember them.

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