Tips and Tricks for Home Printing

If you release your cassettes DIY style, then you’re surely no stranger to our blank printed material. From sticker labels to blank J-cards, Duplication.ca provides you with the sheets and templates needed to turn your home setup into a printing press.

Every now and then we receive a question on our live chat service asking for help with printing at home. We thought it would be a good idea to run through a short list of helpful tips to make your DIY experience a smoother process!

J-card templates from Duplication.ca

Use Our Templates

First and foremost, we design our blank printing products using our template sizing, so that means you should be using our templates as well. If you purchase sheets of cassette sticker labels but use a random template you found on Google you may find that the sizing will be completely off! Templates for audio cassettes can be found here, and all other template types can be found on this page. The product page for your item, for example this sheet of J-cards, also includes a link to the template.

It’s best to open the templates with Photoshop, Illustrator, or GiMP, as they often contain layers.

How to print cassette labels and J-Cards

Do Not Resize

When designing or readying for print, do not crop or resize the template, or stretch the template to fit your artwork. It’s important that the template is printed as is, so that includes the settings in your printing options.

You will want to make sure that the scale is set to 100% under ‘Scaled Print Size’, and ‘Scale to Fit Media’ is unchecked.

Add bleed to your cassette labels and J-Cards

Add Bleed and Title Safety to Your Image

Consumer printers are prone to misalignment and movement. The cheaper the price and build of a printer the more it will shake when printing, meaning precise down-to-the-millimeter print alignment may not always be possible. This is why you add bleed to your image, so if there is slight movement you won’t be treated to an ugly white line of empty space. A hairline of empty space may go unnoticed by a good number of your fans but it will absolutely drive you crazy knowing it’s there! The standard bleed amount is an extra .125” of image from the template line.

Same goes with a title safety area. You shouldn’t be placing text right at the edge of the template lines, because if there’s any movement you’re risking the text being partially cut off. Suddenly your solo noise project RAT LOTION reads as AT LOTION, and your labels are ruined!

My Printer is a Hunk of Junk and it’s Not Working!

If you still find that there’s significant misalignment, one trick is to move the artwork in your photo editing software to make up for the shifting. That may be tricky and take a few tries, which is why we recommend ordering extra sheets for tests and contingency.

Your local print shop is surrounded by printer issues day and night, so they will likely understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Drop off your sheets and your files on USB and they can give it a shot.

Duplication.ca’s pressing plant is working around the clock to get your print orders looking bright and gorgeous. If you want to keep it DIY, hit us up on our live chat (the green bubble on the bottom right corner of the Duplication.ca website) and let us know your issues, we’ll do our best to help. If you want high quality printed products without the pain and anguish of your 12 year old Canon printer spouting errors, we can print your J-cards, stickers, and all other material using our high quality digital press (or ultra high-quality offset press) with thick and durable cardstock.

Top Music Picks of January 2024

A true joy of working at a music plant is having a top-down view of what’s going on in underground music all across the world. Everyday I give myself a moment to grab a random cassette or CD and check out what’s on it, learn a bit about the band, maybe get a sense of what the punk scene is like in Winnipeg or club culture in Minneapolis. Here are a few choice albums I had the pleasure of being introduced to this past month!

Reaper's Gong - Bloodrot

Reaper’s Gong – “Blood Rot” c8

For an EP on the shorter side, Blood Rot moves slowly. Riffs hit heavy and hard, but the impact lingers like a bruised arm. Brainbombs guitar with Ukiah Drag monotone vocals, an absolute must for the noise rock fist-pumpers. The compact but hefty “rave case” packaging is a good metaphor for how much destruction you’ll get from a small package.

Listen or purchase on Bandcamp

Local Housing Crisis – “L.H.C.” c18

An electronic EP that hides all the beats and rhythms, burying the sound under dense atmosphere in the same vein as Gas. Muted piano melodies seem to land as if by chance, fingers hitting keys with nonchalance but instinctively creating haunting melodies.

Listen and purchase on Bandcamp

Maria Chavez & Sandy Ewen – “All the Duos”

One for the true avant-gardists, those who think that Keiji Haino may be a little too middle-of-the-road for their tastes. A double-disc set with over 90 minutes of sound art compositions, All the Duos is a heavily textured battle between collaborators. The two aren’t performing with each other as much as they are against one another, with every scratch of a string met with a hand smacking the body of a guitar.

Listen and purchase on Bandcamp

SpaceGhostPurrp – “NASA the Mixtape” c28

Hard to believe it’s been over a decade since this mixtape appeared seemingly out of nowhere. SpaceGhostPurrp and the Raider Klan breathed new life into underground hip hop— trillwave production, oddball reference points, lo-fi aesthetics and the blogosphere distribution were completely game-changing, but the music hasn’t aged a day. Still odd, still dope.

Listen and purchase on Bandcamp

Castlesiege – “The Council of the Trees” c42

An instrumental story of a healer and his fox companion as they travel through mystical terrains, meeting unique and perhaps untrustworthy characters along the way. An album immersed in the atmospheric essence of point-and-click Sierra adventures, unfolding a narrative where the deeper you venture into the woods, the more ominous the shadows within the forest grow.

Listen and purchase on Bandcamp

We turn the spotlight on underground music releases manufactured at Duplication.ca several times a week over on our social media channels, including TikTok and now Bluesky. Give us a follow using the links below, and if you have an album that you ordered through us that you’d like to bring to our attention, just send us a DM!

Cheaper J-Cards With Faster Turnaround Using Automated Print

Do you want even more affordable printed J-cards, faster to your door, without having to skimp on quality? Unbelievably, Duplication.ca can provide that for you! Introducing our Automated Print products:

Rancid's "Tomorrow Never Comes" cassette J-card

The Automated Print items work similarly to the standard online shop system, but instead the artwork is uploaded through our Online Designer. This allows you to design your artwork in-browser without the use for an expensive graphic design suite, or simply drag ‘n drop your pre-existing artwork into the Online Designer. After checkout your artwork is automatically sent to the printer queue, with zero hassle in between! Not only does this mean your J-cards will be printed, scored, and shipped quicker, but it also saves pre-press time on our end. We pass those savings on to you, making the J-cards even cheaper than our regular print pricing.

J-card creasing machine

Using the online designer is remarkably simple, you can review the guide we wrote up a couple of weeks ago. Just remember to extended the artwork past the template lines, and to double-check your work as to ensure your artwork appears as intended! You will need to approve your artwork once more after checkout, which serves as a final opportunity for a quick inspection.

All these benefits without having to compromise on quality! The J-cards are professionally printed using Cougar™ Super Smooth stock— 80lb smooth cover at 216 GSM. Double-sided printing is included in the price, with bright and vibrant colours on durable paper.

How to Add Bleed to Your Artwork

When sending us artwork for print, it’s necessary to add bleed to your image. For those who are not familiar, bleed is the area that goes past the template or trim lines. Failure to include bleed in your artwork may result in the possibility of small, unprinted gaps appearing if there is any shift or movement in the printing press during the printing process. Yup, this is true even with massive professional printers that are big enough to take up a whole room. The fix is to add a bit of artwork beyond the template or trim lines, that way if there is a slight movement it will be imperceptible in the final printed image.

Some templates may already have bleed or “cut” lines! If so, you can simply fill the image up to the bleed lines.

Printed CD wallets from Duplication.ca

How much artwork bleed should I add?

All you need to do is add about 0.125″ or 3.5mm of bleed to your artwork. If your artwork background is white or transparent, you don’t need to worry about bleed.

What’s the difference between bleed and title safe area?

While the bleed is to supposed to extend beyond the trim or template lines, a title safe area is a way of ensuring your text won’t be cut off when printing. What’s the fix? Don’t place text or logos right up to the edge of the image. Make sure text is a minimum of .125″ away from the template/trim lines.

Show me an example of bleed.

Okay, so let’s start with an example of the wrong way to submit artwork:

Cassette J-card template from Duplciation.ca

This J-card template has the image correctly placed in the title safe area, but you can see the green background doesn’t extend past the time line. The J-card template includes an additional black box for bleed, but since it’s ignored there’s the risk of a white outline when printed.

Here’s the correct way to submit artwork:

Cassette J-card template from Duplciation.ca

See how the artwork is extended ~3.3mm beyond the time box? Now we know for certain the green background won’t be cut off when printing!

Hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any questions regarding printing. We have tons of printed products for cassette, CD, vinyl, and more available in our online store. Don’t leave the printing to the amateurs— we know printing presses inside out, and how to make your album look their absolute best!

UV Print On Cassette

Full body print

UV print has totally revolutionized how you can design your cassette releases. You no longer need to limit yourself to one or two colours, you have the entire CMYK spectrum to choose from when designing your masterpiece. Even better, with Full Body UV print you can design artwork on the raised edges and bottom hub area of the cassette shell, doing away with the constraints found in sticker labels and pad print! Our template includes knockout layers for the hubs and window, that way ink will not seep inside of the shell.

Ordering Full Body Print is easy! Just select it from the ‘Label type’ dropdown menu. You have a choice between single sided or double sided artwork, just like with pad print. We’ve also added UV print as an item in our online shop to add to your blank tapes!

Stained glass and reverse UV print

What makes UV print pop on cassette is the white base coating applied before your artwork, which stops the ink from being absorbed by the plastic shell, especially with darker shell colours. However, when you don’t apply the white base, you instead get a semi-transparent effect, wherein you can see the artwork but light can still shine through with transparent shells – very similar to stained glass!

With transparent shells you can sidestep the white base coating to also achieve a visible reverse print. Here’s an example by Monster Piece, released by Sly Vinyl Records, where you can see the reverse image of the Side B artwork by looking through Side A. This gives a sense of perspective and distance, as if the moon is in the background and the howling werewolf in the foreground. The B-side will show the artwork in its correct orientation as provided by the artist.

Omitting the white base coating for a stained glass effect or reverse print is available by request! Just add UV Full Body print to your cassette order and let us know your desired effect in the ‘notes’ section of your order.

📸 courtesy of Sly Vinyl Records

Order cassette duplication with UV print and receive FREE SHIPPING to the United States and Canada

The Duplication.ca Guide to Pad Print Design

When you put in a cassette order you want the finished product to look its absolute best. Following these steps not only makes our job easier, but it will ensure that your pad print will look just as gorgeous as intended. First you’ll need to place your order on our cassette duplication calculator, then we can get started!

TV Blonde - Talmbour cassette tape from Duplication.ca

DESIGNING YOUR ARTWORK

1) Download our latest template

There are a few things to consider when designing pad print artwork for your order. First, what kind of shell have you chosen? Our templates have layers for opaque tapes, clear/windowless, and shells with square hub windows.

https://www.duplication.ca/printspecs/cassette-cover-templates.htm#padprint

Each template has useful information about designing artwork that is unique to each type of cassette shell chosen, so be sure to check if we have updated templates available with every order and follow the directions contained in the file!

2) Applications

First and foremost, we highly recommend you send us vector artwork, so you should be using applications such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw to design vector logos and line text. Graphic design applications such as Adobe Photoshop or GiMP can be used, but bitmapped images will be subject to additional fees. 

MEET THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS

1) Vector Artwork

We now require vector artwork for pad print. It helps us achieve finer lines with a fraction of the platemaking time. It’s best to create artwork as a vector image, but we recognize that sometimes images are sourced from bitmap files or hand drawings. Outside of CorelDraw and Illustrator, there are freeware websites that allow you to upload your image and they will trace the outlines to convert to a vector file. The results will vary and often depend on the complexity and quality of your source material. Some websites have more options than others, so be prepared for trial and error tweaking until you’re satisfied. Further tweaking can be done in programs like Illustrator, PhotoPea, or even Photoshop.

Here are a few websites worth checking out:

Rapid Resizer
Vectorization.org
Autotrace (Online Converting)
PhotoPea (click on Image -> Vectorize Bitmap)

Difference in quality between bitmap (left) and vector (right)

If you cannot retrace your images or convert to vector, we will be able to do it for a small fee. Bitmap images are also subject to a fee as they can take up to 20x as long to print the plate.

2) Grayscale

Regardless of your chosen ink colour, make sure your artwork is done in black. If you requested 2-colour pad print you’ll need to have each colour artwork in its own layer. The layers should be properly titled with their colour name (ex. one layer would be titled ‘Red’ and the other ‘Blue’). Again, regardless of the desired ink colour, each layer artwork must appear black.

3) Resolution

A low resolution can cause the finished product to look pixelated and of poor quality. If you are using Photoshop or your own template, ensure the dimensions and resolution are 4331 x 4331 pixels wide at 1000 ppi. Please note that resolution isn’t applicable when working with vector art.

4) Creating Outlines for Text

Often times we will receive a file with missing fonts, which means your meticulously curated typeface design will revert to a basic font style when we open the artwork file. But there’s an easy solution to this– simply Create Outlines for your text!

All you need to do is select your text, then navigate to the Type menu and select Create Outlines. The same can be done in Photoshop by selecting your text with the Direct Selection Tool and clicking on Convert to Shape in the Type menu. Avoid using faux font styling as it may not convert properly.

5) Line Thickness

When you’re designing your artwork, you’ll want to keep an eye on line thickness. In order to ensure that your art will be visible when printed you’ll want your artwork lines to be at least 0.15 points thick. This is about the equivalent thickness of very fine hair. Anything less than 0.15 points risks not being visible on the final printed cassette. This applies to text as well.

Moreover, the knockout, gaps, or empty space between artwork also has to be a minimum of 0.5 points thick to properly print, otherwise there is the risk of ink running and filling up the empty space. Please make sure all empty space is at least 0.5 points thick to avoid spreading ink.

Zooming in shows that the select horizontal area is 0.1 points thick.
An illustrated breakdown of line thickness.

6) Mind the Gap

Depending on the type of shell you have chosen, there are areas you cannot print on. For example, there are two holes in every cassette shell which obviously cannot be printed on! Solid coloured shells, certain select clear shells, and square window shells have a recessed window in the center which can distort artwork, especially text. If you are uncertain about the type of shell you have chosen for your artwork, contact your sales representative!

Pad print artwork over hub area
An example of areas where the artwork will not print.

7) Tell Your Sales Representative

Make sure that your sales representative knows exactly what your order needs, as there may be a price difference. If you want the A and B sides printed, it is “pad print two sides” on the cassette duplication calculator. If you just want the A side printed, it is “pad print one side.” If you’d like the exact same art on both sides, it is “pad print same art both sides.

Once your artwork is complete and uploaded, let your sales representative know! They will double check your artwork to make sure it is compatible before sending it through to our pad print department. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to them! They are happy to help!

Thank you for reading, and happy designing!

VHS is Back and Better Than Ever!

VHS is Back and Better Than Ever!

Who can forget the feeling of walking through the video store, strolling from aisle to aisle, trying to find the perfect VHS tape to watch that night? Sure, streaming services offer us thousands of options, but gone is the ritual of popping in a physically tactile VHS, an object which gives a film respect and purpose not unlike what an audio cassette or vinyl does for music. At Duplication.ca you can get your film or video project duplicated on VHS with full packaging, thus giving your work the attention it deserves!

Modern VHS releases are a wonderful medium because they aren’t just limited to feature-length releases, but a whole gamut of audio/visual projects. Music video compilations, short films, vaporwave visuals, live gigs, just to name a few. As a filmmaker or a musician you can sell your work online or at the merch table at a screening or performance, rather than navigate the film festival or streaming distribution circuit.

Not only do our dubbed VHS tapes look excellent, our print and packaging are of superb quality. Printed cardboard sleeves are in full colour CMYK with your choice of digital or offset press. The sleeves snuggly fit the video cassette without being too tight or loose. You can even add glossy AQ coating for an additional fee if you want it to feel silky smooth and shine against the light.

Order VHS duplication with printed cardboard sleeves

 

Another packaging option are our clear plastic library cases, which contain an overlay film so you can add a printed wraparound sheet for artwork. Since the cases are clear, you can even request double-sided printing for extra artwork or notes! Sticker face labels and spine labels can be added to both the library cases and printed cardboard sleeves.

Order VHS duplication in clear library cases

Printed VHS sticker labels

Do you have the equipment to duplicate your own VHS tapes? Then we have everything you need to DIY analog style! We received a restock of blank VHS tapes, with a wide variety of lengths and brands to fit your needs, including some superb quality S-VHS tapes and economy one-pass tapes. You can also find blank labelslibrary cases, and custom-printed products in the online store.

View all our VHS products and services in the online store

Get audio duplication on our pre-loaded blank tapes!

Get audio duplication on our pre-loaded blank tapes!

We have great news for those who want high-quality cassette duplication while maintaining a cheap bottom line. You can now order cassette duplication with our selection of surplus pre-loaded tapes!

Pre-loaded tapes are blank cassettes which already have a certain length of audio tape loaded. These are often the result of human error on our part— every now and then when we duplicate cassettes we’ll load a batch of cassettes to the wrong length. However, our mistake becomes your bounty, since that means we can throw these tapes in the shop at a discounted price!

This is also your chance to grab some of our discontinued shell colours, like Forest Green. We have a vast selection of type-I pre-loaded cassettes, and even some long lost type-II high bias pre-loaded cassettes!

Now you no longer have to duplicate these cassettes from home, we can take care of the recording process for you. We use our real-time duplication process which allows for a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. Simply add the duplication product during checkout, along with your desired pre-loaded cassettes. You’ll receive a link to upload your audio after checkout. If you ordered pre-loaded tapes marked “c20”, that would mean they’re 10 minutes in length per side.

Click here to add audio duplication to your pre-loaded cassette order

Please keep in mind that pre-loaded cassettes consist of old unused clearance stock, and thus some cassettes may have scratches or scuffs. This is considered clearance stock which is sold as-is and are final sale.

If you want custom-length duplicated cassettes, then our classic order page is the way to go. You can add full printing and packaging to your order, or simply request bulk tapes! This page will give you a ton of options so you can choose your audio tape type, duplication speed, shell colour, and much more.

Order cassette duplication and receive FREE SHIPPING to the United States and Canada

Design cassette J-cards and sticker labels online

Design cassette J-Cards and sticker labels online

Once upon a time we had the ability to design J-cards and sticker labels through the browser on the online store. Due to a software update we had to temporarily disable the feature, but thanks to some elbow grease and coding we’re happy to announce that the online designer has returned. No need to use expensive graphic design software, you can now create your J-cards and sticker labels online and absolutely free!

Creating and ordering J-cards and sticker labels couldn’t be easier. First off, head to the product of your choice. For the sake of an example, let’s say you wanted to order double-sided J-cards.

You’ll notice that above the product description there’s a button that reads ‘Add Your Design’. Click on that to start designing!

Right off the bat you’ll see that our JP0 template has already loaded. From here you can use the icons on the top and the bottom to do simple design functions, like add a background colour, upload images, and add text. You can even import images from your Instagram account!

Here’s what I whipped together in a matter of minutes. I simply made the background black, and then I added two images for the left and right panels, making sure the art bleeds past the red template lines. I threw on some text, stylized the angle and added a black stroke for the sake of legibility. Just like that, I have the front cover of my cassette ready to go. To work on the reverse side you need to click on the icon below the template.

Once you’re done, click ‘Download’ on the top right corner and save the file as a PDF. This way you have a copy of your own for safety and posterity. After that you can smash that big red ‘Submit’ button.

Now you’ll see that your artwork has been added to the order page! Don’t forget to give your order a ‘Project Title’, that’ll help with organizing files in the event you’re ordering more than one batch of printed goods. Click ‘Add to cart’ and you’re good to go!

All this applies to sticker labels as well, our online designer is ready to go with the proper template set for your masterpiece. No cloud subscription services, and no sketchy cracked software needed. Start designing today!

Click here to order J-Cards with up to 4 extra panels with your online design

Click here to design and order cassette sticker labels

What is a Prison Tape?

A Completely Transparent Look at Prison Tapes

While audio cassettes were replaced by new formats and technologies only to return to the underground music scene, there is one institution where they never went out of style: prisons. In fact, in many penitentiaries the only way to listen to music is through a cassette tape.

CDs have been deemed dangerous as they can easily break and become weaponized, and while some prisons allow MP3 players they’re not of much use without an internet connection to load files. Thus the cassette tape is the reigning audio format for inmates, but with certain regulations. They need to adhere to the ‘Prison Tape’ model, which is to say completely transparent and sonic welded, as to avoid smuggling contraband. The packaging also needs to be completely transparent to minimize the time spent for inspection before the product enters prisons.

Clients have been ordering prison tapes from Duplication.ca for decades, sending cassettes to friends, loved ones, or customers. They’re the ideal format if you’d like to pass around mixtapes, song demos, sermons, or other voice recordings. We’ve created a shop page to make the process even simpler— just choose your audio length and we’ll load it to a Prison Tape which meets the standard requirements.

Click here to order blank Prison Tapes

If you’d like us to duplicate audio, we can do that as well! Simply choose ‘Transparent w/ Black Hubs’ from the shell colour menu of our cassette duplication page. Cassette case packaging regulations may differ depending on the penitentiary, so please be sure to do research before ordering.

Order duplicated Prison Tapes and receive FREE SHIPPING to the United States and Canada!