Designing your DVD cover is an important step in your film’s marketing and distribution process. This is particularly true for independent filmmakers since indie filmmakers rarely have large P&A budgets. This means that your potential customer’s first point of contact with your film or documentary will be your DVD cover. You need to ensure a strong initial impact and work hard to design a cover that stands out and is not simply another “me too” DVD design.

If you’re just starting out as an independent filmmaker, audiences likely won’t have read about your film in industry publications or national newspapers. Similarly, since virtually no independent films get wide theatrical releases you’ll need to work hard to get your film exposure. One way to do this is to  try and stop your potential audience in their tracks with great DVD cover artwork and design. This will increase your chances that they will pick up your film to read the synopsis on the back.

This blog post explores the topic of DVD cover design. We will discuss the design principles of DVD cover artwork and then we’ll provide examples from leading films and documentaries.

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Message by:  Lights Film School
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How to design DVD cover

If you haven’t already you can download our free DVD cover template. Once you’ve downloaded the template, you’ll need to design the front, back and side of your DVD cover. This blog post will focus exclusively on the design of the front of the DVD.

1. Set the tone & know your demographic
Is your film a sexy film? Artistic film? Unusual film? Celebrity driven? Comedy? Tragedy?

Identifying what your film is about will help you narrow down your design choices. You want there to be a strong correlation between the tonal qualities of the DVD cover design the film itself.

2. Decide on a color palette
Notice that the DVD covers below consist of gradients of 2-3 colors. By simplifying your color palette you’re simplifying your message. We’ve written a blog post about color theory and color simplicity here.

3. Decide on an image
Your image needs to represent what your film is about. It is often a character (usually the protagonist), but it can also be the film’s antagonist, an event, a location, a prop or an illustration to name only a few examples.

4. Decide on a font
Your DVD cover font is one of the most important design decisions you’ll make. Its size, style and placement needs to both complement your film and the other design components of the DVD cover.

5. Pick a design element and exaggerate it
Some DVD cover designers use pattern (see Sweetie below) or color (see Taste of Cherry below) , others use line (see Fallen Idol below), others use negative space (see The Last Emperor below). The point is to pick a primary design element (ie. shape, pattern, leading lines, texture, reflection, color etc)  to help make the DVD cover stand out not just due to content, but also due to style.

6. Stay focused and simple
Look at the examples below. You’ll notice the designer often only uses 1 image, no more than 2-3 colors and1-2 fonts in a simplified, well organized and easy to navigate DVD cover design.

Below are DVD covers from the Criterion Collection. The DVD artwork is for both films and documentaries.

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