Producing a Vinyl EP

I created the music soundtrack for an Irish language short film (that won 3 national drama awards) earlier this year, which I worked on with my Dad. The idea for getting involved with this actually came from one of my former school teachers, who originally taught me to play the drums.

Being involved in this project was a lot of fun and, after we finished the music for the film, we wanted to find a way to say thanks to my teacher for their original idea. Because we had just published the songs as an online album, my Dad suggested that we see what it might take to have the same album pressed onto Vinyl as a gift for my teacher. This is the story of how we did this.

The first thing we had to do was find a company that could produce vinyl albums. My Dad did some research online and decided to contact whose website seemed to offer what we needed for a price that seemed affordable for the quantities we wanted. We wanted to make just 3 copies: one for my teacher, one for myself and one for my Dad.

My Dad did most of the dealing with CopySmith and, while (he said) the ordering process was fairly low-tech (in comparison to publishing the album online using CD Baby), the service he got from them was really superb. The main person he dealt with was Adrian and he was really, really helpful all the time, especially with all our questions because this was our first time.

He provided templates for the album cover and record labels, answered emails at weekends and in the evenings and was really accommodating for any changes we needed to make. He also allowed us to send him trial versions of the artwork (to see if they were correct) before placing our order.

Based on what my Dad said, I think we’d definitely recommend CopySmith to others and I think he’s already done that with a few of his friends.

Vinyl EP

We had created four songs for the movie soundtrack and these were less than 5 minutes long in total. We also had other versions of each song (some longer and some without background sound effects) and those were around 4 minutes long too.

According to Adrian at CopySmith, this meant we could fit them onto a 7” record, so that’s what we ordered in the end. A 7” record with more than one song per side is known as an EP in the record industry, which stands for Extended Play.

Artwork Software

We needed to create artwork for the album cover (front and back) as well as for the labels for the two sides of the record. The artwork for each of these had to be a very specific resolution:

  • Album Cover: 2173 x 2173 pixels at 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch), which was around 18.4cm
  • Record Labels: 1122 x 1122 pixels at 300 DPI, which was around 9cm.

We tried lots of different free graphics software programs but very few of them did exactly what we wanted (especially the 300 DPI). In the end, we chose Adobe Spark because, even though it was not free, we felt it was the easiest to use and had lots of flexibility. We could also pay by the month and only needed it for one month, so it only cost €12.95 in the end, and was worth that.

Cover Design

Because the music was written for a movie that was set by the sea (with a storm scene in it), we decided to design the album cover based around an ocean theme. My Dad had a few photos he’d taken at some local beaches earlier in the year and we chose to base the cover on one of those.

I then used Adobe Spark to crop sections of this photo for the front and back part of the cover, using some hue to create a blue, nighttime effect. We created separate Adobe Spark files for the front and back cover (we did the same of the labels later on). My Mam also suggested using the sun in the photo to form part of the album title: Saoirse (the Irish word for Freedom).

Once we had the basic background that we wanted, we added the other details to the front and back. The front just had the album title and my name but the back had lots more details, including the song names for both sides and various credits for the music and film creators etc.

We looked at a few of my Dad’s old singles to see what details we should put on the cover and, in the end, this is what we ended up with (the front is the left and the back is on the right):

Because the movie was in the Irish language (my former school is an Irish language school) and so were the names of the songs we created, we decided to use the Irish language for all of the album cover (and label) details as well.

Label Design

Once we had made the front and back cover, we knew a lot more about Adobe Spark so creating the labels for the record took less time. Adobe Spark had lots of different features and effects that we were able to use but it did take a little bit of trial and error to settle on the right amount of detail to include. Again, we used a few old singles for inspiration and eventually ended up with these:

The lighter, blue ribbon effect around the edge is meant to look like ocean waves when the record is spinning on the player and our fake record company name, Martello Studios, is meant to spin around the hold in the centre of the record. These turned out really well too.

Music Files

We didn’t have to do anything to the music files we had, except give them special names when uploading them to the CopySmith website so the vinyl pressing company would know which song to put where, on each side of the record.


Once we finalised the artwork files, we uploaded them (along with the specially named music files) to the CopySmith website and formally placed our order (paying using Paypal). We were told that it could take 3-5 weeks before the records would be ready so you need to allow for this if you’re thinking of doing a project like this. Here is what the finished records looked like:

From start to finish, the entire effort took around 8 weeks but it was all worth it when we presented a copy to my former teacher who was absolutely blown away by it. We later found out that he is also a former DJ and is a huge fan of vinyl records (doesn’t even have a music streaming account), which made it extra special!

A Transitional Year

In Ireland, there are two main state exams that you take during your secondary school years. The Junior Certificate comes first and is a 3-year cycle that you complete at around 14-15 years of age. You then complete the Leaving Certificate, which takes 2 years. Students also have an option to spend one additional year in between these two cycles, exploring a range of different social and personal development activities and experiences. This is called Transition Year, or just TY.

Some of the highlights of a normal TY would include going on work experience, doing some community service, taking a trip abroad and generally spending a lot of time outside the classroom. However, our year was very different due to Covid-19 and we were unable to do any of these.

That is not to say we did nothing (far from it) and as we are about to finish TY soon, I decided to take a look back at what I achieved over this very different year. I’ve separated the various items into categories to make them easier to read.

Technology Projects

I did a number of projects that involved using various kinds of technology, which were:

  1. I produced Digital Mosaic Posters for my current and former schools, which involved taking headshots of all pupils and teachers and using a computer program to create a mosaic image of the school crest, then mounting this in a frame.
  2. I started my own blog in 2020 (using the popular WordPress blogging software) and decided to write one new article each month during Transition Year. In fact, the one you’re reading now is the final one in this series!
  3. My friends and I submitted an idea to the BT Young Scientist Award, which was a project that would explore the effects of wearing face masks in school.
  4. I recorded a Podcast, which was a fake interview with a celebrity. I chose to interview Tom Holland and asked him different questions on a range of topics.
  5. I created an online computer game using Scratch, based on the Apex Legends video game.
  6. We learned how to use Solidworks, a popular Computer Aided Design (CAD) software package, and created a basic LEGO Car and small Park Bench.

Music & Art

I also did some projects (personal and school-based) with a musical and artist theme, including:

  1. I was invited (by a former primary school teacher) to compose the soundtrack for an Irish language short film they were producing, which I did with my Dad. In total, we wrote, arranged and recorded 7 tracks, including adding sound effects using Audacity.
  2. I completed a week-long, creative song writing course with Music Generation, Waterford.
  3. I restored an old skateboard, replacing many of its parts and designing my own artwork for it. I also wrote a blog about how I did this.
  4. I created and delivered a presentation about an entrepreneur that I admire, and chose to base it on Stan Lee, the creator of the Marvel comics and movies.


I took the opportunity to do some activities related to the environment as well, which were:

  1. I joined Tramore Tidy Towns to help clean our local beach every Sunday morning.
  2. I was selected to join the Green Schools Committee, helping with various related activities during the school year (including several Covid safety initiatives).

Practical Skills

I decided to try learning some new skills during the year, including:

  1. I prepared myself to sit the Driver Theory Test, which involved practising lots of sample questions using a computer program at home. I applied to sit the real test too but my test date was postponed due to Covid-19, so I am still waiting to finish this.
  2. I took a number of cookery & baking classes at school and made several meals and dishes at home throughout the year. I plan to continue with these as my younger brother and Dad have fallen in love with my brownies!

Sport & Recreation

The school arranged lots of different sporting and recreational activities during the year. These included surfing, cycling (on the Waterford Greenway), walking (on the Suir Blueway and Dunmore East cliffs), as well as Archery & Climbing (at the Dunmore East Adventure Centre).

Online Learning

I also completed a range of different courses online, which included Road Safety (e.g. drink and drug driving, fatigue, cyclists and distractions), Concussion & Covid Safety, creating an education course on skateboard design and skills, presentations skills and using Microsoft Teams.

We attended a number of University Open Days too, which were very informative and helpful.


While the year was very different to what I expected and I definitely would have loved to do some work experience and take a trip abroad with my friends, I still feel that I have learned a lot. I would definitely recommend that everyone should do Transition Year if they get the chance to.

Digital Mosaic Posters

My friend and I created some posters for Gaelscoil Philib Barún and Gaelcholáiste Phort Láirge recently (my former and current schools) as part of my Transition Year technology class. The posters are rather different and take the form of a large (A1-size) mosaic image of the school crest with an Irish-language caption underneath.

The mosaic images are quite unique and personalised because the tiles within the are actually miniature, pixelated photographs of each child and teacher at the schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Viewing the posters is quite fun too because they look a little grainy from a distance but then, as you walk closer to them, you see the people’s faces come into focus.

Gaelscoil Philib Barún

The poster for Gaelscoil Philib Barún consisted of the school crest, which is mostly red and black in colour (with a little grey) and the caption “Daltaí 2020” underneath, which means “Pupils 2020”. The poster was mounted in a red frame with a perspex front cover to protect it.

The school already had a similar poster from 2012 and we helped them make a fresh copy of that too, so that both posters are the same size and in similar frames. Both of them are now on display at the school and my work was also featured on their school website here.

Gaelcholoáiste Phort Láirge

The poster for Gaelcholoáiste Phort Láirge also consisted of the school crest, which is mostly green and blue (with a little black) and the caption “Pobal 2021” underneath, which means “Community 2021”. We chose the term community because some of the teachers were in it too. The poster was also mounted in a green frame with a perspex front cover to protect it as it may be mounted outdoors.

This was the first time the school did anything like this and they are planning to use the same mosaic image as the front cover of the new school handbook next year.  The poster will be displayed near the school entrance so that visitors can enjoy it also.

Digital Mosaic Generation

The posters were created by a computer program called Turbo Mosaic (available for Mac and Windows). This is free for smaller posters but we bought the advanced copy to make the larger posters that the school wanted.

All you need to do is supply it with the headshot photos of the pupils (and teachers), along with the photo that you want to make a mosaic of, and it will do the rest. It took a while to get all of the settings right (e.g. image resolution, number and shape of tiles, colourisation) but once we did this for the first one, we were able to reuse the same settings for the second one.

You should try to get some of the colours from the school crest into the headshot photos so the software can use them to create a more realistic version of the crest. You also need to pick a good quality frame too so it will last for several years in a school setting, where it could easily get damaged.

These were fun projects to work on (especially taking the headshots at my school) and people seem to really enjoy trying to find themselves in the posters. I’d definitely do it again in future.

Skateboard Restoration Project

I was out walking one day and found an old skateboard abandoned near my home and I decided to try restoring it to see what I might learn about how skateboards are actually made. Seeing as I didn’t know all that much about the parts of a skateboard, I first did some research on that. There’s lots of places online for this but I found YouTube videos to be the best way to learn about it.

Damage Limitation

Removing the old parts from the skateboard was actually harder than I thought, partly because it was so rusted and damp, but also because I probably didn’t have the right tools. I bought some basic skateboard tools in a local shop, along with some white vinegar to help de-rust some of the other parts, and I eventually managed to disassemble it fully. Gladly, I was able to salvage most of the parts, except the wheel bearings which were not designed to be opened so could not be reused. Instead, I used the bearings from a few spare fidget spinners that I had lying around and they actually did the job nicely.

Replacement Parts

Because the outer rims of the wheels were also badly worn (with large chunks missing), I decided to treat myself to a replacement set. I also bought a replacement grip tape as the old one did not come off the board in one piece. Apart from some art supplies (including primer, paint and varnish), these were the only replacement parts I had to buy.

Dampness Control

I tried sanding down the board but quickly realised that it was still very damp, from having been outside in the rain for so long. I did a little more research here and tried leaving the board in my hotpress for a couple of weeks. This didn’t really help all that much so I next tried leaving it in my Dad’s shed where he had a dehumidifier that keeps his old motorbike dry. This helped a lot more.

After trying to sand it by hand a couple times, which was very hard going, I took a trip to my uncle’s house to try out his electric sander. This made a big difference but he also had some white spirits and a heat gun in his garage which helped a lot too. Here is what it looked like at this stage.

Design Ideation

In the days and weeks while it was drying, I also began to think about what design I might like to put on it once it was finished. I knew I’d need a primer first because you can’t apply acrylic paints directly onto wood anyway and the primer would also shield the acrylic pains from any remaining dampness in the wood, which there was some. I actually ended up applying a total of 3 coats of primer before I was fully happy with the foundation for the next layer, after which it looked like this.

Painting My Design

The final stage (before reassembly), which was also the most enjoyable part for me, was to paint my design on the underside of the deck. I went with a mixture of different patterns and shapes, with strong colours, inspired from some ideas I saw on Pinterest. After some trial and error, I found a handy way to apply my design onto the deck using a B6 pencil with some A4 paper sheets and an iPad (where the design I was tracing was being displayed).

After tracing the design onto one side of the paper sheets (which were taped together), I turned over the pages and applied a heavy layer of dark pencil lead on the other side. I then flipped the page back over again and retraced my original design, which imprinted itself onto the deck via the lead layer underneath. I then applied the acrylic paint layer in the right places, after which I applied a few layers of varnish in the days after.

The Finishing Touches

In terms of reassembly, this started with applying a new grip tape. I wanted to put a design into this too and used a screwdriver to etch out my design as a pencil was too light. I then cut the tape into two halves and placed them on the deck, slightly apart, to get the effect I wanted. The reassembly finished with the installation of new trucks and wheels. Here is the finished product.

While it took a lot longer than I thought, I’m really pleased with the outcome and would definitely consider doing it again (hopefully in less time with all that I learned). If I do, I’ll be sure to add some details about them to my blog as well.