Label Design: Make Your Packaging Fizz skillshare originals badge

Kendrick Kidd, Package Designer & Digital Illustrator

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
16 Lessons (1h 3m)
    • 1. Product, package or label?

    • 2. Homework

    • 3. Client input

    • 4. Concepting, sketching and editing

    • 5. Presenting your ideas

    • 6. Define your design area

    • 7. Mandatories

    • 8. Unique & Repeating Elements

    • 9. Hierarchy & Graphic Framework

    • 10. Color Use

    • 11. Vessel Substrates

    • 12. Carriers

    • 13. Label testing

    • 14. Creating your digital vessel and applying the label
    • 15. Refinement

    • 16. Explore Design on Skillshare


Project Description

Design a unique beer can


  1. Consider the difference between product design, label design, and package design
    • Products are what a business manufacture for us to consume. Ex. Bread, crackers, soft drinks, etc.
    • Package designs are the vessels or casings that house products for distribution. Ex. A blank metal can, a bottle, a cardboard box, etc.
    • Label designs are any graphics that appear on a package. Ex. The graphics printed on a can that let you know your favorite energy drink is inside.


  2. Field trip
    • Walk, bike, or drive to your nearest grocer
    • Spend some time walking the isles and check out  packaging solutions within different food segments. See if you can pick out any trends in design and color.
    • Identify what jumps out at you and consider why some products stand out more than others.
    • Take note of the beer cooler in particular as this will come in handy with our label project later.



  1. Prepare for your client meeting
    1. Before your meeting, write down a list of questions to ask the client that help define the scope of work. It’s important to know if the piece you’re designing should take into account existing brand standards, color palettes, dimensions, and die lines. Also be sure to ask about timeframes for initial ideas and final art.
    2. Listen to the client’s input and ask questions along the way if any information is unclear. Be sure to jot down notes as you talk to reference later when you’re starting the job. High five if you can get the client to send you a recap email after your meeting.
  2. Start concepting
    1. Reference the notes from your client meeting and start free-writing your ideas against any key creative points mentioned. Don’t be afraid to wonder a bit with your word play, sometimes tangents can come into play with supporting graphics even if they don’t end up as your main theme.
    2. Keeping your goal in mind, edit down your word list to a few favorites ideas and start sketching to see how they translate visually. If you have a die line or rough idea of the label dimensions consider this when sketching.
    3. Now that you have some roughs worked out, consider the scalability of each idea in a series. Could the idea naturally lead to others in a series of 3 or more.
  3. Prepare your concept document
    1. Layout each sketch on a page with a style example and a brief rational of what lead you to your solution. Your rational should be short & sweet, just enough to get your idea across. Your layout should be equally as simple, no masterpieces we’re just setting up presentation rhythm. :)
    2. Repeat the step above across all of your ideas and create a .pdf for you and your client to review


Label Elements, Space Allocation & Color

  1. Define your label area
    • For a bottle: Based on the size & style of bottle, define your area for a front label, back label, neck label, and crown. The client may have manufacturer specs for all of this if they’ve produced labels before, so be sure to ask before you spend the time figuring it out. Also talk to them about budget and their labeling machine capabilities as they may also come into play when defining your design space.
    • For a Can: Based on the size & style of can, define your area for design. Because you’re only designing a single piece of art for a can, this one is a little less tricky than bottle labels. Your client should have manufacturer specs that include live, and safe areas for design. 
    • d56b0b28

  2. Research and review TTB requirements
    • The FDA requires mandatory elements on all alcoholic beverages in the US. Visit the site & dig for a few hours (or wrap yourself once on the forehead with a 2x4 for similar results), then see attachment for a few rough guidelines to keep in mind when including your required elements.
    • Your client is required to submit the finished label art to the FDA for approval. Results can vary slightly depending on the reviewer, so be prepared for some back & forth. If you follow the guidelines attached you should at least have a leg up on the process.
    • Also ask your client about any state requirements (like Alcohol By Volume (ABV)) that you may need to include along with FDA mandatories.
    • 495a2858

  3. Define your unique & repeating graphics
    • Every label series will have both unique & repeating elements. Based on your design concept consider which category each of your graphic elements fall into.
    • Be flexible with the placement your nonmandatory elements as things may shift as you get deeper into your series.
  4. Arrange your elements and create a framework.
    • Based on your design area, start arranging each of your graphic elements. The framework you are establishing will help define how you will set up other labels in your series.
    • Keep in mind the size and placement of your graphics based on communication hierarchy. Giving you’re elements the proper amount of voice will give your label the best chance of communicating effectively both in hand and on the shelf
    • ed81294e

  5. Define your color palette
    • Choose a color palette that makes sense with your concept, beer style and brand.
    • Consider other labels in your series & how your color choices will look together. Keeping hues and tones in a similar range will help unite all of your pieces.
    • How you use your color is just as important as the colors you choose. In the small area we have for beer labels, large areas of flat spot colors tend to read better at a distance than a continuous tone images. Both are possible to produce but going simple and bold with your palette can play a roll in standing out on the shelf.

Substrates & Carriers

  1. Make sure your design is practical
    • Every vessel and substrate has it’s own set of limitations. Whether it’s the use of spot vs process color, or the limits on pt size of type that are reproducable, it’s important to make sure your design is practical for the application.
    • Look up your label manufacturer online and see if they have a list of production do’s and don’ts for your particular label type. If they don’t, it’s a good idea to set up a meeting to discuss any common pitfalls to avoid.
    • 18e957eb

  2. Choosing a carrier
    • Although beer can be sold as a single can or bottle it will most likely need a carrier. 
    • Consider how you label elements will translate and choose a carrier type that makes sense for your design.
    • If you decide to get fancy & create your own carrier, be sure comp & test your design before you present it. It’s also a good idea to have a packaging desginer ready to review your carrier well before it goes to production.
  3. How your choices stack up on the shelf.
    • In many cases you’ll have multiple carriers of a single product stacked on the shelf together.
    • Consider how your carrier will look repeated on the shelf and how it will play with other carriers in your family. Are there any solutions beyond the obvious that will help unify the series?

Label Comping & Refinement`

  1. Print and test your label on a real bottle or can
    • Print your label out at 100%.
    • Trim down all the pieces as they would be printed, including any fancy die cuts.
    • Spray-mount your trimmed label to the vessel you are intending to use.
    • Review your finished label comp for an irregular bumps or wrinkles once it’s applied, and adjust your design accordingly.


  2. Create a digital bottle or can and apply your label.
    • Photograph or scan a reference can or bottle
    • Create your vessel profile based on your reference in Illustrator. Use the 3D revolve tool to extrude your rough shape.
    • Take your rough Illustrator vessel into Photoshop and ad layered highlights, reflections and shadows
    • Apply your finished label under your highlights and reflections layers, and mask off any excess areas
  3. Adjusting your beer label design
    • Now that you can see all of the pieces together as they would appear on the shelf, it's time to step away from the computer. Give your eyes a chance to uncross and let your mind claer before revisiting your design.
    • Be sure you don't flatten layers, outline fonts or anything else that would require a rebuild to make revisions
    • With fresh eyes consider how you might adjust any graphic elements to more tightly align with your concept.
    • Once you have the final bits tweaked, ask for feedback. It’s important to get honest perspective from folks you trust and people who know nothing about the project. Don't worry, you're not committed to every change that's suggested. But having a different perspective on your design might open up other solutions that you hadn't yet considered.

Student Projects