Sardines packaging

Sardines packaging - student project

Hello everyone!

I’m Maria, graphic designer based in Russia. I’m a big fan of Mary Kate McDevitt and I really appreciate it that she shares her amazing skills and tips with everyone.

For my project I decided to redesign a packaging for a tin of sardines. A couple of years ago I was on vacation in Portugal and came across a shop with lots of cute tins by Conserveira de Lisboa. The packaging consists of simple identical tins with various colorful labeled paper wraps. Simple idea that works really great. 

Sardines packaging - image 1 - student project

My goal for this project is to make my own packaging for a tin of sardines. Hopefully I can come up with a design that has a modern vintage look and a good composition, going to be a challenge for me since I want to include a lot of information. 


I ended up with lots of reference material which I found on Pinterest and in Encyclopedia of Advertising Tins Vol.2. While I was browsing I kept an eye out for interesting S letters (since might need one for Sardines).

Sardines packaging - image 2 - student project

Sardines packaging - image 3 - student project

Sardines packaging - image 4 - student project

Here are some sketches I made. I feel like I should have done way more, maybe I'll have time to do it when I'll be working on my final sketch in case I have a hard time making a good composition with all the information I want to include.

Sardines packaging - image 5 - student project

Sardines packaging - image 6 - student project

Sardines packaging - image 7 - student project


  • I want the packaging to look more special than ordinary sardines packaging, something people could buy as a gift.
  •  I decided to pick a popular Portuguese name to go with Sardines, so it’s going to be Sandro’s Sardines. 
  • I made a list of some copy I can put on the packaging (looked up some vintage sardines packaging for inspiration).
  • I also made a small mind-map of other things that come to mind when you think about sardines and fishing.

Sardines packaging - image 8 - student project


Here are some thumbnails I came up with

Sardines packaging - image 9 - student project

Sardines packaging - image 10 - student project


Unfortunately didn't have a chance to scan them at work today, so had to photograph them instead. Not all the letters look right, going to correct it later on. Decided to go with #1, #2 and #5. 

#1 didn't really seem like a great option, but I picked it because it was the only one that didn't have a fish on it. I made the lighthouse bigger, the composition looks better now.

Sardines packaging - image 11 - student project

I picked #2 because it's the only one that is asymmetric. At the thumbnail stage I wasn't sure if I can make it work, I guess I like how it turned out.

Sardines packaging - image 12 - student project


I was deciding between #4 and #3, but decided that the overall look in #4 is more old-fashioned while in #3 it can be a good balance of vintage and modern. 

Sardines packaging - image 13 - student project

Didn't expect that I'll like how all of my sketches will turn out. Wish I had enough time to take all of them further. 

Decided to continue with #2 and see if I can make the asymmetric composition work. As I didn't have a chance to scan my sketch I had to use a slightly different process. I redrew it in Photoshop, correcting the composition and letters as I went along. It took a while, so next time I'm going to 1) do a better and bigger sketch, 2) scan it and trace it in Illustrator.

Sardines packaging - image 14 - student project

Decided to use a couple of vintage labels as my color reference.

Sardines packaging - image 15 - student project

Sardines packaging - image 16 - student project

Sardines packaging - image 17 - student project

I picked the second option and added some texture.

Sardines packaging - image 18 - student project

Overall I like how it turned out, but of course there is always room for improvement ;-) would have redrawn all the small lettering in the bottom part and changed the curves of the rope.

While I was working on the mockup I decided to change the border to yellow. Also I thought it would have been great if the stamp with the logo was foil embossed.

Sardines packaging - image 19 - student project