Drawing the First Label – Stout

I decided that for me, the best way to deal with the fact that my machinery sketches weren’t turning out right was to throw myself in at the deep end.


Using my sketches, photo references and machinery drawing references, I sketched out a rough layout for the labels. I made a few marks for the centre of the label and the edges of where the information would be so that the design didn’t overlap to much into these areas. The strange shape in the middle of the design is the space for the logo and beer style.
Miraculously enough, the machinery actually turned out really well for this first label. I think by now I knew how I wanted the metallic textures to look and how I would achieve it. As I’m not used to drawing machinery I took this pretty slow. For the new labels I know I can speed up a little because I’m more used to the textures.


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The finished sketch, scanned in at 300dip and cleaned up in Photoshop. I’m so pleased with how the sketch turned out. This is pretty much how I envisioned it would look. I think my meticulous and careful planning really paid off, because I did feel like I knew what I was doing here. I thought I would feel a bit out of my depth. Most of all I tried to keep the composition natural looking. The plants have a sense of ‘randomness’ which makes things look more realistic.


I picked this exact composition for a few reasons. The ratio of hops and barley seems a bit peculiar at first – this is because Stout’s are low on hops and higher on barley malts and i wanted the design to reflect this.
The machinery I picked is also very specific. I’ve included some milling equipment, a fermentation tank, a keg, and a pipe/valve for bottling beer. This label is actually a subtle way of showing how Stout beer is made. Hopefully those that are very familiar with brewing will spot this! But for those that aren’t too familiar with brewing will hopefully think it’s a beautiful design and will see the basic connection to brewing in the imagery.

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My document is 8″ x 3″ with a 0.25″ bleed, 300dpi, CMYK, 8 bit. The guidelines are to show the bleed on the edges, and also the middle of the label and edges of the information.
After cleaning the sketch, I started colouring. I set the sketch layer to multiply and applied the colour underneath the linework with the brush tool. I like doing it this way because the colour feels and looks more natural. The pen tool is a little too blocky for me. I colour on a plain white background to see where the colour needs to be under the shape, then I check on the dark background if everything looks okay. Any weird looking areas I will correct with the eraser tool – for example, if I have gone over the lines anywhere.
Using the Colour Overlay function on my purple colour layer, I made the purple a little brighter. It wasn’t standing out against the background enough for me, and as the hops are an important element I didn’t want them to get lost – especially as there are less of them than the barley.
Erasing the mistakes in the green colouring of this leaf. Small attention to detail, even on such a small label as this can really make the difference and helps coloured elements flow better with dark backgrounds.

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After finishing the colouring of the main elements.

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Adding the information. I think this was the right amount of info to show – it isn’t too crowded and still looks somewhat stylish. I’ve used ‘placeholder’ info in some places here which I will change for my client. This is just to get the placement right and to show him what it will look like.
It might not seem like it, but I spent a long time making sure that everything was proportional and lined up with each other. I think this makes the design look really professional which is obviously what I’m trying to achieve for my client. I think a small detail like that will throw off the entire design, look sloppy and amateurish.
I chose this font because it mimics the typography in a less stylised way. I wanted the information to feel like it was as much a part of the design as the drawings, and choosing a corresponding font was one way to achieve this.
These are some of the other typefaces I tried out. None of these looked right – because they didn’t match the logo.

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The typography I finally found was a perfect fit, because it was also inspired by old brewing labels.

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Where I placed the info. It works really nicely with the colours of the typography and the brighter machinery. I also like that the natural elements are the only things in colour.

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I added in some leaves and petals around the information to help the design flow more and to make the info feel a part of the image as a whole. Without the leaves/petals, the info looks like it’s just been stuck on.
I also added some more barley and hop stems to fill out some more negative space. The design looks a lot fuller. One reason I love Photoshop is that it’s so easy for me to change the composition of my pieces if I feel something needs to change.

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Sketches and finished coloured labels for lager and PA, created in exactly the same was as the stout label.
I’m so pleased with how this has turned out. I’ve tackled a lot of things here that I don’t usually attempt: plants, machinery, typography/logo design, packaging design, and colour. For my first ever packaging design I think I’ve done really well. It’s also been a great exercise for me to see how subject matter I don’t usually draw looks in my style. I also really like discovering new ways for how my illustration can be used for different functions.
The art nouveau influence is probably not as evident as I was intentionally planning it to be. In all honesty I really don’t mind this. I took the basic art nouveau shapes and did my own response/take on the style. I think that if the work looked distinctly art nouveau there would be a risk of the illustration looking too old fashioned. It also would look nothing like my own style. I like to think that I’ve taken all these influences of art nouveau, old machinery illustrations and antique labels and produced a more modern version.

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