After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I’m so glad that my beer labels are finished and that I am happy with them. Especially as I have never designed packaging before, I think these turned out really well. I’m disappointed that the printers messed up my order a little but as it is such a small element of the design I am not too upset. It would have been worse if a larger, more visible design element had been forgotten or changed.
I think it’s unusual how the beer labels were constructed, and it’s interesting that each bottle tells the story of how the beer was made. In a way, each bottle is a recipe for making that particular style of beer. Each label contains the main ingredients and the rough ratio of hops to barley, and also contains a piece of equipment that you’d use to make the beer: mills, fermentation tanks, bottling equipment, etc. I think this design is dark, almost like a metal album cover, but will still appeal to a lot of people. It has that kind of victorian feel, in the illustrations themselves and also in the traditional, dark look of it.
The foiling was a good decision in the end and I’m glad I changed the design to incorporate it. It really finishes off the label and elevates them from looking just like a university project, to an actual label being used by a company (which they are!)
My client could use the wax sealed bottles for limited edition beer styles, and stick to the grolsch style caps for the regular beers. I changed the caps to a wax seal because I wanted to try something a little more ambitious for the purpose of the uni project, but I will make a few changes to the design for my client. My client is over the moon with the design! It is exactly the kind of thing he was looking for and he feels that I took what he wanted and represented it really well.
The only downside is that the labels are a little difficult to photograph. The colours are in fact really bright in real life, but I slightly struggled trying to capture that. This project helped me learn a lot about taking product photos – I usually just send off images to clients and then they take their own. My client can use these photos if he wishes but we may end up taking different ones. I now feel confident about taking and editing product photos, which makes me more versatile as an artist and is also helpful to my own business – I occasionally take product photos for my online shop and now I know a few more tricks about getting better photos.
I also pushed myself a lot with the actual drawing side of this project – I don’t usually draw machinery or plants so this was a bit of a challenge for me. Incorporating the art nouveau style was interesting, because I don’t usually draw inspiration from this art style. I think I’ve managed to take some influence from AN in a way that isn’t too obvious, which I think makes this work still very much conform to my illustration style. I also never use colour very often unless it is an accent colour, so I’m really proud that I managed to step out of my comfort zone. I have a few commissions to work on that require colour so I think I can manage that much better than if I hadn’t worked on this project.
I also never create logos because it’s a weakness of mine, I struggle to work with typography. However, after achieving this logo, I think I will take on some more logo based commissions, as I am often asked by clients if I can create them. Usually I create logos that are more graphic/visual but I want to try type only logos in the future.
I would love to create some more product packaging for another client, so I will look for a small independent company to collaborate with. The whole point of third year for me was to see how I can apply my illustrations in the real world. Luckily, because my style is realism, my work tends to suit most applications. I’m trying to take a step back from the metal aspect of my art to “soften” things up a little so that I am able to take on commissions that are more commercial – in the long run this will be better for me as an artist because basically I’ll be able to get more work in the future if I am able to diversify.
Overall I am super pleased with how these turned out. I’ve learned a lot from these project and feel so much more confident about my abilities and my work process. I feel that these projects have helped me become a stronger artist and I’m definitely settling into what will probably always be my “style.”
One of my weaknesses is presenting my final pieces properly. I usually run out of time before I am able to properly take photos of my work. This time, I was organised and left myself enough time to take some proper photos of my work.
I watched a few tutorials online of how photographers take product photos.
I set up my photography box with two lamps and a black background. I set up my camera on a tripod to achieve stable and consistent images. I wanted my three photos to look similar so I kept the beer bottles in the same place. This is a similar set up to how I photographed my other projects.
I was really disappointed in how the photos turned out. Because I don’t have the correct lamps, the photos just tuned out really weird colours, the lighting was horrible and the details weren’t as vivid as I hoped them to be.
I did try editing them to see if the photos could be improved. I adjusted the colour balance – adding in some blue/purple to counteract the orange/yellow tones. I also toned down the exposure. I used the sharpen filter to bring out some of the detail. Although I really like the dark background because the bottles stand out, I just hate everything else about the image. I felt that these images didn’t do my work any justice at all. In the past I would have just used these images but as one of my goals this year was to present my work better, I decided to start from scratch with the photos.
I went with a really simple set up – I just put the bottle on my table near the window for natural light. I took the same photos for each bottle in the exact same position:
a front view
a side view
a back view
some details of the foil effect, illustrations and wax seal
The natural light and simple background was a really good choice. The photos came out looking so professional and much better than the first images. Sometimes simple is best! The detail and the colours were much stronger and more eye-catching in natural light.
The photos still needed a little bit of editing to really make them stand out though.
Using the brush tool and layer masks, I removed the background around the beer bottle.
I copied the layer and inverted the layer mask so I had the background on one layer and the beer bottle on another.
I lowered the saturation and brightness of the background which looked like this:
On the bottle layer I used levels to make it a touch brighter
The last things I did were to crop the photo, make the background a little lighter and carefully touch up the edges of the bottle where the layer masks overlapped.
I think the shiny black table and the grey-ish background are quite dark and moody looking which fits the theme of the beer really well. They’re so plain that they allow the the labels to stand out. I’m so happy with how professional the photos turned out. Putting more thought into how I present my work is definitely paying off.
One of my weaknesses is displaying my work appropriately and giving it proper justice – so this year I’m really trying to tackle this issue.
Playing around with my images, I came up with a few ways to display the finished product.
This first idea uses a black background and a full view of the label. The dark background definitely makes the whole thing pop. I’ve seen a few designers display their designs like this. I used warp on photoshop to fit the label to the curved bottle shape, then I added another layer of the label behind the bottle. I used a black gradient overlay to outline the shape of the bottle. The bottle itself definitely lets this down – I would obviously find a better example of a bottle or maybe even take a photo of one myself.
I tried out this look on a white background and it really doesn’t work. The white is far too harsh, and the colours actually look a lot duller. Also, the label does need to conform to the shape of the bottle like the first image because otherwise it just looks so flat.
I also decided that I would definitely need a front and back view of the labels if I didn’t choose the first idea of the spread out label. I also noticed that sometimes the reflection of the bottles is included in the image. This was easy enough to photoshop – I copied the bottles, turned them 180 degrees and used a black gradient overlay over the reflections.
The Empire Gin, Cervecería Sagrada beer.
I also experimented with gradients and texture. I didn’t like how these looked as I felt the textures took away from the beer label design. The white gradient looks okay but a bit fake – it would be better to have a real light source.
I tested out some methods of using wax for the beer seals. I didn’t have any silver to hand so I used a metallic red. The wax comes in sticks which are melted with a flame.
I received the silver wax in the post and I’m thrilled with the colour. The bright silver stands out and matches the colours of the label really well.
The only issue I have is that the method of dripping the wax over the bottle is time consuming and fiddly. I’m not too sure I like how this looks – it’s so messy. I have seen others online dip the tops of bottles in the wax instead which is less fiddly and a much better idea.
Another issue that I have is that I don’t think this style of beer bottle is suitable for the wax seal.
I think it will be better to find a different type of bottle – either a corked seal or a standard bottle cap seal. I can see that the handles of the flip cap will get in the way of the wax and it will look very messy.
I bought some more bottles from Wilkos (here) with standard metal cap tops. They’re amber coloured glass and 500ml as well, like the Grolsch style bottles. I also bought some silver coloured bottle sealing was (here) and found an old saucepan, tin can, metal spoon and wooden spatulas for stirring.
Before I got started I watched a few tutorials online.
First I melted the wax on my kitchen hob. I broke up the pieces of wax into smaller sizes that would fit in the tin can and would melt faster. I melted a few pieces at a time. It took about 15 minutes for everything to melt.
How the bottles looked before the wax went on. I also marked with a little of the melted wax where I wanted the seal to stop so I could create a more uniform look.
My first batch of wax dipped bottles. They’re a bit hit and miss – some turned out perfect and others didn’t look that great.
Thankfully wax is a very forgiving material and I could pick off the bits that ran and looked a bit rough and re-dip them.
I really love how the wax seals look when they’re clean/neat like these ones, but I also do like the dripping effect.
Using the metal spoon I dripped some wax onto the seals. It didn’t look right, so I picked off the drips and kept the bottles as just a neat, clean seal.
A comparison of the messy dripped seals compared to the clean ones. The clean ones look much more professionally done which is what I am trying to achieve.
A comparison to the first technique I tried and the wax dipping. Such a big improvement!
I am over the moon with how the wax seals turned out. I was surprised that after a few goes I picked up the technique quickly and managed to get a very professional, clean look. These wax seals really add something special to the design and will match the silver labels and the antique theme so well.
I received some feedback from my tutor about the labels. There are certain areas that need to be changed:
Size of the logo and beer style needs to be larger
The barley and hops need to be larger
The colours need to be brighter
Some experimentation needs to be done in terms of paper and print finishing.
The first thing I changed was the size of the logo and the placement of the illustration. I made the logo a lot bigger and the beer style slightly bigger. I also made the illustration larger and moved it around. I picked brighter colours for the design as well.
I also experimented with some options for foiling on the labels. Due to the theme of ‘antiques’, I think metallic inks or foils would suit the design really well. I tried out both gold and silver. Silver actually looks a lot better with the colour options and style – gold looks a little bit too garish. the silver colour matches the grey of the machinery really well.
I didn’t want the logo to be just plain silver foiling – I thought that a drop shadow would look very subtle but still pop.
I decided that I want the information on the sides to be printed in plain silver foil, and the logo and beer style to have the drop shadow.
I decided that I preferred a white logo with silver drop shadow so that the logo really stands out. The beer style would look great in just plain silver foil – it will still stand out but the logo is allowed to pop more than everything else.
I also added a thin silver border to the label to finish off the design. I think a plain border adds a finishing touch but doesn’t take too much away from the design, unlike the art nouveau style borders and frames I attempted before.
Although my printer isn’t great, I printed the label out and added silver embellishment with a silver gel pen.
I definitely think that the stout looks better as just plain silver. it allows for contrast between the logo and the beer style.
Comparing the two beer labels, the second version is a lot stronger. My printer prints out the colours quite pale – when the design is printed up properly the colours will be very bright. The larger logo looks better close up and from a distance. The silver embellishments do finish off the design which I think is really important.
As well as the label, I decided that the beer bottles need something extra to make them stand out.
I went back through my research and re-discovered the wax seal beer bottle idea from the Opeth beer I looked at.
For my own beer bottle, I thought that adding a silver wax seal would give the bottle something extra, would finish off the design nicely and will compliment the silver foiling on the label.
I also thought that ‘ordinary’ bottles could include some kind of freshness seal sticker that matches the artwork. I’m not very keen on this particular idea, I think the bottle looks a bit too overwhelmed with the illustrations.
Instead, a design on the cap might work really well. I created a quick monogram and design using hops, barley and two letters from the logo. This could work nicely as a round sticker that is attached to the beer cap.
The round sticker is much more cost effective for my client and could be used for ordinary bottles. If the client releases a limited edition beer, the silver wax seal could be added to create a more exclusive, special feel.
I feel that these changes take the design from being ‘good’ to ‘great’. I think that by adding the foiling technique to the label will really lift the design and create the professional look I’m after. The finishing touches of the sticker and wax seal will give the design the interesting look that will stand out amongst other bottles.
I wanted to check how the colours looked so I printed out the label using my printer at home. As expected, the colours did get a bit butchered and turned out really dark. I know that the higher quality printer I/the client will use will do the colours justice, but to be on the safe side, I decided to make the colours brighter/lighter to account for this.
I’m not sure why, but my computer printed the labels a lot smaller than the actual measurements. Usually I print directly from Photoshop, but for some reason my program wasn’t letting me do this (it’s been crashing a bit lately) so I printed the image using windows print manager on my mum’s laptop and the proportions were incorrect. This isn’t an issue though, I know that the proportions will be correct when I go to a proper printers.
I was worried that the white might be too bright. It actually looks fine, and even though the printer messed up and printed the design too small, the text is still readable and there’s a good contrast against the background. The black label blends in really well with the dark bottle colour.
Colours before and after.
I also quickly tested a method of attaching the labels. I keep reading in online forums and other places online that a lot of people use ordinary milk to adhere their labels. (here, here, here, here, here) It seemed completely weird at first, but I gave it a got and it actually worked. For once, the internet didn’t spout nonsense. After a few hours, the label is firmly stuck on. Apart from the bad paper quality and ink it actually looks decent.
The downsides to using it seem to be that:
it doesn’t work for commercial use
it can make some inks run
there’s a risk it may not look professional
Pros to using it:
It’s cheap and easy. I always have milk in the house
It works for small batches – so perfect for my project as I only need to have three bottles. My client will obviously use a different method to me.
I can try some interesting paper – I’m not limited to the gross paper on adhesive labels.
My client gave me a few beer bottles with information on the side that he wanted for the labels. Beer label information is actually really varied for each different brewery depending on what information they think is important and for the target audience.
Craft breweries tend to assume the drinker is more knowledgeable about beer than say, your average Fosters or Carling drinker (sorry not sorry) they tend to include information that average drinkers might not be interested in knowing.
As well as having a look at the different information provided on the bottles, I also measured a few elements. The space for the best before stamp needs to be a certain width to ensure that there will be enough room for the stamp.
I picked the information that I thought my client would appreciate the most:
Description of flavour. Eg: “A full bodied stout with notes of malt and chocolate”
Ingredients: water, hops, sugar, yeast and barley
(Brewers provide only basic ingredients because their recipes are usually closely guarded)
Amount of liquid – in this case, the bottles I bought are 500ml ℮
Alcohol percentage. Eg: ALC 5.6% VOL
UK Units of Alcohol. Eg: 2.8 UK Units
Best Before date with space for stamp
Date of brewing and brewer’s (client’s) signature
International Bittering Unit. Eg: IBU: 29
The last two pieces of information are things I know that my client was really interested in having on his labels.
The date of brewing and the signature give the label a feel of quality and lets the consumer know that a lot of care has gone into making the beer.
IBU / International Bittering Units is the measurement of the bitterness of the beer.
“The first thing to understand is that the International Bitterness Unit, from a chemist’s and professional brewer’s perspective, is a simple measurement of the bitterness of a beer. Not the “hoppiness” and not even how bitter you, the drinker, might perceive the beer–just the levels of a class of bitter compounds found in the finished brew. It’s not the only method to measure a beer’s bitterness, but many brewers use it and now consumers are starting to demand that their beers have a specific IBU level.” (Popsci)
Chart of IBU and the styles of beer that usually have those IBU’s.