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 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 ordered my labels from Label Service , a company that manufactures food and drink labels for major food products in the UK. I was sent out some samples of beer and drink labels that included foil.
I was really happy with the quality and placed my order with the company. After a week my labels arrived.
The colours were much brighter which meant that the labels stood out more. The silver foil finishing looked great and I was so happy with how it turned out. The labels definitely benefitted from this added print finishing – it made them look so much more professional and eye catching.
My only complaint was that the silver border I had asked for was missing. Unfortunately, the printers would not be able to finish new labels in time so I have to just accept the labels without the border. It isn’t a massive catastrophe but I feel that it would have finished off the labels nicely.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After finishing the colouring of the main elements.
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.
The typography I finally found was a perfect fit, because it was also inspired by old brewing labels.
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.
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.
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.
I started to do a few drawings of different machinery I found, but I felt a bit unconfident drawing these. The last drawing I attempted to rending the machine properly, but I wasn’t happy with how the metal texture looked. I think it will be best to research machinery a little more before I attempt to draw again, to make sure I am perfectly clear about how I want to portray the machines. I will also need to be mindful of how I want the metallic textures to look. I think the lines were too dark and I need to try shading a little lighter with more precise lines, like the last machine sketches I did.