Part 1. Designing your Label: Artwork

BTL_Label School_heading

Label design is undeniably the most personal and stylistic element of the labeling processes. However, it can be guided by some fundamental principles to make the process quicker and easier.  Whether you have access to your own company artist or you choose to hire one of the ubiquitous graphics artists prevalent on the internet, it will still be critical to clearly communicate your product branding and personal wishes.  Will your label be photo-based or drawn?  Will you use readily downloadable commercial artwork or will you require a new design?  What fonts will you use?  Will your label need a barcode?  What about shape and size?  Will you choose a simple standard shape with pre-cut labels or will you design a custom shape that requires post finishing steps?  All important questions.  Let’s look at some guidelines for the answers.

There are numerous internet sites that sell digital art for a reasonable fee, such as www.shutterstock.com, www.istockphoto.com, and us.fotolia.com, to name a few. These sites offer searches by category or keyword and breakdown art work into photos, illustrations and vectors, making it quick and easy for you to hone in on prospect images.  Recently added at Shutterstock is the amazing ability to search for like images using image recognition.  I uploaded my favorite Pink Pig clip art in PNG format and was provided 100 unique pig images, most of them pink.  Not having a large supply of art work images to choose from will not be one of your labeling problems.

Shutterstock Image Matching

Shutterstock offers an image matching search that can help you find artwork for your label.

How do you actually purchase an image download?  All these sites sell credits or monthly subscriptions for image downloads for a reasonable fee. They often have royalty-free options, however when downloading images, be sure to procure high enough quality, especially for non-vector based graphics.  While a 72 dpi (dots per inch) image may look great on your computer screen, a 600 dpi image is needed for most printed products.  1200 dpi will provide even further resolution and clarity.  You may not need to purchase the largest (i.e., most expensive) graphic, but it does need to be printer and not just screen friendly.  Think about the size of your actual label and the size and quality of the downloadable images.  When in doubt, choose the higher quality image when possible.  The number one reason we see “bad” label prints is because the original artwork is poor quality.  Again, 600 dpi is the minimum needed for good print quality.

Next think about the fonts (lettering style) you will choose, including whether or not you need a barcode font.  Like images, fonts can be purchased and downloaded from a variety of commercial web sites.  If you decide to download a font rather than use one that comes with your graphics application, be sure it is scalable and printer, not just web, friendly.  Any special fonts will need to be downloaded and stored with your label graphic.  Some applications do this behind the scenes; however some require the user to explicitly save fonts.  This allows fonts to be independently scaled when sizing the image.

The graphics below show the difference between high resolution and low resolution images.  At 100% zoom both looked the same on the computer screen.  However the artifacts from the low resolution (seen when significantly zoomed in) will be detectable when the image is printed.

Images less than 600 dots per inch will not look good when printed, even if they appear to look good on your computer screen.

Images less than 600 dots per inch will not look good when printed, even if they appear to look good on your computer screen.

To wrap up this week’s discussion, keep these guidelines in mind.  Feel free to peruse the plethora of images on digital art website.  You’re likely to find great art choices at a reasonable cost.  But always make sure the image you choose is at least 600 dpi; you’ll need that resolution down the road when you turn your art into the final printed label.

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