Labels have a wide variety of uses including envelopes, gifts and products. Designing specialised labels in unconventional shapes or textures requires a professional printer and template requirements. Even when designing standard-size labels, you must consider the printing process, paper and colour limitations. Adobe Photoshop provides a set of predefined label templates to follow and has built-in capabilities for preparing print projects, making it a sound choice for starting the design process.
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Write down the text that must appear on the label and work out the order and hierarchy of the words. Label content does not necessarily need to go in traditional order of top to bottom. Different techniques for organising text are placing the subject or brand name in the centre in a larger size, with supporting text above and below. Supporting text can also be wrapped around the outside of a round label, with the logo or brand in the centre.
Determine what size and shape your label will be. Download a template from Avery, Adobe, WorldTemplate or other free resources if possible. Load the template into Photoshop or create a new document and enter the height and width of your label in inches. Add half an inch to your chosen dimensions to account for bleed and a safety margin, which helps to ensure your text and colours are printed within the boundaries you set. The resolution should be set to 300 pixels per inch.
Prepare the image by clicking on "Image > Mode" and ensure "CMYK" is checked. If not, select it to convert your image. This colour mode is required for printing, as RGB will leave your image looking fuzzy.
Set two sets of guides if you are not using a template with guides already predefined. Guides can be set by either clicking the rulers along the left or top of the canvas and dragging to the desired position or by using the "View > New Guide" option. The first guide should be set at 1/8 inch, and the second at the outer edges of the content zone of your design, called a safety margin. The safety margin helps you keep text areas from falling off the edges of the printed label border.
Click on "Layer > New > Layer" to create an artwork layer. If using a template, drag this layer below the template layer in your layer palette window. Re-select the artwork layer to avoid making unintentional changes to the template.
Use any technique, images or elements you wish to design the background of the label. Keep in mind that designs you intend to print on special papers or colours need to take those textures or colours into account. If using a logo or icon, place the image on a new layer above the artwork layer.
Add any text you wish to be permanent using the Type Tool. Use decorative fonts that scale well if printing the label in different sizes, and use the "View > Print Size" menu option often to get an idea of how the text will look when printed.
Save your finished design as a layered PSD so you can reuse the template later, then turn off the template layer and save the file as a PDF. PDF files are the most commonly requested format for professional printers.To print the label yourself, proceed to set-up the page directly from Photoshop or use the software that came with your printer.
Tips and warnings
- Keep any areas of your design intended for writing clear of background clutter. If you label uses a patterned background, use shapes or boxes filled with a neutral colour to define those areas more.
- Always follow instructions from your printer or label manufacturer when designing for predefined templates to avoid ending up with a mismatched size.
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