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How do I design my own custom labels?

In this article, we’re going to explain how you can design your own custom labels.

We’ll give you some tricks and tips on how the professionals design, including the tools they use and some great resources to save time and money.

Even if you have very little design experience, don’t worry! We will share with you some methods for beginners to get professional results.

If you really don’t want to create your own label design, we’ll show you how you can outsource the design process completely.

Let’s get started. 

Creating a design - learning from the professionals

Learning from the best is a great way to avoid the mistakes they’ve made over and over again so you can improve as fast as possible.

Our team at Sticker it has over 40 years of combined experience in design, and over those years we’ve learnt a thing or two.

In the next few minutes will share the process that we use to get beautiful-looking designs. Here goes.

The design process is made up of these 4 steps:

  1. Build a design brief

  2. Sketching concepts

  3. Iterate your favorites

  4. Get samples printed

We’ll go through each step to explain in detail what to do.

Step 1 – build a design brief

A design brief is a short document or set of points that help you to design within a set of limitations, but also give you some creative direction.

A design brief will typically include the following:

  • The custom dimensions required (size or shape)

  • A color palette

  • Any text or legal wording that must be included

  • A logo and brand guidelines for using that logo

  • Paragraph of inspiration to help give you creative direction

Step 2 - Sketch concepts

At the start of the creative process, you just want ideas for your own labels. As many ideas as possible.

The important point to remember here is that, at this stage, no idea is a bad idea. 

The objective is to quickly document (or sketch) as many ideas as possible. Each new idea is a new source of more ideas or better designs.

Try not to critique your ideas at this stage. It’s all about opening up your mind and the possibilities to find the best solution later on in the process. 

At this stage, we like to either sketch with pencil and paper or very quickly on design programs such as Procreate or photoshop/illustrator. Here are how some concept sketches look:

Step 3 - Iterate your favorites

Now that you have a whole load of ideas, the next stage is to get critical. Be picky and choose the ones that stand out to you.

Go ahead and circle your favorites. Be ruthless. You can’t develop every single idea, it would take an age!

This is the point where you want to pull your ideas into a professional design program such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. 

See which designs fit the brief the best and which designs come close to not fitting but have a load of potential.

Ultimately, you need to refine a few of your favorite designs until you’re pretty happy with each of them. Once you’re here, you’re ready to move on to the next stage.

Step 4 - Get samples printed

There’s nothing like seeing something in real life to really help you understand how it will look. This is why we recommend getting some real samples, so you can touch and feel you see that’s close to the final result as possible. 

If you have a really simple design, you can just print it on your laser printer at home or in the office, cut it out with scissors and use some Pritt stick to apply it to your packaging or just look at it in situ. 

If, however, your design relies on a more specialist material such as holographic, glitter, or clear media, then you may want to get your samples professionally printed, so they’re accurate to the final design.

This is exactly why we offer 10 custom samples for £9, so it allows you to have a go, iterate and affect your final designs with very little cost. Check out our custom sample packs here.

Once you have real samples in your hand, you can do things such as photograph them or look at them in different lights. Looking at the colors inside and outside will give different colors, so be sure to do both.

All of this testing and review time will give you valuable feedback on how to improve aspects of your design.

One thing we really like to do is user testing. This means getting feedback from real people who are close to your target demographic. They will give you valuable tips on how to improve. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn from just speaking to 4 or 5 people and getting honest feedback from them.

What tools and resources do the professionals use?

Here is a list of both design tools and resources that we often use or reference for either inspiration or helping to build elements of designs. 

Design tools

  • Adobe Illustrator - the world’s most widely used vector design tool

  • CorelDRAW - another vector design tool. Used by sign shops globally. 

  • Canva - A relatively new brand that helps beginners get started with design.

  • Adobe Photoshop

  • Vector magic - The best vector tracing tool on the internet

  • Clipping Magic - The best tool for removing backgrounds

  • Pixlr - Great photoshop alternative

  • gravit.io - Great + cheap alternative to Illustrator

Designer resources

  • Unsplash - an incredible resource of royalty-free images

  • Shutterstock

  • FreePik - Loads of icons, images etc

New to design? How to get started

If you’re new to design and everything you’ve just read sounds a bit daunting, then don’t worry; we have a solution for you that allows you to create labels that are just as amazing.

You’ll still need a design brief, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as little as a logo and some colors. Or, if you’re designing a logo, your starting point could simply be the name and some words you want to associate with your new brand.

There are two great resources we recommend using if you are new to design, and you need some help starting. They are:

  • Graphic 

  • Canva

Graphic is free to use online designer made by Sticker it. It’s made specifically for designs that are going to be printed, so we try and help to make sure whatever you’re creating is suitable for printing.

We have a team of designers who are constantly creating new premade design elements and free label templates that you can browse through and find one that is a great starting point.

Here are some examples of free-to-use pre-designed templates that you can edit to make suitable for you.

The next resource we mentioned was Canva.

Canva is probably the world's most used online design tool. They have really simplified and made it easy to use, so it’s great for beginners to get started with the design.

They also have many premade label templates you can search through and use as a starting point for your design. You can also upload your own images and design elements.

Here is what Canva looks like:

Screenshot of a canva design

What if I can’t design a custom label myself

If you can’t or don’t want to design yourself, the answer is outsourcing. 

There are many different websites you can use to find designers to create something for you. However, our go-to is Fiverr and Upwork. 

If you spend just 20 minutes browsing, both of these sites will give you plenty of options.

The important thing to know when outsourcing your design is to make sure your design brief is very clear, so the designer has the best possible chance of success.

You have a vision in your mind, and the design brief is your way of transferring that to the designer. They cannot read your mind, so help them out by adding as much detail as possible to your brief.

Also, don’t be tempted to opt for super cheap services. Usually, you get what you pay for, and that’s very true for these outsourcing services.

The final recommendation when outsourcing is to start small. If it's a new working partnership, then don't give them everything in one go. Starting small with just one label or part of a label is a great way to see if you like that designer's style without spending a bunch of money.

Conclusion

Creating your own labels is fun, rewarding and can be super easy. Let your creativity run free, no matter if you are after personalized labels, product labels or even wine labels. And if you want to print labels, don't forget to look into professional label printers (like us? ;)). You can browse our entire range of custom labels here.