The Ten Most Important Things Every Package Designer Should Know About Packaging Design that Have Nothing to Do with Creating a Great Package Design
1. Use Adobe illustrator
I know you don’t want to hear it but you need to break your addition to Photoshop and learn the beauty of Illustrator. In the printing world and especially packaging, vector rules the roost. So forget Photoshop. Pretend it doesn’t exist. You shouldn’t be using it, so the sooner you make the switch the better.
You should only use Photoshop for three things:
- Image editing (masking, color correction, touch-up, collages, etc)
- Coloring raster images ( painting, drawing, etc)
- Web design
Once you get good with Illustrator you’ll find your self using it as much as possible as the advantages are so great it’s worth mastering the learning curve.
2. Mind Your Dieline
Put your dieline and your artwork on two separate layers. Stack the dieline layer on top of the artwork layer. I’d lock the dieline layer as well so you don’t accidentally move it or mess it up.
3. Watch Your Bleeds
Always include a 1/8 inch (.125 inch) bleed minimum, and when in doubt, give them a full quarter or even a half. Better yet, call up the printer and ask what their bleed requirements are.
4. Converting Text to Outlines
Before sending file to printers convert all text to outlines and expand all objects. FIRST, save a copy of your master and add the word “outlined” at then end. Then open this new file, choose Select >All and then choose Text >Convert to Outlines. If you don’t follow this rule religiously you will someday convert the editable master to outlines and then close the file, thus ruining it for ever. I’m serious. This is the most important rule as this mistake is permanent. The other mistakes are fixable. If you want to be extra diligent then go to Select >All and then choose Object > Expand Appearance. This will convert all your applied editable effects like zig zag and warp into a permanent state. Now there’s no way that cool arched text banner will print wrong.
5. Embed Those Files
Before sending to printer embed all placed files. Select image then choose Embed and follow the prompts.
6. CMYK Always
Make sure your color space is CMYK. This stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). This includes ALL placed images, so convert all your photos and raster images to CMYK as well. Just make it a habit. The placed and embedded files will regularly trip you up as your client will always send you RGB images and it’s very easy to touch them up, save them, and then forget to convert them to CMYK.
7. Use Rich Blacks
Use rich black for all your big black areas. Rich black is adding some Cyan, Magenta and Yellow to 100% Black. A popular rich black is 60/40/40/100. Don’t up your CMY total higher than this as you want to stay within the suggested 240% maximum ink saturation. Small type should just be black (0/0/0/100) unless you’re printing digital then you can go all rich black without any registration issues.
8. Those Damn Barcodes
If you don’t have the real barcode, grab a fake one off the web and use it as a placeholder. Keep the barcode at a minimum of an inch and a quarter wide (1.25 inch). You can safely chop the height down by half but the width must be at least this 1.25 inches wide if you want to be 100% safe. Don’t think you can design a great label and just make the barcode fit later. Design for it from the beginning. If you need to generate a barcode from your client’s UPC code then use this Free Barcode Generator.
9. Print and Assemble
Always print out your dieline and make a prototype. Don’t ever trust your dielines or your measurements. Print it out and assemble it to make sure it’s correct.
10. Proof This!
Do not sign off on any proofs. That is your client’s job. Your job is to make sure it prints as intended. Your client must take responsibility for typos.