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Create High-End Action Figure Packaging

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With collectables, the packaging of the product is often as important as the craftsmanship of the product itself. In this two-part tutorial we will explain how to create packaging for a high-end 1/6 scale action figure. Part 1 will explain how to shoot your photography and create a print-ready outer sleeve and inner packaging for our action figure. Part 2 will go on to explain how to create a 3-dimensional rendering of the packaging to present to clients. Let's get started!


Also available in this series:

  1. Create High-End Action Figure Packaging
  2. Create Promotional Rendering for High-End Action Figure Packaging

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial. Also note that there are many assets for this tutorial included in the download files.


Stay Tuned for Part 2

In Part 2 of this tutorial we will explain how to turn the print-ready version of this design into a 3D render that you can present to your clients. Take a look at the preview below.



Step 1

I came up with Ninja for the fictional brand name, and Hanzo Hayabusa as the figure's name. As for the company, I came up with ONE6 STUDIOS. These are all ingredients to make this pack look and feel as "real world" as possible.

First it is important to start with a sketch or a good idea of what you are going to be executing. I had a pretty clear idea with this, so as you can see, the sketch is not super detailed. I knew I wanted to deal a mostly black/Ninjalike sleeve, and a cool reveal to a white package when the sleeve is removed.



Step 2

The most important part of this package execution is the photography. It needs to showcase the product, as well as set the mood of the figure. Since I knew that I wanted to reveal the white interior package, it was important that I took photographs of the figure on both white and black background.

As you can see, I set up a little photo studio in my basement and while it isn't the most sophisticated studio setup it definitely gets the job done and is cheap! I am using foamcore from Michael's ($2 a sheet), LED lights from Home Depot ($5 a light), and my DSLR on a tripod.



Step 3

I also have access to a light-tent at work and I used this for some of the shots as well.

These "studio shots" are more the promotional materials, such as the product render that we will be creating in Part 2 of this tutorial.



Step 4

First, lets start with the outer sleeve. Open up Sleeve_Start.ai.



Step 5

Next, we are going to make the bleed area for print. To do this, select all (Command/Ctrl-A) and then under the PATHFINDER palette select the Unite icon.



Step 6

Now we need to offset the path to make the bleed. Select Object > Path > Offset path. And give it a 0.3 in. offset and select OK.



Step 7

Select all again (Command/Ctrl-A) and then copy (Command/Ctrl-c) the die and bleed. Now open Photoshop and create a new document. The new document will be the exact dimensions of what we copied from Illustrator and for this execution, set the resolution to 150 pixels/inch and set the color mode to CMYK.

Note, if this were a real world project, it would be a 300 dpi, but I am doing 150 to save file space for this tutorial.



Step 8

Paste (Command/Ctrl-P) on a new layer and rename that layer DIE. On the background layer, apply a Layer > Layer Style > Color Overlay and make it a rich black as seen below.



Step 9

Now open the file named Front Panel_start.psd. Within this document you will see two images of the exact same shot with slightly different lighting. The first image is seen below, the second image is seen in Step 10.



Step 10

Here is the second shot of the figure.



Step 11

Apply a Layer Mask on Shot1C and use the Brush tool with black to paint away some of Shot1C to reveal Shot1 below. In essence, we are using the best parts of both shots to make the most ideal image.



Step 12

Highlighted in red, you can see the Layer Mask of the final image.



Step 13

Here is the final composite image of the two photographs. At this point, create a new folder named NINJA and move both layers into that folder.



Step 14

Next we are going to use the Pen tool (P) to path out the figure. When we are done pathing out the figure, command-click the path in the Paths palette to create a selection. Apply that selection as a Layer Mask to the NINJA folder.



Step 15

As you can see, the figure has a stand holding him up so we need to Photoshop that away. Create a new layer and using the Clone tool, select areas around the figure's crotch to clone away the stand tip as seen in the image below. Name this layer ctotchfix. The key to cloning is to be random, and select a few different places to clone from (so you can't see any clear repeated patterns). In this case I set the clone brush opacity to 30%.



Step 16

Create a new layer called Highlights and paint some white with the Brush tool on the top edges of his ninja "scarf".



Step 17

Now we are done Photoshopping the front panel photography. Now, copy the NINJA folder into our working Photoshop background document.



Step 18

Position the NINJA folder as seen below.



Step 19

Next, we are going to create the moon background. Holding Shift, create an elipse (look at the image below for size) on a new layer. Duplicate the layer and title the layers Moon1 and Moon2. Make sure you do not have a selection made, Command/Ctrl-D to deselect, and on the layer Moon1, apply a Gaussian Blur of 55 pixels.



Step 20

Command/Ctrl-click Moon2 to make a selection and feather the selection 10 pixels.



Step 21

Command/Ctrl-D to Deselect, and give the Moon2 layer a Gaussian Blur of 3 pixels.



Step 22

Command/Ctrl-click on Moon2, create a new layer called Texture above the Moon1 and Moon 2 layers and render clouds (Filter > Render > Clouds).



Step 23

Now go to Filter > Distort > Spherize and change the amount to 100% and select OK.



Step 24

Change the Texture layer mode to Multiple and set the Opacity to 30%.



Step 25

Now adjust the levels (Command/Ctrl-L) as seen below. At this point, save your Photoshop file.



Step 26

Next, switch over to Illustrator and create a new layer below the DIE layer called Background. Now place your Photoshop file into the Illustrator document and line up the edges to the bleed area of the Illustrator document.

It helps to have smart guides on when lining up, so make sure they are on... Command/Ctrl-U.

Note: These should be the exact same size without any scaling. At this point, I added Rulers down the middle of each panel.



Step 27

Open up the ONE6Studios.ai logo file, select the logo, Copy and then Paste and move the logo and align with the bottom and right side of the die, on the front panel. Now Paste again, and this time line up on the back panel with the right edge.



Step 28

Now, move each logo three Shift arrows away from the edge. To do this, select the logo, hold Shift and using the arrow keys on the keyboard, Up three times and away from the edge three times.



Step 29

Now place NINJA_Type.psd on the center of the top and back panels. Scale the back panel logo to 80%. Here is what we should have at this point.



Step 30

On the back panel, we need to create the UPC code. So, create a box with the dimensions as seen below.



Step 31

Place the AI file called UPC_123456789012.ai onto the document in position as seen below.



Step 32

Resize the top of the bars so they are just below the edge of the UPC holding box, as seen below.



Step 33

Here is a look at our Illustrator document thus far.



Step 34

Now we are going to work on the type on the side of the package. Please type out "1/6 SCALE COLLECTIBLE FIGURE" and set your typeface as Avenir-medium at 10.54 pt.



Step 35

Next, we are going to work on the figure's name. Type out his name, "HANZO HAYABUSA" and set the typeface as Bank Gothic-light at 16.85 pt. Also adjust the tracking to 150. Make this type a bright red.



Step 36

Create a rectangle from edge to edge of our type lockup. This will be a seperation bar used to help the type lock-up read a little better.



Step 37

A quick trip to Google Translate gives us the characters for Ninja. Copy those characters...



Step 38

Paste into Illustrator using the KouzanBrushFontOtc TypeFace. Now outline the characters (Command/Ctrl + Shift + O) and position as seen in the image below. I want this to be black-on-black so I made the characters 95K or a really dark grey.



Step 39

Select the whole lockup of the descriptor, the character name and the ninja characters and group them (Command/Ctrl-G). Position on the far left side panel in the center and Opt + Shift + click-drag to the right side. You should have what we see below. Make sure you save your Illustrator file.



Step 40

Now let's move on to the back panel. Open Back Panel_Start.psd. This is another image I shot with both a black and a white background to have multiple lighting options.



Step 41

You can either path-out the figure or you can use the image with the white background and use the Magic Wand Tool to create a selection.



Step 42

After the selection is made, I create a new layer called BlackblackBG to make sure we had a clean clip.



Step 43

I noticed a really hot highlight on the figure's right arm so we need to address that.



Step 44

Using the Eyedropper Tool (I), I selected colors on the arm that are not as lit and painted overtop of the hotspots as seen in the image below.



Step 45

Now let's copy this image into our working document and position on the back panel as seen below.



Step 46

As you can see, you can currently see the stand in the figure's crotch again. Using black and a multiply layer, paint overtop of the areas to cover the stand as seen in the image below. Now we are done with the back panel photography.



Step 47

Open up the Watercolor Brush image from the sources at the top of this page. Select the red channel and adjust the levels as seen in the image below.



Step 48

Command-click the red channel to create a selection, inverse the selection (Command/Ctrl + Shift + I). Create a new layer and fill with white.



Step 49

Now in our working document, create a new folder called Clouds and copy in the layer from the previous step. Set the Clouds folder to 35% opacity and duplicate the layer a few times, randomly scaling and rotating to create variations and layering of the cloud texture around the front panel figure's feet. Our goal here is layer up the layers so that they vary in Opacity, almost like a dense fog/cloud. Set the layer mode to Screen, and it will help to vary the opacity of the layers. You will have to adjust until you get the look you desire.



Step 50

Repeat that process around the back panel figure's upper body and at this point we are done with the sleeve Photoshop file. Save the Photoshop file and the screen-shot below is what you should have in your Illustrator document. *Please make sure the DIE layer is hidden in Photoshop.



Step 51

Now it is time to move on to the package. Open up the AI file Package_Start.ai. This file already has the bleed ready for you to begin designing. As you can tell from the die, this package has a die cut built into the design. This is to allow you to see the actual figure once you slide the sleeve off.



Step 52

Remembering that we wanted the whole sleeve black, and since the there is no top or bottom of the sleeve, we know we have to make the top and bottom of the package black. In Illustrator, let's create black rectangles over the top and bottom panels, make sure you also get the flaps on the sides. I always try to use 3 layers when working on design like this, DIE, Text, and BG. Separating these layers allow you to quickly hide parts of the design, such as the die, or all the background images. These black rectangles would be on the BG layer.



Step 53

Now place the NINJA_Type.psd logo into your Illustrator document, and position in the center of the top panel.



Step 54

Now copy in the Japanese characters for Ninja from the sleeve and place them behind the logo as seen in the image below.



Step 55

Select both the characters and the Ninja logo and group them. Then Opt + Shift-click drag down to the bottom panel to make a duplicate.



Step 56

Select the blue die line and bleed line around the package and copy and paste into Photoshop, repeating the process of creating a full size background Photoshop file just like we did on the sleeve. Same settings as before 150DPI. Create a new layer called DIE and paste as pixels into your new Photoshop document. Now we are going to create the textured background. Download and open Texture File 1 and copy and paste into Photoshop as seen below.



Step 57

Now, Option + Shift-click drag that layer over to the left to fill the rest of the package. Make sure there is overlap bewteen the layers so we can blend them easier in the next step.



Step 58

See the image below for the results of the background duplication.



Step 59

I ended up rotating and flipping that texture a few times and using layer masks to hide parts of each layer to eliminate the repeating patters as seen in the image below. Creating Layer masks on the layers and painting in the mask channel with a soft edged brush will help.



Step 60

Now copy in the file Texture File 2 and size up to the edge of the die as we did with Source 1.



Step 61

Invert that layer and repeat the process of making duplicates like we did with the previous texture as seen below. You will also note I created a folder named BG that I am keeping all of these layers in.



Step 62

As you can see in the image below, there were some marks that were repeating so use the Clone Tool to remove those areas.



Step 63

See below for the results of the Clone Tool.



Step 64

Using a Layer Mask, paint away the middle portion of Source 2 so only the edges are dark, as seen below. The great advantage of painting masks vs. erasing is that it is non-destructive. At any time, we can paint back in areas.



Step 65

At this point, save your Photoshop document and place your PSD file into your Illustrator file and line up the edges just as we did before. Here is where we are so far.



Step 66

Now it is time to start on the photography of the package. Switch back to Photoshop and open the file Ninja_pack_BP_start.psd. Here you will see two seperate photographs with the same setup, one with a light background and one with a dark background. Start off by pathing out the figure by using the Pen Tool. It helps to path out the figure on white, so you can clearly see the edges.



Step 67

Set the opacity of the layer titled Photo 2 to 57%. Duplicate the layer called Photo_BlackBG, adjust the levels to the image seen below and set that layer mode to Screen and the opacity at 30%.



Step 68

Command click on the path and apply the layer mask to all three layers. Then using the Brush Tool paint away some of the mask on Photo_BlackBG copy, as seen below. Just like we did on early steps, we are blending multiple photographs to make an ideal image.



Step 69

Place all three of those layers into a folder called Ninja_BP and copy that folder into your Package_BG.psd file, as seen below.



Step 70

Now copy the Japanese characters behind the logo into your Photoshop file and place on the side panel, as seen below.



Step 71

Apply the following layer styles your characters layer.



Step 72

Here is the result of the layer styles. It gives the characters a really cool recessed look, almost as if they were cut into the pack. This adds another layer of depth and dimension to our package. Option + Shift-click drag the layer to the other side panel.



Step 73

With the sleeve AI file still open, select the Hanzo Hayabusa type and add a .75 stroke. This is to make the text a little thicker. Copy that, and then undo the stroke to make sure it doesn't stay as a final effect and get accidently saved.



Step 74

Paste your copied Hanzo Hayabusa into Photoshop and apply the layer styles as seen below.



Step 75

Here you can see the effect of the layer styles, as well as where to position this layer on the front panel. Center of the package, below the die cut.



Step 76

Open Ninja_Logo.ai, select and then copy the Ninja logo from the AI file into your Photoshop document.



Step 77

Apply the following layer styles.



Step 78

Here are the results of the layer style. Again, this adds the additional depth to the package and note the position of the logo on the back panel.



Step 79

Open the Word document titled Packaging_copy, copy and paste the main descriptor copy as well as the legal info in that document. See the image below for the typefaces and point size.



Step 80

Next, open the AI file called Warning, copy and paste into the Illustrator document. Also, copy the UPC code from the sleeve and paste into the document as well. See image below for placement.



Step 81

As you can see from the image below, I adjused the scale of the image of the Ninja so he fits comfortably in the space. Having a seperate Photoshope file place in the Illustrator file allows you to quickly bounce back and forth between the programs. When you save the Photoshop document, it will save in the Illustrator document.



Step 82

Open the Weapons.psd file.



Step 83

You can either path-out the weapons individually or use the Magic Wand. Either way we need to seperate the weapons from their background.



Step 84

Now place the weapons in the Photoshop file and position them as seen in the image below. At this point, copy and paste the names of the weapons and place them in your Illustrator file. See the image below for how I decided to lay out the back panel.



Step 85

Add a layer and paint in a shadow under the Ninja's feet. Make sure this layer is directly below the Ninja folder.



Step 86

Add a layer above the background texture and with the Brush Tool, paint some white under the weapons and in the lower left corner of the back panel. This is to make the weapon names and legal copy more legible.



Step 87

Below, see the results of that additional layer. It helps increase the legibility of the weapon names.



Final Image

And with that, we are done with Part 1 of the tutorial. We now have a complete, print ready PDF. Usually, I do a quick double check to make sure that all the files are saved in CMYK, and that the files are 100% in size at 300dpi.



Stay Tuned for Part 2

For Part 2, we will be turning this package concept into a promotional render. Please stay tuned, and as always, if you have any questions, please ask in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer ASAP.


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