It's time to roll up your sleeves and get down to business with this full-featured Adobe Illustrator CC tutorial. This one takes you from setup to production of a really cool beer label design. Although this could be useful for any bottled concoction of your choosing, we are going to be working on printable beer labels for this one.
We get to cover all kinds of useful tools like Type On A Path, Live Trace, and the Opacity Mask. My buddy brewed his own beer and I made him personalized beer labels using this technique, and they were an instant hit! I'm very happy to show you how it's done. OK, let's do it!
Need a Label Quick?
Looking for a customizable, ready-made label that doesn't need software? Head on over to Placeit, where you can use the Beer Bottle label maker to create unique and creative label designs, like this purrfect witches brew craft beer label.
What You Will Need
As well as access to Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, you’ll also need to download the following image file and font to follow this tutorial:
What You'll Learn in This Beer Label Design Tutorial
- How to set up a beer bottle label design in Illustrator
- How to add text and graphics to the beer label
- How to create a banner strip for the custom beer label
- How to integrate a photo image into your homebrew beer label
- How to use the Placeit beer label maker
- How to create a label template in Illustrator
1. How to Set Up a Printable Beer Label File
Open a new Illustrator document (File > New or Command-N), and set the beer label size to 11 inches by 8.5 inches in CMYK color mode. This probably isn't your default setting, so make sure to change the Units and Color Mode for this one.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M), with no Fill and 0.25 pt stroke, and then click once on the stage and enter 4 in wide by 3.5 in high. Select the Ellipse Tool (L), click once on the stage, and enter 2.1 in by 2.2 in. Select both the ellipse and the square, and in the Align panel, center the objects horizontally and vertically.
Select the square, and in the menu, go to Effect > Crop Marks.
Increase the square's size to 4.125 in by 3.875 in. This square will be the size of our image, which is 1/8 in larger than the crop marks. This ensures no white space when you or the printers cut these labels out.
Select All (Command-A), and in the Align panel, toggle the artboard and center the label horizontally and vertically.
Select the square with the crop marks and, from the top menu, select Object > Lock > Selection (Command-2).
2. How to Add Text & Graphics to the Beer Label Design
OK, now we can start really making graphics. First off, select the ellipse and Copy it (Command-C). Don't paste it quite yet. Fill the oval with dark green
#6B752A. Give the oval an inside light green
#D3E27E 3 pt stroke.
Use the Appearance panel to add an outside dark green
#6B752A 1.5 pt stroke.
Go ahead and Paste in Front your copied ellipse (Command-F).
Double-click the Scale Tool to bring up the Scale dialogue panel, and enter 65% in the Uniform field.
Select both ellipses and, in the Pathfinder panel, apply Shape Modes: Minus Front, and then click Expand.
You should still have your original oval in the clipboard, so take the ellipse and Paste in Front again (Command-F).
Double-click the Scale Tool to bring up the Scale dialogue panel, and this time enter 71% in the Uniform field, and click OK.
Select the Type On A Path Tool and choose one of the Envato Elements fonts (I used Bristain Rought Serif font at 23 pt, and Tracking at 130) and set the Fill color to white. Click on the oval and type the brand name of the product—for example, 'OLD BARREL'—on the beer label design.
Adjust the Tracking (the space between the letters), if necessary, by clicking between the letters and pressing Command-Shift-[ or ].
Adjust the baseline, if necessary, by increasing or decreasing the size of the ellipse that the text is on.
View the Rulers by pressing Command-R or Menu > View > Show Rulers, select the type, and drag a horizontal guide from the top ruler to the center of the circle. If the guide isn't visible, then go to Menu > View > Show Guides (Command-;). Use the Selection Tool (V) to drag the handle of the text to the center position.
Select the Ellipse Tool (L). Click and hold Alt-Shift while dragging outward from the center of your oval to create a circle that extends past the empty center of the oval. Fill it with orange
#F2781C and null Stroke.
Right-click > Arrange > Send to Back (Command -Alt-[) to send the orange circle to the back.
3. How to Create a Banner Strip for the Beer Label Badge
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and click once on the artboard to open the Rectangle dialogue panel.
Enter 2.2 in and 0.3 in for the Width and Height.
With the rectangle selected, go to the Gradient panel and choose a horizontal linear gradient color
#533930 on each end and
#704438 in the middle.
Give the rectangle a 1 pt black Stroke, and check the Round Join option.
In the menu, go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make With Warp and choose Squeeze, check Horizontal, and Bend only 2%.
Type in the kind of product, such as 'Handcrafted Beer', and center it in the rectangle (I'll stick with Bristain Rought Serif font for all the text).
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and click once on the artboard. Enter 0.5 in width and 0.3 in height. Give it a 1 pt black Stroke, using the Round Join option again.
Give this rectangle a Linear Gradient with
#533930 on the left and
#986633 on the right.
With the rectangle selected, go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points.
With the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the middle point on the right of the rectangle, and drag it towards the center to create the end of the tail. Hold Shift while dragging to force it to be straight.
Place this tail object on the right end of the rectangle, and nudge it down a bit. Send it behind the rectangle: Right-click > Arrange > Send Backward (Command-[).
Copy (Command-C) the tail object and Paste in Front (Command-F).
Right-click the copied tail object and select Transform > Reflect. Choose Vertical and 90 degrees for the angle. Move the reflected tail object over to the left side, holding Shift while dragging to force it to be straight.
Now, a detail to make the banner more realistic: zoom in close to where the right tail meets the rectangle. Choose the Pen Tool (P) and draw a shape with four clicks: the bottom right of the rectangle, the bottom left of the tail, straight up to any position (hold Shift), and back to the beginning point to close.
Fill the shape with a dark brown
#2D1C17 and 1 pt rounded black Stroke.
Press, Command-[ until the shape is behind the rectangle but in front of the tail.
Copy it (Command-C), and Paste in Front (Command-F).
Right-click > Transform > Reflect > Vertical 90 degrees.
Shift-drag to the same spot on the left end of the beer label banner.
Select the entire banner and go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make With Warp, choosing Arc and 12% for the Bend.
Now, let's place the beer label banner into the design.
Click the brand name text 'OLD BARREL' so the center point is visible. Drag a vertical guide from the left Ruler to the center point. Place the banner in position, using the vertical guide to keep it centered.
4. How to Draw & Add a Wheat Grain to the Beer Label
We could just grab an image of wheat or a stock vector, but would you learn much? Nope! So let's make stalks of wheat from scratch. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a small thin vertical oval of any color.
Use the Convert Anchor Point Tool (which is nested in the Pen Tool) and click the top point of the oval. Use the Selection Tool (V) and press Alt while dragging to create a copy of this teardrop shape to use as the tip of the wheat in a few steps. Place it aside for now.
Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag the top point up and to the left on our original teardrop shape. With the Direct Selection Tool (A), drag the left curve handle to the right, which curves the teardrop shape. Now it looks more like a grain of wheat.
Double-click the Rotate Tool (R) and choose an Angle of about -20 degrees. You want to get that tip pointing slightly right of vertical.
From the menu, select Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. This is a great feature of Illustrator. You can use it to create all kinds of interesting patterns and shapes. In this case, we will repeat the wheat grain to make the rest of the wheat stalk. Check Preview and enter 3 for Copies and -0.45 in (about) for Vertical. Click OK when it looks right.
Copy it (Command-C), Paste in Front (Command-F), and then Right-click > Transform > Reflect, and choose Vertical 90 degrees. Nudge it left into position. Place your copied teardrop on the tip.
Use the Line Segment Tool (\) and create a 2 pt, Round Join, Round Cap, white vertical line for the stem, below the grains.
Select all the wheat elements and make them white.
From the menu, select Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp, and choose Arc for the style, check Vertical, and about a 30% Bend.
Place the wheat on the label, resizing and rotating as necessary, and then go to Arrange > Send Backward (Command-[) to send it behind the banner.
Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F).
Right-click, Transform > Reflect, choose Vertical 90 degrees, and move the copy to the right side of the label.
5. How to Integrate Additional Text Into the Beer Label Badge
Add the word 'Wheat', "Ale", "Kolsch", or whatever the type of drink it is. In the menu, go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp and enter an acceptable negative number in the Bend effect.
Position the text in the middle-bottom of the label.
Select and Copy (Command-C) the main large text-on-a-path.
Paste in Front (Command-F). Increase the size so the circle is just larger than the label oval. Use the Selection Tool (V), and click any corner of the text-on-a-path and Alt-Shift-Drag to expand equally.
Type a catchphrase or quote to personalize the product. Decrease the font size as necessary and use the color
#6B752A. Use the Selection Tool (V) to adjust the position of the text on the curve, by dragging the right handle.
6. How to Add a Photo to a Homebrew Beer Label Design
Get a photo of the brewmaster, or any person you'd like to feature on the label. It's the head and shoulders we're looking for. It's very helpful to have the subject on a white background. Many thanks to wookiestock at deviantart.com for this photo I have used in this tutorial. Open the photo in Adobe Photoshop.
In the Photoshop menu, go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold and adjust the slider until there's a good balance of light and dark in the face. We will need the face area to be contained, as in no breaks along the perimeter of the head, because we will fill the face in with white later. So for this image, I darkened his left cheek and right ear so there is a complete outline of his head after the threshold is applied.
Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection around the head and shoulders. Go to Select > Inverse (Command-Shift-I) and delete everything but the head and shoulders.
Crop (C) and Save (Command-S) the photo.
Open your new face photo in Illustrator.
Select the image and click the Image Trace button in the Properties panel, or select the Black and White Logo preset from the Tracing Presets button, and Expand.
Click Live Paint, and then, with the Live Paint Bucket Tool (K), Fill all the black areas with dark brown
#533930. Fill all the face portions with white. Clean up the image as necessary and place it in the middle of the label.
Now we want the top of the head to pop out from the oval, but the rest to go behind the oval, making a 3D effect.
Select the face, Copy (Command-C), and Paste in Front (Command-F). Right-click and select Ungroup (Command-Shift-G).
In the Pathfinder panel, choose Unite and click Expand to make the face one solid shape.
Use the Knife Tool to chop off the top of the head, and delete the rest by using the Direct Selection Tool (A). The Knife Tool is one I hardly ever use, and there's no shortcut for it, so it may be tricky to find. It is hidden under the Eraser Tool (Shift-E).
Select the face and send it back behind the oval. The chopped-off head part will be in front now. Grab the Selection Tool (V) and Scale the face and head shape slightly up.
Wow, this thing is really starting to shape up! All we need now is a background, and the label is finished!
7. How to Design a Custom Beer Bottle Label Background
Select the label square and Fill it with light green
#D3E27E. Remove the stroke.
Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to create two horizontal 0.25 pt black lines: one near the top and one near the bottom. Feel free to make them longer than the square, as we will crop them later.
The Blend option makes it easy to repeat these lines evenly across the background. Select them both and, in the menu, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and choose 50 for Spacing: Specified Steps and click OK.
Now go to Object > Blend > Make to apply the effect. Send the lines behind the artwork but keep them in front of the green background.
Another really cool feature in Illustrator is the Opacity Mask. I will use it here to fade out the lines.
Copy (Command-C) the green square and Paste it in Front (Command-F) of the lines, and give it a Radial black and white Gradient, with black in the center.
Select the square and the lines, and in the Transparency panel dropdown menu, choose Make Opacity Mask. Adjust the gradient to fade the lines out in the center.
Make sure to click the left square in the Transparency panel when you are finished editing the opacity mask, because you will not be able to select other elements until you do.
7. How to Prepare a Print-Ready Beer Label Design
Some printers freak out when they see transparency-related effects, so we will flatten ours to be safe. Select the opacity mask and choose Object > Flatten Transparency.
Select all the text in this file or just Select All (Command-A), and in the menu, choose Type > Create Outlines. This will ensure your typography is preserved. It may be a good idea to save your file before this step, in case you want to edit the text later.
Select everything including the crop marks and Group it (Command-G). Change the x-position to 3 in. Copy and Paste in Front another label (Command-F). Move the x-position of the second label to 8 in.
Ungroup (Command-Shift-G) the objects until you can select and delete the horizontal crop marks in the middle of the two labels. Here is your final, printer-friendly, super tasty illustration! You can have your own beer label print at home.
Thanks for following along, and I really hope your custom beer label designs are a big hit! Here is the original beer bottle label design I made for "Huja Brew", and a mockup of our custom design using Placeit's beer label maker.
Try a Placeit Customizable Beer Label Template
I hope you enjoyed this printable beer label tutorial and learned a few tricks along the way. Now you are a craft beer label designer!
If you are looking to save time or searching for other mockup designs, templates, and logos, check out these amazing beer label design makers on Placeit.
Prefer a darker, more mysterious theme? This template has a witchcraft aura to it, and you can completely customize the text, colors, and graphics.
For a more serious, royal, sixteenth century feel, try this beer label generator. It's a simple, clean design, and you can easily adjust the layout content.
This beer label design maker has a fun approach, with a lucha libre damaged effect to it. You can upload your own custom mask design, change the color tone, and try adding other decorative font styles to it.
If you are looking for an ornamental, colorful, and exotic design, try out this beer label design template. It's easy to adjust the layout content, and you can swap the colors and graphics to create a simple printable beer label.
To present a more modern, fresh, geometric style, try this lager beer label template. This is a great option for contemporary and unique brew mixes.
Design Your Own Printable Beer Labels
I hope you found the inspiration today to either custom design a beer label from scratch or generate one using the Placeit beer label maker. I'd love to see your own custom homebrew beer labels. Create your designs and share your results in the comments below!
Check out these other articles, roundups, and tutorials from Envato Tuts+ for even more design inspiration. Happy brewing!
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