How to Create a Hand Drawn Label Design
A Simple Process
Pencil and paper_ Every designer loves the idea of creating something by hand. And in recent years, it seems, the process of hand drawn design has seen a resurge in popularity and appreciation. This might leave some designers, who developed their digital skills over the past decade, in the dark. For example, you may be able to create a beautiful design in Photoshop or Illustrator, but given a pen and paper, you are completely lost. This doesn't have to be the case when you are comfortable mixing the two mediums in your design process. Let's take a look at how I created this bottle label using both the pen and the computer as tools to create the end result.
Here's a look at what we'll be building.
Finding inspiration on the computer
With most all of my designs I start with a "mood board". This is basically a collection of design pieces, usually from a certain era or genre, that I find appealing and plan to take inspiration from. Careful now, I said "inspiration" not "copy from". To avoid inadvertently copying, I typically build the mood board, study it, then put it away, and walk away for a while. That way, when I come back, I'm building from my memory of styles I've seen, and not directly taking from something that already exists.
Here's my mood board for this label design, which I'm basing on a fictional beverage titled "Lucky Dog".
Thumbnail sketching on paper
I start my design by roughing out some ideas on paper. These thumbnails allow me to run through ideas quickly to see what might work and what doesn't work. Drawing thumbnails is a crucial step in any design process. It saves a ton of time to go into the next step with a general idea of you're creating.
Here are some thumbnails that I quickly drew for this label design.
Next up, I chose a thumbnail and drew it at a larger size paying more attention to details, and how this label might come together. This is still on paper, and drawn at about half the final size of the label. It's basically a more refined thumbnail to give me an idea of what the final illustration might look like.
Quick layout using fonts on the computer
I like the direction the design is heading in. Next, I'll open up Adobe Illustrator on the computer and do a rough layout using fonts in place of my hand drawn type from the refined thumbnail. I created the document at 2x the size of the printed label. This will give me room to print it out and add details by hand.
Here's a look at my rough layout in Illustrator. Next up, I'll print this layout and begin drawing the label over this rough.
Building the composition with tracing paper
Now that I've printed the rough from Illustrator it's time to go back to paper. I use tracing paper over the printed rough to begin my layout using pencils and Micron pens. Now wait a minute… Some of you might look at this step and say "He's tracing!!" or "Why trace the fonts? Why not just stay in Illustrator?"
I'm using these fonts as rough guidelines. I like to use fonts in, some designs like this one, to get a feel for stroke width, alignment and spacing. I also like to embellish the fonts versus just tracing them to add my own style. Plus, I want the end result to have that imperfect hand drawn look and feel.
I begin by tracing the fonts with Micron pens and adding extra design elements with pencil. I'll come back later and trace my pencils with pen as well.
For the dog, I found several reference photos with a simple google search. I rough him in with pencils and then come back and add shading and details with pen.
Scanning and refining the illustration on the computer
Once the illustration is completely inked and I've added all of the extra details that I feel are needed, I then scan the label at 600 dpi and bring it into Photoshop for further refinement. At this point you could take it back to illustrator and refine to your heart's content, but for this purpose, I'm pretty happy with where it's at. I touched up a few letters and shadows, but that's about it.
Here's a view of the original scan versus the final label.
To finalize the label, I created a new document at print size (5x8 inches). I copied and pasted the artwork to a layer within this new file. I added a background from the Recycled Papers Collection
here at Medialoot. And then set the artwork layer's Blend Mode to "Multiply" to hide all white areas.
Next, I added a Gradient Map adjustment layer with a Blend Mode set to "Overlay".
For the finishing touch, I colored in some shapes and added a boarder. I also added a bit of grunge with a brush from the Subtle Grunge Brush Collection
. To apply the brush I grouped all of my artwork layers together and applied the brush to a layer mask on the whole group.
Here's another look at the final label.
I hope this tutorial has given you some insight and inspiration when it comes to incorporating both pen and paper and the computer into your workflow. Both are incredible and indispensable tools to a designer. Being comfortable with both, makes your designs more versatile and makes you a better designer!