Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Label Planet: Getting (Your Design) Into (Your Label) Shape

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When designing labels, it’s important to keep in mind the shape of your labels to make sure that your design fits into and looks just right within the boundaries of the shape you are working with. It’s always best to take a little time to think about the benefits AND limitations of the label shape that you have chosen to use and adjusting your design to suit.

Here’s a few tips from us to help you get your design into shape!

Check Your Printer’s Specifications
This might seem like an odd one, given that we’re supposedly talking about designing and not printing labels, but it’s a first step that is well worth taking before you launch headfirst into design.

Most desktop printers are not capable of “Edge-To-Edge” or “Borderless” printing (whereby a printer can print the full area of a sheet) and – for the most part – such a function isn’t needed; the majority of documents printed on standard desktop printers will be documents with minimal design work, no coloured background, and very much centred in the middle of the sheet.

With sheets of labels, however, it is much more likely that you’ll need to print much closer to the edge – whether you’re creating a big design with a coloured background or because the labels you are using naturally take up more room on a sheet. This is more of an issue for “butt cut” or “square cut” labels, which are usually created by dividing the full area of a sheet into equal parts.

A quick and simple way to find the printable area offered by your printer is to set up a new document, set the page margins to 0, fill the page with a coloured background or coloured shape, and then print this document onto plain paper – any area that your printer cannot print will remain white and you’ll be able to adjust your design plans accordingly.

Top tip: if your printer CANNOT print the full area of your labels consider turning this to your advantage; you could use a coloured background for the central part of your labels only, leaving the outer edges (that you printer can’t print anyway) as a white border that becomes a natural part of your design. 

Keep Your Borders In Mind
It’s also a good idea to take a close look at the borders of your label shape and make sure that your design takes into account any variation. Apart from square cut labels, all labels will have some shaping to their borders (including rectangles with rounded corners, which have curved or radius corners). You should try to keep the shape of your labels in mind as you set up your design, regardless of whether you’re simply adding some text or you’ve got grand designs that will fill up (and make the most of) every curve and contour of your labels.

If you are planning to capitalise on choosing a particular shape of label then you’ll also need to bear in mind how accurate your software and hardware is. Most software and hardware will have limitations as to how much control you have over positioning and the degree of precision that they can offer, so if you’re trying to include elements in your design that mimic or closely follow the shape and borders of your label you might find that you have to compromise on accuracy or on the complexity of your design.

Top tip: if you know that you don’t have the most precise software and/or hardware, don’t make things harder for yourself – avoid using borders and/or shaped images that will make any slight inaccuracy in your positioning much more obvious. If you do want to add a border, we advise using a thicker border that will give you some leeway on your positioning. We’d also advise that if you’re including a coloured background or an image with a particular shape, you should oversize your design; this will give you some tolerance over the accuracy of your positioning AND avoid the problem of white edging around your labels. 

Improve Your Positioning By Keeping Things Centralised
Getting the perfect positioning can be a tricky business but a quick and easy way to give yourself a head start is to make sure you centralise all of the elements in your design, particularly if you’re printing onto labels that are round or oval in shape. This means that the elements of your design are more likely to remain safely in the centre of your labels and won’t stray so close to the edges of your labels that they get partially cut off when you print.

Think Carefully About Layering The Elements In Your Design
If you’re planning on including a lot of different elements in your design – particularly if you want to work with a mixture of text, images, and shapes – then it’s best to think of your design in terms of layers and to add your elements accordingly. We recommend doing a little bit of planning so that you can build your design up in stages, starting with the background and working to the front.

Thinking ahead can also help to make sure that all of the elements in your design have plenty of space, which can help to avoid the problem of “busy” designs that can end up looking messy, unprofessional, and can even wind up being totally illegible (which defeats the purpose of adding a label in the first place).

Top tip: if you’re working with basic software that doesn’t offer the greatest of control over your page layout, you should keep a close eye on the format and style options applied to the elements that you add. If you find that you’re struggling to get elements to stay in the correct position when you try to layer them, it’s more than likely that one of the format or style options is set up to prevent layering or to arrange elements in a specific position relative to other elements nearby. You should be able to choose alternative options that allows you to position your elements with more precision than the default options do.


For more tips and advice, or to download a template and practice your design work, please visit our Help section.

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