Designing your first item of packaging can seem like a daunting endeavour, but taking your 2D designs into 3D territory needn’t be scary. This is your ultimate quick-start guide to packaging design, from which software to use to knowing about different packaging shapes and styles. You'll also learn how to prepare your 2D artwork for printing, and we'll look at some of the different print finishes you can apply to your designs.
Seasoning Packaging Mockup Template Need some extra help with making your packaging ideas a reality? The packaging design team at Envato Studio are here to help.
Otherwise, if you're ready to start designing your own beautiful packaging designs, let’s dive in...
1. Choose the Best Software for the Job
Before you start designing your packaging, you need to carefully consider which program is best for tackling the job. Most packaging designers will send their 2D artwork to the manufacturer in a vector format. Vector files are scalable, and it’s easy to create dieline templates using the line and shape tools in vector programs like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape .
It becomes a little trickier when you want to visualise your design as a 3D product, because most vector software is designed for producing 2D images, but you can find plugins or different programs to help out at this stage. Esko is a software plugin for Illustrator that allows you to fold dielines and render the design in a 3D format. You can also rotate the packaging, allowing you to view the design from different angles. Some packaging designers also like Cinema 4D , which renders your flat designs into a 3D format.
Many packaging designers will skip Esko or Cinema 4D in favor of mocking up photorealistic designs in Adobe Photoshop instead, which we’ll take a more in-depth look at a little later in this guide.
2. Create a Dieline
A dieline is the flat template for the package. This is usually put together by the packaging designer in a vector program, like Illustrator, using simple lines and shapes.
The dieline should indicate where the packaging template should be cut and where it should be perforated (an impression is made by a machine, ready for folding). As these are two separate pieces of information for the printer, the cutting (trim) lines and perforation (fold) lines should be placed on separate layers and as spot colors, which means the cutting and trimming will be performed at different stages.
It’s also advisable to rename the dieline layers in your Illustrator document to ‘DO NOT PRINT’ , which is a clear note to the manufacturer that these layers are intended for post-print processing.
Creating your own dielines from scratch can be fiddly at first, but it gets easier with practice. A good way to practise is to find a box that closely matches the dimensions you’d like for your own packaging design, take it apart and measure it. Use these measurements as a basis for creating your own dieline.