Prototyping is essential when it comes to designing. Thanks to programs like Blender, Photoshop, and a host of other software, we can construct highly-detailed, easily-editable design concepts without the costs and commitments involved in building tangible models.
Prototyping your package design not only allows you to explore various design possibilities, it also allows you to gather meaningful feedback very early in the design process. This is one way that companies determine the best branding choices and designs for their products. If you’ve ever wanted to test your hand at package designing you’re in luck. Today, we will be creating our own food package design in Photoshop using basic tools and techniques.
Building The Container
In most cases software like Cinema 4D or Blender would be used to create a wireframe and 3D model of the desired package shape before creating the wrapper or product label. Instead of using one of these programs, we will create our own 3D model in Photoshop; this will allow those who aren’t familiar with 3D software to follow along.
Step 1: New File
As always, you want to start with a new PSD file. Create a new a canvas, make it 1000px by 700px, and press “OK.”
Step 2: Background
Switch the default foreground and background settings so that the foreground is now white and the background is black. Select the radial gradient tool and apply it to a new layer. Drop the opacity to 25%.
Step 3: Front and Side
Pick a color and create a tall rectangle. This will be the front of our package.
Duplicate the front and pull your new duplicate to the side, hold shift to keep them aligned. Adjust the color by darkening it so that you can tell the difference between the two shapes. This will be the side of our package.
Step 4: Distort
Distort the darker rectangle to create the side of your package. Make sure the edge of the package front meet with edge of the package side.
Step 5: Top
Make a rectangle one-fourth of the height of the front rectangle. Change the color and place it above the front of the package. Note that the rectangle is the same width as the front. This will be our package top.
Step 6: Duplicate
Duplicate the newly-created layer and place it underneath the others. Darken the color to differentiate. Look below for guidance.
Step 7: Distort the Top
To manipulate the top of our package, you need to distort it by pulling the top corners towards each other.
Step 8: Connect
Apply the same technique to the duplicated layer and bring the two tops together, as if you are creating the roof of a house.
Step 9: Mini Triangle
You will notice that the sides of the package “roof” are open. Create a mini triangle of a different color to fill in this missing piece.
Designing The Wrapper
Now that our container is fully constructed, we can move on to the wrapper itself. Instead of creating my exact same package design, I recommend that you create your own. This will get you into the habit of building prototypes creatively. I’ll show you how I got started with my design.
Step 10: Color Your Wrapper
With the color #8bdadd, I created my wrapper template. To do this, you will need to make the wrapper have the same width as your front and sides combined. In other words, duplicate the front and sides of your package and place them side by side. The height will remain the same. Look below for clarity.
Step 11: Apply a Realistic Gradient
Make sure your foreground is #8bdadd and your background is #8c8c8c before continuing. Open the “Blending Options” panel and go to the “Gradient Editor,” located under “Gradient Overlay.” Change the preset so that it reflects your foreground and background colors. Look below for specific settings.
For the front and side, change the settings as shown below.
For the top, change it as shown below.
Step 12: Design Details
Use the circular marquee tool to create a circle on the front of your wrapper. Add a 10 pixel pure white stroke to this newly-created circle.
Add a skinny rectangular banner, as shown below.
Step 13: Logo Design
Be creative and create a logo design within the circle. I created a simple village skyline.
Step 14: Finish Your Package Design
Finish designing the wrapper of your package by adding some details, effects, and graphic enhancements. Here is the final outcome of my design.
Step 15: Combine Container and Wrapper
Select the area of the wrapper that will serve as the front of the package. If you are unsure, simply select the front of your container model and copy it. Place it over your wrapper you’ll see how much of the wrapper you need to select.
Drag your selection and place it onto the desired area. Look below for clarity.
Move the side wrapper design over to your container model and use the “Skew” transformation tool to properly position it. Temporarily lower the opacity of your wrapper so that you can see your container as you place the side design precisely.
Continue placing your various pieces onto your package model until you are finished. Note that you can get rid of your wrapper once all of the pieces are in place.
Step 16: Add a Package Flap
To add a flap to your package, simply use the lasso tool to create the shape.
Fill in this package tab and add some realistic shadow to it.
Step 17: Finishing Touches
Finish your design by adding final design enhancements such as shadows and perhaps other color variations of the package design. Here is the finished product.
Packages come in all different shapes and sizes, and prototyping is quick and easy, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try vastly different methods or designs. You may find that you don’t need to create a 3D container model or a tangible prototype to evaluate your design. When creating prototypes for your product package, don’t forget to consider color variations, as you may find that you prefer were color choice over another.
Do you have any package designs to share? Have you designed product packaging for past clients?
Gabrielle is a freelance graphic designer, animator, photographer and filmmaker who has taken on various projects including creating logos for clients, animating commercials for film festivals, working as a character and background designer and animating music videos for an international music artist.