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Packaging is where engineering meets design. Learn about the basics of designing packages for everything from foodstuffs to fragrance, in ways that are practical for manufacturing and shipping, and make the products visually appealing. Author Claudia McCue reviews the types of containers real packaging engineers consider, and then concentrates on folding cartons, which can be created with the tools available to most designers: Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. Learn how to create dielines (the flattened view of your product) and add artwork and text. Then find out how to print and cut out a mockup version of your packaging, and prepare the job for professional printing. Claudia also takes you for a quick view of the factory floor, where products are packed into their final containers.
When you're finished designing your package, it's time to send it to the printer. So of course you want to make sure that you've followed the printer's specifications. You certainly want to make sure that you've provided adequate bleed. You may find that especially on a large carton, you need to provide actually larger than your old standard eighth of an inch bleed, so double check and make sure you've given enough bleed. And here's something you don't usually do when you submit a print job to a printer. You want to turn your text to outlines. Now the reason for that is a carton might be holding a product that's going to be distributed around the world, so you don't really know for sure where that's going to be printed.
So if you're a designer in the US, your file may actually be sent out of the country in order to be printed. Of course, you want to check the printer's specs. But just don't be surprised if they ask you to outline the text. So I'm going to jump to Illustrator and show you how to do that. So here I am in Illustrator. And I have my text on a stand-alone layer, just to make it a little bit easier to select. So in the Layers panel, I can just click that little target circle, and it should select both of my blocks of text. And you can see that, right now, they're live text.
To convert to outlines, I just go to Type and Create Outlines. And, you can tell it looks a little clumpier, so one other way that you can tell is to go to View and Outline, and you can see how it looks. You can zoom in, and see the little outlines of the letters. Of course, before you do this, you want to run Spell Check. You want to make sure that everything's as it should be, because you can't change your spelling after you've converted to outlines. And that's also a good reason to make sure that you keep a backup file. So keep an original file that still has your live text.
And then have this be a separate file that has your outline text. You want to make sure that you use the correct color space, which is usually CMYK. Even though we're using color management more and more in printing, and it's okay occasionally to send RGB if the printer's says it is. Again, we're trying to make this file utterly portable; so usually you're going to use CMYK. That doesn't mean that you can't use spot colors, but again, you're going to take a look at that printer's specs and make sure you know how this is supposed to be supplied. And you also want to save to the correct version and format.
You may be asked to save to an older version. So for example, if you're using Illustrator CC, you may need to save back to Illustrator CS6. Again, you need to hand the printer what they can use, and you're going to take a look at their specs and see what they allow. You may also be asked to submit an EPS file. Usually it's going to be a native AI file, but make sure you know what they want. It's a good idea in general, but it's particularly helpful if you do this when you have a packaging file. You want to sort of clean house. Streamline your swatches.
Make sure you don't have any that you don't need. Here I am in Illustrator and I'm going to take a look at my swatches. I have plenty of swatches. They wouldn't really hurt anything if I have extra ones, but it makes a lot easier for the person at the printer to understand what's going on if you get rid of the ones that you don't need. So here I'm going to to go my Panel menu. And I'm going to choose Select All Unused, hit the little trash can, and this is sort of funny. Even though you know it's unused, Illustrator knows it's unused, it's very polite. It says are you sure want to delete the swatch selection? Yes I do, so I click Yes.
Doesn't change anything about my artwork, but I have a much simpler selection in my Swatches panel now. And here's a tip: always make sure that your swatches are global swatches. It kind of bugs me that when you create a swatch in Illustrator, it doesn't by default become a global swatch. Here's why global swatches are important. In Illustrator, you might notice that all my little swatches have little white corners except for a few, so this one doesn't and this one doesn't. What does that mean? Well, that little white corner means that it's a global swatch, and the little white corner with a spot in it means that it's a spot color, so here's why global swatches are important.
If I select this large shape, this is actually the background color, it's the main color that's used in the document, and you'll notice in my Swatches panel, it is a live swatch. But it doesn't have that little tell tale white corner. Why do I care if it's not a global swatch? Here's why. If I were to edit this swatch, if I double click it. And I check Preview and I do something pretty abrupt like change it to red, that object doesn't respond. So if you keep this a global swatch you have that sort of remote control. So I'm going to select this so that this knows I'm talking to it.
Now I'm going to edit that swatch and I'm going to make sure that it's a global swatch. And this'll just show you how global swatches are better kinds of swatches. So I'm going to click OK. Now I've sort of branded that, and when I double click that swatch now, and keep in mind I don't have that object selected. When I click Preview, now if I make a change to the swatch, it's going to make a change to that object and any other object in that document that's painted with that swatch. So a little advice and this is not packaging specific. But any time you make a swatch make sure it is global.
I kind of wish Illustrator did that on its own. It doesn't, but it's just a little, but very important thing for you to pay attention to. And here's another nice bit of housecleaning for you to do. Delete any unnecessary objects. And what do I mean by unnecessary objects? I mean unpainted objects, anything that's a stray point that really doesn't have anything attached to it, empty text paths. And one nice thing Illustrator makes it really easy for you to do that with the Command > Object > Path > Cleanup. So, I'm going to switch to Illustrator and show you just how easy this is, and what a nice thing it is to do.
If I go into outline mode by going into View and Outline, oh, you've probably seen these little guys. They're like little gnats on your design. These are where I've clicked with the Type tool but then didn't type anything. And that'll happen to all of us. It wouldn't really cause harm, but its just kind of an annoyance. And its just a nice practice to get rid of stuff that you don't need. Everything that gets sent to the imaging device has to get processed, whether its empty or not. So you can simplify things by not sending unnecessary stuff. So, I'm going to leave this in outline mode so you can see how this works.
If I go to Object > Path, there it is. Clean Up and look at that. It will select straight points, unpainted objects and empty text paths. It knows that this is a common problem, so when I click OK, that's it. No flash or bang, no confirmation, it just gets rid of all that extra junk. So there was some little extra shapes that had no fill and no stroke. There were some little empty text pads and good old Illustrator got rid of all of that for me, so now I have a much cleaner file that I can send to the printer.
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