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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.
One of the best ways to start learning about designing for packaging is to take one apart and replicate it. You can start with something as simple as a cereal box and that'll still teach you a lot. So you should examine the anatomy of the carton. Notice the mechanics of it. How it folds up. How it glues. Look at the areas for glue and the little tuck in tabs. Notice how they're shaped and that's to facilitate folding on the machine that's going to put it together. So here, I have a cereal box that I've taken apart. And that's a little fold crease, and when you look at it you can see that it's indented.
And that's because of those creasing rules that are part of the dye that created this. The little tabs that are going to tuck in. You notice that they're smaller, you see how they're sort of indented, and that, so they'll fold in easily, and again, it's to accomodate the machinery that folds this package up. And that's while it's still empty, long before you ever put cereal in it. And then this little flap on the top. Is going to fold over and it's going to have glue on the other flap that faces it so when that folds in and when that glue strip hits it's going to seal it shut and then this little tab also has glue on its other side.
And you can see who has taken this apart that's were the glue hit the back of this piece. So when you take a cereal box apart you really learn a lot about the way a folding carton works So if you're going to replicate it, you should measure carefully, see how big the tabs and flaps and panels are, and of course some of the panels and tabs are going to be larger and smaller, because they have to tuck inside each other, and we want to make sure that they fit correctly. So, here I am in Illustrator, and I have just a blank document. I've made it plenty big, it's a little bit bigger than.
My folded out carton, because it really doesn't matter that that artwork hits the edge of the page. It's really just going to kind of free float. So the first thing I'm going to do is build some basic panels. Now you can build in guidelines, and snap to those, but if you use smart guides, actually you can pretty much get by without guidelines. You might need them for some components, but not for everything. And I think it's easier to visualize if you work with shapes to begin with. Rather than guidelines. So before I get started, I'm going to go to View and make sure that my Smart Guides are turned on.
And so that I can make sure that I get things the right size, I'm going to open up my Transform panel. Now that looks like a big long list but remember it's alphabetical so it's easy to find the Transform panel. I measured my carton and I'm going to start from left to right. It doesn't matter how you start. You know, it's whatever's comfortable for you. But I'm going to start with my first left panel and I'm just going to sort of rough it in. Yes, you can watch that little flag but trying to hit it exactly is kind of frustrating frankly. So I'm just going to come close. And then here in my Transform panel I'm going to pin down the left side.
And not worry too much about the x and y. All I'm really worried about is the width and the height. Now, I wannna replace the value that's in both of these fields. I could click and drag across them, but I'll show you my favorite way to do this in order to highlight what's in the field. So, I can immediately type a new value If you click on the field label, and for the width that's that little W. I want this to be six and a quarter inches wide. So I just type 6.25. Tab on down to the next field, the height field, and the height field needs to be ten and a quarter.
10.25. And because this little point, this little reference point on the transform proxy, is selected, it pivots from that left center edge, and that works just fine. Now, I could start, for my next little panel which is a thinner side panel, by drawing a new panel and moving in, but I can use smart guides to give myself a little head start. I switch back to my Selection tool. Hold down Option or Alt. See how my cursor changes? It tells me that it's going to duplicate. So as I Option or Alt+drag to the right.
Now smart guides will keep me pretty sharp here but I like to add the Shift key as well. And you'll feel it kind of snag. And always when you have modifier keys held down like I do. Option or Alt to duplicate. Shift to constrain. You always let go of your mouse first, so now I can let go of my Option or Alt. Again, over here on the Transform panel, I'm going to pin down the left side, the width for the side panel is two and a half inches, so that's 2.5, I hit Enter, and there we go. Now that's going to sort of repeat, I have another wide panel, and another narrow panel, so, I can just drag a little marquee that touches both of those.
Hold down Opt or Alt to duplicate, hold down Shift to constrain, and my smart guides will help that snap, there we go. Now, I'm a little close to the right edge, I need to draw one more little panel, so I'm just going to throw a marquee over, and then just drag this a little to give myself room. It's okay if this left edge is close to the left edge of my art board, because really, that's the end of the carton. I need one more little piece over here, and that's going to be that little glue flap which is 9 16ths of an inch wide. So I pulled out my calculator and discovered that that's 0.5625 inches.
So I'm just going to get my Rectangle tool. And you can see as you get close because of smart guides, which are really just your best friend. I can just make sure that that snaps, you see the little green smart guy go off. And my left side is pinched down and the width in the said would be 0.5625. So just 0.5625. Of course if you're working in a metric system, your measurements would be different, but the concept is still the same. So there we go, now I'm going to need to make my top flaps and bottom flaps, but I'm going to have to measure them and make sure that I get them the right size.
They're going to be a little bit trickier because they're all different sizes and what I'm going to start with will be, sort of, component pieces that I'll combine to make more elaborate shapes, but now I have the basis of my box and I can build on this.
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