In the spirit of the season, we thought we’d compile a list of free or very low-cost label design resources for small businesses. These resources are great for creating your own labels, or for coming up with design concepts to hand off to your team of professionals, whichever works for you. Our prepress team has given the thumbs-up to all these.
Graphic Design Software
Graphics software is the big expense in label design resources. The heavy hitter for this is, of course, Adobe Illustrator. It’s what we use in-house. But it comes with a hefty monthly price tag, and if you don’t use it every day, it may not be worth it for you. There are less expensive options, two of which are linked below. Whatever software you choose, you want to make sure that it can work with vector art, it can export or save files as .eps, or .pdf (from a vector file, not a .jpg), and if possible, that you can create or edit your artwork using Pantone or CMYK color.
Print uses inks to create colors, while colors on the web are displayed using light. Color design for the web uses RGB, or red, green, and blue. Print color is CMYK – Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow, and “Key” (black). Print and web colors can vary widely (for that matter, colors displayed on any two monitors can vary widely).
The colors you see on your screen will not be an exact match for the colors that will print off our presses. If you need specific print colors, you need to use the Pantone Matching System color or an exact CMYK or spot color. It’s not often required outside of logos and other brand colors, but it’s nice to use a graphics package that supports it.
Speed Up Your Print Process
We’d also like to encourage you to convert any text in your image to curves or outlines before submitting the artwork to us. It’s easier and faster if text is already converted in the file, and helps get your artwork on the presses more quickly. Both the apps below have an easy one-step process for that (as does Illustrator).
Affinity Designer by Serif is very similar to Illustrator, but you can purchase the license for a one-time fee rather than a monthly subscription. It usually is available for $50, but I’ve seen it occasionally as low as $35.
This is a full-featured software application, available for Mac and Windows. It supports both Pantone and CMYK colors. Whether you’re a trained graphic designer, or just want to noodle up some label ideas and images, it may work for you. There are a number of tutorials online.
Gravit Designer has both a free and a pro version. The pro version is a subscription (usually $99/year, but at the time of this post, it’s on sale for $49/year). The pro version allows for more flexibility – you can work offline, you can use CMYK colors rather than RGB, you can export with higher resolution – these are all things you want for print media.
The free version may work for you if you just want to come up with a few concepts that you will then pass off to a professional designer with Illustrator or Designer.
Choosing a typeface can be tough, but it’s so important for the overall look and feel of your product. There are plenty of font sites, but the two below offer ways to search for typefaces that (1) are a good match for your product presentation, and (2) are free for commercial use. (Want a bit of help beforehand? Read our post on picking the right font for your product.)
What a huge number of free fonts! While Google Fonts are optimized for the web, they can also shine in print. You can use their text area in the search bar to enter custom text. Any fonts that appear below will then use that text. It’s a great way to quickly find and prototype label text. The search options include a number of different font attributes, like handwritten, serif, slanted, thick or thin, etc.
Have a font you like, but don’t know the name? Font Squirrel has a font identifier. Upload an image of it and they’ll either identify the specific font for you, or give you a close approximation of it.
To search for their font types, you can use the lists of classifications and tags on the right sidebar.
There are tons of stock graphics sites, of course, but if you’re operating on a budget (and who isn’t?), there’s also a number of “free” sites, where for an attribution, or maybe a cup of coffee, you can use your choice of beautiful artwork for your commercial venture. We’re sharing two vector graphics sites.
We recommend vector graphics because they’re scalable, which means they can go from a large size to a small one and back again without losing any definition or sharpness. They can generally be used on both spot color or full color labels. Vector files can be opened and modified using the software suggestions above, as well as by the more high-powered Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW and some other programs.
Freepik requires an attribution line for most of their vector images. Because of the restricted space on many labels, it’s not possible to have it there. They do state that you can place it in a “credits” section, which can easily be hosted on most websites or store fronts. If you don’t want to use a credits section, or want to use many of their vector files, you can also purchase a premium membership, which allows you to use any of their artwork with no attribution (this membership also gives you access to more artwork).
Many of the vector files on Stockio are free for both personal and commercial use, although some require either an attribution or a small fee for commercial use. You can “favorite” items so you can come back to them again easily.
Easy, Peasy – and Fun!
I used Affinity Designer, a vector graphic by starline from Freepik, and “Fredericka the Great” and “Roboto” from Google Fonts to prototype this label in less than 15 minutes. (Well, 30 minutes if you count going through all the fun fonts before selecting those two!) Couldn’t have done it without the label design resources listed here!
Got it all together? We suggest saving a copy of your artwork before and after converting any text to outlines (or curves in the case of Affinity Designer). Once you’ve done that, export the final file as an .eps or .pdf from your graphics program (or .ai, if that is an option), and upload that file to our site when ordering your labels.