Tutorial: Vintage Beer Bottle Label (Photoshop)

Hi guys,

So it’s a new year, I hope you all had a terrific time over the holidays, I did. I won’t say I drank a wee bit too much… But…

One of the things I noticed was the packaging on beer, how it’s put together and how it works and started thinking how great it’d be to write a tutorial on product packaging, particularly focusing on beer. Product design is great to practice as a designer, it needs you to work pretty much all the design muscles. It needs to be succinct, to the point, eye catching, creative and made to measure.

I had a look around and couldn’t see anyone having done a tutorial on this, which I thought was a bit weird given how many homebrew enthusiasts are out there, that may like to do their own labels.

This tutorial will be creating a generic design in a traditional/vintage style of beer bottle label perfect for pint bottles.

I’m going to be working entirely in Photoshop for this tutorial mostly because I want to keep it simple and aimed at maybe people who haven’t designed before. If you do have access to Illustrator though I would recommend using it instead (most of the instructions are interchangeable).

Create a new image.

Your new image should be slightly larger than you need, this is to allow for trimming and ink bleed when you come to print, I found that 2288px x 1013px at 300 dpi works best, this gives us a workspace of 7.625 x 3.375 inches, perfect for a wrap round label on a standard pint (568ml) bottle.

New Image

Now some of you may be thinking why am I working in RGB, When print is always CMYK, Well simply put if you’re working in Photoshop, RGB gives you much more to work with while designing and we can convert to CMYK near the end. Lovely article about it here.

Before we start you’ll also need to create some guide lines, hit Cmd/Ctrl R to turn on your rulers, now click and drag down the top ruler, this will create a guide, pull it down to near the middle of your canvas and you should feel it snap in to the middle. Now click and drag from the side ruler to the middle and it should snap the same way.


Create a Template

We’re now going to setup our workspace so we know where are trim lines are going to be and where our bleed is. Create a new layer, call it trim template. Use you rectangular marquee tool (M) and set it to fixed size of 2215 x 940px then click in your image and centre the selection (You should feel in snap in to the guides we put in earlier) .


Invert your selection (Cmd/Ctrl Shift I) and now fill (G) with red (#ff0000).


This is your trim guide, anything in the red might be trimmed off during print.

Create a new layer under the trim template and call it bleed template. Now change your marquee settings (M) to 2142 x 867px centre and click in the image again.


Invert the selection again (Cmd/Ctrl Shift I) and fill (G) with yellow (#fcff00).


This is your bleed template, things in here will print but can sometimes suffer from ink bleed which lowers the quality, basically don’t put anything you need to be legible in here. Now merge these two layers (Cmd/Ctrl E) and call the layer template and set is opacity to 50%.


Background and First Steps

Okay… So we have a template, lets start filling it in. Double click the background layer and call it “background” (you don’t have to do this but I just like to unlock the layer this way.)


Use your fill tool (G) and fill this layer with brown (#392b19)


Using the ellipse shape tool (U) set its fill to a tan colour (#c69c6d), now draw out the ellipse from the centre of the image holding the alt key (this is a bit tricky, you need to press and hold the alt key after you start drawing with the mouse otherwise you’ll just be using the eyedropper).


This will have created a new layer, rename this “label main” Now using the rectangular shape tool (U) draw out a box on the left hand of the image near the edge of our template.


This will also be a new layer rename this one “label back left”. Okay now it’s time to start…

Adding Some Detail

Vintage design is full of little details most people won’t notice the first time they look at something, so we need to emulate this eye for detail starting with strokes and borders. Create a new layer above our “label main” layer call it “layer main border”. Hold Cmd/Ctrl and click on our “label main” layer thumbnail, this will select our ellipse. Make sure you have our new border layer selected. Now select the marquee tool (M) and right click inside the selection, click stroke. Now make a 5px outside stroke in a very dark grey/black (#25211d).



Now in the top menus go to select>modify>contract and contract the selection by 5px.


With the Marquee tool still selected right click in the selection again this time make an inside 10px stroke in the same colour.


Now go back to your contract option (Select>Modify>Contract) and contract the selection by 15px, right click in the selection and stroke with an inside stroke at 5px this time. You should end up with something looking like this.


Now apply the same process to our rectangle.


Now that this is done lets group up our layers and tidy things up  bit in our layers. Select our “label main” and “label main border” layer and press Cmd/Ctrl G and call the new group “middle” and then do the same for our “label back left” and “label back left border” and call this group left.


Now duplicate (Cmd/Ctrl J) our left group, call the new group “right” and using the move tool (V) drag this group over to the right hand side of our image, hold shift while dragging to ensure it goes over in a straight line.


More Boxes!!!

So far so good… We’re definitely starting to see how our label is going to be arranged, but that middle label is starting to feel a little barren. So lets fix that with a few more bits and pieces. Lets start with a banner at the top of the ellipse to put our brewery name in. Banners were used a lot in older designs and are really simple to do.

Go in to the middle group and select the “label main border” layer. Using the rectangular shape tool (U) create a narrow long bar across the top of the ellipse (it doesn’t have to be aligned perfectly right now, we’ll sort that in a minute). Name the new layer “middle banner”.


Now this is the tricky bit, if you want I recommend using a guide (click on your top ruler and drag one down to approximately half way down your rectangle). Using the pen tool (P) add new points to your rectangle.


Then using the convert point tool 51(P) convert the points to corners (click once on either one). and then use the direct selection tool 52(A) drag the points along the middle a little ways. Remember that this would have been done by hand in days gone by so eyeball it as best as you can but don’t worry too much.


Now we need to put a little bend in our banner press Cmd/Ctrl T and then in the top bar select the warp tool 21. In the new drop down menu (it should say custom) select arc and set the bend to 10% then click the tick. Now using the move tool (V) move the banner down until its highest point is level with the top of our rectangles on the sides.


Now do our borders on the banner the same as we did for our other shapes earlier.


Now I know what you’re thinking “But how will I ever fit text in there?” Don’t worry we’re not going to. Now we’re going to do our middle bit of the banner. Using our rectangle shape tool (U) make a new rectangle that’s taller and not as wide as the banner call this one “banner top”.


To make this sit right we need to put a little bend in this too. So hit Cmd/Ctrl T and use the warp tool 21 again and arc and a this time use a 5% bend.


Now using the move tool (V) place it so it’s top most point is level with the top of the ellipse. Once you’re happy with where it is then we’ll apply our borders again as before.


Looking good. But what about our beer name? We need to put that on there somewhere too… Time for…

Even More Boxes!!!

What we really want is for our beer’s name to pop. This is the most important part of our label. So we’re going to use contrast to help us here. Using the rectangular shape tool (U) set the fill colour to our dark grey/black (#25211d) make a large rectangle in the middle of our ellipse. Lets call it “middle name label”.


Now we’re going to shape this rectangle quite a bit. Hit Cmd/Ctrl T and go to the warp tool 21 and then this time we’re going to use Shell Lower. Set the bend to 25% and hit the tick.


Okay now hit Cmd/Ctrl T and again go back to our warp tool 21 and this time select arc and put in a 5% bend.


Great stuff… But now it feels a little too big perhaps? So use Cmd/Ctrl T and resize and move it so those top corners line up perfectly where they meet the ellipse. This may take some time and a bit of playing around with the size and placement, stick with it you’ll get there.


Hopefully you now have something that looks like this. Lets put on a border, we’re going to use the same technique as before but a little different. Create a new layer and call it “middle name label border”, now Cmd/Ctrl click the thumbnail on the “middle name label” layer. Before we stroke this time we will contract so go to Select>Modify>Contract and set it to 5px, using the marquee tool (M) right click in the selection and make a 10px inside stroke in our tan colour (#c69c6d).


Go back to Select>Modify>Contract and set it to 15px, use the marquee tool (M) right click the selection and stroke again this time at 5px.


Well we’re almost done with the boxes… Phew, just one more to go, and this one is optional. The last box we’re going to put in is going to be a little one to pop the alcohol content in. If you’re home brewing you may not want to spoil the surprise.

Okay, use our rectangular shape tool (U) and draw out a small box in our tan colour (#c69c6d), call it “little box” and make sure it’s layer is beneath the “middle name label” layer.


Now we’ll want to put a little bend in this box too. So hit Cmd/Ctrl T and our warp button 21. Select arc and give it a -10% bend.


Create a new layer and call it “little box border”, Cmd/Ctrl Click the little box layer thumbnail, then using the marquee tool (M) right click the selection and stroke with a 2px outside stroke in our dark grey/black (#25211d)


We should now have a page looking something like this…


Phew… Lets Put In Our Text

Welp… I’m glad all those boxes are out of the way. Time to start putting in some text. Designers will often tell you to never use more than two or three fonts on a design, this is always a good rule of thumb. So for this design I am only going to be using two fonts, one called “The Goldsmith Vintage” and the other is “Tattoo Shop“, Both are great vintage fonts that will work great in the context of our design.


Okie dokie, that’s my text in, I used “The Goldsmith Vintage” for the majority of the label, the only place I used anything else was on the brewery name where I used “Tattoo Shop”. To get the fonts sitting right on the middle labels it was necessary to apply warps to them using Cmd/Ctrl T and the warp tool  21 and then applying the same warps I did to the boxes but you may have to play around a little to get it to suit your text.

More Details

Right we’re not quite done yet. If I was a lazy man we could probably finish about now and no one would judge us (well they would but I’d be too lazy  to care). But I’m not, so we shan’t. What we need are ornamentals, ornamentals are little woodcut swirls or patterns that were used a great deal in old print and became synonymous with vintage design. Now we could make our own ornamentals (I may even do a tutorial on making them in the future) but for now we’ll use some that are freely available online. You’ll need to install the Spring Swirls Brush Set (if you need help installing your brushes go here), create new layers for each ornamental and then use the brush tool (B) to add them to your label as close as possible to below.


Really though placement doesn’t matter just try and put them in wherever the label feels sparse, don’t over lap them and make sure you keep the symmetry, so always mirror them, make them on their own layers and then using Cmd/Ctrl J to duplicate them and then Cmd/Ctrl T to ensure accuracy when flipping and moving them.

Ok so everything is feeling pretty good now but the image still isn’t popping, to remedy this lets create some tints and shades on our back ground layer. Create a new layer directly above our background layer and call it shadows. Cmd/Ctrl click the thumbnail of our “label back left” layer and then hold Cmd/Ctrl Shift click the thumbnail of our “label back right” layer. This should have selected both of our boxes.


Now on our shadow layer fill (G) these boxes with pure black (#000000) then deselect (Cmd/Ctrl D) and then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur in the top menu. Apply a 35px gaussian blur.


Then create a new layer above our “shadows” layer, call it “glow”. Cmd/Ctrl Click the thumbnail of the “label main”layer and then Shift Cmd/Ctrl Click the “middle name label” Layer. Make sure the “Glow” layer is selected and then fill (G) the selection white. Deselect (Cmd/Ctrl D) and then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and apply a 40px blur. Set “glow” layers blending mode to soft light, and set the “shadows” layer blending mode to colour burn.


Okay this is starting to look good but it’s still missing…


To really sell this label I feel it really needs some texture. With the colour scheme we’ve used the best texture is probably going to be perhaps leather. Yeah… Leather, sort of old fashioned but it feels sort of right… So your going to need this leather texture. Put it in to a layer on top of everything else and resize so it completely covers your image using Cmd/Ctrl T. While dragging it out hold shift and alt to make sure it keeps its height to length ratio. Call it “smooth leather”. Now set its blending mode to overlay and take its opacity down to 60%. also if you want you can turn off your templates visibility 42.


Wow! Okay this is really starting to pop… But I feel it could still do with just a tad more texture. This time you’ll need this leather texture. Resize this layer as before and then put it above the glow layer, call it “rough leather”. Set its blending mode it multiply and its opacity to 75%.


That looks great. Except it looks weird that it doesn’t affect our boxes. Lets fix that. Select our “Middle” “Left” and “Right” Groups and press Cmd/Ctrl G name the new group “boxes”. Now select our “rough leather” Layer and duplicate it (Cmd/Ctrl J)  call the new layer “lighter leather”  and set the blending mode to normal at 100% opacity. Right click on the little eye 42 next to the layer and make it the only visible layer. Then go to Image>Adjustments>Desaturate. Then Image>Adjustments>Levels and set it so it reads 50 – 1.00 – 214. Now go to Select>Color Range and with the eyedropper select one of the darker bits and set the fuzziness to 158. Click ok and then hit delete. Move this layer above the “boxes” group right click on the “lighter leather” layer and click create clipping mask, now set the blending mode to soft light and opacity 36%.


Sorry if I lost anyone getting to this point. That was very complicated, and wordy. But our thing looks awesome now.

Finishing Touches.

Okay. Lets finish off our label. Before we apply our finishing touches we’ll need to convert our image to CMYK to make it print ready. Go to Image>Mode>CMYK Colour this will now convert our image to CMYK colour (There will be a slight change in your colours, don’t panic this is expected).  Go to Layers>New Adjustment Layer>Curves and make a mild S curve (make sure it is on top of all the other layers).



Create a new layer under your “boxes” group and call it “vignette”. Select all (Cmd/Ctrl A) and then with the marquee tool selected right click in the selection and then add an inside stroke in black (#000000) of 50px. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and apply a blur of 50px. Change the blending mode to multiply and opacity to 50%.

And that’s it, your beer label is finished and ready to print. Hopefully it looks something like this.



I hope you guys had fun following this tutorial.

Of course if you think it all seems like to much work and want someone else to do it please feel free to get in touch www.vpdesign.me.uk. I actually have a 20% sale on until the end of January.

Let me know in the comments if you found this tutorial useful and if there is anything you’d like me to cover in the future.



One thought on “Tutorial: Vintage Beer Bottle Label (Photoshop)

  1. Pingback: How Much Does Design Cost? | VP Design

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