As many of our regular blog readers will know, I enjoy making labels and pump clips for my home-made beer almost as much as I enjoy making the beer itself. From this I’ve had a request for a blog post from some friends in the home brewing community to write a blog entry about how I go about making my own labels and sticking them to the bottles. I think this is something a lot of home brewers are thinking about just now as we sometimes give beer as Christmas presents so obviously you want people to know what beer you have given them but also it’s nice to give a gift that looks good.
so where do I start? Well usually by looking at beers available in my local beer store or supermarket and deciding which labels I like and why. A lot of the time, the labels can influence our decision to buy a beer (even if we don’t like to admit it), so it’s a good exercise to do, what do I like about the label, what does the label imply, what assumptions am I making?
I also look online and one blog I have found which I love just for looking at really nicely done graphic design for the beer industry is OhBeautifulBeer.com. They regularly show fantastic labels and poster and other beer paraphernalia and usually with a nice back story from the designers about they came to their decisions when designing. I would recommend popping onto the blog for a look and some ideas.
So you have looked at other beer labels and decided on the kind of thing you like. Now you need to work out what size your label should be. The simplest way to do this is to measure one of the labels you liked.
You have your label style idea, you have your label size. Next sketch your idea out on a bit of paper. This way you can keep adjusting your ideas if you realise you’ve forgotten something important or if things don’t look as good on paper as they did in your head. The important thing here is just to get your ideas down on paper; it doesn’t matter if you are a fantastic artist or if you just draw some boxes and a stick man. After all a lot of artisan products these days go for the “rustic/handmade” look.
You have your label idea, now you need to decide how you are going to create it. Are you going to draw your label and then photocopy it or are you going to create it on the computer? What way suits you best?
If you do decide to create it on the computer, you might want to think about what software you will use. Graphic design software is great and offers you so much versatility in what you can do, but it’s also expensive. But a lot of software comes with a 30 day trial for free or there is even some free graphic design software out there.
Free software to try:
• GIMP – http://www.gimp.org/
• Paint.net – http://www.getpaint.net/index.html
• Inkscape – http://inkscape.org/
Try something out, look up YouTube videos to teach you how it works and then have a good play and see what you can do.
Here’s the finished label I made.
Once you have your labels designed it’s time to print them out and attach. I’d recommend using a laserjet printer for this as the ink is less likely to run. I’ve found that the ink runs a little on deskjet printer so if I use a deskjet I also spray hairspray onto the labels after printer to help “fix” the ink.
Now you have some choices on how to attach your labels to your bottles. It depends on how you are going to treat the beer.
If you are giving the bottles away as gifts, you might want to either print onto sticky paper labels which you can buy in stationery stores of your could use PVU glue to attach them to your bottles. The last thing you want is for the label to come off.
The down side to doing this is that if you want to reuse bottles for another brew, these glued or sticky labels can be a right hassle to get off the bottle again.
If I’m just bottling for us to drink at home my solution is that I stick the labels on using milk. Yup plain old milk. If you coat a very thin layer on the back of the label it sticks perfectly to the bottle and in about an hour you have a perfectly affixed label that will come off really easily in a little hot water when you clean your bottles. I know some folk worry about the idea of using milk incase it smells but don’t worry. I don’t know the science bit, but it doesn’t smell.
There has been an update to this post published: to read it click on the link below