A Comprehensive Artwork Guide – Your Questions Answered

A Comprehensive Artwork Guide – Your Questions Answered

Do you know how to create good packaging artwork? Do you know how large your artwork should be? Do you know what type of files to prepare for printing?

Artwork is a crucial aspect of your packaging design, representing a product you want to create. The artwork that you create will serve as a visual communication tool for your brand. Packaging artwork aims to ensure that the main design message can be conveyed clearly and appealingly. It should represent and support the marketing strategy of your brand and communications and promote awareness about it.

This guide is a general guideline for the artwork creation of packaging. It can be used as a tool for companies unfamiliar with the printing process or packaging design professionals starting projects on a new product. By following these guidelines, you should be able to create excellent packaging artwork quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

Popular software to use for creating packaging designs/artwork

Here is some software you can use to create designs for your product packaging. These software products are user-friendly, and you can download them for free.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a popular vector-based design tool. It allows the creation of detailed graphics and images. Vector-based graphics can be scaled up or down without losing quality or clarity, making them ideal for large print jobs requiring exact detail. This software is great for creating logos and icons as well as vector illustrations and images.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is good for creating high-quality images ready for printing or digital display purposes. This software can remove blemishes from photos or add effects like shadows and glows.

Corel Draw

This vector-based program allows you to create logos and other images. Corel Draw is good if you want more features than what Adobe Illustrator offers but don’t want something as complicated as Adobe Photoshop.

Adobe InDesign

 Adobe Indesign is Adobe’s design program for creating print media. It allows you to create layouts for a range of materials like brochures, flyers, and magazines using text, images, and graphics. You can also integrate various elements into the document with the help of this software, such as photographs, videos, PDF files, and other multimedia items.

Some bonus tips for creating clear and sharp print-ready designs

  • Use high-quality images. Images with low resolution or poor lighting will not only look bad, but they will also be hard to read and understand.
  • All artwork should be saved at a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. This ensures that your design will print with high quality and clarity and can be scaled up without losing its quality.
  • Keep your artwork clear and simple. You don’t need to add a lot of text for each image because it will just clutter up the design and make it looks bad overall.
  • Use vector graphics instead of raster images (JPEGs).

Difference between RGB and CMYK images

When you’re creating packaging artwork, it’s important to understand the difference between RGB and CMYK images. The most important difference between the two is that RGB images are intended for computer monitors, while CMYK images are made for printing.


The RGB color model is used in computer displays and color printers. When you see a picture on your computer screen or a web page, the colors you see are based on the RGB color model. RGB images are generally easier to work with because they allow you to see the full range of colors available in your design software (Adobe Illustrator). With this type of file format, you can see how your design will look on different backgrounds or when printed in black & white as well as color. However, RGB files won’t print correctly unless you first convert them into CMYK format.

You can do this using Adobe Photoshop’s Image > Mode > CMYK command or an independent software program like Pantone’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) application.


CMYK refers to four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) that can be combined in various proportions to produce a wide range of colors at print shops (particularly offset lithography printing). The full spectrum of colors that combines CMYK inks is called the “CMYK color space,” which is much smaller than the range of colors produced by RGB systems.


When you create an image in Photoshop, the default mode is RGB. This means that when you export your artwork to Illustrator, you’ll see three channels: red, green, and blue. When you open your artwork in Illustrator, it will automatically convert the RGB channels into CMYK. This process can result in slight color shifts due to different color spaces (RGB vs. CMYK). You can learn more here.

Basic elements of print-ready file

We need several basic elements of a print-ready file before we can start printing your artwork.

  1. When you’re creating artwork, be sure to keep the resolution of your images at 300dpi for black and white or 600dpi for color.
  2. The final file should be in CMYK mode (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). If you have an RGB file, please convert it into CMYK using an application like Photoshop or Illustrator.
  3. The optimal size for a file is 1000 pixels by 1500 pixels or larger. You can also send us a high-resolution PDF proof to ensure everything looks right before printing.
  4. If your artwork has any text on it, this text must be embedded into the document as a separate layer so that we can change it easily if necessary.

Bleed area and trim marks

The bleed area is the area that extends beyond the trim line on all sides of the artwork so that if your image gets trimmed during printing, you don’t lose any critical content. Bleed should always be at least 3 mm (1/8″). This area gives printers an extra margin of error when cutting out each piece of paper, so it doesn’t get cut off at an angle or overlap another part of the design. Including this is important because it ensures that your design will print correctly, with no white edges showing on your finished product.

A trim line refers to a solid line bordering your artwork on all four sides. Trim lines should be at least 2 mm (1/16″) inside the bleed area. This lets printers know how much space they have to work with when cutting out individual pieces of paper.


A cutline is an outline on your design that indicates where to cut or die-cut a shape into the material. The cutline shows where your image ends, so you should leave enough room beyond this point in order to avoid having any important parts of your art cut off. If you have a die-cut shape, such as a window or flap, it will need to be outlined in order for it to be cut correctly during production. You should never use a transparent layer as an overlay on top of another layer in order to create a cutline; always use layers instead. Your graphic designer will provide instructions about whether or not you need to include cutlines in your package design.

Safe zones

 Safe zones are areas within your design where text should not go because it may get lost when printed or cut off by binding machines during production. Safe zones are usually indicated by a red overlay on your design program but can also be indicated by dotted lines or other visual indicators around areas where you shouldn’t place text or logos. The safe zones for a box are:

  • Top and bottom: 2mm on each side.
  • Left and right: 2mm on each side.
  • Front and back: 2mm on each side.

There are two types of safe zones:

  • The Text Safe Zone – the area around the center point of the image where the text will remain legible when it is cropped or resized.
  • The Image Safe Zone – the area around the edges of the image where the text will remain legible when it is cropped or resized

Keep in mind that some printers will crop your image to fit within their own safe zone requirements, so it is important to check with them before sending in your final artwork.

Artwork file formats to use for packaging design

A good artwork file format will be compatible with all major design software programs and allow you to change the color scheme easily. Here are some of the most popular file formats used by designers:


TIFF stands for “tagged image file format” and is typically used as an alternative to JPEG when saving files at high resolutions with lots of colors or gradients in them. It supports images of multiple color depths, although most applications only support 8-bit grayscale or 24-bit RGB images. TIFF files can contain meta-data such as the date and time an image was created, its resolution, and its color depth. This makes it easier for programs to read the information inside a TIFF file without first converting it into another format. However, if you’re looking for the smallest possible size for your artwork, then using a TIFF file may be worthwhile (assuming your printer accepts them).


A JPG is a popular image format supported by almost all computers and mobile devices — but it doesn’t support transparency or vector graphics like AI and EPS files (see below). JPG files are compressed images, meaning they are made up of thousands or millions of tiny pixels, which can be saved as a “flattened” bitmap that uses less space. If you’re submitting images as part of your packaging design submission, they’ll likely be JPGs unless otherwise specified by the brand owner or agency managing the project.


(Portable Network Graphics) the file format is a simple and effective way to reduce the size of your images without losing any quality. PNGs are similar to JPGs in terms of how many colors they can hold, but unlike JPGs, PNGs don’t lose quality when compressed because their compression algorithm doesn’t alter the image data itself as JPG does. However, this means that larger PNG files take a longer time to load than smaller JPG files with equal quality levels.

Adobe photoshop files (.psd)

The .psd file can contain multiple layers and styles, making it very useful for creating complex designs. This industry-standard format allows you to work on layers, making editing easier and more efficient. It also allows you to save files in different resolutions, which makes uploading them online easier because they will appear in different sizes depending on their viewing device (iPad vs. Android phone vs. computer screen vs. TV screen).

Adobe Illustrator files (.ai)

 This vector-based program is ideal for creating logos or illustrations that will be scaled up or down without losing quality or resolution. Vector graphics have sharp edges, smooth curves, and flat colors, which make them ideal for print production but not so much for web projects where pixel-based images tend to work better. These files contain multiple layers that allow you to modify each element individually.

Image resolution needed for packaging artwork

Image resolution measures how clear an image appears when you zoom in on it. The higher the resolution, the better the image quality. Generally speaking, 300 DPI (dots per inch) is considered sufficient for most consumer product packaging sold in retail stores today.

However, the minimum resolution needed for packaging artwork depends on the print run size and how much detail you want in your artwork. For example, if you are making 1 million copies of a product box that is 11 inches wide by 5 inches tall, then you need to create an image at least 2200 pixels wide by 1400 pixels tall with 300 dpi resolution. If you want to add more detail to your artwork, such as text or fine lines, your minimum resolution would increase accordingly.

Font Size

The font size of your artwork is an important consideration when printing your packaging. The recommended size range for text is 6-8 points. This is a good starting point, but as always, you may need to adjust this depending on your artwork and product.

  • The font should be easy to read in its final printed form.
  • Avoid fine lines and very thin strokes or serifs that are too delicate or small for the font size.

If you are unsure what size to use for your packaging artwork design, consider printing it out and holding it up in front of a mirror. If the text looks too small or difficult to read, the font size may need to be increased.

Wrapping Up

Packaging artwork is the whole integration of graphic solutions and printing technologies. An organized and systematic approach to creating a package is necessary to avoid errors, omissions, or unnecessary re-working later in the process. Make sure you get your files organized BEFORE you begin creating art. It will save you valuable time rearranging your documents after creating your artwork.