5 Tips to Enhance Packaging Design in Illustrator
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. How to use layers effectively
  2. How to apply color theories
  3. How to create custom brushes
  4. How to utilize the Gradient Tool
  5. How to work with textures

Imagine you're working on a packaging design project in Adobe Illustrator. You've got your concept, but you're not quite sure how to bring it to life. Well, the good news is, getting better at packaging design in Adobe Illustrator is totally doable—with the right techniques up your sleeve, of course. This blog presents five nifty tips to amp up your packaging design game. Let's dive in!

How to use layers effectively

Working with layers is like stacking sheets of tracing paper—you can see through them, rearrange them, and hide them when you don't need them. Mastering layers can be a game-changer in getting better at packaging design in Adobe Illustrator. Here's how:

Organizing Layers

Just like a clean desk helps you focus better, organized layers make your workflow smoother. Here's what you can do:

  • Labeling: Give each layer a specific name. It saves you from the headache of finding the right layer among 'Layer 1', 'Layer 2', and so on.
  • Color-coding: Adding colors to your layers keeps things visually tidy. Plus, it's pretty fun to look at!
  • Grouping: Use the 'Create New Layer Group' button to bundle similar layers together. Think of it as a neat little drawer system for your layers.

Using Layer Visibility and Locking

There are two little icons next to each layer—eye and lock. They're your trusty sidekicks in packaging design:

  1. Layer Visibility (The Eye): Clicking the eye icon hides or shows your layer. It's like a magic trick, but for design!
  2. Layer Locking (The Lock): The lock icon freezes your layer. So, you won't accidentally move or edit it. It's like putting a seatbelt on your design.

Mastering Layer Order

Ever played with stacking blocks as a kid? Same idea here. The layer at the top of the panel shows up in front of all the others. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Reordering: Click and drag your layers to change their order. It's as simple as that.
  • Using 'Arrange' options: These options let you bring a layer to the front, send it to the back, or shuffle it forward and backward one layer at a time. Handy, right?

And there you have it! A little layer savvy can go a long way in getting better at packaging design in Adobe Illustrator. Next, let's add a splash of color to our design toolkit. Stay tuned!

How to apply color theories

Color is like the spice of design—it can make or break your packaging design. Grasping color theories is a key step in getting better at packaging design in Adobe Illustrator. Here's how to add some color smarts to your design toolkit:

Understanding the Color Wheel

The color wheel is your roadmap to color harmony. It helps you choose colors that look good together. Here's the gist:

  • Primary Colors: Think of red, blue, and yellow as the parents of all other colors. They're like the main characters in a movie.
  • Secondary Colors: These are the children of primary colors. Mix two primary colors, and voila! You've got a secondary color.
  • Tertiary Colors: Mix a primary and secondary color, and you get a tertiary color. They're like the supporting characters in our color movie.

Exploring Color Schemes

Color schemes are like pre-set playlists of colors. They take the guesswork out of choosing harmonious colors. Here are some popular ones:

  1. Monochromatic: This scheme uses different shades, tones, and tints of a single color. It's like listening to variations of your favorite song.
  2. Analogous: This scheme uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. It's like a friendly neighborhood of colors.
  3. Complementary: This scheme uses colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. They bring out the best in each other, like good friends.

Using the Color Guide Panel

The Color Guide Panel in Adobe Illustrator is like your personal color assistant. It helps you create, save, and apply color schemes. Here's how:

  • Create: Choose a base color, and Illustrator will suggest a whole range of harmonious colors. It's like having a color thesaurus!
  • Save: You can save your favorite color schemes for later use. It's like bookmarking your favorite websites.
  • Apply: You can apply your saved color schemes to your designs with just a few clicks. It's like using a template, but for colors.

And that's a wrap on color theories! Armed with these tips, you're well on your way to getting better at packaging design in Adobe Illustrator. But we're not done yet—up next, let's talk about the magic of custom brushes. Stick around!

How to create custom brushes

Next stop on our journey to getting better at packaging design in Adobe Illustrator is the land of custom brushes. These little tools can add unique strokes and textures to your designs. Let's dive right in.

Understanding Brush Types

Adobe Illustrator offers several types of brushes. Each comes with a unique set of properties and uses:

  • Calligraphic Brushes: These simulate the look of a calligraphy pen. Perfect for adding a hand-drawn touch to your designs.
  • Scatter Brushes: These spread art along a path in random patterns. Great for creating textures or effects like grass, stars, or confetti.
  • Art Brushes: These stretch or repeat art along a path. Ideal for creating complex strokes like chains or ropes.
  • Pattern Brushes: These repeat art in specified segments along a path. Useful for creating intricate borders or frames.
  • Bristle Brushes: These simulate the look of a traditional paintbrush. Best for creating natural, painterly effects.

Creating Your Own Brush

Creating your own brush in Adobe Illustrator is like baking your own bread—you know exactly what goes into it, and you can make it just the way you like it. Here's the recipe:

  1. Draw Your Art: Start by drawing the art you want to turn into a brush. This could be a simple line, a complex shape, or anything in between.
  2. Select Your Art: Use the Selection Tool to select your art. Make sure every part you want to include in your brush is selected.
  3. Create Your Brush: Go to the Brushes Panel, click on the "New Brush" button, choose the type of brush you want to create, and adjust its properties to your liking.
  4. Save Your Brush: Click "OK" to save your brush. You can now use it in any of your designs!

There you have it—all the secrets to creating custom brushes in Adobe Illustrator. With this skill in your arsenal, you're another step closer to getting better at packaging design. But don't go just yet—next up, we're exploring the world of gradients.

How to utilize the Gradient Tool

Now that we've got custom brushes under our belt, let's move on to another tool that can add depth and dimension to your packaging designs—the Gradient Tool. This tool is like a magic wand that can turn flat, one-color designs into vibrant, multi-color creations.

Understanding Gradients

First things first, what exactly is a gradient? In simple terms, a gradient is a blend of two or more colors where one color gradually transitions into another. In Adobe Illustrator, you can create linear gradients (colors transition along a straight line), radial gradients (colors radiate from a central point), and freeform gradients (colors transition in any direction).

Creating a Gradient

To create a gradient in Adobe Illustrator, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Select Your Object: Use the Selection Tool to select the object you want to fill with a gradient.
  2. Open the Gradient Panel: Go to the Window menu and choose "Gradient" to open the Gradient Panel.
  3. Add Your Colors: Click on the gradient slider to add color stops, and then click on each color stop to choose a color.
  4. Adjust Your Gradient: Use the Gradient Tool to adjust the direction and length of the gradient. Remember, the longer the gradient, the smoother the transition between colors.

And just like that, you've added a splash of color to your packaging design. But wait, there's more. We're not done yet—stay tuned for our next tip on how to work with textures in Adobe Illustrator.

How to work with textures

With your shiny new gradient in place, it's time to add a touch of reality to your packaging design. How do we do that? By incorporating textures, of course! Using textures in Adobe Illustrator can bring a tactile feel to your design and take it from 'good' to 'outstanding'.

Understanding Textures

Textures are a bit like the secret ingredients in a recipe. They might not always be noticeable, but they can significantly enhance the final result. In Illustrator, a texture is a visual element that replicates a particular surface quality, like the roughness of sandpaper or the softness of velvet.

Applying Textures

Adding texture to your design in Illustrator is a lot like adding spices to your food—it needs to be done with care. Here's a simple recipe for you:

  1. Select Your Texture: Illustrator comes with a variety of pre-made textures, but you can also create your own or import them from a file.
  2. Apply the Texture: You can apply a texture to your design by using it as a fill pattern or by using the Texture effect.
  3. Adjust the Texture: Once your texture is applied, you can adjust its size, rotation, and transparency to get the look you want.

And voila! You've added texture to your design. But don't stop there. Remember, getting better at packaging design in Adobe Illustrator is a journey, and every step you take brings you closer to becoming a pro. So, keep practicing, keep learning, and most importantly, keep creating.

If you enjoyed our blog post on enhancing packaging design in Illustrator and are looking to improve your collaboration with clients, we recommend checking out the workshop 'How to Work with Clients: Illustrator Edition' by Grace Helmer. This workshop will provide you with the tips and techniques to effectively communicate with clients, ensuring a smooth and successful project outcome in Illustrator.