Trends, Technology and Techniques available to Wine Label Designers
Long gone are the days when wine labels were used to simply identify where a wine came from. Many contemporary wine labels are more closely approaching art ready to be hung in a gallery. In fact, the San Franscisco Museum of Modern Art recently celebrated the Art of Wine Labels by doing just that, displaying the best labels in their gallery amongst Arts Contemporary Greats such as Mark Rothko, Marcel Duchamp, Frida Kahlo and Paul Klee. It is true that the standing of wine labels has been driven by an increase in artistic talent, but the boundaries of wine label design continues to be expanded, in part, through technological innovation. This innovation is appearing in all aspects of the Wine Label Design process from the software to printing techniques, to paper stocks and capsules.
Beetle Creative are specialists in wine label design and in this article we offer some insight into the technology and techniques available to Wine Brands and Wine Label Designers to ensure you have every advantage in creating unique and memorable wine labels.
There is typically two different options when it comes to printing and this goes for most printing applications, not just wine labels. The first is conventional printing. Conventional printing involves enormous machines, multiple processes relying on plates. The second is digital printing, which is a much smaller machine and the newer of the technologies. Both methods can produce your desired result but typically digital printing will be more cost effective for small runs (due to less requirements in preparation). Conventional Printing typically becomes more economical with larger quantities due to it’s ability to print larger volumes much faster.
When printing a collection for your wine brand, it will be more economical for labels to remain the same size (front and back) and across varieties as a single die cut plate can be shared across all labels. For smaller wine brands a single wrap around label (with all legalities) will be even more economical. For Wine Brands with larger volumes the cost of separate plates between different wine labels will only be a minor cost as the costs are divided across the higher volumes. Larger budgets inevitably allow greater freedom when it comes to technological opportunities.
Printed labels also have some restrictions when it comes to sizes. The restriction are not derived from the printer but for the label applicator who places the labels on the bottle and this will be effected by the bottle type. On our La La Land label for example which is on a Burgundy bottle, the height of the wrap around label had to be no more then 75mm high. Any higher and a disclaimer needed to be signed. The risk with going to high on a Burgundy bottle is that it increases the likelihood of the label bubbling. Label applicators also prefer decent margins between front and back labels – typically at least 10mm gap between labels.
Paper stocks have seen enormous innovation. In fact, the title ‘paper stock’ is no longer fully appropriate as stocks are so diverse, including timber veneers, plastic films and foils. The selection of a ‘paperstock’ can make all the difference from elevating a good design to be a brilliant label and therefore this attention to detail is certainly worth the added investment of time to ensure you make the best selection.
Traditional paperstocks come in hundreds of different textures, thicknesses and colours offering enormous variety and potential. Paperstocks will vary in pricing so it is worth consulting with a printer early in the design process to insure that your design intentions are feasible. The difference between a few cents doesn’t seem like much but with large quantities a production budget can quickly blow out.
There are far too many paperstocks to introduce each but following are some of our favourites:
A Pearlessence paper-stock with a nice shimmer, which illuminates the intensity of the colours.
Wine Bottles are a thing of beauty in their own right, often with gentle seductive lines. The shape of a bottle can also convey a mood or personality and when used effectively can be a very powerful asset to a wine labels branding. Furthermore, the majority of wine brands opt for the conventional Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles and therefore to diverge from these can create an instant point of difference creating strong shelf presence. Wine Bottles also come in numerous colours which can also be used to enhance a wine label concept.
Another consideration with wine labels is the amount of glass used to create the form. The amount of glass obviously effects the amount of embodied energy used in producing the wine bottle but the added weight when multiplied by thousands of bottles can also have a major impact on the energy and costs to transport the wine, which can often be on the other side of the world. One of our clients – Wingara Wines utilise light-weight wine bottle forms as a responsible environmental measure, while also having the added bonus of saving costs in transportation.
Below, Table Wine is a great example of using a bottles shape to create an instant point of difference. To right are examples of the many different Burgundy Wine Bottle Forms.
Embossing is the process of having elements of the wine label raised, projecting it from the label to give it a 3D element. This is commonly used for logos and the wine variety to give it greater prominence, separating it from the label surrounds. Embossing can also be used to great effect within artwork to help create greater detail, texture and embellishment. Embossing is often combined with a spot varnish to further differentiate the elements from the surrounding label and to help it really pop.
Conventional Embossing is achieved through the use of plates created by machine. Sculptured embossing is creating a 3D impression and these dyes often combine machine and the hand of a sculptor to create great subtleties in depth and form. This process is quite involved and can therefore be quite expensive meaning the process is typically reserved for high end labels. It is common to combine sculptured emboss with gold foil to create a truly memorable impression high end impression. Below you can see an example of sculptured embossing with the beetle given 3D texture down it’s shell and dotted texture creating a subtle high end finish.
Debossing is a similar process to letterpressing, in that the detail is pushed into the label/paperstock although due to the nature of wine labels requiring a degree of waterproofing, paperstocks are rarely as thick as letterpress stocks such as Lettra and therefore debossing on wine labels is rarely as deep. Debossing is often used on less expensive plain paperstocks to create a texture, conveying a more premium look and feel. Like embossing, debossing can be used on logos, variety or in artwork to create subtle and rich textures to help elements differentiate from its surrounds.
Spot Varnish is as it’s name suggests a varnish over certain sections of the label. Varnishes can range from high gloss to matte and can help to establish hierarchy on a label as well as adding a degree of class when used well. In the label below – Devils Corner, Spot Varnish has been used over the black lines in the sea. This helps to create a really rich texture. Others have used Spot Varnish over major sections of their label such as on the Remarkables label creating the perception of a ribbon window overlooking an incredibly dramatic mountain landscape. This area is also debossed and is most effective as the rest of the label is a textured matte paper.
Many of the most prestigious wine brands have relatively simple wine labels. Although the case, one trick that many use to add a dash of elegance is to implement metallic foils such as Gold, an instant cue that this is a high end product. Like all good things, it is best in moderation and when gold is overdone it can transform the technology from being a thing of class to making something tacky. Gold foils are applied with the aid of heat, stamping the gold into the paperstock for a durable bond. Metallic Foils can be debossed, embossed, sculpture embossed or printed over to create additional texture, depth and richness.
Die cutting is used to create unique label shapes or internal cuts. Die Cutting offers enormous opportunities and possibilities and can be an effective way to create a really unique label that stands out from it’s square competitors. Below are two examples of die cutting, the first used internally, in this case cutting out the typography and the second example cutting the labels outside form to create a unique dripping dynamic.
APPLICATION OF LABELS ON ANGLES
Labels can be applied on angles to create an instant point of difference. This point of difference can be quite a sophisticated look as the label wraps around the curved bottle creating elegant lines. To achieve this, labels are simply printed on the webbing at the same angle. This obviously increases the level of wastage as both corners of the webbing are not utilised but for a high impact look this can be a very effective option.
One of the labels we are currently developing is combining a screen printed artwork with an angled wrap around label. The challenge with this is to align both the screen printed artwork and applied label. There are two possible options for this. Label application businesses such as Vinpac prefer to use bottles with a base orientation lug. This is the most accurate method of aligning screen printing to labels. Both the domestically produced Super Premium Claret and Premium burgundy bottles have this lug. The alternative is to use a printed registration mark on the bottle, this is not as accurate for label placement and often results in label movement of up to 5mm, and a visual mark on the bottle which is often difficult to cover up.
When it comes to wine labels there’s generally a limit to how thick the paperstock can be before it begins trying to pull away from the bottle or having issues with moisture. Debossing, to depths similar to letter-pressing is therefore often difficult. A recent solution may have overcome this limitation though. By placing multiple layers of labels one on top of the other an extraordinary depth can be achieved. This will obviously come with extra costs but the impact can be quite striking.
SCREEN PRINTED WINE BOTTLES
Screen Printed Wine Bottles cost marginally more then traditional paper wine labels but for the increased impact the added cost can be easily justified. Screen Printing can include up to six colours, although with each additional colour the cost increases as each are applied separately. Screen Printing can also include up to 7 metallic colours including gold, silver and bronze to create high end looking results. Metallic paints cost slightly more then conventional colours. Once the paint is applied it is fired to cure the paint to the bottle. Unlike traditional paper labels that can peel, fade, tear or be damaged by extended exposure to moisture screen printed labels endure for decades unscathed.
The greatest advantage of Screen Printed Wine Bottles is that unlike paper wine labels that are restricted to their defined boundaries a screen printed Wine Bottle elevates the Wine Bottle to be the canvas making opening the opportunities of a 360 degree artwork.
The process for creating this Screen Printed Bottle, first begun with hand drawn illustrations. Once the design and composition was finalised the design was traced in Adobe Illustrator to turn the illustrations into vector graphics. We decided on using one colour both to maintain more of a traditional look but also as the most cost effective solution.
This video highlights the process of Screen Printing from one of the world’s leading Screen Printing businesses – Bergin Glass, located in Napa Valley, USA.
HEAT TRANSFER LABELS (HTL)
A developing technology not yet used in Australia but with enormous potential. Like screen-printing it allows for ink to be printed directly on to the bottle. Unlike screen-printing though, which often has a limit of 6 colours and can become more expensive, HTL allows an endless number of CMYK colour combinations heat transferred on to the bottles. The results are more subtle as the additional colours create flawless colour transitions from one colour to the next. Like screen-printed bottles the results are very durable, making them perfect for on-premise serving which can be cleaned and reused, making the option not only cost effective but a step forward in sustainability. As it is heat transfer a 10mm gap is required to ensure areas don’t overlap and jeapordise the quality. The technology can also be used to create frosted effects.
Lenticular works in quite a simple manner to achieve some effective 3-Dimensional effects. The below image highlights how it works, with 2 seperate images spliced in columns alternating. A plastic corrugated layer on top directs the viewers eye to either the left or right frames revealing one image and as their perspective shifts revealing the second image. For the most effective results subtle differences in the two images is best.
DOUBLE SIDED LABELS
Due to the curvature of the wine bottles glass and in combination with the liquid inside, double sided labels can create incredible high impact effects as the imagery distorts and shifts when viewed through the bottle. This obviously relies on a clear view through the glass so is most effective for white wines on clear glassed bottles. It has been utitlised with great success in the Vodka industry due to the water clear nature of Vodka and clear glassed bottles.
The Belvedere Vodka Design is one of the best examples of the potential of double sided printing with the Trees and Belvedere branding on the front of the bottle, while the Mansion is on the back of the bottle facing inward to be viewed through the bottle. This depth and distortion caused by the glass and liquid creates a really dynamic experience.
Double sided labels usually consist of a clear plastic film with the internal graphics attached to the existing back label.
UNIQUE DIGITAL SETS
There is a general assumption that Conventional Printing is superior to Digital Printing, yet Digital has many advantages, especially with short runs. In fact, Digital is so economic for short runs that each and every label can be unique. This opportunity allows a great deal of customisation; each artwork can change, each label could have someone’s name, each with a unique batch number etc. In a world of mass production, where craft is now king, having this ability to take something from standard to a 1 of 1 original, is priceless. Some will take this opportunity to have numerous artworks that help to tell a story, others will utilise technology to create custom artworks, or like Coca-Cola’s successful marketing campaign names could the focus appealing to customers with a more personal touch.
It’s quite common for labels to have a torn edge appearance, created almost always through die-cutting and perhaps a printed tear to give it a realistic effect. Whilst this can be quite effective, an actual torn edge is the real deal and this is now possible. The tear is created through mechanical means and achieves some variation in how it tears achieving a natural look while the methodology maintains enough control to not interfere with the label.
SHRINK WRAP SLEEVES
Shrink wrap sleeves, like screen printing allows the bottle to be a 360 degree artwork. In fact Shrink wrap sleeves allow even larger areas to be covered in artwork as the sleeve can run up the bottles neck. Shrink wrap sleeves also allow endless possibilities when it comes to the number of colours that can be used.
Adding a layer of plastic over a glass bottle which already has a relatively high embodied energy sounds somewhat alarming from an environmental perspective but some environmental options are available such as fully biodegradable EarthFirst® PLA, or polylactic acid, a corn based biopolymer.
One cannot question the impact of Shrink Wrap Sleeves from a branding perspective so it is good news that environmental options are developing to make this a plausible option.
Shrink wrap sleeves also have some advanced options. Some of these include Matte and Gloss finishes in specific areas, Metallic, Frosted, Texture Coats and Glow-in-the-dark amongst many others.
The way Shrink Wrap works is with a cylindrical sleeve, that when heated shrinks to hug tightly against the bottle’s shape. This therefore means that the neck area shrinks more significantly than the body of the bottle. The sleeve also shrinks horizontally rather than vertically. Knowing how shrink wraps work can be a critical consideration when designing for Shrink Wraps. Minimising the design elements on the neck is typically advised.
Like Shrink Wrap Sleeves, Bottle Wraps allow 360 degrees of artwork. Shrink Wrap Sleeves have two added bonuses. The first is that unlike plastic, paper wraps can lend itself perfectly to a natural, vintage, craftsmanship, authentic look, which are typically desirable objectives for wine brands. The second is that it allows for the potential of a great user experience as not only do they first admire the wrap but there is the opportunity to have more artwork on the bottle in the form of a traditional label or screen printed bottle. This element of discovery allows the opportunity to develop a very compelling story. Furthermore the paper can be recycled and printed with natural inks and be either recycled or allowed to biodegrade.
Whilst almost certainly not the correct terminology, a recent technology which has had strong success is the ‘paper bag’ used to great success by Crafters Union. One of the great advantages of using a bag-sleeve, rather than shrink-wraps sleeves is that foils can be more readily used. The pricing is likely to be quite favourable, it avoids the need for adhesives and the paper format allows for easy recycling or the graphic/artwork can be used as free art on the fridge or where the user sees fit.
Shrink-paper sleeves fall somewhere between a shrink-wrap sleeve and the paper bag, with a paper finish but with an adhesive base. This can create more control as unlike the paper bag which is loose, by being fixed it is in less danger of being scrunched and scuffed.
Metal labels are as the name suggests made of thin metal, which is generally embossed with the design details. Metal labels, like metallic foils can add a bold premium cue when used well, but there is the danger of it becoming too much, which can place it on the tacky side. In my opinion metal labels have been used best when in a complimentary sense, highlighting a certain aspect such as a shield or icon or placed over a paper label as a seal of quality. Metal labels can be quite expensive and due to their bulk, typically need to be placed by hand. Metal labels are therefore generally better suited to Limited Release small batch showcase wines. Metal labels can come in golds, silvers, coppers & bronzes and have an aged rustic finish or remain clean and shiny.
First developed for security applications such as bank notes, this technology is now available to wine labels. It can have various applications; one might be for an extremely expensive wine to assure customers that the wine is authentic. Another might be to use the micro-text to create background shading or a pattern and for that writing to have a hidden message that can only be made out under a magnifying glass.
In Australia and a in great number of countries for that matter, Guala Closures is the dominant capsule producer. At their Australian operation Guala controls most of the processes involved in capsules in house allowing optimum control and design flexibility. Flat sheets of aluminium arrive to Guala and their first step is to create the correct base colour. Today Guala offers over 260 set colour options and can match colours to get even closer to your desired outcome. Capsules are made in two parts – first the top and second the sides. Being done in two parts, it is critical that colours remain consistent and this is carefully monitored through software done automatically.
Like most other technologies in the wine industry, capsule design offers great flexibility.
Capsules can either be plain, have artwork on either the top or sides, have embossed detailing on either top or sides and can consist of an endless number of colours and patterns only limited to the designers imagination.
Capsules are fired to ensure that the paint is firmly set to the aluminium and higher temperatures are applied to incinerate any unwanted chemicals, reducing pollution from the site.
Capsules can have metallic finishes giving a rich shimmer.
Capsules can also be screen printed creating a slightly more artistic finish. This process is somewhat slower then the more conventional method so it is slightly more expensive.
Although less common then it was traditionally, at least in the Australian Wine Industry, Cork can still offer great charm, exaggerating a sense of craftsmanship and paying homage to the age old art of winemaking. Cork lost some favour due to the random occurrence of Trichloroanisole (TCA) which spoils wines and seems to be found in between 1 and 10% of corks.
The experience of uncorking a wine bottle is a pleasant one and the sound has a romantic charm. These elements ensure that it maintains a presence – especially with more traditional operations.
Corks, like capsules can have logos or other artwork either etched on the top or sides creating a high end custom outcome.
Below is a quick video showing the process:
Wax conveys tradition, craftsmanship and quality – often desirable aspects for wine brands to convey in their wine. Wax and wine therefore have a great relationship. As wax becomes a liquid when heat is applied it offers a great deal of flexibility. Commonly wax has been used around wine bottle necks to seal the cork, but many have used it’s rich attributes to create great beauty on the wine bottle itself.
A modern concept – ‘Return of the living dead’ utilised the wax to exaggerate their Halloween styled concept with the wax perfectly conveying dripping blood.
Wax is available in dozens of colours including greens, blues and Metallics, although being such a traditional process, the classic red/maroon is certainly the strongest option to convey waxes best qualities.
EMBOSSED GLASS DETAILING
One desire of many wine brands is to establish a sense of authenticity and to be perceived as an authority on wine. An effective way to create this perception is to advertise a sense of tradition and permanence and there are few better ways to do this then through embossed bottle details. This process, which adds melted glass to an existing bottle
ETCHED WINE BOTTLES
LASERCUT WINE LABELS
Lasercutters can achieve incredible detail, both in cutting and etching. This can be used to create some highly elaborate designs. Lasercutters leave a burnt edge and this creates quite an authentic look.
Below are some designs we created in collaboration with Melbourne Laser Cutter. Laser Cutting is likely to be more expensive then die-cutting especially when larger quantities are involved, but the level of detail it can achieve is superior. Laser Cutting is an ideal option for small batch high end wines which can afford to invest more in labels.
LASER ETCHED WINE DETAILS
Laser Cutters also have the potential to etch, which instead of cutting, engraves the surface. This could be used on the label itself to add an authentic burnt look or directly on the glass to create a high impact look. Typical Laser Cut beds are around 900mm x 600mm so it would be possible to etch around 15 bottles in one session. Depending on the level of detail to be etched, each bottle is likely to take around 1min to etch or around $1.50/bottle. Again this makes it an option reserved for small batch high quality wines or wedding gifts, but it’s high impact is difficult to question.
CARD & TICKET/SCRATCHCARD/SCRATCH & REVEAL TECHNOLOGY
Kurz and various other Foil specialists can offer foils that can be scratched away. This interactive component can be used to draw customers in with intrigue. In the case of the Dolina label above by Moruba, they use the technology to emphasis the beers origins, grown on an archeological site giving the customer their own opportunity to dig and discover.
Neck labels are commonplace for Champagnes and Sparkling wines but are far less commonplace for other varieties. Wine Bottle necks offer valuable real-estate which is rarely used and therefore offers great potential to create a point of difference. There are many different option from labels, stickers and attached tags.
TEMPERATURE ALTERING LABELS
A recent innovation in the label industry is Temperature altering labels. This is most suitable for white wines as these will be cooled, with the label indicating when the wine has reached a certain temperature. This technology is more novelty, then practical but with adjusting labels it does create a level of interactiveness, which if done well could create a fun experience.
Forever pushing for a competitive edge with packaging and branding, smell is the latest sense being targeted by packaging innovators. Many of the technologies being developed rely on a rub before an aroma is released in full. Like many technologies, in it’s early stages it is something of a novelty, but if used well, it could be used as an effective tool to attract younger drinkers new to wine. It is quite common for wines to have taste descriptors, so having labels that smell could potentially enhance this experience.
PAPER WINE BOTTLES
Being considerably lighter then glass makes paper a plausible alternative to glass bottles. The paper bottles have a thin plastic lining which can be easily seperated in the recycling process. The paperboy brand has used this technological opportunity to great effect really helping to put this new brand on the map. Overall the paper bottles lend themselves relatively well a vintage/retro/environmental look. I suspect that the relatively traditional market won’t embrace paper bottles fully but the concept has some legs and there’s no doubt it will appear in parts within the market as a more environmental alternative to glass.
AUGMENTED REALITY – THE FUTURE OF WINE LABELS
In my opinion Augmented Reality has enormous potential, in all aspects of life and will certainly have it’s place in the Wine Sector. For those who are not familiar with Augmented Reality, watch the video below. Augmented Reality has the potential to transform a label into a 3D experience, giving it far greater strength to tell a story or offer engaging and useful information on the wine, such as pairing notes or taste descriptors. The wine maker could even pop up discussing his wine, while someone at the store considers their choice. From a marketing perspective Augmented Reality is still relatively new so the technology when used well is highly shareable and engaging with the potential to put a new brand on the map. Augmented Reality could be used to lead a user into a website or social media page for them to discover more about a brand and develop a sense of customer loyalty.
This example of Augmented Reality used by Heinz is far from the best example of Augmented Reality, but as a packaging design it has some relevance to wine labels. Just by scanning the product through your smartphone, the application will unveil a ‘Secret Ingredient’ cookery pack that provides you a range of recipes for you to try.
With a team of designers, animators and programmers we are hoping to make Augmented Reality one of our next Wine label projects.
Beetle Creative are Specialist Wine Label Designers and have built a reputation for pushing the boundaries, creating unique and highly original designs. Click on the image below to view our portfolio. If interested in any advice or enquiring about collaborating with Beetle Creative for your next wine label design please don’t hesitate to contact us.