How to design packaging tape (video tutorial)

Designer, Hayden Aube, shows off his favorite techniques for creating a seamless packaging tape design in Adobe Illustrator.

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Today we're going to be showing you how to design custom packaging tape with a seamless pattern. Now, I'm going to be using Adobe Illustrator, but all of the techniques I'll be covering can be applied to any design problem.

To start off, we're going to want to create a new document. Sticker Mule prints their tape in a seamless three by 12 inch pattern. This means that your pattern design should be either three by 12 inches or three by any factor of 12. And of course, you can design your tape in portrait or you can design it in landscape. For this demonstration, I'm going to be a landscape at six by three inches.

First up is the background. To set this up. I'm going to use the Rectangle tool and then just click on my art board, and it'll allow me to enter in the exact dimensions that I want. For this it's going to be six by three inches, which is again the same size as my art board. From here I'll just remove the strokes and set it to the color that I want to use for my background, which in this case is a light blue. Then it's just a matter of dragging it into place. I'm also going to lock it just for now so that it doesn't get in the way while I'm laying out my pattern.

For this design, we'll be using prepared assets for an imaginary company called Courier Bot. Once you have all of your designs ready we can start laying out our seamless pattern.

For this design I'm going to start out with the biggest pieces first, and that means the set of robot characters. One by one I'm going to drag them onto the art board, rotate them as necessary, and place them where I want.

Remember that for a packaging tape design, it's going to be seen from every single angle. That's why I'm rotating these characters so that no matter which way somebody looks at the tape design, they're going to see a character facing them.

An important part of making a seamless pattern design is having shapes overlap over the edges. And you'll see me do that with this character right here. Don't worry about the bit that's overlapping because in a moment I'm going to show you how to take the piece that's cut off on the left side and have it appear exactly as necessary on the right.

With the characters in place, I'm now going to start placing some of the other elements-- in this case, the logo. Again, knowing that people will be viewing this from different angles, I'm going to show two different orientations of the logo. I'm also going to have this one cut off on the right side. And again, I'm going to show you how to translate that to the left.

Having placed the characters and the logos, I now have a set of icons that I'm going to use to add some visual balance to the design. You may have noticed that I started with the largest images, then went to the second largest, and I'm going down in a descending order and just filling gaps as I go. Depending on your design, this may be a good way to work.

It's also worth mentioning once again that if you have any elements that you can make overlap on the right or the left, that's just going to add to it being more of a seamless pattern.

And now with all of the icons in place, I'm just going to make sure that there's some visual balance. So I'll move a couple of things around.

Now we'll get to translating the overlapping images to their opposite sides. In order to do that, all you need to do is select the image, copy it, and then paste it on top of itself. From there, we'll go to Object, Transform, and then Move. What we want to do here is move our image horizontally however wide our art board is. For this design that means six inches, but I'm going to put in negative six because that's going to have it move to the left rather than the right. You can preview it to make sure it looks fine. And then when it is, press OK.

Now we just need to do the same with this robot character. Object, Transform, Move, and then this time we're going to do six instead of negative six. Preview it, looks good, press OK.

Now to put the finishing touches on our design. This means continuing to nudge some pieces around to get a nice balance, and then I'm going to use an even smaller icon to fill in the remaining gaps.

Now it's worth noting that while we're creating a pattern that repeats itself from left to right, you could also apply the same technique to the top and the bottom if you wanted a pattern that repeated itself in all directions.

Once we have our pattern looking how we'd like it, let's just duplicate the art board so that we have a backup.

And now to prepare this, we want to clip out all of the elements that are overlapping. And the easiest way to do that is to create a rectangle at the same size of our art board and then use the align tools to have it align directly to the center of our art board. Then just select everything, right click, and press Make Clipping Mask.

And now we have a seamless pattern. Now if we want to, we can to save this file as is and then upload it Sticker Mule and they will format everything for us. But in this video, we're going to set it up ourselves using Sticker Mule's packaging tape template.

To locate the template, go to Templates on the website, go under Custom Packaging, Packaging Tape, and then click to download all sizes.

Once you have the template inside of Illustrator, all you need to do is grab your pattern and then drag it over and drop it in the document.

Now it's just a matter of positioning your pattern in the correct spot. So rotate it if necessary and zoom in to make sure that you've lined it up perfectly.

Depending on the size that you've designed at, you're going to have to duplicate your pattern a few times. Because the template is 12 inches long and my design was six, that means I have to duplicate it twice.

As you're lining things up, remember that everything inside of the black lines is what's going to be printed while everything outside of it is going to be trimmed. So all of your major content you want to fall in those black lines. You also want to make sure that your pattern is lining up exactly on the top and bottom of the template. This is what's going to make sure that it remains seamless. If some of the trim area is still exposed, draw a rectangle behind everything with your background color.

Do a quick check to make sure that all of your text is outlined and that everything is aligned exactly as it needs to be. Then you can send off this template as-is for printing.

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