Friday, October 28, 2011

Creating products: Labels!

We don't necessarily think of labelling our products as being an essential part of product creation, but when you accidentally use mentholated foot lotion as a facial moisturizer, you'll realize that we must label everything!

Original post from January 24, 2010...Why you must label everything! 

Look at the picture to the left. Look at the picture to the right. If the sun wasn't shining through the window and you were using the same bottles, the products would look very much the same. The one on the left is leave in conditioner. The one on the right is summer time peppermint spray.

So in my eagerness to be more organized this morning, I decided to add the tiny bit of leave in conditioner in one bottle with the larger bottle. It wasn't until I smelled mint after my shower that I realized what I had done!

In this case, the mint spray has many of the same ingredients I would put into a leave in conditioner - panthenol, hydrosols, hydrolyzed proteins - so really the only down side is the fresh scent of mint that follows me instead of oatmeal, milk & honey (which smells a lot like marzipan to me - and I love marzipan!).

Again, I can't stress this enough - label everything!

When I'm making a prototype recipe for myself, I like to include the name of the product, a few ingredients, and the date I made it for future reference. I might include something like "especially for mom" or "great for Raymond", so the intended user knows it's for them. I recognize these aren't pretty labels - my handwriting is terrible and the layer of packing tape will come off eventually - but it is the best way to track which products I'm liking this week!

From the post originally written on December 9, 2010...Some ideas on how to make labels! 

Tara made this comment in this postI love the pictures you post of your products. Maybe somewhere down the road, you could do a post on label making.

I admit the aesthetics of our products is not one of my strengths. I'm the mechanic - I figure out the formulas, create the recipes, tweak the products, and so on - and despite my love of English, I suck at creating cute or interesting names. And don't get me started on my inability to take nice photographs! But I do like to create what I consider nice labels.

I consider putting labels on my products essential because I need to know which version of which product I'm using. I generally write out the labels by hand for around the house (which is why you don't see a lot of them), but when I'm gifting my products, I want to make my labels lovely (and believe me, my handwriting is neither lovely nor legible).

I generally invest in full sheet labels because I can put a ton of different labels on one sheet and cut them out when I feel like it. Ensure you have the right type for your printer - you can use laser labels on inkjet, but you can't use inkjet on a laser printer. If you can't get the full sheet labels or don't feel like cutting them all out, I find the 4 x 2 shipping labels to be the most multifunctional for my needs because I can make them smaller as necessary. I've tried Avery and I've tried generic Staples' labels - the Staples' ones were just awful and I took them back the next day, so I have to suggest Avery.

I use Printshop for the Mac for my labels, but you can use any program that makes labels in the right size. Microsoft Word works okay, but I've found it can sometimes be a little off and you have to make sure your labels are well within the boundaries when you're creating them on the screen. (Your experience may vary by printer and ability to make a nice label!)

I can't draw or design a label to save my life, so I find interesting backgrounds, wallpapers (computer and real life), or pictures of fabrics to create a nice backdrop. Digital scrapbooking papers are fantastic for backgrounds, and you can find some great free kits out there. I love the Shabby Princess downloads and I covet the Pixel Decor tiles (very retro!). I collect fonts, and I admit I tend towards the retro. You can find great free fonts at the Font Diner (I love the diner fonts and holiday leftovers!) and for my fonts, but you can find some great ones at scrapbooking sites.

When you're gifting a product, you don't need to use the INCI names because that can get a little confusing for your giftee. I tend to use the proper names for things like my oils, but I will use the generic name for my surfactants. I will put in brackets what the ingredient might be - for instance, liquid Germall Plus (preservative) - because I want my giftee to know what's in the product and I won't assume they know Latin!

Click here and here to learn more about INCI names. These are essential for those of you who sell or are considering selling your products! If you're making products for sale, ensure you are following the labelling laws in your county, state, province, area, region, or country! And make sure you're using royalty free images. 

There are a few ways to make your labels waterproof. I used to have an Epsom printer with waterproof inks and they worked really well. But I've switched to to a Canon Pixma ($30 for an all in one!) and the ink runs. So I use the Krylon product Make it Last, clear sealer, to keep my labels pretty in the shower or bath. I make up my labels, spray them, wait about 10 minutes, then put them on my bottles. (I found mine at Michael's, but apparently you can get it at art stores!)

And now we come to cleaning bottles. I spray mine with rubbing alcohol, wait a second or two, then wipe it off with a paper towel. This ensures you don't have any surfactants or oils or other stuff that will get in the way of the product sticking.

Original post from December 10, 2010...An example of how I create labels. 

So here's an example of a label I use on my foot scrub bars. I package these in cellophane bags and close it with the label.

I like to include three major pieces of information - the name of the product and fragrance, instructions for use (if it isn't obvious), and a simplified ingredient list. (If you're selling your products, the simplified list isn't an option - please check your local authorities for their requirements.)

I try to use a really legible font for the instructions and ingredient list - in this case, I'm using American Typewriter in 8 point - with a cute font for the name. I generally make the background a little more opaque - I turn the opacity on the picture to 50% to 70%, depending upon the colour scheme - and I tend to make the background for the instructions and ingredient list white so it's easy to read.

Why the instructions? Sometimes it isn't obvious what to do with a product - I've seen the foot scrub bar and my sugar scrub used as facial products, despite the description of what it is and the instructions - so I find it best to include some guidelines on usage, especially for something like a foot scrub bar where someone could use it in the shower and slip! I like to write a little story in this section, something to whet the user's interest, and I tend to use a ton of adjectives (which might be a little cheesy, but anyone who knows me knows I love cheesiness!).

Here's an example of my Manly Man Body Wash label. I put the ingredients on a little label I put on the back of the bottle so as to preserve the minimalist nature of the presentation. I figure men aren't into hearts and flowers so much, and I needed a label that shouted "I am body wash! Use me and smell manly!" I think this might be my favourite label.

I do have a girls' version of the Super Girl Action Wash with the warning that it "should only be used by girls who want to be super heroes when they grow up!" because I figure we all secretly long for an invisible airplane and lasso or a stake like Mr. Pointy and the ability to take on six ninjas in a fight without breaking a nail.

Original post from January 3, 2011...Downloadable labels

I've been asked to post my recent labels as a PDF, so here you are. (I have instructions on how to modify them in the PDF). I don't know how useful they will be as they are designed to fit on the bottles I own, but if you like them, then I'm a happy camper!

It's so much easier to use the laser printer than the colour printer in our house (I have to actually hook the computer up to the colour printer, whereas the laser is accessible from anywhere around the house - did I mention Raymond is also a computer genius?), so I started making black and white labels that looked like apothecary type labels. I love this style - if I ever had a business, I'd find it hard to choose between this style and the funky retro obnoxious type patterns with lime green and hot pink I normally love.

I found the idea from Slightly Off-Center (click here for her amazing labels), and I used her labels as templates originally - this is my beard conditioner "Hey Beardo". But I needed a larger one. So I went into The Print Shop 2 software and chose a frame that I liked. Then I found a line that had a decorative end. It's nothing fancy, but I'm happy with it. For the Hey Beardo, I added the instructions and ingredients on a separate label on the back of the container (but didn't think to take a picture of it).

I can't remember where I found the suggestions for these fonts, but visit and download Mouse Deco, EcuyerDAX, and Masquerade for some great old timey looking fonts.

Some links to great label templates can be found here.


Tara said...

I have accidentally used my inkjet labels on my laser printer and I have to say, they were pretty fabulous!

Shoshi said...

Great labels - really classy. I particularly like the apothecary style.


chemistryrat said...

Hello Susan,

Thanks for providing us home crafters with inspiration to create our own products and for presenting factual information about ingredients and how they are safe to use in cosmetic products. I have a question about the plastic lotion bottle that you use for the moisturizing lotion with tea tree and ginger posted on the creating label site. May I ask where you got this bottle and the size. I purchase from SKS bottles but I don't believe they have that bottle style. I am familiar with malibus, boston rounds, cosmos and bullet styles. Thanks again you are awesome at what you do for the small guys.

Chemistry rat.

chemistryrat said...

Hello Susan,

Great labels and also valuable information on how to create wonderful lotion and cosmetics. I was wondering if you could tell me what type of plastic bottle you used for the tea tree and ginger lotion. I am not aware of that style design since I typically get bullets, cosmos, Malibu, and boston rounds from SKS packaging. Again thank you for inspiring us to make our own products.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi chemistryrat! I'm sorry but I don't know of any lotion I've made that would have tea tree or ginger. (I don't really like either of these things in a lotion, to be honest. Cleansers and cooling sprays, maybe...) Do you have a link for it? It sounds like it may have been on someone else's site? Sorry I can't be more helpful!