How to Make Product Labels in Photoshop CS5

By Elizabeth Mott

If you're designing labels for regulated products, verify that your output meets all legal requirements.
i Nutrition Facts label on a chilled soda can image by Karin Lau from

Whether you're creating design mockups, product prototypes or short-run custom items, you can set up your label designs in Adobe Photoshop CS5 to send out for production or to print on an in-house device. If you're printing your labels yourself, you can progress quickly from testing and refining your designs to trial output. Before you build Photoshop files to send to a printing company, verify that your work complies with your vendor's specifications. In either case, Photoshop's powerful features can help you craft labels that support your product's marketability.

Press "Ctrl-N" to create a new Adobe Photoshop document. If you plan to print on commercially-made label stock, set the width and height of your file to the dimensions specified by the manufacturer for one label. To create a custom label, enter your chosen dimensions.

Set the color mode of your document to CMYK for printed output. If you need an RGB version to post on your website, you can create a CMYK-to-RGB conversion once you complete your design.

Set the resolution of your label file to 300 pixels per inch for printed clarity. Low-resolution files suitable for online use look blurry and pixelated on paper.

Set the canvas color of your document to white if you're building a label that prints on white stock with portions of the paper visible around the text and graphic elements of your design. To open your new file with a background layer prefilled with a color other than white, set the background color in the Photoshop toolbox to your desired shade before you begin creating your file, and choose "Background Color" for your canvas. Use the "Transparent" canvas option to create a file with a blank, transparent layer.

Click on the "OK" button to create your Photoshop file. After your document window appears, open the "Window" menu and choose "Layers" to reveal the Layers panel.

Open the "File" menu and choose "Place" to bring up a dialog box in which you can select a product photo or other image to insert in your label file. Click on the "Place" button once you've selected your desired visual. The image appears with selection handles bordering its perimeter, and the Options bar displays the sizing and positioning options you see when you use Photoshop's Transform function to alter a file interactively. Click on the check-mark button in the Options bar to "Commit Transform" when you're satisfied with the size, position and rotation of your image.

Press "T" to activate the Type tool. Set the typeface, style, size, anti-aliasing method, alignment and color in the Options bar. Click on the live area of your document to set a point of origin for your text. Click and drag to create the boundary for area type, which fits into an invisible bounding box.

Type your text or paste in text from the clipboard. Select individual words or sentences to change their color or style in the Options bar. Click on the check-mark button in the Options bar to "Commit Any Current Edits" and finish creating your type.

Click on a layer in the Layers panel to select it. Press "V" to switch to the Move tool, and reposition your layer in the live area of your file.

Press "M" to switch to the Marquee tool. Select a layer and click on the "Add a Layer Style" button at the bottom of the Layers panel to add effects such as drop shadows, glows and other stylized treatments to type or image layers. To copy an effect from one layer to another, hold down the "Alt" key and drag an "fx" designator from a layer with effects onto another layer in the Layers panel.

Save your file in layered PSD format when you finish adding and positioning elements. To create a TIF, JPG or other production-format version of your document, open the "File" menu and choose "Save As," select your desired format and save a copy of your document.

Create a matrix of multiple copies of your label file to fill up a sheet of label stock. Open a new file sized to the dimensions of your label sheet and use the Place command to add the PSD-format label file to it. Press "V" to switch to the Move tool, hold down the "Alt" key and drag the placed art to duplicate it. When you've added enough copies to fill the sheet, select the layers that fill one row of labels, open the "Layer" menu, and use Photoshop's Align and Distribute commands to position them. Open the "File" menu and choose "Print" to test-print your sheet.


If you place an image that uses a lower or higher resolution than your label document, the image comes in at a correspondingly smaller or larger size because Photoshop redistributes its pixels to conform to the 300 ppi resolution of your file.

If you place an image into a file you created with a transparent canvas and do so before you add any other elements to the file, the image lands on the default layer.

Using Place to bring in image elements from other files turns them into Smart Objects that you can resize and still return to their original dimensions.

To hide parts of an image in your file, create a selection that defines the portions you want to be visible, and click on the "Add Layer Mask" button at the bottom of the Layers panel.

To create a label with visual elements that extend beyond the cut borders of your finished printed item, add 150 pixels to the width and to the height of your file to allow for bleed. When you trim away the extra image area, the printed result looks as if the image stops at the trimmed edge.


Avoid scaling images up beyond their actual size. It introduces image distortion and blurriness that reduce the quality of your visuals.