Designing Custom Packaging for Cosmetics

Today I'm diving deep into a topic that creates plenty of confusion among first-time entrepreneurs: Designing Custom Packaging.

On your first manufacturing run, it's only natural to want to take the easiest route possible and plan to scale from there. That's totally fine, and probably makes sense. It can be overwhelming to attend to all of these new details on your very first run (and, for first-time lipgloss entrepreneurs, I highly recommend the basic $1k starter pack because it is all that you need to get started, without any of the frills).

However, if and when you are ready to create a custom box for your lipgloss or highlighter or whatever it is you're selling, this is what you need to do:

 

Step 1: Draw it out on paper

My golden rule for design (or any professional service, really) is to do 90% of the work before you hand it off to the pro. Don't hand them a blank slate and expect them to build something from nothing; that will take a lot of time--billable time. Instead, do as much of the work as you possibly can yourself before handing it off.

So, in this instance, I highly recommend finding a similar box - perhaps from a similar product on the shelf of Sephora or Ulta - then gently break it down until it's a single flat piece of cardboard. Take a piece of paper and sketch out the box, exactly as it is with the cardboard - extra glued flaps and all. If you want to rearrange the orientation or flaps, do so. If you want to make it wider, thinner, shorter, longer--then do so. 

Then, begin to draw in your logo and other elements. If you can, take the design as far as possible on paper. If you have no ideas at this point, it's time to at least make a mood board.

 

Step 2: Create a Mood Board (optional)

A mood board is essentially the color ranges, swatches, and general feeling you want for your packaging. You can find similar packagings or things that are totally new -- a jungle vibe, cool and calm colors, ranges of pinks or reds -- it's totally up to you.

Create something that's true to your brand and expresses what you'd like conveyed in your packaging. This is what you'll hand off to the designer, to let them do their magic with it.

 

Step 3: Find a Designer

Now that you have a sketch, or at least an outline and a mood board, it's time to find a designer.

Given that design quality depends on taste, experience and is very highly personal, it can be difficult to say who the best designer is. Although this should not be misconstrued as professional advice, here are the best tips we have:

1. Look for a local designer - Search on Facebook, Instagram, Craigslist, or Google local results for a graphic designer. They don't necessarily have to be a DFM (design for manufacturing) designer, but they do need to fit your style and budget.

2. Fiverr - Fiverr is a cheap way to find the entire range of talent when it comes to digital design. Packaging starts as cheap as $25/design but be careful! Fiverr does not offer refunds on work that you just don't like. They only offer refunds if the designer did not deliver what was promised in the promised timeframe. So, check reviews, check pricing, and check previous work. Be sure to communicate with the designer before ordering, to make sure that they can deliver what you need. (See my example below)

3. UpWork - Another online community for freelancers is UpWork. Instead of browsing talent and pricing, on UpWork one submits a work request, then waits for the proposals to flow in. Set a budget (one-time) for this project instead of hourly, then watch the - very widely varied - proposals flow in. Again, DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE. Make sure that you want to work with this person and that they fit your timeline, workflow, work style and DESIGN style. 

Ask your designer for a .ai TTC format design. It's the only printable format.

 

Keep reading to see my first-hand experience designing on Fiverr. Not exactly a BAD experience, just a learning experience. 

Now you can all learn from my mistakes, and get the benefits of affordable, global labor on Fiverr, without breaking the bank.

Here we go:

  Example of a DFM box design I had made on Fiverr for $30. A ready-for-manufacturing design should look like THIS - sides, flaps, designs and all, in .ai TTC format.    This is not a design that I used, because it did not represent the core tenants of my brand. I should have gone 90% of the way with the design and direction, instead of letting the designer take all the initiative. We didn't exactly see eye-to-eye, so this was wasted money.

Example of a DFM box design I had made on Fiverr for $30. A ready-for-manufacturing design should look like THIS - sides, flaps, designs and all, in .ai TTC format.

This is not a design that I used, because it did not represent the core tenants of my brand. I should have gone 90% of the way with the design and direction, instead of letting the designer take all the initiative. We didn't exactly see eye-to-eye, so this was wasted money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  This designer on Fiverr was obviously TECHNICALLY talented, but what he made - his idea of a "rebrand" - just didn't fit my existing brand.. or the mood board I had sent him.    

This designer on Fiverr was obviously TECHNICALLY talented, but what he made - his idea of a "rebrand" - just didn't fit my existing brand.. or the mood board I had sent him.

 

Step 4: Test out your design at home

Ask your designer for a .ai TTC format design for us, yes, but also ask for a .pdf file for you. Get a .pdf of the design, centered on an 8.5x11" file.

The file needs to be exactly as the box will be die cut - so make sure that the die lines make sense, that the product can be printed out and cut/taped into a prototype.

Then, print it out, tape it together and try it with your product.

Do you like it? How does it work? Will it function easily and properly for your customer?

Is there enough room that it will fit your product and not be too snug?

Don't forget that our custom boxes are typically made with 350g ivory board, which is about 0.5mm thick, whereas printer paper is about 0.1mm thick. You'll lose about 1mm of room when you move to final production.

 

Step 5: FDA check it

Now that you've worked on the design and tried it out IRL, it may be time to rearrange some things to make it FDA compliant.

You will need to do this check, not your designer, because in the end, the liability is on you, the brand owner. So make a list of the changes and hand it off to your designer.

But what do the changes entail?

The FDA posts their packaging guidelines on their site and regularly updates them. They're pretty straightforward - if not a bit tedious - so just follow them line by line and check everything.

If you've got the funds to do it, have an FDA lawyer check the final design before it goes to print. You can use a site like UpCounsel to find an FDA lawyer cheaply and quickly.

 

Step 6: Sample It (optional)

If you have the budget for it, I highly recommend getting a custom sample made for your box before printing 1000+ units. 

You can order a sample directly from our site

For orders of 10,000 units or more, we will refund 50% of the sample fee during final production.

 

Takeaways

I hope this was helpful to all of you! 

Our minimum order for custom boxes (regardless of size) is 1000 units, so reach out whenever you're ready to get started. For lipgloss customers, you can order directly from the site - whether its a sample or full run, we sell them both. Just make sure to send us your designs once you've checked out!

 

Megan CoxComment