Breaking Down AI File Requirements For Label Design

Breaking Down AI File Requirements For Label Design

Learn how to optimize your Adobe Illustrator, or Ai file for flexographic and digital printing. There are some differences between the two, covered in this blog, as well what’s required for both processes.

Flexographic Printing VS. Digital Printing

Flexographic labels are printed using a flexographic press where a flexible relief plate is used to imprint the image onto the label stock, color by color. Digital printers use inkjet or laser printer technology instead. Learn the differences between the two processes in more detail here.


Requirements For Your AI File – Flexographic Printing

Great Lakes Label Flexographic printed label in adobe illustrator

This is what a “flexo ready” illustrator file looks like.

Calling Out Labeling Techniques

If the above label was going to use foiling over the “Oktoberfest” title, you would not create them with gradient color as seen above. While the proof shines a light on what the final product will look like, leave the color as one and call out the effect in text beside the image. Same goes for using metallic stock. Do not include a gradient color when you plan to use gradient stock.

Or, if using MiraFoil, a precise foiling ink, you can likely get away with a gradient should that specific look be what you are going for. Speak to your Great Lakes Label rep for more information if this is the case. Communicating how these techniques is a crucial part of the process before printing.


Art Proof Approval Bar

Art Proof Approval bar Great Lakes Label adobe illustrator label design

The below bar is added by your rep at Great Lakes Label. It looks overwhelming, but once you break it down piece by piece, it’s all practical information to help us print your design. First, the left-hand box is to be signed and dated once the proof is complete and ready to be printed. This lets us know everything has been approved and the design is suitable to move forward in the printing process. The middle box under “Finishing” shows our team how you would like the roll to be wound. This is crucial if you are using a labeling automation system since some systems need labels to be wound and loaded in a specific way.

Lastly, the right-hand box details what colors are used in your design. We ensure quality by using PMS colors and check for accuracy while printing. This is the area where the specific PMS colors would be communicated.

Labeling 101 Resource Center blog button Great Lakes Label - high quality

In our video, Meet Great Lakes Label, our owner Tony Cook discusses the color matching process. He says, “We start off with color matching the ink prior to sending it to press. Then at the end of the press, we also use a digital tool called a spectrophotometer that we measure the hue and balance of the ink and we make sure that is within industry standard specified by the customer.”

Meet Great Lakes Label

Since 1994, Great Lakes Label LLC has been dedicated to producing and delivering quality products. We print cutting edge labels and distribute custom labeling applicators to a wide range of industries. Our experts work closely with each and every customer to solve your toughest packaging design requirements.

Requirements For You AI File – Digital Printing

Great Lakes Label digital printed label in adobe illustrator - ai fileThis is what an illustrator file looks like when the label is ready for digital printing.

Digital Printing Makes For A Simple AI File

What you see above is what you get for digital printing. No “Art Proof Approval” bar is needed since no ink is used to create color accuracy. At Great Lakes Label, all innovative labeling techniques are printed using the flexographic press, so on digital, nothing needs to be called out. While size would be good to communicate like the above example, here it is not used.

Standard Requirements & Practices


Great Lakes Label bleed line of adobe illustrator label design file

All files should have the background flow past the trim edge. This is called a bleed and they are a crucial element to designing a label. If there is any slight shifting when printing, the bleed ensures a seamless look. As a general rule, you should always give yourself at least 0.125 inches past the trim. You should also be sure to keep your images and text away from the edge in order to prevent them being cut off. Unless that is, of course, you want the image to spill over past the trim. The general rule is that all information should remain contained within 0.125 inches from the trim line. Although the trim line is not shown above, you can see it in the next example.


Great Lakes Label bleed lines in adobe illustrator for label design

It is generally considered that rounded edges are much more appealing and a standard when it comes to label design. Sometimes, however, there are exceptions to the rule like the Lake Day Chardonnay label example used in this blog. If a label is supposed to wrap around and touch with a flat edge, naturally you might want to discuss using a sharp corner with your Great Lakes Label rep.

Accuracy in Sizing in Your Ai File

When designing your label in Adobe Illustrator, always size your document to be true to life and call out your measurements as seen in the Oktoberfest design. If your label is going to be printed at 1 inch by 1 inch, do not scale it down to 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. If you are working in the metric system, do not scale the label down to 1cm by 1cm. It also makes it easier to communicate and design in inches instead of converting your measurements. Otherwise, communication tends to get muddied and makes for unnecessary stresses along the way.


Beyond that, get creative and never hesitate to ask us questions along the way. Best of luck with your labeling project!


Learn more about the labeling solutions Great Lakes Label offers. Now that you’ve learned the design basics, take your vision to the next level. Download our e-book, Complete Labeling Solutions.

Labeling Solutions E-Book

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