Beverage Can Design 101: Everything You Need to Know from Design to Production

Image of printing machine inside graphics studio
Monday, March 16, 2020

In a recent All About Cans blog post, we highlighted the nuances of printing on beverage cans—but that is just one piece of the design puzzle. From the first production step to the last, an array of technologies, tests and design elements work in harmony to ensure packaging makes an impact with consumers. In this latest post, we take a deeper dive into the dynamic can design process.

1. The Art of Can Graphics 

When a beverage brand first imagines its new product on store shelves, specific colors, imagery, and decorative techniques likely come to mind—but translating these visions into tangible, eye-catching packages is not as simple as placing a rendering on a can. As a first step, brand owners submit graphics to our team for review and consultation. The design is reviewed for printability—a key step in producing crisp, visible imagery on the can’s surface. Once the design is finalized, we prepare the digital proof and send it to back to our customer. This process includes pre-press work, separations and other steps that turn a standard design into a compelling can design. 

2. Previewing and Perfecting with a Pilot Can 

Once the digital proof is approved, we produce a pilot can—essentially a prototype of the final decorated package. This sample allows the brand owner to closely examine the product as if it were on the shelf, another critical step in ensuring the chosen colors, imagery and finishes hit the mark when printed on aluminum. The pilot can also serve as a reference point during the production process. 

3. Taking the Design to New Heights: From the (Printing) Plate to the Package 

After piloting, the design process moves on to the creation of printing plates and accompanying production elements including a color key and ink data. This is the stage in which the design, once a mere concept, is now making its way onto commercial product that will ultimately end up on store shelves. During this phase, high-definition printing allows for precise dot spacing, consistent color representation and the translation of detailed imagery. These techniques allow a visually stunning and immaculate design to shine through on the beverage can.  

4. The Final Reveal

The last phase? The finished package is manufactured and delivered to the beverage brand for filling and shipment to retail outlets and is ready for purchase by consumers.

While the timeline for beverage can production varies due to design style, volumes and other factors, collaborating with the right partner is key to reach the market quickly and efficiently. The team at our newest graphics studio in Ambler, PA can help beverage brands move from concept to can in as little as six to eight weeks. On-site experts and in-house, advanced machinery can create digital proofs in mere hours. Ultimately, utilizing these resources can result in beverage can designs that meet brand expectations and make an impression with consumers—an impact that only increases in value.