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We worked with our friends at 99designs to talk to some of their expert sticker designers all about how you can get a great sticker concept from concept to creation. Read on to learn more.
Custom Sticker Design: Five Tips From Expert Sticker Designers at 99designs
by Laura McLeod from 99designs
Who knew playing with sticker books as a kid was actually a masterclass in marketing? Today, stickers have become a fun and personal way to get the word out about your brand. They are versatile (can be placed anywhere), expressive (can use any visual style), and inexpensive (especially compared to other popular forms of advertising).
Of course, your sticker campaign will only be as successful as your custom sticker design. For business-minded professionals, that kind of creative task isn’t always easy. And even if you do have inspiration for an idea, you still need the artistic skill to bring it to life.
So if you’re having trouble with your sticker (or a custom label design, for that matter), we wanted to offer some advice. And who can give better advice than professional designers. We asked two of the highest-ranking custom sticker designers at 99designs — Dope Bunny & Eliza Osmo — for tips on designing a sticker... here’s what they said.
1. Keep it Simple but Bold
Stickers tend to be on the small side. Even big stickers are small, compared to other forms of ads like posters, billboards, or T-shirts. While their size adds to their appeal, it does limit the complexity of the visuals. Fine, intricate details become hard-to-see on that scale, and can even obscure the whole image. That’s why it’s best to stay with simple design styles — less details for more visibility.
“We know well the cliché statement, ‘Less is More!’ ” says Gabriel Montoya, a.k.a Dope Bunny. Give strength to the brand in a clean way. It always works!
You can check how clean your design is yourself: take a few steps back from your custom sticker design and see if you can make out all the elements. Squint your eyes a little bit to make sure all the elements are still distinguishable from one another.
But simple doesn’t have to mean boring. As branding aids, stickers and labels still need to grab attention — especially because they’re so small. “Be bold, be brave,” says Eliza Osmo. “Sticker designs are not fine art - show people your weirdest ideas!”
While your style should be low-key, your message should not. Use techniques like vibrant colors, contrast and typography to make your stickers stand out, without sacrificing visibility.
2. Create a New Shape
One of the greatest benefits of stickers is that they can be die-cut into virtually any shape — leverage that advantage. Stickers are supposed to be fun, so use original and unique shapes, as opposed to more traditional “bumper sticker” styles. Not only do these look better and appeal more to people, they’re also more memorable, a crucial trait for branding.
However, using the shape of your logo may not be enough. “It’s not always about die-cutting a logo,” says Dope Bunny. “Get a bit wild with the brand and take advantage of their elements and colors. There are not always rules with bleeding areas and trim lines.”
Consider adding new elements to a picture to give it a distinctive shape, or maybe add large text to the borders and trim your sticker along the shapes of the letters, like Kangol’s sticker. Just forget to leave some buffer room for accidental bleeding.
3. Find the Fun Side
Custom sticker designs that are bold and cut into a unique shape lead up to one thing — they’re fun! Children love stickers because they’re fun to peel and stick, and that childlike enjoyment sticks with us well into adulthood. “Even the most serious-minded companies want to show their fun, kind and spicy side,” says Dope Bunny. “Help them to get there by being clear with the message they want to communicate.”
To utilize stickers to their fullest marketing potential, brands need to tap into that fun aspect of stickers. Casual brands are free to use fun imagery like cartoons, visual puns, or ultra-artistic styles. But what about more serious brands? You can still play with graphic design techniques like color contrast and layout to create a fun visual that doesn’t detract from a more serious message. For example, look at how the Cornerstone Autism Center uses shapes and colors.
4. Use Vector File Format
Want some practical advice from a professional custom sticker designer? Use a vector file format like SVG, EPS, or AI (Adobe Illustrator). “Vector art is friendly and versatile,” recommends Eliza Osmo. “Perfect for a teeny tiny sticker, or a massive mural.”
Vector files are designed to be reshaped at will — whether you scale them up or down, they won’t lose picture quality. The opposite is raster files (JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF), which all have a preset number of pixels; scaling them up means a loss in quality because they can’t create new pixels.
Even if you only plan on printing a single size of stickers, it’s best to use a vector file. In the future, you may want to reprint those stickers at a larger size. Because stickers are so versatile when it comes to sizes, don’t cage yourself in with set-in-stone file format. We explain this concept more thoroughly in our How to Set Up Sticker Artwork guide.
5. Draw Inspiration from References
Creativity yields more creativity. If you’re stuck in a creative block, take a look at other sources for inspiration.
A good place to start is with other stickers. Keep an eye out for branded stickers “in the wild” — posted on mailboxes, car bumpers, telephone polls, skateboards, laptops, etc. See what works and what doesn’t to give you a head start when designing your own.
Inspiration can literally come from anywhere: movies, TV, paintings, photographs, even nature. “Use references,” says Eliza Osmo. “Read books and newspapers, watch films, observe nature and everything that surrounds you. The richer visual experiences you have to draw inspiration from - the more creative your designs will be.”
And what do you look out for? Eliza Osmo suggests anything that you’re drawn to. “Make art of what you love. Try to think about the things you love, what makes your heart beat fast, and incorporate them into your artwork. If you’re working with a client, consider the passions they have.”
If you see something you like, take a picture or screenshot to analyze it later. See if you can find repeated themes in composition, color usage, shape, etc. You don’t need an art history degree to know what you like to look at.
Need help bringing your sticker idea to life? Want a professional artist to add their expertise? You don’t need to design your stickers alone — you can hire a professional custom sticker designer who will deliver a top-tier concept.
By Laura McLeod, 99designs
Laura McLeod leads Partnerships Marketing at 99designs. She was a History of Art major at University College London, and she is passionate about the visual arts, design and aesthetics. Laura has over a decade’s experience of B2B & B2C marketing for global brands.