We started a new project for a popcorn shop in Greensboro, NC. A small, privately owned shop that specializes in gourmet popcorn. I’m not really into popcorn like that. It’s one of those snack foods that have to seek me out- like reaching into the snack size variety pack and there’s only popcorn left because you ate all the doritos and even the weird curly ones.

I had some learning to do. It’s a thing. This is a habit for some people and if you spend 1 hour in Justin’s shop, you will come across people feening for a bag, 2 bags, even 4 bags of popcorn.

Not just for kids, some stop by everyday and pick up a bag after work. Real popcorn junkies. I thought about what I had learned on the way back home over a fine cigarette and some coffee.

First off was the logo design. The company was named after his daughter, so keeping a kiddy, cute, serious but not so serious look. Here’s what I made. I wanted to cross between kid friendly and mature adult- a friendly, earthy, Godiva Style. Panera bread look.

I also found out that all popcorn was whole grain, so when I designed the logo for the labels, I added that. I made a little Vintage badge looking logo specifically for the labels. The flat version didn’t look good and I was trying to go 1 color.

The Automation Part
I tend to think that I see the bigger picture sometimes without telling clients. They wouldn’t fathom or sign off on something as weird as this. I could have stopped here, but in knowing the store needed a complete rebrand, packaging overhaul, product photo shoot, and new website, I put a plan together that would allow us to work in a more automated fashion.

I wanted to build an automatic mockup and label maker. I wanted to make scrappy cell phone pics look like professionally shot bags of popcorn. In addition, it would create a label to print on label paper.

Getting Photos of Popcorn
The only photos I had are the ones a staff member took on her phone. I would have taken the photos, but it was important that I build something that can be done easily whenever he adds more flavors. Here’s what they looked like after I cropped and photoshopped her iphone images. Not bad for an iPhone. I think you can do this with just about any phone these days. Obviously you should probably using a high end phone if you want the best looking images. Alternatively you could use a dslr.

They weren’t bad- good enough to make the site with those as a thumbnail image at least. But that was way to easy for me guys. I wanted a nutrition label, cause whose going to buy food these days without a nutrition label? I also wanted more attractive packaging. It’s OK to be homegrown, but try to use some esthetics and make the product special and attractive.



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I cropped the above images into squares, but what I really needed was a verticle rectangle. However her complete photos wouldn’t have worked- they weren’t shot from a consistent perspective. Ideally, I wanted a flat top down photo with a high megapixel camera. You want details like nuts, drizzle, and texture to come through.

I wrote an action that mirrored them and blended them into one. I kept note of the piece sizes and kept them consistent. I wanted them to match the same perspective, lighting, etc.

I took approximately 300 pics and put them all on an excel spreadsheet. This was the hardest part because excel is not a cool program with images. I then asked the staff to chime in on ingredients, nutritional facts, names, etc. I left that with them for about a month while I got the rest of the project together.

Creating the Labels
I created a few different types of labels. When designing, I kept a few things in mind. No one is paying for offset printing for 300 individual labels at a small popcorn shop, so I needed to be able to print on demand economically for this workflow to work. We researched several different types of paper that would work for this. We settled on a an arched kraft label from OnlineLabels.com. If you’ve never heard of them before, go check them out- they have a label for anything. They’re really good with sample orders to showcase to clients. They sent a bunch so we could experiment and rub greasy butterry fingers all over it.

These consumables can also easily be reordered by the shop if they ever run out. They also have different paper stocks. This time we were going with kraft, but they make it pretty easy to switch up to a different type like foil or hologram. I selected a size that would look good on a pint-size cellophane food bag.

We went with a wax color laser/led printer to ensure oil and grease form the popcorn wouldn’t smudge the ink. It was about 40 cents cheaper per label as well.



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Here were the label designs without any of the data. I created about 50 different colors. Same layout, just different colors. It had a middle section for the flavor name, nutrition info at the bottom, etc.

In addition to these labels, I created templates for fundraising bags, seasonal flavors, etc.

Kraft is a funny stock to work with. Without white ink, getting the text to show through nicely is as easy as using the kraft color in the artwork. Even though these boxes are colored solid, When white text is placed over it, I’ll be creating a cutout look.

Making Popcorn when Life Gives You a Loaf
I thought about shooting a bag of black popcorn against a black backdrop and then photoshopping a little to create my bag look, but then I found this bag of bread on Graphicriver.

I photoshopped out the bread and left the cellophane wrinkles. I then placed the layer of popcorn under it and did some masking and editing. The end result was good. The bags looked realistic enough for me.

I added text lines on the label representing each value on the spreadsheet. Name, Calories, etc. I then watched Youtube videos about how to do variable data on photoshop because for me, everytime is the first time.

Everything was set. I took a look at the spreadsheet they gave back and it was complete. My Variables were label color, flavor series, flavor name, highlight ingredients, calories, protein, fiber. In addition, the spreadsheet needed the path to the popcorn photo and the colored label background file.

I adjusted some popcorn names because that was a really fun part of this job that I overlooked and handed off to someone else. If it was too long, the software wasn’t going to adjust any text size The names had to be not too long and not too short.

After setting up the actions, I created a variable data system that allowed Gatlyn’s to not only mockup their product shots and labels for the website, but it also created the label file to print out on the label paper for packaging. Now, making a new flavor took about 2 min of work (not including the making popcorn part) Here’s what the finished shots looked like.

Food photography is expensive for a reason and not something I recommend for every business.  While investing in a photographer would have been ideal, having a system too attractively create these new flavors and profesional labels proved much more useful to Gatlyn’s Gourmet Popcorn.



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I would be up for approaching this project again with the right client. I would like to do do a little more work on the photography side. Skip the photoshop stuff and build a system on the website for creating labels, mockups, and a web entry with one data input.  The staff member would type in the name, description, ingredients, etc. and upload the photo and a few mockups would generate, a label, add it to the website, and boom. It’s just efficient. Maybe even have a nutrition label script with google search.

I did something similar with AltaBella Cosmetics and think this is a fantastic way of mocking up and showing off your products even if you have the money for a professional photographer. Streamlining and consistency will allow you to do something else with your time. As a consumer, I enjoy seeing uniform product shots like that. I think you can probably start off with something like this and end up at The Gatlyn’s Popcorn Configurator to where you can mockup your own flavors, but that’s another post.