Beer label design: Piwo Neptuna

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Piwo Neptuna Beer Label

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I’ve designed a beer label for my Dad: Piwo Neptuna (Neptune Beer). Why? A friend of mine in KL works for a label printer and got me a good deal on 500 labels, professionally printed, die-cut, and finished. Something that may have cost triple the amount back in Oz. And Christmas was nearing.

It was a fun exercise; I’d never done a beer label before. Being an Aussie bloke (and a designer) I have a massive appreciation for the number and variety of beer labels. There are so many styles, shapes, and eras, but I knew I had to design this label with two key elements:

  1. It must be slick with lots of detail.
    I knew my Dad would appreciate the more recent design style of embellishment, future-traditional, and slickness, more than a simple, retro, old-skool type of beer label that looked misprinted (despite me liking the second style as a designer).
  2. My family being from Gdańsk, it must have a Polish vibe.


Here are the main points/details which you can examine in the detailed view:

  • This statue of King Neptune is a landmark of Gdańsk. It has been in the main square for over 500 years. (An interesting note: I actually found a use for the puppet warp tool in Photoshop — changing the orientation of King Neptune’s arm to fit the design. Amazing!)
  • The crest in the oval shape at the bottom is from the Gdańsk coat of arms and flag.
  • There are tiny maps of Australia and Poland on the sides of the label, with Melbourne and Gdańsk highlighted respectively. These represent the city our family settled in Australia, and the city we came from. Also there are flags of both countries at the bottom.
  • Various translations of ‘beer’ from all over the world, including Estonia and Swahili (for fun and interest) Malaysia (where I’m living currently), and of course Poland and Australia.
  • The black & white image behind the statue is of the shipping docks in Gdańsk, where my Dad received his training and certification as a Master Welder.
  • Behind the word ‘Piwo’ there is a watermark of another famous landmark Żuraw, a medieval port crane over the Motława river, and other riverside buildings.
  • Classic red and white design based on the Polish flag, with faux-gold for prestige.


It was a bit tricky to put together, having been completely created in Illustrator (except for the photographs). Unlike Photoshop (‘s masks), you cannot fudge an item so it can be both in front and behind another item. This led to some clever — but time-consuming — tricks in some parts of the label to achieve this effect. For example, the way the black ribbon both flows in front of and behind the inner gold border, and how the trident sticks over the shield in the middle, but the rest of the statue sits behind it.

Also, I didn’t want to use any opacities or transparency effects, like actual shadows, to avoid rasterisation of otherwise tack-sharp vector graphics. All shadow effects are actually solid shapes, coloured a few shades darker than the ones they sit on top of. This approach added much time and fiddliness to the artwork, but probably wouldn’t’ve made much difference in the actual printed label. I wanted to overcome the challenge and have a ‘pure’ digital file that I know would print as sharp as possible.

Maybe I have too much time on my hands :P