I had a job making pretty boxes for chocolates and bakery products. This box was made for Mrs. Fields as part of a holiday series. I'm happy to say this series was so successful, I created new art for it every year.
This art started out as pieces of watercolor that I scanned and morphed in PhotoShop. I keep the elements on different layers because there are always changes. The background door changed from red to green to weathered white before the customer was satisfied.
All of the elements in this piece were created from very little actual painting. For instance, the berries were created from just two bunches. Copy/paste, copy/paste... except the Creative Director for Mrs. Fields is very observant, and had me alter the highlights on every berry so it showed the light source coming from one direction. Good call on his part. Silent groaning on mine. That's a lot of berries!
Even something like the bow was created in multiple layers. I painted a solid bow, tried out different colors, put a brocade pattern over it, and played with the shadows and highlights to match everything else. Even the tag attached to the bow took seven layers: background colors, star, text, grommet, and string.
It has to be this way in a corporate world. I loved working with MF's CD because he has a good eye, makes useful comments, and appreciates good work -- but he is only one cog in the corporate world, though a very important cog in that wheel. My art went to committees of people I never spoke with, and often returned with comments like "Put teddy bears in it" because somebody's wife likes teddy bears. Having a great CD can keep the teddy bears out of things because the CD can defend your work when you can't.
All of this is just the domestic side of business. I also created schematic drawings and printing directions for Chinese manufacturers, often for someone who doesn't speak English. I don't plan on learning Chinese, so we often had to rely on computer translations, which can be like talking through mud. Numbers and drawings they understand.
Samples of the boxes would come from China, product samples came from the customer to see if they fit properly, and I fended off my coworkers' appetites long enough to measure things. I loved getting samples. I really like Mrs. Fields' cookies, but I also got the most decadent chocolates from some of my customers... Uh, excuse me... I started having chocolate flashbacks.
Once all of the above was settled, I created final art for the printer. I originally started out just doing layouts, but when the okay came through for a project, they wanted it out the door immediately. It became easier to work on elements of the final art through the approval process, and adapting it to the final die lines.
When I started this blog, I had the best intentions of trying to say useful things to other artists. I hope this gives some insight into what it's like to make packaging art. I'm open to other ideas of what you'd like to see in the future too. I love getting feedback!