I thought I would post about some of the methods of creating and applying Labels for your homebrewed beer or wine. Hopefully this post will alleviate you readers from some of the leg work.
Label DesignThe key to a good label is being able to express your thoughts or theme which will attract and inform your consumers (friends). Think about what draws your attention when looking for new beers at the bottle shop. Maybe its a creative logo or cool font (DA Fonts). Maybe its a picture or a beer name. Homebrewer's tend to do labels in 1 of 2 ways: (1) Labels which have consistency (Logo, font, layout etc.) or (2) each label is its own creation. I like to side with the first option. I like to think of my homebrew as if it was real brewery. I want my labels to all have a feel which evokes brand recognition. I think Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada are two breweries that effectively do this.
Now that you have some ideas, you need to decide how you will be creating the labels. Some artistic folks decide to do it by hand. These can be really awesome! Unfortunately, I was not blessed with an artistic hand and tend to go the digital route. I use GIMP, a program similar to photoshop, to create my labels.
DimensionsAre you making labels for 12 oz or 22 oz bottles? When I was looking online it seemed like a lot of labels for 12 ounce bottles were 3 inches high by 4 inches wide. I went with this and, it produces a nice label, but I think I will increase the dimensions as it just didn't cover as much space as I as hoping for. Additionally, the text which looked rather large on my computer monitor, was almost illegible when printed. The "Surgeon General" warning I created was in 14px, and other text about the beer was 16px. I had to increase this and recommend 20px or greater for any text. In GIMP I set the pixels to match inches. 3x4 correlates to 900px by 1200px. So keep that in mind with font sizes. I think my next set of labels will be 4 inches high by 5.25 inches wide
Printing and ApplyingUnfortunately, if you have an inkjet printer, you won't easily be able to label with my suggested adhesive (see below). You can purchase specific adhesive papers from places online such as onlinelabels.com which will allow you to use inkjet. If you have a laser printer, you're set! If not just print out one color sheet from your inkjet printer and take it to a local copy center like Kinkos or Staples etc. I used Staples and was able to use their straight-edge cutter, which was a real time saver!
Applying - Most homebrewers hate de-labeling commercial bottles. It is a painstaking and time intensive process. So why would you want to put labels on your beer that is hard to take off? I browsed the forums, and although skeptical, found that milk was the best adhesive! Sure enough, I poured an ounce of milk onto a plate and lightly dipped the back of the labels in the milk and applied them to the bottles. Held strong! Came off with a little water and scratching with my fingernail. And they didn't smell :)