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How to make Art Gallery Labels in a day like a Pro

All you will need to make Art Gallery labels is paper or card, glue and an inkjet or laser printer. At a minimum, all you really need are a couple of good quality markers like Copic markers or Sakura Micron pens instead of a printer. In any case, making art gallery labels is much easier than you think and I will be providing you a free Canva template that you can download – the image below is a sample of what the template looks like.

How to Make Art Gallery Labels sample 2
Art Gallery Template – all you need to do is edit this in Canva.com and download as .png file to be printed.

Just fill in the details and print it off.

Using Canva you can also change the font type and size but I recommend you keep the font and size provided as it has a clean and simple look that is easy on the eyes.

This is what it looks like when completed. I have included a few examples with different information.

How to Make Art Gallery Labels sample
How to Make Art Gallery Labels sample 1
How to Make Art Gallery Labels sample 3
How to Make Art Gallery Labels sample 2

All you need to do is save the label as an image and resize it to your required dimensions (you can also print the label off directly from Canva if you know how to resize it there).

Alternatively, copy the image into a Google Doc or Word doc, resize it and print it off. 

Why use Art Gallery Labels?

I can bet you a dollar that you have never walked past an artwork in a gallery and never looked to see who created it or what the artwork is called.

Thankfully, you have always had access to an art gallery label right next to the artwork. Usually on the lower right hand side.

The odd thing is, I have never put any thought in how to create one until I asked how to make art gallery labels and to be honest, I was taken back a bit. 

“Art Gallery Labels?” I asked “Like the plain white matte plaques with simple black writing that appear next to a painting at a gallery?”

“Yes” was the reply. I guess I looked and sounded confused as I had never contemplated having actually make them.

I always assumed it was something most people did not need yet, when you’re at an art show or at an art gallery, there they are. So someone had to make them.

This got me thinking, how do you actually make art gallery labels easily and quickly if you aren’t a professional?

Now, I am assuming that you are either setting up an art exhibition for yourself or someone has asked you to get art gallery labels made up and you haven’t the faintest idea what to do.

The main thing is, you do not have access to the same professional tools and resources as a specialised art gallery.

If that assumption is correct, then read on!

This is where I can help you.

The usual thing I do when someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to is whip out my phone and start tapping away. Like me, you will run various Google searches for the term “How to make art gallery labels” and seeing what comes up.

What usually does come up is a list of articles that are not really that helpful, except this one of course as I get straight to the point and try not to waste your time with useless information.

You just want to know how to make art gallery labels and that is this is what my free Canva template will give you.

I have to say that art labels also known as art gallery labels, custom description labels, exhibition labels and even museum labels, involves a little more than a simple plaque with basic information about the artwork and artist.

What information do you need to show on an Art Gallery Label?

To start with, work out what information do you need to display on the art gallery labels.

The first thing you need to do is work out what information you want to display on the art gallery labels. Have a look at the following template to give you an idea. 

You want to at a minimum show:

1. The artist’s name

2. The artists year of birth

3. Artwork title

4. Artwork creation year

5. The media used to create the artwork eg. Oil on canvas, charcoal on paper etc

6. Dimensions of the artwork (unframed) 

7. Price (optional)

8. Extra information that help someone interested in your work.

It may be a paragraph explaining the artwork, what inspired it or simply a few lines explaining where they can find more of your works, such as a website URL (link to your site) or Instagram page.

Keep the information you wish to display short, the recommendation among the professionals is 100 words max.

According to the Powerhouse Museum (downloadable pdf file)

“The most successful labels: 

• are appropriate – to the exhibition, its aims and its audience. 

• are concise but relevant. They don’t leave viewers thinking ‘So what?’. 

• They achieve a balance between too much information (overwhelming) and too little information (frustrating). 

• anticipate the reader’s questions. 

• The writers have asked themselves what’s really interesting about the topic… then told the readers. 

• relate new, unfamiliar or complex ideas to the reader’s own experience to aid their understanding. 

• contain accurate information. 

• use plain familiar language and a conversational style. If any specialist terms are necessary, they are simply and clearly explained. 

• usually use an active voice. For example, ‘cars replaced horses and buggies’ instead of ‘horses and buggies were replaced by cars’. 

• make use of questions, quotes or humour. 

• are consistent in presentation and the way information is organised. All theme labels look similar, for example, and all subtheme labels look similar. 

• contain a clear hierarchy of information. 

• are easy to read.”

Structure your labels and use a hierarchy to cleanly explain what the artwork is, who created it, when etc.

Fonts size for gallery labels

Fonts are how your words will look on a label. Use a simple and clean font and not something fancy or hard to read.

Compare the two fonts below and see which one is easier to read.

Thats right, keep it simple.

You do not want to use a tiny font size and cram lots of information on the art gallery label.

You want to cater for people who need glasses and even more so, those who wear glasses but are not wearing them.

Make your font nice and big but not too big.

The minimum type size for art gallery labels  is 18 points.

If you can, use a larger size font such as 22-26 points, for body text with still larger sizes, and 36 points for headings.

Write one sentence per line and ensure the characters are nicely spaced so they are easier to read.

Also, did you notice that almost all the art gallery labels you see are aligned to the left? 

Again, that makes it easier to read. 

People want to quickly glance at a label and obtain simple information. 

They want to look at the artwork not the label and they will only want to spend a few seconds looking at a label.

Print the Art Gallery Labels

Now to print off the art gallery label(s)

Before you print off the label(s) you need to work out how many you will need. Is it for 1 or more artworks?

If you need more than one artwork label with different details then use a table such as below which you can copy into MS Word or a Google Doc.

Fill in all the detail you like and format the text, check for spelling errors etc.

Now do you want the art gallery label to be on Paper or Card Stock (thick board) or Adhesive labels?

We have a few options for printing art gallery labels; paper or card stock, or a cheap and quick alternative, adhesive labels. Adhesive labels don’t look flashy but they get the job done quite quickly if time is not on your side.

Have a look at some of these examples on Amazon. I have done this plenty of times, printed using a good printer, nobody really notices.

If adhesive labels are not your thing and you want a pro looking art gallery label then you will need to pick what you want to use, Paper or Card Stock.

As you are most likely printing from home, forget the card stock and go for a nice thicker than normal paper.

Card stock is almost impossible to feed in a typical home printer (laser or inkjet) so lets forget about card stock for now.

My suggestion is to use the following paper over anything else. It is 105GSM paper 28lb bond. It is thick but not too thick to get stuck in an inkjet printer. A4 paper is 8-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches or 210 x 297 mm.

What Printer to use to print your art gallery labels?

If you are printing on a laser printer then you have a limited choice in the thickness of paper as some thicker papers won’t go through a laser printer. 

I found any paper that is 200GSM heavy or more will not get fed into the laser printer paper tray and will jam.

Inkjet printers on the other hand tend to cope ok with 200GSM but I can not vouch for your printer so please obtain a test paper and see if your own printer can cope. I can not speak for all brands.

Also, if you are using an inkjet printer then you need to ensure that the paper is not too glossy or the printer will struggle to grab and feed the paper.

If you are looking for a specific inkjet brand recommendation then don’t worry too much. I have found that most new inkjet printers sold in major stores are good enough to print an art gallery label.

Personally, I use two types of printers – an old Epson MFP (multi function printer) that is not only an inkjet printer but a scanner and copier and I think I paid about $79 for it about 10 years ago. 

Secondly I also use Fuji Xerox laser printer but I found it does not compare in quality with an inkjet. 

Not only that, laser printers tend to run hotter than an inkjet and the drum/roller warps the paper a little when its a little thicker than normal paper.

The other problem you have with laser printers is that if you are going to use adhesive label paper, the heat from the lazer printer will make some of the glue run and that is not a good thing.

Inkjet printers don’t get so hot so they are perfect for this application.

My recommendation: Stick with a cheap inkjet and you will be fine.

Just ensure your ink is nice and dark and the heads on the printer are clean so that the labels are printed in a nice crisp manner.

You may need to do a few test runs, so if you are printing on adhesive labels I suggest you do a trial run using plain paper just to make sure you are getting the desired results.

Once you are happy with the results then do a print on adhesive label paper.

Use a Guillotine to cut the art gallery label paper (if you can)

If you can afford it or if you have one around, please use a paper guillotine to cut the art gallery labels.

You will get a nice clean straight cut and it will also save you time.

Failing that, use good quality large scissors.

I have links below if you need to see some examples.

How to mount Art Gallery labels on a wall

Once again, the professionals such as those at the Powerhouse Museum recommend doing the following:

“Once you’ve printed your label, you can mount it on cardboard or a lightweight foam board known as Fome-Cor. 

You can do this with glue but it’ll stick even better if you use JAC paper, which is similar to double sided sticky tape but comes in sheets. 

Both Fome-Cor and JAC paper are available from art-supply shops and online.

Here are the steps

1. Use a ruler and pencil to lightly mark the outline of your label. 

2. Use a craft knife and a ruler to cut around the label, about 5mm outside the pencil mark 

3. Cut JAC paper to the same size as the paper above, then peel the protective backing off one side of the JAC paper. 

4. Apply the back of the label to the sticky side of the JAC paper, rubbing gently to remove air bubbles. 

5. Cut a piece of cardboard or Fome-Cor to the same size. 

6. Peel the protective backing off the other side of the JAC paper and apply it to the cardboard or Fome-Cor. 

7. Use a craft knife and ruler to trim the label along the pencil marks. 

You can attach your labels to walls or plinths using velcro, pins or blu-tac. 

Attach the ones that lie flat too as it will prevent them moving.”

You can purchase Fome-Cor and JAC paper on Amazon.

Additional resources:

A brief guide to labelling and graphics (Word doc)

https://royalsociety.org/-/media/summer-science-exhibition/2016/exhibitors-room/a-brief-guide-to-exhibit-labelling-and-graphics.docx?la=en-GB&hash=15D0E8E9CD899BAE22C3A0158E6528A0#:~:text=The%20absolute%20minimum%20type%20size,say%2036%20point%2C%20for%20headlines.

How to write and produce your exhibition labels (pdf)

https://maas.museum/app/uploads/2018/06/How-to-write-and-produce-your-exhibition-labels.pdf

Canva.com

I use Canva all the time for either creating great labels or brochures. I am not even an affiliate of Canva but I love them so much and happy to promote them.

There you go, hopefully the template and information provided to you has helped you to quickly create a simple yet effective art gallery label that looks professional.

If you have any questions or issues with the template provided, feel free to shoot me a note.

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