Tutorial: How to create your own Promotional Keyrings using Illustrator

This tutorial contains everything you need to know about creating your own, promotional keyrings on our opaque acrylics and woods

1. Download our templates

To start submitting your custom promotional keyring designs you'll need to download our design templates. Templates are available in various sizes ranging from 1" (25.4mm) up to 2" (50.8mm).

Click here to download our templates.

Once downloaded, open your required template size.

Each template comes with a working area where you will import or create your designs.

2. Understanding our Layers

When you open your chosen template you will notice that there are 7 layers in the Layers palette. (If you can't see the Layers palette simply hit F7 to make it appear).

Please don't rename exisiting layers or create additional layers as this will confuse our systems when processing your designs.
If you have used any effects / layer styles on any of your layers you MUST flatten them before saving. To do this simply right click on the applicable layer and select 'Rasterize Layer Style' from the menu.

'OFFICE USE ONLY' Layer
This layer contains our logo and a brief description of the template size that you are using. This layer is locked and should not be used.

'Artwork' Layer
This layer is where you should place your artwork. Please make sure that you choose the correct template size and that your artwork fits neatly inside of the blue borders.

'White' Layer
Adding a base layer of white to your charms will make your colours crisper and more vivid. Use this layer to tell us exactly where you would like this layer of white to go.

'Gloss Varnish' Layer
If you would like your charms to have a gloss finish as opposed to a matte finish, you can use this layer to show us exactly where you would like the your areas of gloss to be placed.

'CUT AREA' Layer
Use this layer to show us EXACTLY where you want your charms to be cut. We'll use this information to create a path which will then be used to create a cut line for our laser cutters.

Please note that we do not print right up to the edge with this particular method of charm manufacturing. It is therefore ESSENTIAL that you create a border of AT LEAST 1mm between your a

'Hole Template' Layer
Drag and drop the hole template from this layer onto your artwork to show us where you would like your hole to be placed.

The light blue, outer circle represents the loop size and the inner, dark blue circle represents the hole within the loop.

If you would like your loop to be the same colour as your border then please make sure that your border colour extends to the light blue outer circle of the loop template. (see 'Adding a Loop' in this tutorial for more details).

Loop Template' Layer
Drag and drop the loop template from this layer onto your artwork to show us where you would like your hole to be placed.

The dotted line represents the recommended distance that your hole should be placed INSIDE of your design.

3. Importing your design

Select the 'Artwork' layer in your layers palette and either draw your design directly into this layer or, simply copy (CTRL+C) and paste (CTRL+V) previously saved artwork.


 

We're using this black acrylic Whiskey keyring as an example.

4a. Adding a layer of white

To guarantee bright and crisp colours for your artwork, you will need to add a white base layer to your designs.

This white layer will sit behind your artwork and will ensure that the colours of your charms are consistent, regardless of what colour acrylic you choose.

Please note that we ask that you create this white layer for ALL of your acrylic charm designs, even white.

An additional benefit of creating your own white base layer is that you can let us know EXACTLY where you would like us to print your white areas. This allows customers to add additional features to their designs, such as transparencies on our clear acrylics, as well as reducing any areas of white creeping around the edges of your artwork.

To create your white base layer simply copy your artwork from the 'Artwork' layer and paste it into the 'White' layer using the 'Paste in Front' command CTRL + F.

Use the 'Image Trace' command (if your design is a bitmap) or the 'Unite' function from the 'Pathfinder' palette (if your design is a vector) to create a silhouette version of your 'Artwork' layer.

Give this silhouette a 100% Cyan fill with no stroke.

5b. Reducing white halos

Some of our customers like to inset (shrink) their white layer by 1 or 2 pixels so that there is no white ink visible around the edge of their artwork.

 To do this, simply select the cyan object, then go to Object > Path > Offset Path and offset the path by -0.1mm or -0.2mm (make sure there the number is a minus number or this will result in expanding the object)


 

Once you have your smaller duplicate cyan object, you can delete the larger one.

4B. TRANSPARENCIES

The 'White' layer can also be used to create areas where you don't want a white base. This effect works especially well on our clear acrylics where this feature can be used to create transparencies (areas with no ink or areas with coloured ink with no white ink behind it).

To create a transparent area, simply delete any areas of your white base layer that you don't want, to achieve your desired effect.

5A. WORKING WITH GLOSS VARNISH

You can choose to have a gloss or matte finish to your designs by selecting the appropriate drop down option on our website when placing your orders.

If you choose 'Gloss' as your option, then you will need to create an additional layer, similar to how you created your white layer in step 4a of this tutorial.

Select the 'Gloss' layer in the layers palette. Copy your artwork from the 'Artwork' layer and paste it into the 'Gloss Varnish' layer using the 'Paste in Front' command CTRL + F.


Give this silhouette a 50% Black fill with no stroke.

5B. SPOT GLOSS VARNISH

As well as being able to add gloss varnish to your entire design, you also have the option to limit this to certain areas, in effect highlighting particular elements of your design. Handy for creating textures like water droplets or snakeskin.

To do this, simply delete any unwanted parts of the grey silhouette that you created in step 5a. or create a custom silhouette based on the areas of your design that you would like to highlight.

6a. Add a border / cut line - Important!

You can now decide on the thickness of your border, which will be used as a cut line. It is ESSENTIAL that you make this border AT LEAST 1mm wider than your artwork. Failure to do so can cause your printed design to lift along the cut edge as a result of the heat generated by the laser. A 1mm border will prevent this from happening.

It is essential that you have a border between your artwork and the cut line of your charm to ensure the printed charms durability. Please use the 'Cut Line' layer to show us EXACTLY how wide you would like this border as we WILL use this information to create your cut line and cut out your charm. Failure to create a 1mm border between your artwork and cut line will result in your printed design lifting along the cut edge due to the heat of the laser and is done so entirely at your own risk.

Remember that our lasers will remove approximately 0.15mm of acrylic from all sides of your charms when cutting. This is called kerf (thickness of the laser beam). To do this, first select all of the elements on your 'ARTWORK' layer, copy them (CTRL+C) and then use the 'Paste in Front' command (CTRL+F) to paste them onto your 'CUT AREA' layer.

Make sure that all of the elements on the 'CUT AREA' layer are selected and hit the 'Unite' button in the 'Pathfinder' window. This will merge all elements together to create one shape, which will be used to create your cutline.
 


 

Give the merged shape a 0.01mm outline with the following colour values R:255 G:0 :B0 and NO fill.

6b. Add a hole

If you would like a hole in your design you can let us know exactly where you would like this by dragging and dropping the hole template from the 'Hole' Layer, into position on your design.

The solid inner circle represents the hole and the dotted outer circle represents the recommended distance that your hole should be placed INSIDE of your design.

Please don't merge the hole template with your design as we will need to remove this before printing so that it's not visible on your finished product.

6c. Add a loop

If you would like a loop instead of a hole, you can let us know exactly where you would like this by dragging and dropping the loop template from the 'Loop' Layer, into position on your design.

The light blue, outer circle represents the loop size and the inner, dark blue circle represents the hole within the loop.

Please don't merge the loop template with your design as we will need to remove this before printing so that it's not visible on your finished product.

7. Submission checklist

Congratulations, you've finished creating your custom charm designs! All you have to do now is check the following before submission...
- Your white base layer is 100% Cyan and located on the 'White' Layer (Step 4)
- Your gloss varnish layer is 50% Black and located on the 'Gloss' layer (Step 5a.)
- The hole and loop layers have NOT been grouped or merged with the rest of your design.
- Your border is AT LEAST 1mm thick.
- All text has been converted to outlines.
- Your charm template contains 1 charm only. Additional charms will be sent separately.

8. Saving your work

To save your design follow these simple steps...

File > Save As > Illustrator(*Ai). Please make sure your file name includes your name, order number & charm number ie. - ‘JoeBloggs_123456_charm1.Ai’

Email your designs along with your order number to info [at] zapcreatives.com