The Big Collection of Apothecary Inspiration

By LaurenMarie

Lately I’ve been so inspired by the apothecary style design work out there. I’ve collected some links and package examples to share some of my inspiration with you. I hope you find them equally enjoyable!

Around the Web

Apothecary Bottles

Herb Bottles

‘IDo’ It Yourself found these free printable labels from Eat.Drink.Chic. The images above are just a taste of what you’ll find!

Brock Ray shared his photos from the National Museum of American History.

National Museum of American History Apothecary Display

Boots Original was featured on The Dieline a while back.

Boots Original

Finally, Beast Pieces did this lovely promo piece for Shine Advertising and shared it last month.

Shine North Box

C.O. Bigelow

C.O. Bigelow claims the title of “the oldest apothecary in America” and it’s probably true! They’ve been in business since 1838 in New York. Check out I Love Bigelow, too, for more apothecary style inspiration.


Bigelow Dermabrasion & Chapped Cleanser

Bigelow Premium Collection

Grether's Pastilles


Flickr is without a doubt a fantastic place to find inspiration. Each image below is linked to its respective Flickr page.

Medicine Boxes

Apothecary Bottles

Apothecary Elixirs

Beauty Balm


Apothecary Labels

Spirit of Nitre

Throat Beauty

And then there’s that beauty of a book, The Handy Book of Artistic Printing. Ellie from Mint (the design blog) recently shared pictures of her copy. Amazon has this book for $26, well worth it in my opinion, if you’re into this style at all. I saw it in person and it really is gorgeous! The outside does have a gold foil on it, but none of the inside images have any foil or metallic ink from what I remember seeing (even though in some of the pictures it does look that way).

As you flip through the book, notice how the printers were always trying to break the bounds of their medium through curved text and images that made it look like pins or nails were holding a note on the page. It really reminded me of what web designers are trying to do now. How funny, huh? Talk about history repeating itself!

The Handy Book of Artistic Printing

The Handy Book of Artistic Printing - sample

The Handy Book of Artistic Printing - sample

Incorporating the Style into Your Designs

So what are some design elements we can pick up from these packages?

Color Palette

I took a look at all of the sample images I’d collected and decided these were the most common colors I saw. I’ve left the label colors muted, even though some of that might have been caused by age. But that’s the point, right? These are supposed to look old!

The liquids were fun—and here’s where the bright colors come in! Green, red and brown were the most common colors.

Finally, there are the bottles. Most of them were clear, lightly tinted green or brown, but then there’s also that signature bright blue (like in the Bigelow Premium collection above).

Apothecary Color Palette

Type Treatments

Many of the original labels used some form of Copperplate, and for the modern packages, Algerian seems to be a popular choice. There was also extensive use of slab serifs, mainly typewriter style fonts, in both the old and new labels.

Tuscan serifs (the really fancy serifs, check out the link) were also popular in the vintage packaging, but I didn’t see much use of them in modern stuff. It was also interesting that some modern examples use engraved text, though their ancestors (from what I saw) do not. I think the engraved fonts work though. Hand-tooled fonts would also fit the period I think.

Text on a curve was very popular, too, and I think it was a pride thing for the printers of the time (they didn’t have the Type on a Path Tool!).

Hard shadows behind the text was a popular style back then and now, as is using a red accent color for some of the important information on the label. All caps or small caps were and are also quite common.

  • Copperplate
  • Algerian
  • Slab Serifs (like the typewriter fonts)
  • Tuscan serifs (really fancy serifs)
  • Engraved and hand-tooled fonts
  • Text on a curve
  • Hard shadows
  • Red accent color
  • Caps or Small Caps


Because these old packages were printed on letterpresses, they often used engraved images with lines for shading. Ribbons or banners were (are) quite popular, as was (and is) placing text inside the ribbon. Artists and printers tried to dress up the labels as much as possible with lines, decorative borders and filigree on the letters. Dividers between text was also common; sometimes it was a simple as a line, other times it was a fancier ornament.

  • Ribbons/sashes
  • Simple lines for decoration
  • Decorative borders
  • Filigree
  • Dividers – sometimes just a line, sometimes decorative

What else do you notice as you look at the images above? Have you ever studied this time period and picked up a useful or interesting tidbit about design at that time? Share it in the comments!

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