The art of 3D packaging can be a confusing prospect to the uninitiated. Complex folding and die cuts can turn a simple box into a 3D maze that would have Escher scratching the back of his head with his foot. Like the dark art of imposition, a wrong turn can leave you with upside-down graphics or printing on the wrong side of the box.
Coming from a 3D background, rather than a print background, I was disappointed to find that only basic models can be made. Anything more complex than a simple box – as long as there’s no curved surfaces – would require the model to be designed in a 3D application and imported into Wrapture. This is not a terrible hardship – packaging tends to be designed like this currently – but if it was part of Wrapture, it would make the workflow much more simple.
Once the DXF or EPS file is imported from the 2D or 3D application, you can start laying out the graphics. Much like QuarkXPress, Wrapture is a place to pull together pre-prepared components of the whole design. The images may come from Illustrator or Photoshop, and a 3D package supplies the bones on which you dress your final product. What Wrapture offers is the ability to see what the final 3D model will look like.
The Mockup window shows what the product will look like after the folds and cuts have been done, and the printing is finished. Like a QuickTime VR window, you can grab it and spin it around to view at any angle. This will show up any wonky graphics or unfolded creases. Unfolded creases can cause huge problems when the die is cut and stamped. If your only physical mock-up was hand folded it may be obvious where a crease should go, so you might just put the crease in. If it isn’t stamped, then the mistake could make its way to the printers before it’s found.
There are a number of features that users will almost immediately want when they start using Wrapture – unfortunately, this version is missing some. The first and most amazing omission is the ability to include curved surfaces. I’m not talking about complex curved and sculptured chocolate boxes, or even bags of cement. Wrapture can’t even model a can of beans. I know the vast majority of packaging is simple and boxy, but bottle and tin labels are also common. They may not require any folding, but labels are packaging and I would’ve expected Wrapture to be able to do them.
When paper is folded it’s not always a razor sharp edge. Imagine the difference between a tissue box and a box for a refrigerator. The weight of the material will differ greatly, and folds will act differently. There’s no setting for the type of material used; so all Wrapture folds are razor sharp.
The structure of the box is made up of five different line types. Each line is either a Cut, Fold, Perforation, Partial Cut or Reverse Partial cut. It’s possible to do complex cut-outs, but the perforation lines are difficult to see in the Mockup window. This means there’s still a danger that perforation problems could go unnoticed.
A major piece of the Wrapture package is the ability to output QTVR files to send to clients for approval. The file size can be adjusted by the detailed settings in the Save dialog box.
The one eye-popping feature that I haven’t mentioned yet is the price tag. At £4,757, Wrapture is aimed at the demanding high-volume time-critical package-design guru. This is a high price to pay for a product that in many ways isn’t finished yet. The FAQ on the Quark Web site lists a number of features expected in future versions, including curved surfaces, animated-folding movies and embossing. To my mind these features should have been there before the release of version 1.0.
In a quick survey of package designers, the general feeling was that something like this has no business costing almost five grand. It works more like an XPress plug-in. It may be different for somebody at Unilever who cranks out washing-powder boxes on a daily basis, but this is a very small market for Quark to aim at. Version 2.0 sounds like it might be a really useful tool. If the price were to shrink to under £1,000, I would probably recommend it. In its current state, though, it’s only for enthusiastic early adopters with very deep pockets.