In the past year, I've worked quite a bit on food packaging illustration. Most of my clients are in the US--where I'm based--with a few also in the UK. Depending on the client brief and on my mood, I either start with hand drawn elements, or go straight to Photoshop.
If I decide to hand draw my initial design, I will sketch a variety of elements with a Sakura Pigma Micron pen, for thin clean lines, or with a Pentel Brush Pen, if I want thicker, "brushier" lines. These days I'm sketching in a Strathmore sketchbook: I like the thick cream colored pages, and the way the ink absorbs quickly.
Here are two examples of drawings I created for a pastry pattern last year, and for a dried fruit company logo:
Once I have a selection of drawings to work with, I scan them into Photoshop, clean them up a little if necessary, and add detail, shading and color digitally. I then work on the background, using layers and textures to make the illustration more interesting. This is one version of the finished pastry pattern:
Food packaging illustration: using vectors
More and more often I start straight in Photoshop, using vectors. I like the crisp look this gives my images, and it enables me to modify the design quickly and easily if the client asks for changes. Once the vectors are created, I add detail, shading and color with Kyle Webster's Photoshop brushes, or with Ps brushes that I've created myself. I like to alternate the painting style with each new illustration: pastel, watercolor, oil, gouache, etc.
These are two recent food packaging illustration examples, and you can see more on my TDAC page.
In this salad greens illustration, I repeated the leaf outlines in a neutral color in the background to echo the full-color vegetables in the foreground.