Labels 101 basic label information to be used as a guide. There are exceptions to every rule!

 
Measurements
  • Width of label is usually stated first – then height
  • 1/16” of liner is usually exposed on left and right edges of a die cut label
  • 3/8” wide pinhole margins on pinfeed labels
  • 5/32” diameter holes for pinfeed printer tractors
  • 1/8” horizontal space between thermal labels
  • 1/8” vertical space between thermal labels
  • 1/16” horizontal space between pinfeed labels
  • 1/10” vertical space between pinfeed labels
  • Distance from top of one label to top of the next label is called “label repeat”
 
General Rules
  •  Fanfolded labels should have waste removed between labels at the fold.
  • There will be a white line on butt cut labels when color bleeds off the top and bottom of the label.
  • Fine type should not be printed using 4 color process – the best print quality is achieved by printing any solid type with a plate separate from the process printing.
  • Adhesives typically don’t adhere well to water, frost, dust, wax or oil.
  • Removable and cold temp adhesives are “softer” so will have more tendency to flow and ooze than permanent adhesives.
  • Labels that will be automatically applied require extra attention to die cutting.

        See Labels – Continuing Education section for more details.

 Print Methods
Common ways that labels are printed.
  • Digital – Computer to print – used often for short runs
  • Flexo – Most common print method for label manufacturing – uses flexible polymer plates that wrap around cylinders so print lengths can range from 1/8” to 24” or more on the same press
  • Offset – More commonly used for forms than labels – uses metal plates and print lengths are fixed by the size of the press
  • Screen – Often used for printing that must be durable for extended use – plates have pinpoint openings that allow thick ink to be squeeged through onto a label
 
Inks
  • Ink colors are specified using the Pantone Matching System® numbers.
  • Pantone numbers have suffixes of C or U to designate the color on a Coated or Uncoated material because the surface of the label will affect the color. 
  • There can be quite a difference in appearance between a specific PMS number printed on coated vs uncoated material.
  • Thermal transfer paper is coated but not shiny so neither the coated nor uncoated PMS colors accurately simulate color on TT paper.
  • It is possible to use special inks for –
    • extra strong colors
    • laser toner receptivity
    • thermal ribbon receptivity
    • heat resistance if a direct thermal image will be imprinted in the ink area
  • Fluorescent and radiant refer to PMS801 through PMS814 colors.
    • These are just bright, eye-catching colors, they do not glow.
    • Fluorescent/radiant inks are double the cost of other ink colors.
    • Fluorescent inks fade faster than fluorescent material
 
Varnishes
  • Varnish can be used to protect the printing and the label. It is important to know what you want protection from – scuffing, grease or chemical resistance, etc... There are many special formulas for specific protection needs.

See Labels – Continuing Education section for more details.

 
Rolls
  • Label cores are made of unbleached (brown) paper fibers and have 1/8” thick “walls”.
  • Inside dimension (ID) refers to the opening of the core that will fit over a spindle. 
  • Outside dimension (OD) refers to the diameter of the full roll of labels.  This is important when the labels will be used on a printer or applicating equipment.
  • Common core IDs are 3” and 1”.
  • Rolls of labels that will be hand applied are usually provided with 500 or 1,000 labels per roll.
  • Rolls of labels can be provided without cores. This is not recommended when labels will be used on printers or equipment.
  • Labels are usually attached to cores using glue or tape. 
  • It is possible to attach labels to a core so that the last label releases from the core cleanly so that it is usable.
  • Wind directions are specified using the drawing number on an industry standard wind direction chart. See Label Guides in this same drop down menu.
 
Label Papers
  • Uncoated – open, porous surface, smudge-resistant, absorbs ink unevenly, very dull or matte finish. Not good if there are screens in the printed image.   
  • Coated – may be matte, semi-gloss, gloss or high gloss coating, does not absorb inks readily
    • Any handwritten ink must be air dried to avoid smearing.
  • Gloss – shiny surface coating on paper, may be semi-gloss or high gloss
    • Some brand names are Kromekote, Xtragloss
  • Thermal transfer – a special matte coating is applied to the surface of paper to improve ribbon anchorage
  • Direct thermal – special dyes that are heat activated are applied to the surface of paper. A protective coating may be applied over the dye to extend the usable (readable) life of the label. 
  • Laser paper – may be uncoated, coated, matte, semi-gloss or high gloss. 
 
Label Films       
  • Vinyl – the first film used for labels – often replaced by less costly films
  • Polypropylene – BOPP – usually the least expensive film used for labels
  • Polyester – PET – withstands high heat, tear resistant – very costly

See Labels – Continuing Education section for more details.

       
Adhesives
  • Permanent – used when a label is not expected to be taken off after application
    • Some variations allow time to reposition a label within minutes after the initial application without affecting the ultimate bond.
    • Broad selection of adhesives dependent upon surface to which the label will be applied.
  • Removable – used when a label will be taken off at some time after application
    • Broad selection of adhesive dependent upon surface to which the label will be applied and the length of time between application and removal.
    • Repositionable – used when a label will be applied, removed and reapplied.
    • Ultra-removable – used when it is imperative that the label remove cleanly and completely with no adhesive residue.  
  • All-temp – used whenever the surface to which the label is applied will be within a broad range of temperature.
  • Expected to perform as a permanent adhesive
  • Some adhesives in this category may perform as removables at room temp.
  • Cold temperature – used whenever the surface to which the label is applied is colder than 40oF. 
    • More recently referred to as all-temp adhesive.
  • Freezer  - used whenever the surface to which the label is applied is colder than 0oF.
    • Freezer requirements are now often fulfilled using an all-temp adhesive.
  • Pattern – refers to any ungummed area on a label, most often only in the lineal direction.
  • Washaway/Dissolvable adhesives – adhesive will release completely from application surface using just a hot water wash.
  • Repulpable – adhesive that can be put back through the papermaking process. This is very special. Most adhesives leave sticky balls if they go back into the paper “broke”.
  • Recyclable – adhesive that allows the label to be reprocessed into similar material. This is very special and must be carefully selected.
        See Labels – Continuing Education section for more details.
Liners
  • 40# or 2.5 mil – paper – most common - used for roll labels and thermal labels.
  • 50# or 3.0 mil - paper – very common - on some film labels, and all pinfeed labels. 
  • 100# - paper – uncommonly used when a sheet label must layflat but will not be imprinted through a printer.
 
Printers 
  • Direct thermal – computer printer that generates an image on a label using heat that activates a coating on the label surface
  • Dot matrix – (old technology) creates an image when pins strike a ribbon causing ink to transfer to the label surface – usually requires pinfeed margins on labels
  • Ink jet – image is created by liquid ink droplets on the label surface
  • Laser – continuous – powder-like toner is fused onto a label surface, labels generally need pinfeed margins
  • Laser – sheetfed – powder-like toner is fused onto a label surface, labels are usually 8 1/2” x 11” but can be other sizes
  • Thermal transfer – image is created when heat melts wax or resin from a ribbon onto a label
 
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