Labels are an effective tool you can use to increase sales because it’s one of the first things that will draw consumers to your product. This introduction will walk you through some of the latest industry trends that are ideal for businesses that sell products in brick-and-mortar stores or e-commerce spaces. Some of the topics in this guide will include:
- Methods of Custom Label Printing
- Paper vs. Film Label Materials
- Printed Label Uses/Characteristics
- Types of Label Finishes
- Types of Label Liners
- Custom Printed Label Types
- Custom Labels FAQ
Special Thanks to Online Labels & Consolidated Label for help with this guide.
Methods of Custom Label Printing
There are a few methods for label printing to discuss. Most custom labels found on products in a typical grocery store are printed in mass quantity by a label manufacturer who specializes in huge runs. They are usually purchased in quantities of 1,000 to 1,000,000, this is probably flexographic or offset printing. But what if you had a smaller product line? Luckily, there is a cost effective short-run option with digital printing. Also, don’t forget about custom shrink sleeves, a popular option for custom labeling.
Flexographic Label Printing – Flexography is a roll-feed printing process that is commonly used in printing high volumes and can print on a variety of substrates. A flexo press uses printing plates made of thin sheets of flexible polymer with laser engravings of your label design. The plates are wrapped around cylinders/rollers and installed on a press where they are coated with ink. Each color requires it’s own plate. As the substrate moves through the press, a different color or coating is applied. Drying units between the printing areas help ensure that each color of ink is fully dried using hot air or ultraviolet light.
Digital Label Printing – Digital printing is a cost-effective method for printing custom labels with vivid graphics, crisp text, and vivid colors. Because it’s best suited for smaller orders of 10,000 custom labels or less, digital printing is less labor-intensive and produces less setup waste than flexographic printing. Digital printing produces vibrant high-quality labels that can be used for practically any product or project. Unlike flexographic presses that use polymer plates to transfer ink onto materials, digital presses use dots of ink to recreate an image from a digital file. Consequently, the process is very similar to how your desktop printer works. If you’re new to custom labels or considering making the switch from flexographic labels to digital labels, there are generally 5 advantages to doing so. Digitally printing your short run labels produces a quicker turn-around, high-quality labels, lower pricing, and due to the lower pricing, more design flexibility.
Traditional printing methods – like flexographic and offset – are losing their market share to digital printing due to its ability to produce high quality, cost-effective labels in smaller quantities. Digital label presses use similar processes as personal inkjet printers where the printed image is created from a digital file using dots of ink. Since plates aren’t required for digital printing, product owners can have smaller label quantities (known as ‘short run labels’), multiple designs, or variable data without having to pay for things like printing plates and additional setup fees.
Digital printing fits well with market segmentation because it allows product owners an economical solution for printing smaller label quantities for niche markets. There are different ways consumers can be targeted through labels and packaging. Design is an important consideration but the information presented on the label is also important in the purchasing decision since more consumers are reading labels now than ever before for various reasons: health, environmental, ethical practices, etc. Labels can offer other things beyond design and information, as the list below shows. Ways to target consumers with digitally printed labels:
- Unique designs
- Multiple languages
- Regional promotions
- QR codes
- Personalized messages (e.g. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke with” campaign)
Digital printing’s capability to print multiple label versions and variable data gives product owners the advantage of tailoring their labels for any product they have. As markets move towards segmentation to better serve consumer niches, digital printing will be key for achieving sales goals.
Digital labels offer a wide range of benefits above and beyond those of other labels, including:
- High resolution
- Crisp type and superb clarity
- Photographic-quality imagery
- Quick turnaround
- Reduced cost per unit for short-to-medium-size runs
Due to the accuracy and precision of the latest digital printing technologies, each digital label in a print run is absolutely consistent — from first to last.
Paper vs. Film Label Materials
When it comes to paper and film, the two biggest differences is cost and performance. Paper often has a lower price per label which makes it an attractive option for those with tight budgets, however, film is more durable and better suited for challenging applications. That doesn’t mean that paper can’t be durable, but in comparison to film, its performance isn’t as strong. Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages – some product owners may find that the quality and cost of paper is a better fit for their project. Other product owners might need resilient labels for products that will encounter moisture, friction, abrasion, constant handling, chemical exposure, etc. Below is a comparison table of paper and film materials so you can get a better idea on how the materials stack up to each other.
Paper Label Materials
Less lustrous than film. However, a finish can add protection & sheen. Popular paper stock includes glossy white, metalized silver, matte. Durable for most indoor applications. A laminate finish is recommended to provide moisture & scuff resistance. Paper based labels are inexpensive and easy-to-use, but less durable than other products. They are typically designed for one-time use and may be difficult to remove from the material to which they are attached.
Film Label Materials
Available in white, clear, & foil. White underprinting is typically done for clear and foil labels to make artwork opaque. Moisture & abrasion resistant. Performs well with most indoor applications & some outdoor. A laminate finish increases durability. Both materials can be printed on flexographic and digital presses, and can be customized through additional materials and print processes. Whether a product owner should choose paper or film depends on the project’s budget, label design and end use of product. The application method can also be a consideration when deciding on materials; for example, clear labels requires machine application to prevent bubbling so the labels have a smooth appearance.
Both materials can be printed on flexographic and digital presses, and can be customized through additional materials and print processes. Whether a product owner should choose paper or film depends on the project’s budget, label design and end use of product. The application method can also be a consideration when deciding on materials; for example, clear labels requires machine application to prevent bubbling so the labels have a smooth appearance.
Printed Label Uses/Characteristics
Label materials like foil, clear, and matte are often used to enhance packaging and attract attention. Although these materials tend to have a higher price per label than other labels,
their quality, appearance, and durability are perfect for product owners who are ready to take their product to the next level. There are a variety of materials used in label and printing applications. Each material has a unique application as well as advantages and disadvantages.
Plastic or Film Labels – labels incorporate one or more plastic layers, or consist of plastic film or sheets that can be clear or colored, printed or plain. They can be single-layer or multilayered by combining them with other materials such as aluminum and paper. Plastics come in two general categories
- Thermoplastics become easier to mold and shape when they are hot, and melt at a specific temperature.
- Thermosets are crosslinked materials that do not melt.
Foil Labels – also known as “metallic labels”, are a quick and effective way to grab shoppers’ attention because of its light-catching shine. According to a Nielsen NeuroFocus study 4 (commissioned by AR Metalizing), there are several perceptions consumers have when they see foil labels. Product owners can take advantage of these perceptions to positively influence purchase decisions. The study tested and compared metalized silver paper to white paper by measuring three “CORE” brain responses (Attention, Emotion, and Memory) to three keywords (Higher Quality, Valuable, and Distinctive). The following insights were found:
- Consumers were more likely to consider metallic labels “distinctive” and “higher quality” over non-metallic labels
- Displaying graphics and branding information are particularly effective on metallic labels
Although the study focused on metalized silver paper, the findings can be applied to other types of foil and metallic labels. Below are different methods product owners can use to achieve a shiny label look.
Clear Labels – are a popular label look since they can blend into all types of container for a ‘no label look.’ When paired with a clear container, clear labels can showcase a product’s color or ingredients. The benefits of clear labels make them a cost-effective alternative to printing directly onto containers while achieving the same effect. Clear labels are used in many markets, however, they’re often used in food, beverage, bath, and beauty. The benefits of clear labels include:
- Creates a ‘no label look’
- Accentuates bold colors
- Highlights product contents
- Moisture and tear resistant
- Offers unique design opportunities
Since clear labels are printed on film, they’re more durable than paper labels which makes them perfect for products that will face moisture, condensation, abrasion, and product contents. In addition to their durability, clear labels are also flexible with the artwork and effects that can be printed. ‘White underprinting,’ a process that lays white ink down before other colored inks, is typically done to ensure that the label artwork is opaque and colors pop. If you would like transparent colors as part of your design, then you can skip white underprinting altogether. Creatively placed cutouts are another way to add visual interests to clear labels because they incorporate the product into the label artwork. Another label trend that has been popping up is mixed finishes. Most labels are all glossy or matte – but more brands are beginning to use both finishes on a label to create a striking look.
Waterproof Labels – intended for outdoor use need to be durable and have the ability to hold up to a wide variety of different weather conditions. Vinyl and polyester are top material choices for outdoor conditions. The matte finish on the vinyl media helps reduce glare, while the polyester’s glossy finish creates a sharp, shiny image. Bumper stickers are, typically, made of vinyl. Often outdoor labels or industrial labels require a UL listing. UL recognition ensures that a device, system or material has been tested and certified by this private organization to meet specific safety standards. The three primary tests to determine film and adhesive performance are a heat age test, outdoor weather ability, and exposure to various solutions.
Onlinelabels.com did a variety of surveys that concluded the majority of premium label materials (clear, metallic, & glossy) outperformed standard white matte label materials and it should justify the difference in price for products on the shelf and encourage them to upgrade to premium label materials.
Types of Label Finishes
Label finishes refer to the physical appearance and texture of a label. There are several types of label finishes that can be used, each with its own unique properties and characteristics. Some common types of label finishes include glossy, matte, and foil.
Glossy Label Finishes
A glossy label finish has a shiny, reflective surface. It is achieved by applying a glossy coating to the label material. Glossy labels are often used for product packaging because they can make the labels more attractive and eye-catching. They are also commonly used for promotional and marketing materials because of their visual appeal.
One of the main advantages of glossy labels is that they can make the colors on the label appear more vibrant and bright. This is because the glossy coating reflects light, which enhances the appearance of the colors. However, one potential disadvantage of glossy labels is that they may show fingerprints or smudges more easily than other types of label finishes.
Matte Label Finishes
A matte label finish has a non-reflective, dull surface. It is achieved by applying a matte coating to the label material. Matte labels are often used for product packaging because they can give the labels a more professional and sophisticated look. They are also commonly used for labels that will be applied to products that are used outdoors, such as tools or equipment, because the matte finish is more resistant to fading and scratching.
One of the main advantages of matte labels is that they are less prone to showing fingerprints and smudges than glossy labels. They are also easier to read in bright light because they do not reflect light like glossy labels do. However, one potential disadvantage of matte labels is that they may not make the colors on the label appear as vibrant as they would with a glossy finish.
Foil Label Finishes
A foil label finish involves applying a thin layer of foil to the label material. Foil finishes can be either glossy or matte, depending on the type of foil used. Foil finishes are often used for product packaging and promotional materials because they can add a level of sophistication and luxury to the label.
One of the main advantages of foil finishes is that they can add a metallic or shimmering effect to the label, which can be very eye-catching. They are also durable and resistant to fading and scratching. However, foil finishes can be more expensive to produce than other types of label finishes, and they may not be suitable for all types of labels.
Types of Label Liners
Label liners are materials that are used to support and protect labels during the printing and application process. There are several types of liners that can be used, each with its own unique characteristics. Some common types of label liners include paper, film, and silicone.
Paper Label Liners
Paper liners are the most common type of liner and are made from thin sheets of paper. They are inexpensive, easy to work with, and provide good support for most label types. Paper liners are also environmentally friendly and can be recycled or repurposed. However, they may not be as durable as other types of label liners and may not be suitable for use in harsh environments or labels that may get heavy wear and tear.
Film Label Liners
Film liners are made from thin sheets of plastic film and are more durable and resistant to moisture and chemicals than paper liners. They are often used for labels that will be applied to products that will be exposed to harsh environments, such as outdoor products or products that will be used in industrial or manufacturing settings. Film liners are also more resistant to tearing and scratching than paper liners, which makes them a good choice for labels that will be subjected to heavy wear and tear. However, film liners can be more expensive to produce than paper liners and may not be as environmentally friendly.
Silicone Label Liners
Silicone liners are made from thin sheets of silicone rubber and are the most durable type of label liner. They are resistant to moisture, chemicals, and extreme temperatures, which makes them ideal for use in harsh environments or for labels that will be subjected to heavy wear and tear. Silicone liners are also resistant to tearing and scratching and can provide good adhesion to a variety of surfaces. However, silicone liners can be more expensive to produce than paper or film liners and may not be suitable for all types of labels.
In conclusion, there are several types of label liners to choose from, each with its own unique properties and characteristics. Paper liners are inexpensive and environmentally friendly, film liners are durable and resistant to moisture and chemicals, and silicone liners are the most durable and resistant to extreme temperatures and harsh environments. Consider the specific needs and requirements of your labels when deciding which type of liner to use.
Custom Printed Label Types
Label sheets, rolls, and die-cut stickers are commonly used for a variety of applications such as product labeling, packaging, and identification. Sheets are typically made of paper or vinyl and come in a flat format, with multiple labels per sheet. Rolls are made of the same materials as sheets and are presented in a continuous, wound format. Die-cut stickers are also made of paper or vinyl, but they are cut into specific shapes or sizes and do not have any excess material around the edges. Each type of label has its own unique benefits and is suitable for different types of applications.
Custom Labels on Sheets
Custom labels on sheets can be printed with a wide range of information, including text, barcodes, and images, and can be cut into a variety of shapes and sizes to fit the specific needs of the user. Custom label sheets are often used for labeling products, organizing files, or labeling containers in a variety of settings, including offices, warehouses, and retail stores. They are often made from high-quality materials, such as paper or plastic, which are resistant to water, tearing, and fading. This makes them suitable for use in a variety of environments, including outdoor settings.
Custom Label on Rolls
Custom labels on rolls are a convenient and efficient solution for high-volume labeling applications. They are customized to meet specific needs and can be printed with a wide range of information, including text, barcodes, and images. Custom labels on rolls are often used in industrial or commercial settings, such as warehouses, shipping facilities, and manufacturing plants, for purposes such as labeling products, tracking inventory, and labeling containers.
Custom Die-Cut Stickers
Die-cut stickers are a type of label that is cut into specific shapes or sizes using a die. They are often used for branding or promotional purposes because of their unique shapes and eye-catching designs. Die-cut stickers can be made from a variety of materials, including paper, vinyl, or plastic, and are typically printed digitally or on an offset printing press. Die-cut stickers are suitable for use in a variety of settings, including offices, retail stores, and event venues, and can be customized to meet specific needs in terms of shape, size, and design.
Your product isn’t only fighting for attention on store shelves – it’s competing with numerous brands online too. That’s where customizing your labels can help you increase packaging appeal so customers are drawn to buy your product. Not only that, custom labels can make your brand more memorable to consumers which comes in handy when they’re making a purchase decision. In this white paper, we’ve shown you a variety of label trends, materials, and design opportunities to help you with creating labels that boosts your sales and marketing strategy.
We highly recommend having a plan before buying custom labels so you don’t end up wasting resources. Research and trusted partnerships are key to the label process to ensure that your custom labels not only look good, but perform optimally throughout the product’s lifespan from the moment it leaves your facility until they reach customers. Open lines of communication with your vendors and internal team will also increase your chances of creating successful labels.
Custom Labels FAQ
Here are a few frequently asked questions on custom printed labels. Special thanks to Online Labels® for helping with a few of their custom labels product line questions and answers.
Is it cheaper to print your own labels or buy them?
The cost of printing your own labels versus buying them will depend on a variety of factors, such as the type of label you need, the materials you use, and the volume of labels you need. In general, printing your own labels can be more cost-effective if you only need a small number of labels and have access to the necessary equipment and materials. On the other hand, buying labels from a manufacturer or supplier may be more cost-effective if you need a large quantity of labels, as mass production often results in lower unit costs.
It’s also important to consider the time and effort required to print your own labels. If you don’t have the necessary equipment or experience, it can be time-consuming and challenging to print your own labels. In these cases, buying labels from a professional may be a more efficient and cost-effective option.
Ultimately, the decision to print your own labels or buy them will depend on your specific needs and resources. It may be worth comparing the costs and benefits of both options before making a decision.
How much do custom printed labels cost?
The cost of custom printed labels will depend on a variety of factors, including the size and shape of the label, the materials used, the quantity needed, and the complexity of the design.
In general, the cost of custom printed labels can range from a few cents to several dollars per label, depending on the specifics of your order. For example, a small, simple, black and white label on standard paper may cost only a few cents per label, while a large, full-color label on high-quality vinyl with a complex design could cost several dollars per label.
The best way to get an accurate cost estimate for your custom printed labels is to request a quote from a manufacturer or supplier. They can provide you with a detailed breakdown of the costs based on your specific needs and requirements. It may also be helpful to get quotes from multiple manufacturers or suppliers to compare prices and find the best option for your budget.
Is it cheaper to print labels at home or use a custom label printer?
Whether it is cheaper to print labels at home or use a custom label printer will depend on the materials you use, and the number of labels you require. In general, printing labels at home can be more cost-effective if you only need a small number of labels and have access to the necessary equipment and materials. On the other hand, using a custom label printer may be more cost-effective if you need a large quantity of labels, as mass production often results in lower unit costs.
It’s also important to consider the time and effort required to print labels at home. If you don’t have the necessary equipment or experience, it can be time-consuming and challenging to print your own labels. In these cases, using a professional label printer may be a more efficient and cost-effective option.
Ultimately, the decision to print labels at home or use a custom label printer will depend on your specific needs and resources. It may be worth comparing the costs and benefits of both options before making a decision.
Sources: Online Labels, Consolidated Label
Further Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Blank Labels, The Ultimate Guide to Shrink Sleeve Labels
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