Archive for the ‘Labels 101’ Category

How to Choose the Right Label Adhesive

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Do you get frustrated when someone answers a question, by asking a question? Well, then, you may find choosing the correct label adhesive a little frustrating! When engineering a label specification one of the most important decisions is which label adhesive to use. There are more than a hundred different label adhesives available. Choosing the wrong adhesive can lead to poor application (lowering production efficiency), re-work / waste, and poor package aesthetics. Often, the end consumer is affected if the label adhesive fails after retail. Worst case a product recall may be initiated because a label (with critical consumer information) does not adhere to the package.

Types of Adhesives
It’s glue, just pick a glue that sticks, right? We wish it were that simple! Modern label adhesives are manufactured several ways (hot melt, solvents, emulsions) and using a few different materials (rubbers, acrylics, etc). But no matter which method or material is used for manufacturing - they need to perform.

Adhesive Performance Criteria
There are four basic criteria of performance that an adhesive is evaluated on:
- Printer converting (die-cutting and stripping)
- Initial tack (how well does the label stick initially)
- Long term bond (after setting up, how well does the label perform)
- Consumer use (in shower, under sink, outdoor, etc)

Specialty Adhesives
Scientists have taken the basic types and engineered very specific adhesives - each aimed at a performance specialty. Examples of these special uses are:

All-Temp: Very good adhesion across a wide range of temperatures.
Cold-Temp: Engineered to have strong adhesion in very cold temperatures.
Wet-Stick: Adheres well to moist application surfaces.
Tire Adhesive: A very aggressive high-coat-weight adhesive for adhesion to porous surfaces.
Removable: Can be removed from some surfaces. Testing strongly recommended.
Ultra-removable: Can be removed from most surfaces even after long term bond.
Repositionable: Weak initial tack, strong long term bond. Allows the label to be removed and adjusted during application.
Soak and Remove: Adhesive is formulated to be removed when soaked in warm water.

Questions to Ask
Custom Label can help you select the correct adhesive:

What container, product, or surface is the label being applied to?
Is there any moisture or residue on the application surface during labeling?
What temperature is the room where the label will be applied?
Once the label is applied, will it need to be repositioned or removed?
What temperature will the label endure during storage, distribution and end use?
Will the label encounter unusual humidity during application, distribution or end use?

Even after answering those questions, an adhesive recommendation is exactly that: a recommendation. There is no guarantee that the adhesive will perform exactly as desired. Custom Label strongly recommends adhesive testing prior to production - give us a call and we’ll expedite label samples for your testing!

Four Color Process, “Spot Colors”, and PMS Matching

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Color drives consumer behavior. That indisputable fact has guided marketing teams for a century as they seek packaging that evokes in consumers a feeling that matches their products. See if you can identify these modern companies who have used color to define their brand:

  • A certain red can of cola
  • A tractor that has defined a shade of green
  • The simple red bullseye used by a department store
  • A multi-color peacock for a TV Network

For a printer, being able to exactly match a customer’s color is critical to success. But there are many paths to that goal. As electronic (emailed) proofs have become commonplace, color matching has become more difficult. Every computer monitor and desktop printer is unique in it’s rendering of colors, and calibration of that equipment is challenging at best. The designer/customer and their printer must work diligently to avoid misunderstandings. Let’s take a look at a few strategies for developing color.

What is a PMS Color?

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a proprietary color system that allows graphic designers and printers to achieve common color objectives. A designer can use a PMS “Color Bridge” to select colors from a physical swatch book. Printers can then use the PMS formula to create that particular PMS color. Using a PMS color as the target gives both the designer/customer and the printer a common standardized color goal.

What is a “Match Color”

While PMS formula books cover many colors, they are not all inclusive. In cases where a current PMS color does not match the desired hue, a “Match Color” can be mixed by a printer. This process involves both science and trial-and-error. Once accomplished, the color’s formula can be documented and duplicated. Customers often request match colors when they have a physical sample (”match my dog’s fur…”) or are trying to match another printer’s label (for shelf consistency).

What is a Spot Color?

Spot Colors are blended inks that are formulated to match a specific color. A spot color can be black, white, red, blue or any other color in the spectrum. The Spot Color is blended and matched prior to printing, in which the press operator uses the pre-mixed ink to print the customer’s target color.

What is Four Color Process?

Four color process is a system that uses Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black together to create a broad range of colors. This method is often referred to as 4 C/P, CMYK, or Full Color printing. To prepare plates for 4 C/P printing the artwork is separated (digitally) into CMYK “separations”. When done correctly a printer can print a very wide range of colors and very accurately match original artwork. The image below shows the four color separation and final image for a label.

My label only has green and purple, why does my quote say “4 Colors”?

For many color matching situations, we will propose 4 color process printing to achieve your PMS Colors or color match. Our digital printing press utilizes 4 color process almost exclusively to reduce setup times and ink costs.

What is “Copy Position” / “Unwind Code” and why does it matter?

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

If you are searching for a supplier of Custom Labels, you will hear the terms “Copy Position”, “Unwind Direction”, or “orientation”. What is it, and why does it matter? The simple answer is that Copy Position is a visual representation of how the label is oriented on the roll of labels. For Hand-Applied labels, copy position usually doesn’t matter - but for Automatically Applied labels the wrong copy position can shut down production! When a machine applies the label, the production line is often only set up to To help you understand this, we should talk about how label applicators work.

For pressure-sensitive labels, the adhesive-backed label adheres to a “carrier” or “liner” that is coated with silicone. When the liner is pulled around a straight edge, the label wants to “shoot” off the edge. That is how automatically applied labels are dispensed. Here is a picture of a label applicator head:
Typical Label Applicator

The label web is pulled over the Peel Plate, and labels are dispensed off the edge. What does this have to do with Copy Position? This Label Applicator Head is usually above or beside a production conveyor. As product moves buy the label is shot out onto the bottle, vial, or box. So the orientation of the label artwork in relation to the product is critical. With the wrong Copy Position, the label might be upside down on the container!

Let’s look at the Industry Standard Copy Position Chart:

Copy Position Chart

So how do you know what Copy Position you need? If your company does it’s own labeling, check with your production team. The equipment they use should be specified for a Copy Position. If you utilize a Contract Packager or private label manufacturer, give them a call. They will often have a Copy Position specification for each type of product they manufacture. You can always call Custom Label and ask for any Customer Service Representative. We are ready to help you with your labeling needs!

How Important is Color to YOU?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

private-2In the most recent blog I cited a study which found that people make a subconscious evaluation about a person, environment or product within 90 seconds of their initial viewing (source: CCICOLOR “ Institute for Color Research) and that more than 62% of that assessment is based on color alone! We are all programmed to react with emotion to different colors. It seems clear to me that a product’s color has more to do with our purchasing behaviors that we are aware of. On a subconscious level we connect specific colors with feelings, fears, emotions, and sensations. Brand managers and entrepreneurs must pick their colors carefully to make sure their brand colors match their brand image.

There are other reasons to pick packaging colors carefully. In another research study color was found to increase brand recognition by up to 80% (source: University of Loyola, Maryland). That is a big number! Coca-Cola versus Pepsi is a clear example of this phenomenon. Same can, same artwork layout, but if I asked which is red, and which is blue you wouldn’t need to phone a friend. What about Pepto Bismol? Easy to remember when you have an upset stomach?

d004Custom Label is all about Color. Your Color. We have more than 30 years of experience working with customers to match your exact color not once, but every time you place an order. Our flexo label presses are multi-color platforms that support up to 10 individual colors run in a single pass. Each print station can print a different PMS or custom-match color. We can provide color draw down samples or conduct a live press-check proof where you can be involved and confirm the perfect color for your label and product. Our digital press uses up to 6 colors to create a process blend that emulates the traditional PMS colors. We can come very close for a large percentage of PMS colors. For those colors that do not translate to process printing, we can order PMS match colors for the digital press. Whether your need is short run digital labels or a long run flexo job, we will make sure you are happy with the color. Your success depends upon it!

It Just Makes Sense

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

For many of our customers the retail store is their battleground. As a consumer approaches your product’s aisle the vast majority of shoppers do not know what brand of product they will buy that day. Oft-quoted marketing research claims that 70-75% of consumer packaged goods buying decisions are made at the shelf. That’s a scary statistic if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, trying to gain sales momentum through retail distribution. Jane or Joe Consumer doesn’t realize how hard you’ve worked to develop your recipe or formula. They have no idea that you spent endless hours with a designer until your package design and product label conveyed the perfect brand message. In the blink of an eye, that consumer will make an impulsive decision whether to choose your product or Product X. It’s not fair! Why doesn’t the consumer see how much better your product is?

food11Fear not. Thankfully, your product is not defenseless against a whimsical and fickle consumer. Consumer buying behavior has been studied and analyzed by a multitude of researchers, scholars, and consultants. We can learn from their work to get a glimpse into the consumer’s mind. So what influences a shopper as they stare at the options? As you know, human beings have many senses. Some of our basic senses are sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. All five basic senses can influence a consumer to say “I am going to buy Product X!” But which of our senses is the most important? At the risk of sending perfume testers and food samplers to the unemployment line, I’m pretty sure it’s the sense of Sight. Research has determined that 92.6% of consumers put the most importance on visual factors when purchasing products (source: Seoul International Color Expo 2004). In a separate study, they claim that people make a subconscious evaluation about a person, environment or product within 90 seconds of their initial viewing (source: CCICOLOR  Institute for Color Research). Not much time for your packaging to give it’s silent sales pitch!

So as a packaging engineer, entrepreneur, or small business owner what can you do? I have a simple, albeit biased, suggestion: Focus on your product’s packaging. Look through this checklist and honestly evaluate your packaging:


Does your package evoke an emotion that stimulates a purchase?


Your labeling should communicate the benefits and effectiveness of your product.


Even iconic brands must be changed regularly to stay fresh


Does your brand stand out on a me-too shelf?


Make sure your label gives the consumer the info they seek

Give us a call today at Custom Label. Let us help you build the optimum packaging for your brand and product. That’s why our tag line is:


Varnish or Lamination - Which one is right for you?

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Often, after asking the question “would you like a varnish or a lamination”, our customers will ask “Do I need one?”. That’s a difficult question to answer, as the label supplier. While there are applications that require no additional protection the vast majority of applications we see at Custom Label require either a varnish or lamination. These coatings offer both aesthetic character to the package and a layer of protection to the printed label.

squeeze-tube-label1Varnish Basics
Varnishes are liquid coatings that are “printed” onto the label surface. Water-based varnishes dry through evaporation and are often called “aqueous varnish” or “press varnish”. UV Varnish is a uv-cured varnish - often with a very high gloss sheen. Varnishes can protect the label from abrasion and scuff, while added interesting aesthetics with different finishes. Gloss, Matte, and Satin finishes each deliver a unique image. Computer Imprintable varnish allow for thermal transfer printing in an end-use environment. Food-Safe varnishes are safe for secondary food contact in most applications. If the varnish is used for label detection, a varnish with extra Optical Brightener can improve your manufacturing line efficiencies.

n0141Lamination Basics
Laminations are thin layers of film that are adhered to the label surface, providing an actual plastic barrier between the label and the environment. There are two main types of lamination: self-wound lam and linered lamination. Self-would laminations have adhesive on the lam, but are wound on themselves like a roll of transparent office tape. This is economical, but can leave air bubbles and irregularities in the finished label. Linered laminations are created much like other pressure-sensitive materials - with a release-coated liner separating the adhesive. Linered laminations are more expensive, but have a higher-quality look with better clarity, particularly if applied to a film label substrate. Similar to varnishes, laminations are available in gloss, matte, and imprintable versions.

Which is Right for Me?
Both varnishes and laminations provide protection to your label. Laminations can “cheapen” the look of the label, with a “plastic” appearance. However, if your label is exposed to oils/solvents/agents or is in a high-scuff environment, lamination might be a safer choice. To choose the best coating for your label, call Custom Label. We will guide you through selection of best materials for your label!

All About Label Liners

Friday, May 28th, 2010

labeldiagram1Although the consumer never sees it, the liner is a critical component of any pressure sensitive label. A label liner, also known as carrier or backing or “release liner”, serves a very important purpose: carrying the die-cut labels to applicator and releasing the adhesive-backed label onto the product. The diagram below shows how diecut labels are released from the liner.


Why are there so many Liners? Just like adhesives, each type of liner was engineered to meet specific performance criteria. Here are some of the quality and performance criteria used to judge a pressure sensitive label liner:

Liner Performance Criteria

Die-cutting: High speed diecut and stripping
Cost: Relative cost of the liner material
Strength: Liner web strength and durability
Layflat: Resistance to curling after sheeting
Dust: Absence of loose particulates

Types of Liner

Semi-calendered Kraft material. Low cost, all around liner for paper materials. Very good diecutting and stripping, poor layflat. Moderate particulate levels.
Poly-coated Kraft liner has a poly layer that improves die-cutting and strengthens the liner. Is credited with lower incidence of web-breaks due to deep die-cuts. Higher cost than SCK, slightly lower dust particulate. Does not sheet well.
Lay flat liners have excellent stability and resistance to curl for sheeted applications. Higher cost than SCK liners. Moderate particulate levels.
PET (Poly)
Polyester film liner: durable and good for high speed die-cutting and stripping. Poor sheeting characteristics. Very low particulate. More expensive than paper liners.
BG (Glassine)
Bleached Glassine liner:   low cost. For low to medium speed dispensing, not recommended for sheeting.

As you can see, no one liner can do everything. Much like facestock materials, liners must be selected based on the specific label requirements. Sheeted labels require liners designed with lay flat in mind. For roll labels, the applicating equipment will usually drive liner selection. With a robust, modern label applicator a standard SCK or BG liner will work well for the majority of labels. For clean room (zero particulate) and pharmaceutical (high speed application) a polyester liner is often the only option. Ask your Custom Label representative to help you specify the correct liner for your custom labels!

What is a “Corner Radius”? Do I need one?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

“Corner Radius”(CR) describes how rounded the corners are on a rectangular die-cut.  The term “corner radius” refers to the radius of the circle created by extended the corner arc to form a complete circle.

What is an RCR?

Rounded Corner Rectangle (RCR) describes a rectangle with a corner radius greater than 0.0 (the radius of a square corner).

Why Do Labels Have a Corner Radius?

1) The need for high speed automatic label application led to Pressure Sensitive Labels - labels with adhesive already on them adhered to a carrier liner.  The liner is pulled across a sharp edge, causing the label to dispense onto the container.  A square cornered label does not release as easily from a PS liner - thus corner radius is used to help ease automatic application.

2)  Graphic Designers will often choose rounded corners or square corners to enhance a design concept.  For example, many wine labels have square corners to evoke the look of old-school cut and glue labels.  Other designers use large radius rounded corners to differentiate their products on the shelf against traditional 1/8″ corner radius labels.

How do I measure the Corner Radius of a label?corner-radius1

Click the thumbnail on the right to open a full page Corner Radius Chart.   Print the page and hold the label against the corner radius examples until you find a match.

What Corner Radius should I use?

This is a matter of preference.  The packaging industry standard is 1/8″ corner radius.  This size radius is not unsightly, but allows ease of manufacturing and application.  For customers desiring “square corners” we often recommend 1/64″ (0.015625″) as the smallest CR we can consistently convert.  For machine application projects Custom Label recommends consulting your production team or contract packager before purchasing labels with less than a 1/8″ CR.

What is a Pressure-Sensitive Label?

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

rotary-loop-applicatorConventional wisdom indicates that during recessionary periods, new businesses appear at a higher rate. Terminated employees strike out on their own, determined to take control of their future. For many an entrepreneur, they are in un-chartered waters. Custom Label works daily with these heroes of industry. We are often contacted with the generic question “I’ve got a bottle and I need to put a label on it!”. Just this week I was contacted by a start-up, and the owner said “my bottler told me I need a pressure-sensitive label, whatever that is!” In this blog entry I will answer that question, and help you understand how we ended up with this product called “pressure-sensitive”.

Early Labels:
For thousands of years mankind has placed identification on containers. As modern-day printing was developed it wasn’t long before a “gummed” label was marketed. As early as the beginning of the 19th century printing presses were used to manufacture paper labels. A gum adhesive was placed on the back and dried. It could be re-wet and applied to a product. In the 1840’s, for example, “self-adhesive” stamps exploded in popularity! While they were a novelty item then, their basic construction is not far from the “lick and apply” gummed stamps from a couple decades ago.

Automatic Application: Glue-Applied
With the industrial revolution manufacturing plants sought ways to automate their production lines. Hand-applying labels was too slow to keep up. To increase output, machines were invented that could apply glue to a label and then stick it to the product. For 50 years this basic technology developed into a high-speed method for applying a non-adhesive paper label to a package. Soup cans are an example of a “Glue-applied’ or “cut and stack” label. Glue-applied labels are very inexpensive, but the application process is unreliable, has low accuracy, and significant maintenance costs.

Pressure-sensitive (PS) Labeling is born:
Seeking an alternative to glue-applied labels, many sought a self-contained label solution that did not require a glue to be applied. In 1935 Stanton Avery began manufacturing self-adhesive labels. These materials had adhesive coated on the back of the label, and could be delivered on a release-coated liner. The liner was pulled around a metal “peeler tip”, causing the labels to shoot off the applicator. If placed close to the container (as it passed by on a conveyor) the label could be accurately adhered onto the product.

PS Labeling Today:
While nearly every aspect of package labeling has changed in the past 75 years the basic concept remains the same. As a printer we purchase material from suppliers who pre-coat the adhesive and create the PS “sandwich”. The material we receive has 5 layers:

  1. Ink-receptive Coating
  2. Label Substrate
  3. Adhesive
  4. Silicone Release Agent
  5. Liner

Here is a graphic showing how a Pressure Sensitive Label is dispensed:


So do you need a pressure-sensitive label? If you are hand-applying your labels a PS label give the highest quality and aesthetics for your package. For automatic-application, your contract packager or manufacturing plant can tell you if they will be using pressure-sensitive label applicators. Or give us a call at Custom Label and we can help you figure out whether pressure-sensitive is right for you!

Earth Day and Your Labels

Monday, April 20th, 2009

green-light-bulbWith Earth Day nearly at an end, I started wondering. Who declared the first Earth Day, and why? Did they realize how important environmental awareness would become, and at the same time how polarizing an issue?

The first official Earth Day in the United States was celebrated in spring 1970, at the urging of a Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson. The limited bounty of earth’s natural resources were of concern, but ironically the focus was not on conservation. At that time, the more popular movement was for population control! Nelson was quoted as saying “The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become … We have to address the population issue… every country is green-globeresponsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done.” Quite a different spin on environmentalism! Even more ironic, one popular environmental concern cited “imminent cooling” of the earth’s surface and “glaciation” as a significant threat to our environment! A downward temperature trend was observed during the 30 year period preceding 1970 which alarmed some scientists, and led to the popular fear of “Global Cooling”.

green-snakeWhether our planet is cooling or heating, one thing is certain. We should all do our best to use earth’s resources wisely and reduce waste. Custom Label is ready to help you find packaging materials that are environmentally friendly. Our Digital Label press is a perfect example. Digital printing has significantly lower material waste than traditional flexography, letterpress, or rotogravure. By running an order digitally we avoid the need to “set-up” the press while running waste stock through the press. Selecting an eco-friendly label stock is also a way to green up your package. We offer a range of facestocks that have higher post-consumer-waste content. There are also bio-degradable and compostable materials that Custom Label can propose for your labels. We even have renewable materials, such as tree-free bamboo papers, where the source plant can be replenished faster than the consumption rate. Give your representative a call, Custom Label would welcome the opportunity to help you create a more eco-friendly package!