What are you not thinking about when you think about product labels?
Eye-catching design features get all the glory. But when you’re planning a new label, all the seemingly “minor” decisions you have to make can add up to the difference between a great label and a disappointing one.
What do we mean by a “great” label? It depends on your goals, but in general, a great product label makes a strong positive impression for your brand without peeling, cracking, fading, or suffering from any other unsightly performance lapses.
Here are some tips that will help your label go from good to great — and they’re tips you may not hear about if you order your labels via a self-serve website:
1. Leave an Overlap
Anytime a label wraps around a cylindrical surface (such as a bottle or jar), there’s a risk of flagging. Labels want to lie flat. So, when they’re wrapped around a surface, they want to return to their original position, which can result in the ends of the label becoming unstuck and … well, sticking out like a little flag on your product.
Sourcing the right material to achieve conformability without flagging is the first step. Another solution to flagging is to allow for overlap so that the label can wrap around the curved container and stick to itself, creating a stronger bond. An overlap doesn’t have to be much; 1/16 of an inch will do.
Keep in mind, however, that varnish or laminate may prevent a label from sticking to itself. It might be smart to keep the overlap zone free of ink, varnish, or laminate to ensure the best possible surface for adhesion. In addition, keeping that overlap zone clean is important (see Tip #9 for more on that topic).
2. Prepare for Printing Expiration Dates or Lot Numbers
What else will you be doing with your label besides affixing it to your product? If you plan on printing lot numbers or expiration dates, how do you plan to do so?
Varnish (which adds an aesthetic finish and protects against scuffing and fingerprints) can inhibit some printing methods. If you do plan on adding information to your label after you receive it, consider leaving a coating-free area open.
3. Think About the Application Conditions
We often write on this blog about protecting labels from environmental conditions such as heat, cold, and moisture. The most critical moment in a label’s life is the moment of application, before the adhesive sets. This is when temperature and water first start to demonstrate their impact.
If you expect to apply your label in cold conditions – such as a refrigerated bottling area – be sure the adhesive can handle it. Only the most specialty adhesives will set on a wet surface, so it’s important to keep your products dry until their labels have been firmly attached.
4. Vinyl Isn’t Your Only Option
Vinyl is ideal for specific applications. For example, it withstands temperature fluctuations well and can be stretched out of and back into shape without distortion. But vinyl is not the only, nor even the best synthetic label material for every application.
Vinyl is less environmentally friendly and more expensive than other plastics. If you need soft, conformable labels, talk to your label supplier about alternatives to vinyl.
5. Be Open to Change
A high-quality custom label printer will offer you options for everything from label material, to size, to the color spectrum, to special shapes. If one of your products requires a highly customized label, that doesn’t necessarily mean all your products do. Instead of simply ordering more of the same type of label for every product you make, talk to your label supplier – you can greatly reduce your budget by only going as customized as each particular product needs.
6. Don’t Trust Your Screen
Don’t assume the way your label looks in your design software is exactly how it will appear in the real world. Computer monitors display colors in RGB (red, green, black) instead of the production environment of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). If color matching is critical, please communicate your expectations; swatches and other printed pieces will help your label supplier understand what you want and any challenges that might be encountered.
Also beware of font selection within the entirety of your graphic design. You may lose the fine details of a serif font, for example, when combined with very small text sizes or heavy ink coverages.
Finally, subtle shading and fading effects are easier to achieve on a computer monitor than with physical ink transferred to paper using machinery; infinitesimal vibrations during printing can cause color fields to overlap. Share your design ideas with your label supplier as early in the project as you can; a good supplier will work with you to make sure the end result can meet your expectations.
7. Be Aware of the Regulations
Be sure you understand the labeling laws in your distribution area before you print your product label. You don’t want to print an entire run of labels only to discover you left off an important piece of regulatory information.
In Canada, for example, product labels must be printed in French and English – an important consideration if your distribution plans involve our northern neighbo(u)rs. Other areas have regulations dealing with environmental protection, nutrition, and potential toxins.
8. Corners Can Be a Hazard
Sharp corners give a sharp look to your label, but they come with a bit of peril. If your label will be wrapped around a cylinder or over sharp edges or exposed to any amount of physical wear and tear, sharp corners are more prone to lifting than rounded corners are. Even a tiny degree of rounding can make a significant difference in the durability of your label without sacrificing style.
9. Protect Your Labels in Storage
Buying custom labels in bulk can be a great way to stretch your budget. But, if you only use one part of a roll of labels and have some left over, make sure they’re covered. Ambient room conditions such as heat, dust, and moisture can damage your unused labels.
10. Make Your Labels User-Friendly
Labels generally come in three formats: rolls, sheets, or cut singles. The format you choose should be determined by how you plan to apply your labels.
For example, if you hand out your labels as sales promotions, the members of your sales team aren’t going to want to carry around huge heavy rolls. Stacks might be a more convenient choice. On the other hand, rolls are the only option for applying your labels by machine.
Consult the Experts
Are you discovering there’s more to product labels than you thought?
A great label is the product of numerous individual decisions, but you don’t have to be alone in making those decisions. A great label printer can offer expert guidance along with a wide range of options for making your custom label the best it can be.