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Product Labels: A Guide to Label Finishing Formats and Options

Product Labels: A Guide to Label Finishing Formats and Options
You've spent hours creating the perfect design. Your branding and messaging are perfect and you're ready to go to market. Suddenly, you're faced with a whole new level of options when you go to print your labels. What finish do you want? What format do you need? In this comprehensive guide to product label finishing, you will learn exactly what it means to pick matte over gloss and whether you need a roll or a sheet. You'll be selling in no time! Keep reading.

It may seem insignificant now, and you're impatient to get these labels, but even the smallest details matter for your brand and product success. Product labels are the first impression customers will have when they pick up your product. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward.

Product Label Finishing Process

Product label finishing is often thought of as a matter of appearance, but it goes much deeper than that. The finishing process plays a large role in the functionality of the label, protection of the ink against the elements, and how you will be able to use the labels.

While the label finishing process is quite complicated, it consists of a few simple parts. When you are ordering your labels, the company will ask you to specify:

  • Which finish you'd like
  • Whether you'd like special effects such as embossing
  • In what format you'd like to receive your labels

The options you choose will greatly determine the way the company processes your labels and the cost of printing. These decisions you make should be integral to your branding and you should keep your intentions for your labels in mind.

Label Finishing Options

Product Labels

When it comes to label finishes, the most commonly known finishes are matte and glossy. Some people choose to forgo finishing, whether it is to save money or achieve a specific look. Unfinished labels will lack the sheen of finished labels and will have a rough texture.

If you finish your labels, you can choose from many different options, but they will generally come under three categories:

  • UV Coating
  • Varnishes
  • Laminates

There are some other more specialty options that you can come across if you're willing to pay for them. Two well-known unique options include soft-touch and tactile finishing. 

When choosing from these categories, you need to ask yourself two questions. The first question is: "What will my label need to withstand?" The second question is: "What look do I want to achieve?"

The Durability of Label Finishes

Product Labels

UV coating for labels is a durable yet costly option. This finishing option is called UV coating because it is cured by ultraviolet light during the printing process. In exchange for the cost, you will get a super glossy look that will last longer than other finishes. 

In contrast to the expensive UV coating options, you can choose a varnish instead. Varnishes can achieve a similar look but are more affordable because they aren't as durable. This is a more affordable and practical option for products that won't last very long and do not need to withstand extreme conditions.

Laminates are a thicker form of protection for your label, meaning they are the best choice for withstanding sun, moisture, and scratches. You can achieve many different looks with laminates while still benefiting from the extra protection.

Soft-touch labels are best known for preventing labels from yellowing. Tactile labels can be made of many different materials, such as foil or paper, and their durability will vary depending on your choice of material and how you will apply it to the product.

Achieving a Specific Look With Label Finishes

Once you know that the type of finish you choose will be sufficient protection for your label, decide how you want it to look. Whether you are looking for a modern, professional appearance or a unique, eye-catching label, there is an option for you.

When it comes to UV coating, you can be sure you are achieving the highest gloss possible. This gloss can make bright colours even more striking, but can also cause glare and make some print hard to read.

Some people choose to take advantage of this high gloss look by "spot-coating." To make one part of the label stand out, you can choose to use UV coating for only that detail.

While varnishes are less durable, you can also choose to spot-coat or achieve a glossy look. Varnishes provide a similar clear coating as UV coating for your labels. You can choose to go with a matte finish or semi-gloss look, which will reduce glare while still brightening colours.

Laminates come in many different looks. You can choose to have matte or varying levels of gloss for your labels while achieving maximum durability. Matte finishes can make labels very easy to read, but also make colours a bit duller.

Soft-touch labels are very unique, making your product stand out from others. They provide a velvet look and feel, but they also make colours dull. If you have deep colours or a lot of blacks, you will be able to achieve a deeper look than if they are highlighted by gloss.

Tactile labels are most common on products like wine bottles, which often have raised details that a customer can feel rather than read. These labels can step up the luxury feel of a product and even help vision-impaired customers differentiate your product from others.

Product Labels Finishing Formats

Once you have picked out your finishing material and look, your printer will want to know which format you need. There are many different uses for labels that will determine the best format.

When you are picking out formats for your labels, you will come across many terms, including:

  • Perforated
  • Underscored
  • Top-scored
  • Die-cut
  • Butt-cut
  • Rolled
  • Sheeted
  • Fan-folded
  • Rewinding

These terms can be overwhelming and intimidating, but they represent very simple concepts. The first three terms - perforated, underscored, and top-scored - refer to the way the machine will cut the labels so that you can remove them from the sheets.

The two following terms - die-cut and butt-cut - refer to the shape the labels are cut in and how close they are placed next to each other on the sheets.

The next three terms refer to the type of sheets on which your labels will be given to you. Rewinding refers to how the machines package your labels for delivery to you.

Perforated, Underscored, or Topscored?

Product Labels

The machines will cut the labels and the liners according to your specifications. You will need to choose how the cuts are done based on how you are planning to use these labels. For example, you will make a decision based on whether you will apply the labels by hand, by machine, or if you are going to hand them out still on the sheets.

Perforated cuts are when the machine makes tiny slits in lines across the sheets so that it is easy to tear sections of labels off without removing them from the sheet. This is a great way to get labels cut if you choose to hand them out to customers rather than apply them to products.

Underscore cuts cut through the liner for easy removal of the labels. Topscored cuts cut through the labels to create a "two-part" label. These methods can also make it easier to remove the labels from the liners.

Die-cut or Butt-cut?

Die-cut labels are labels that are spaced out on the liner rather than cut right next to each other. The typical spacing for die-cut labels is about 1/16th or 1/8th of an inch. This cutting method requires you to choose a shape for the die, whether you want square corners, rounded corners, ovals, or more specialty shapes. 

Butt-cut labels are much simpler because you do not get to choose a different shape. These labels are simply separated by vertical and horizontal cuts by the machine and are not spaced out on the liner. If you are choosing to automatically dispense your labels, this method is not recommended.

Rolled, Sheeted, or Fan-folded?

Finally, you will need to specify which format of packaging you'd like to receive your labels in. You can receive your labels on a rolled liner, single sheets, or in a fan-folded stack.

If you choose rolled labels, a machine will wind your labels onto a core and they will come as a spool. If you choose sheeted labels, you will receive your labels in a stack of single sheets that often have a back or top score.

If you have gotten die-cut labels, you will most likely receive a fan-folded format. This format comes in a stack of liners that are connected by folds on alternating sides of the perforations.

What is Rewinding?

If you are receiving your labels in a roll, your company will ask about the rewinding position. Rewinding is when the machine spins your label back onto a core, and you need to choose whether your labels will face out or face inward.

If you are applying labels by hand, having your labels face inward could help protect your labels from damage.

If you are applying labels by machine, however, you will need to know which finishing configurations your machine requires. You may need an outside or inward wound roll for your machine to apply your labels correctly.

Boost Sales With Immaculate Labels

Product labels are more complex than people understand, but now you know to make informed decisions about your labelling. Move forward with the perfect, unified branding across your products and boost your sales.

At LabelProfi, we dedicate ourselves to helping you print immaculate labels for your business. Get started today by filling out our inquiry form!

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