Hopefully you've never received custom labels that were less perfect than what you expected. Unfortunately, it does happen sometimes. Taking the time to research your label provider and view their samples can go a long way to ensuring you get gorgeous labels every time. But it's also important to communicate your expectations and provide the best information and artwork you can to make sure your labels turn out exactly as you envisioned them. Below are a few common cosmetic problems you might see and how to fix them.
Common Problems Affecting Your Label's Appearance
1. Scuffing or Scratching
Scuffing and scratching most often occurs when labeled products are shipped long distances in containers with inadequate packaging. It might also happen if the shipping box is packed loosely so that your containers can rub against each other. Varnishes and laminates help protect your labels from scuffs and scratches. It is always best to speak with your label printer about any unique shipping conditions or if you have concerns about this problem. An experienced printer can recommend special varnish treatments to help prevent the problem. For wine labels, there are actual rub tests and standards during which a printed and treated label is continously rubbed with a small piece of cardboard to ensure it can withstand shipping conditions. When a varnish isn't enough, a laminate can protect labels that might see a lot of abuse.
2. Fuzzy Looking Labels
There are several issues that cause fuzzy looking labels. Registration is the first. Registration is how the different colors of your label line up and overlap during printing. If all the colors align, your printed label is "in register". If they don't line up correctly, your label is "out of register" and can appear fuzzy. This is very easy to see with full color printing. Out of register print is always an issue on the printer's end. Very detailed, small, or fine artwork can contribute to this problem. Your printer's art department should be able to help you identify any problem areas in your artwork and help you fix them.
Another cause of fuzzy looking labels is poor file quality. Your printer will have requirements and guidelines for you to follow when providing art files. Many printers have preferred file types such as ai or pdf. They might also ask for your native file which is simply the original file from the program it was created in. If your file has a low dpi, it is very likely it will look fuzzy or pixelated when it is printed. We recommend a minimum 300 dpi (dots per inch). Making sure you understand how your files are built and how your printer will work with them will go a long way to preventing disappointing labels caused by file issues.
Sometimes fuzzy labels are caused by plain and simple poor print quality. Inexperience, human error, and lack of attention from the printer can all lead to dirty or fuzzy looking labels. If you suspect this issue talk to your printer about quality control procedures and how they might prevent the problem in the future. It may be you need to find a new printer.
3. Inconsistent Color
Have you ever received a new label order and found that the color isn't quite the same as the last time you ordered? Inconsistent color happens and can occur for many reasons. In the printing industry there are standards and systems, namely the Pantone Matching System, that help printers match exactly the color you need. However, old ink, bad light, and inexperienced printers can all contribute to inconsistent color. If you notice issues with the color of your labels or have concerns about future orders, speak with your label printer about a solution. Developing a color standard for future orders might be one solution. In some cases, the best way to get consistent color is to have your labels printed digitally. In digital printing colors are created with a cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK or 4CP) build. Some digital presses allow for the additon of violet, orange, and green to expand the color capabilities. There is less room for human error because a computer does the calculations and no actual pigments are being mixed.
If you notice a color shift between your previous and current label orders, keep in mind that age can affect the color of your labels. Colored inks fade and change. Fading is different than inconsistent color and happens when a label is exposed to harsh light conditions or outlasts its expected lifespan. If it has been more than a year or two since you've ordered labels you might very well see a difference in the color of your labels. If your labels will be exposed to light for long periods of time or will be outdoors, let your label printer know so they can use fade resistant inks. You might also consider ordering fewer labels at a time so that you don't have a lot of extra labels you need to use up before placing a new order.
4. Unreadable Text
If the copy or text on your label isn't readable it could be a design issue. Black type placed over a dark color can be very difficult to read. You might also have issues with white type over a dark color if it isn't bold enough. Small copy that is created with a full color printing process can also be hard to read because it can be difficult to keep very small text in register. The color of your container may also come into play. Clear containers present special challenges because you can see the color of your product through it. Even a clear product can cause your label copy to disappear if the color isn't right or the copy isn't big enough. If you use a clear label with dark copy on a dark container you can expect your copy to get lost. Sometimes these issues don't appear until your labels are printed and applied; a label design can look very different on the computer screen than it does after it is on the shelf. Unreadable text is an easy problem to prevent. Sample containers and mock up labels are a godo way to test your labels. Talk to your printer about any concerns they might have.
In the end, making sure your expectations are clear to your printer is the best way to prevent disappointing labels. A few minutes spent discussing any challenges or concerns you or your printer might have can go a long way to getting exactly the labels you envisioned. If there are design issues that your printer suspects will cause problems during the production of your labels, getting the printer's art department in touch with your designer can be very helpful. Don't let easy to avoid problems dash your dream of perfect labels.