This previously published article was updated on June 19, 2019.
Pressure-sensitive adhesives are the unsung hero of your product label. The right adhesive makes sure your label looks good long after it’s applied, from shipping to point-of-purchase and throughout the product lifecycle. And although you’ll never see it, using the wrong adhesive will turn customers away. Even the most expertly designed won’t help a product sell if it’s sliding off, peeling or wrinkling.
That’s why adhesive selection is a key part of designing your product label. And your label printer will ask a series of questions to determine which adhesive is right for your labels before producing even one label, such as:
- What’s your actual product?
- What type of container will the label need to adhere to?
- What environmental conditions will your labels be subject to throughout the product lifecycle?
They’ll use your answers to select a label adhesive that’ll be able to withstand all conditions your product is subject to during normal use — and look good doing it. Outdoor and refrigerated products must withstand extreme temperatures. Shower and personal care products must withstand moisture and humidity. And your label must resist abrasions and tears while rubbing against other products during shipping and storage.
To help demystify the label adhesive selection process, we’re going to go over some basic definitions and offer you resources to learn more about the different types of adhesives.
The basic construction of a pressure-sensitive label
A pressure-sensitive label is one that is applied using only pressure. No heat, glue or solvents are required. The most basic construction of a pressure sensitive label roll includes:
- The liner or backing material. Most commonly a white or brown ("kraft") paper which is coated to allow your sticky labels to be easily removed from the roll.
- The adhesive. This is the sticky part we're talking about here. Some adhesives are stronger than others, and some even allow labels to be removed and reapplied repeatedly. For a deeper dive into the technical considerations that should guide label adhesive selection, click here.
- The facestock (or substrate). This is the part of the label that is printed on and seen by your customers. The most common label materials for facestock are paper, film and foil.
For a more in-depth look at label construction, check out this blog post on choosing the right custom label materials for your product.
Choosing adhesives is a make-or-break decision
It's a big deal if the pressure-sensitive adhesive on your labels fails. Sure, a flashy, bright, unique label design might entice a customer at the point-of-purchase. But that’s only one purchase, one time — and your product packaging influences consumer buying behavior before, during and long after the sale.
The performance of all parts of your label is key to winning repeat customers. 3 out of 5 customers say they’ve purchased a product again due to the performance of the packaging. And the right adhesive ensures your label can stand up to the performance challenges of your product.
Of course, every industry and application has different challenges. To meet these needs, label material suppliers have developed a wide variety of adhesive technologies that work with different container types, environmental conditions and even regulatory needs.
There are different adhesives available for glass, plastic and metal containers. There are adhesives that work with flexible containers like squeezable tubes. There are adhesives for labels that need to be easily removed and adhesives for labels that you never want removed. There are some adhesives that work better than others on rough textured surfaces. And there are also FDA guidelines for adhesives when used with certain food packaging.
It’s worth noting that not all adhesives are compatible with all facestocks. If your product requires a certain adhesive, we can recommend the right material and adhesive combination. But ensuring optimal performance of any label comes down to testing the new label material and adhesive on your container.
We can send you raw materials — or even die-cut blank labels — to test on your container before you place an order. That way, you can make sure the label looks and performs just as intended.
If you’re ready to start creating a custom label for your product, then ordering free samples is a great place to start. Tell us a little bit about your container, product and how you want your label to look — and we’ll send you a packet of samples to give you a better idea of what’s possible. Order your free samples today.