Labels are more than stickers. They have a job to do: Provide customers with key branding, product use, nutritional and safety information. And to do that successfully, they need to stay adhered to your product’s container without fading, scuffing or wrinkling from label application to point-of-sale to product disposal.
To make sure your label is up to the challenge, you need to select the right label materials.
At Advanced Labels Northwest, we have a plethora of facestock and adhesive options to meet the requirements of different products, in different industries, with different product-use environments. Our customer service team will help you make sense of your options and narrow in on those materials which align with your budget, packaging vision and product label performance needs.
On this page, we’ll help you:
- Explore your material options.
- Understand what factors to consider when selecting a label material for your product.
Your label facestock material options
At a basic level, you have two facestock options: Paper and film. But every product has different in-use performance needs. White wine labels need to withstand refrigeration, condiment labels need to withstand being squeezed — and all product labels have to present well on the shelf to attract sales.
Because of the variety of products that require labels, as well as the variety of looks and performance brands require, label suppliers have developed a near-infinite number of facestocks to choose from. And with all of these options, you can achieve about any look imaginable — clear or opaque, film or paper, glossy or matte, white or metallic.
This is the most common (and the least expensive) facestock option. Within the paper category, there is plenty of variety in design. There’s your standard paper label, sure. But there’s also estate paper, which has a parchment-like texture. There’s paper with textures that mimic linen, felt or cotton. Paper facestocks provide brands with a classic, natural look — and can be customized with high-gloss spot varnishes or protected with matte varnish flood coats.
For products that will be submerged in ice or water, there’s also a hybrid facestock construction, where paper facestock is essentially laminated on over a layer of film for enhanced water resistance.
We have paper options for both our flexographic and HP digital presses warehoused and ready to meet your strict delivery requirements. Paper is often used for vitamin and supplement labels, food labels, beer and spirits labels and general-use labels.
Popular paper label materials (mouseover for names / click for images):
Film labels tend to be more expensive than paper labels, though they’re a good option if your product will be exposed to water or chemicals, or if you’re going for the “no-label” look. Polyethylene (PE) and polyolefin (PO) film are both great for squeezable containers, with PO offering greater clarity for clear film labels. Polypropylene (PP) films — and especially biaxially-oriented PP, or BOPP — are great options for rigid containers. BOPP, in particular, is popular due to its excellent strength, clarity and product resistance. We also offer a textured film.
Popular film materials (mouseover for names / click for images):
Specialty and estate label materials
Estate papers are known for their subtle colors, as well as their well-defined patterns and textures. Our wine label materials are available with multiple adhesive and liner options, including Ice Breaker, our waterproof paper label.
Popular specialty and estate label materials (mouseover for names / click for images):
At Advanced Labels we take our commitment to the environment seriously. We are excited to offer a number of recycled, 100% post-consumer waste (PCW), and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper options for both our flexographic and HP digital presses.
For our customers who are looking for something a little different, we offer a tree-free paper. Made from a combination of mineral powder and a small quantity of non-toxic resins, this material requires no water and very little energy to make. It is also degradable and will break down under the proper environmental conditions of high heat, moisture and UV light. Tree-free paper is resistant and tough enough for some film-type applications, but offers the soft look and feel of paper.
We will help you make sense of your options and narrow in on those materials which align with your budget, packaging vision and product label performance needs. When selecting materials, label printers will ask a few questions including:
- How are you applying your labels?
- Where are you applying your labels?
- What type of container are you using?
- What color is your container, and what’s inside?
- What conditions will your label be subject to once your product is in use?
- How many labels do you need?
Here we’re going to give you a quick run-through of this conversation, and how each of these questions impacts which materials you should choose for your product label. Then we’ll explore your material options, presenting you with links to industry resources meant to inspire and inform. If you’d like a primer on label construction, we recommend you look at this blog post first.
1. How are you applying your labels?
Applying labels by hand may be time-consuming, but it does come with one benefit — you can use about any material or liner. If, however, you use a label applicator, you’ll need to choose a material that’s compatible with your particular machine.
Our Account Managers will help you choose a material and liner that meets your applicator specifications such as label material thickness minimums and maximums. Learn more about what to consider when using a manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic label applicator here.
2. Where are you applying your labels?
At room temperature most labels will apply without issue, but extreme temperature can affect label application and performance. That’s why your label printer will ask if your labels will be subject to hot or cold temperatures or humidity when they’re applied.
Most label adhesives have a minimum application temperature of 40 to 50° F. If extreme temperatures can’t be avoided — such as if you apply your labels in a cold warehouse — we can specify special adhesives that can be applied at temperatures as low as -20° F.
3. What are you applying your labels to?
Not all labels work with all containers. If your labels are applied to cardboard packaging or uncoated, almost any paper material with a permanent adhesive will work just fine. But if you have a squeezable tube container, you’ll need a conformable polyethylene (PE) or polyolefin (PO) film facestock to keep your labels from falling off.
You’ll also need to consider the product inside the container, as drips or spills can smear your label. If you're selling vitamins, paper is fine. If you have a cosmetic product or a chemical cleaner, a polypropylene (PP) film stock protected by a laminate will provide better product protection for your label.
Sending your label printer a sample of your container before ordering samples allows them to make clear recommendations about the best label material for your product. And if you’d like, your label printer can send you samples of several material / adhesive combinations for you to test, so you can decide which looks and performs best with your container.
4. What color is your container? What color is the product inside?
The answers to these questions are especially important if you’d like your product to have the “no-label” look. Let’s say, for example, you have a clear container and the product inside is red. The color of your product will affect the colors on your label. Likewise, a colorful container will affect the colors on a clear label.
We have a few techniques to ensure clear labels appear as intended on your container, such as using laminates to improve the clarity of clear film labels. And, if you’re going for the no-label look, it’s a good idea to send your container in for us to test out the appearance before ordering labels.
5. What conditions will your custom label be exposed to once it's on your product?
Your label material and adhesive must be able to withstand the environment in which your product is used. White wine bottle labels must withstand chilling in fridges and ice buckets. Hand lotion labels must be squeezable, and they need to be resistant to the lotion inside the tube.
Of course, label solutions exist for all these in-use challenges. There are special, all-temperature adhesives for labels that will be refrigerated or frozen. You can use laminates to protect labels which will be subject to condensation and frost. There are hybrid paper / film facestocks for wines that will be chilled in ice buckets. We might recommend a polyester material with a special adhesive if your label will see high heat from being applied to the back of a computer or on a circuit breaker.
All adhesives and materials have a finite lifespan, but by choosing the right combination of face stock and adhesive you can extend the life of your labels.
6. How many labels do you need?
As discussed, the facestock you choose will depend greatly on the product-use environment and aesthetic preference. The last factor to consider is budget. But it’s important to remember that the biggest indicator of label cost is run size — not material.
If you’re ordering 1,000 labels, the price-per-label will be significantly higher than if you ordered 10,000. And price variations due to label material will be a greater percentage of the overall cost. If, however, you’re ordering 10,000 labels, film labels will be a little more expensive than paper labels, but the price difference isn’t typically enough to change a brand owner’s mind.
See different label materials in action
For an immersive look at how different material types look and perform, spend a little time exploring M_use. It’s an online community launched by a major label material supplier in 2019 to start a conversation about innovative label design, and showcases how materials like matte films, estate papers and BOPP look on real product containers.
And let us know if you’re ready to choose materials for your label. We’ll typically talk to brand owners about their vision for the label, show themx several facestock options that work for their product’s performance challenges and ensure their selection meets their budget requirements. Reach out today to get free label material samples.