American LabelU – Tools & Resources From Our Experts !

American LabelU is  loaded with label design, marketing & application strategies that provide American Label Company’s current and prospective customers with answers to common questions ranging from label material to label application and marketing ideas. Because we know some information can be confusing, we’ve included visual aids to help you better understand some of the label printing processes.  As always, American Label Company prides itself on providing the  most amazing customer support around!
    • Label Basics – Explore industry terminology, processes and discover the things you need to know before you place your order.
    • Label Design Fundamentals – Basic hints and links to resources to help you plan and create the perfect label design to market your brand!
    • Marketing Your Labeled Products – Key marketing considerations to remember when getting ready to sell your products!
    • Label Application Methods – Whether you will be using a machine or prefer good old fashioned hand application, find information and tips on what to keep in mind, what to look for and what to expect when applying your labels!

    LABEL BASICS

    label_roll_anatoimy  A pressure-sensitive adhesive label is made up of 5 fundamental elements: facestock, an adhesive applied on a liner, a top coating and the core.

    Elements of a Pressure Sensitive Label

      • Topcoat: This can mean multiple things in labeling; we are referring to the final protective layer after the print. This layer is designed to provide physical properties to ensure acceptable performance on the filling line, during distribution and consumer use, and can be used to enhance the shelf presence of the final product. There are two main types of topcoats available: Varnish, a coating applied (like an ink) to the surface; can be g loss, matte or both (multiple varnishes) and Laminate, a protective film that is applied to the top of the label and can provide a gloss or matte finish.
        • Facestock: The facestock is the outer material or the top ‘face’ of the label and is the material that ultimately is applied to the container. When the label is printed, the ink is printed on the facestock material. There are many different paper and film-based materials available based on your appearance and performance criteria. For example, a specialty paper might be chosen for a product to reflect the quality of the product, whereas a film might be chosen for a product that needs to withstand moist conditions during its life.
          • Adhesive: The facestock is backed by an adhesive layer that allows the label to stick to the container at application. There are several factors taken into consideration when selecting an adhesive: 1.) Container: the adhesive performance is related to the type of container surface (plastic, glass, metal). In the case of a plastic container, if it needs to be squeezable, the adhesive will need to accommodate squeezability, 2.)Removability: will the label need to be repositioned during application or by the consumer or does it need to be permanent, 3.)Application Temperature: will the labels be applied to warm or cold fill containers? The adhesive must be able to adhere to the container at the required speed on the filling line as well as through the products life, and 4.)Environment: what are the environmental conditions at the time of application as well as during distribution and consumer use? Does the label need to withstand a wet or dry environment? Is your product shelf stable or is it refrigerated or frozen? The adhesive must be able to allow the label to function at expected levels through its life.
            • Top Coating: The release coating is applied to the top of the liner providing the appropriate release level of the label from the liner during application to your container or package.
              • Liner: The liner is an important component of the pressure sensitive label sandwich. The liner backs the facestock material allowing for the label to be transported through the label applicator and onto the container. The liner also acts as the die-cutting base in the label manufacturing process. Liners are available in papers and films of various thicknesses and weights. The line speed during application (as well as the final label design) will dictate what liner options will be advised for use on a project.

    Welcome!

    Need help with your label design or unsure which wind direction you need?  AmericanLabelU is your one-stop resource for label design tips, marketing ideas and application strategies.

    Labels 101, Label Basics Label Design Resources Marketing for Labeled Products Hand Apply or Machine Apply Your Labels

    We’re here to help! Our industry experts are here to answer all of your questions, help you choose the right label for your needs and even take your vision and create a design that will bring your brand to the next level!  

    AmericanLabelU – Basics of Labels and Rolls

    This section will help you understand the basic terminology, processes and things you need to know before you order.

     A pressure-sensitive adhesive label is made up of 5 fundamental elements: facestock, an adhesive applied on a liner, a top coating and the core.

    Anatomy of a label roll

    1. Facestock

    The part of the label we print on, also the part of the label your customers will see. The most common materials used as a facestock for pressure sensitive labels are paper, film, and foil.
     

    2. Adhesive

    This is of course the sticky part of a pressure sensitive label. The adhesive will remove easily from the liner for easy application to your product or container. There are a few types of adhesives: all temperature, cold temperature, permanent, and removable.
     

    3. Liner

    Also called the backing, for pressure sensitive labels it is most commonly a brown color paper, and it has a special coating that allows your labels to be easily removed.
     

    4. Top Coating

    The top coating is the final protective layer applied to your labels, if desired. Some top coatings are visible, like glossy or matte coatings, and can be used as another element of your label design. Others are not visible and are purely functional, protecting the facestock from damage.
     

    5. Core

    The core is the sturdy center of a label roll. Just like a roll of paper towels, when you reach the end of your label liner only the core will remain. Depending on the label application equipment you use, the core will be either 1-inch or 3-inches in diameter. Unless you are hand applying your labels with no machine assistance of any kind, we will need to know which core size to use.

    How to store label rolls

    Understanding “Rewind”

    Label basics, rewind direction for label printing on rolls
    When your labels are printed they go on a roll. There are 8 possible orientations for the labels related to how they go onto the final roll.

    The “Rewind Direction” refers to which way the label printing is “right side up” as you unroll your labels to apply them to your products.

    If you are hand applying your labels, rewind #2 or #3 is most common for right handers, and rewind #4 is the favorite for south paws.

    Why is this important? Rewind direction is critical for semi-automatic and machine applied labels. The equipment you use will specifiy a rewind direction between 1 and 8, and that’s the number your rolls must be produced with to be compatible with your label applicator.

    Just like the core size of 1-inch or 3-inches, your equipment will be set up to handle a specific rewind direction.

    Roll Size Matters!

    Don't order a giant label roll if you will be moving it around manually!The size of each label roll is known to as the Outside Diameter, or “O.D.”. This can be crucial information for both hand application and machine application.
    For hand application, there are two primary considerations. First, will you physically be able to move the roll around? While it’s true you can save a little on your order by buying a single roll, make sure it’s something you will be able lift, move, and work with.
    Second, will you have more than one person applying the labels? Sharing a single roll during hand application will slow you down. Consider breaking your order up across a few smaller rolls or even ordering one for each person applying labels.
    For machine application, the O.D. is important because each machine is different and will have a different maximum O.D., as well as core size and necessary rewind direction. Check with your equipment manufacturer for exact specifications.
    PART TWO – LABEL DESIGN

    Label Design Fundamentals

    Need some label design advice? You have come to the right place. The design and appearance of your custom labels will directly impact the way potential customers perceive your products and your company. Or, to put it another way, the way your labels look can help sell your product, or help sell your competitors’. Not to be left for last, label design is something that should be considered early in your product development cycle.

    There are two sections of our Frequently Asked Questions page dedicated to Label Design and Label Art & Editing that you may find helpful, as well as several in depth blog posts listed below.

    One of the most common issues we see is ordering the wrong size label– especially labels that are too big for the container they will be applied to. Oversized labels create all kinds of problems, so please read this guide on How to Figure Out Which Size Label You Need.

    Label Design Guides

    Whether you are designing your labels yourself, using your in-house designer, hiring an agency, or utilizing the American Label Company’s art department, we offer label design help. We understand the importance of high quality labels that help differentiate your products from the competition.

    We currently have more than 5,300 label shapes and sizes in stock (also called “dielines”). Our label artwork submission guidelines will help guide you or your designer with your label artwork setup.

    PART THREE: HOW TO MARKET AND SELL YOUR LABELED PRODUCTS

    Marketing Your Labeled Products

    In order to help your labels be competitive in the marketplace, this section of the Labels 101 is intended to help you consider broad marketing aspects of labels and label design.

    This is not specific marketing information for your individual products or markets, rather it is an overview of best practices and key things to keep in mind when developing your labels.

    Of course we are not marketing your products for you, but we always want to see our clients and partners continue to succeed. Some sections may be too basic for established companies, but this information is often overlooked or just completely new to start ups and newer businesses.

    5 Key Marketing Considerations for Your Labels

    Ultimately, your labels should be a part of your overall sales and marketing efforts. That means your logo, your website, your business cards, your advertising, and your packaging should share some common elements or theme. The sum total of all your sales and marketing efforts is known as your brand.

    You want as many people as possible to encounter your brand and be exposed to it. By synchronizing all the different elements of your business operations, you greatly increase the chance that your brand will be recalled by consumers when it’s time to make a purchase.

    This is a greatly simplified explanation of branding, and one you are probably intimately familiar with as a business owner. However, when it comes to labels and packaging, it’s worth repeating. The rule of thumb is 8 seconds or less. That’s how long you have to capture a shopper’s attention and convince them to pick up your product.

    If you think of your labels as a salesperson on a retail shelf, these are the 5 characteristics you want your labels to convey:

    1. Identification: Make it Clear What the Product Is

    confused shopperClearly labeled products will outperform confusing or mislabeled products. You may beat the 8 second clock with an outlandish image by catching a consumer’s eye, but if the result of their lingering glance is mere confusion, what’s the point? It’s possible you may intrigue them or inspire them to solve the mystery of your oddball label, but the majority of shoppers will not take the extra time necessary to understand a confusing label.

    2. Differentiation: Be Unique

    A clearly labeled product is a great start, but the next step is to make it stand out from the competition. Of course to do that, you really need to know what the competition looks like. That means standing in front of a crowded retail shelf and looking for themes and patterns. What stands out, what doesn’t? What design angle or concept would set you apart from the crowd? Even if you only sell your products online, you need to research the packaging designs of competitive products to ensure you do not blend in with everyone else.

    3. Assimilation: Fit Into Your Product Category

    Being unique is great, so being extremely unique is even better, right? Perhaps, though not necessarily or universally. Certain products and product categories have long standing “rules.” Or, to think of it another crowded store shelvesway, the tens of thousands of products that came before yours probably learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t. It may seem contrary to point 2, “Be Unique,” but your products should also look like they belong in the category. For example, it’s easy to tell the difference between children’s breakfast cereal and adult cereal, right?

    Bucking convention is often a winning strategy, but keeping in mind your label packaging is just one piece of your brand, how far can you go before there’s no longer a connection? Your labels are the one advertisement for your product 100% of your customers will see, so keep in mind your labels could be defining your total brand in a consumer’s mind.

    It sounds like a contradiction, but the perfect balance is achieved by being unique and standing out while simultaneously presenting a product that does not look completely out of place in it’s segment.

    4. Expectation: Give Them What They Paid For

    Few consumers enjoy a bait and switch. As with point 1, “Identification,” it’s important to present your product for what it is. If your product labeling is misleading it will create an expectation in the consumer the contents do not fulfill. This is the last thing you want. Have you ever taken a drink expecting the glass or bottle to contain one thing, only to be shocked to discover it was something else entirely? Even if the “something else” was a drink you would ordinarily enjoy, the experience is typically not a pleasant one.

    Shoppers are buying your product largely based on the expectation created by the label. If you’ve misrepresented or oversold the experience, you will invariably create disappointment. Don’t expect repeat business.

    Examples of expectations set by packaging include common product characteristics like price, quality, flavor, etc…

    5. Recollection: Be Memorable

    Avoid busy or confusing labelsCongratulations, they noticed your label. They might even buy your product. Either way, you need them to remember it.

    A lot of labels look alike. Even if you have created a unique, informative design that stands out yet still fits your product category, there’s no guarantee it will be remembered.

    Strong visuals like type and imagery can make a lasting impression. Clever and bold logos can help. Find the balance, and as with every other step do your research. When researching the marketplace, which products can you recall an hour later, or two days later? Why?

     PART FOUR: APPLYING YOUR NEW LABELS

    Applying Your Labels

    Label application is often an afterthought, but it is important to consider how your labels will be applied when placing a label order.

    It is very common to need some help with applying your labels, and it’s never too soon to consider how, when, and where your labels will be applied. Even as you begin the design phase of your labels, it is critical to consider their eventual method of application and the type of environment they will be applied in. Whether you are applying your labels by hand or with a labeling machine, read below for key questions to ask and the steps you can take to avoid application problems.

    For machine applied labels, if you let us know which brand and type of machine you are using we can set up your label order to be compatible with your specific applicator. They are not all the same and have varying requirements for core size and rewind direction, for example. We do not recommend one brand or type over another.

    5 Key Questions – How to Apply Lables

    Answering these five questions will help you avoid most major problems:

    1. What type of surface will the label be applied to?

    Machine applied labelsThis is an extremely important piece of information for your label printer. There are different labels for glass bottles and flexible plastic tubes. Your label printer needs to know what the labels will be applied to to provide the best label solution possible.

    2. What are the environmental conditions of the label application space, and what environmental conditions will the labeled products be exposed to?

    Humidity and cold temperatures are examples of environmental conditions that will change the way your labels are engineered. Always communicate with your printer to avoid future application problems.

    3. What is the size of the container, and more specifically what is the size of the area to be labeled?

    You may believe your printer only needs to know the size of the label, but the value of label printing experience cannot be overstated. There may be well known issues with your container that are easily accounted for and overcome during label design and engineering.

    4. What is the size and shape of the label?

    Bigger isn’t always better, especially when the surface of the container is uneven or tapered. Sizing your label correctly will eliminate most application issues. Of course, knowing your label size is needed when preparing a custom label quote. When label size is combined with the container size and label material, the size is a key piece of information. It should be precisely measured and checked for compatibility with the container and application method.

    5. How will the labels be applied?

    Different application methods require different materials, such as liners and adhesives. Planning ahead with the full knowledge of how your labels will be applied prevents common issues like label rolls that are wound too tight or too loose, liners that do not release easily enough or too easily, and other incompatibilities.

    How to Apply Your Labels – 3 Methods

    Hand Application

    Hand applying labelsJust like the name implies, you’re going to be putting the labels on one at a time, by hand. For smaller quantities it makes sense. Recruit some volunteers and hold a labeling party, or get comfortable with a Netflix series marathon and start labeling. Either way, here are a few tips to help things go smoothly:

    1. Design your labels for hand application.

    If your label wraps around your container, avoid design elements like horizontal stripes that will be difficult to line up when applying labels by hand – especially if the ends of the label will come close together or overlap once applied.

    You can also design your label to have different design elements on each end, or identical swaths of solid color, so misalignment is less obvious.

    2. Create a template or “jig.”

    Consistency is difficult to accomplish during hand application, especially as you go. If you’ve ever signed your name a dozen times in a row, you know it can border on illegible by the time you get to the last signature. It’s just fatigue. By creating a simple template, perhaps from cardboard or a sheet of thick paper, you can be sure your last label will be applied just as straight as your first.

    The template should sit firmly on your workspace, fit snugly on your container, and leave a window for label application. A thicker edged material like cardboard will help prevent the label from sticking to the jig itself.

    If you will be hand applying labels at first, then switching to semi-automatic or machine applied in the future, be sure to inform your label provider ahead of time. Your label order can be engineered to work with the applicator you will eventually be using.

    Semi-Automatic Application

    Semi-auto label applicationInvesting in a semi-automatic label applicator is often the ideal solution for small batch producers. Semi-auto application involves purchasing a small labeling machine, something that would typically fit on a counter and apply the labels for you, as you operate a hand crank or foot pedal.

    Most of the application machines can be yours for under $2,000. Advanced Labels does not sell labeling equipment or endorse one label applicating machine over another.

    This is a great option for craft and small batch liquor and beer, or any other product produced in lower quantities.

    Another consideration with your label setup is the label’s orientation on the roll, if your labels are an odd shape. Ideally, the leading edge of the labels on the roll will be a straight edge, giving your equipment the best chance to grab the label from the liner and smoothly apply it to your container.

    The four most important questions you need to ask when purchasing semi-automatic label application equipment:

    1. Label Size: Can the equipment handle your label size?

    2. Container Type and Size: Is the equipment compatible with your container?

    2. Core Size: What size core should your label roll use, 1-inch or 3-inch?

    3. Label Orientation: Will your labels transfer straight and smooth from the roll to the container?

    Machine Application

    Machine labeling, machine applying a roll of wine labelsFully automatic labeling machines are fast, precise, and convenient. Larger producers may have their own equipment on site or contract with a mobile labeling service. Containers are typically fed automatically into the machine, and labels are applied quickly and consistently. The process is pretty straightforward, but you need to answer the same 4 questions from the semi-automatic section:

    The four most important questions you need to ask when using machine application equipment:

    1. Label Size: Can the equipment handle your label size?

    2. Container Type and Size: Is the equipment compatible with your container?

    2. Core Size: What size core should your label roll use, 1-inch or 3-inch?

    3. Label Orientation: Will your labels transfer straight and smooth from the roll to the container?