The Anatomy of a Wine Label: Everything You Need to Include on the Bottle

Wine labeling printing can be as complex as the contents inside their containers. In addition to looking good, these labels must provide a lot of information for both intrigued customers and government entities. There is a lot to know about a bottle of wine, and it’s the label’s job to communicate that to the consumer.

As we recently discussed, the use of “wine labels” dates all the way back to ancient Egypt, with seals and etchings put in place to improve trade. Over centuries, the practice has evolved a great deal. Now there are federal rules and regulations to obey. Some information is mandatory, and some is nice to have, but everything on your wine labels is meant to properly reflect the quality of the contents within.

From crucial details like the brand, year, and region to more fun facts like flavor notes and pairing suggestions, your label is a story with a designated hierarchy to help you tell the tale. All the while, it’s important to keep in mind that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates a lot of what details are required and how you list them. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to include on wine labels – and some guidance on how you should present these wine labeling requirements.

What Information is Included on Wine Labels?

What needs to be included on a wine bottle label?

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Brand Name

Who made the wine? The winery’s branding will usually appear at the top or bottom of the label (like many French wine labels).

Fanciful Name

What’s the name for this specific wine? While not mandatory, it’s not uncommon for wine labels to feature a secondary name to differentiate separate brands within the same winery.

Brengman Brothers’ “Runaway Hen” is an example of a fanciful name of one of the wine brands they have produced. Keep in mind that fanciful names do not replace the need for a class and designation type. When a fanciful name is used, the TTB requires an additional tax class on the label based on the percentage of alcohol. For example, “red table wine” or “white table wine” are required for wines under 14 percent alcohol, while “red wine” or “white wine” is required for wines above 14 percent alcohol.

Vintage (Year)

When were the grapes harvested? This wine information, while not mandatory, is common among wine labels as it speaks to the quality of the bottle’s contents, especially if you’re up on your vintage variations.

Wine or Varietal Type

As you may have guessed, what kind of wine is in your bottle? This is where the grape or varietal type is communicated, e.g., Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, etc. It’s required for wines to list a type on the label. In addition, wines that call out a specific varietal name must derive at least 75 percent of the product from the specified grape. Otherwise, the label should have a generic name like “red wine” or something similar.

Appellation (Region)

Where was the wine made? The region of origin breaks down in a few different ways, and there are rules that apply to listing geographic information on wine labels. If a state or county is named, it is federal law that at least 75 percent of the grapes used in production come from said location. If an AVA is cited (an American viticultural area, e.g., Napa Valley), the law states that at least 85 percent of the grapes must come from said area. Certain states also have their own regional laws. For example, California law mandates that 100 percent of the grapes must come from California if the state is named on the bottle.

Producer & Bottler

Where was your product made and bottled? If this location differs from the winery or vineyard, you must print both the name and address of this location on the label.

Alcohol Content

What is the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV)? Unless it can be deduced from its class (e.g., table wine suggests an ABV of 14 percent or less), this number is required on every label.

Net Contents

How much wine is in the bottle? Whether it’s printed on the label or blown into the glass, this number (expressed in milliliters) must be present on every bottle.

Sulfite Warning

Does this wine have more than 10 parts per million of sulfur dioxide or more? If so, your label must bear a warning that says “CONTAINS SULFITES.”

Government Warning (Most often on the back label)

The Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act (November, 1988) requires that every label of an alcoholic beverage bare a specific government warning that states:

Government Warning:

(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

(2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.”

Additional Wine Label Information

Additional messaging may appear on the back label, such as pairing suggestions, flavor notes, and possibly some history on the winery or vineyard. These fun facts are not mandatory, but can serve as helpful hints for thirsty wine enthusiast. You could even include serving facts if you want, although the TTB doesn’t require them for wine labels. Extra details or information can add to the way people perceive our products, so don’t be afraid to add something if it makes sense for your brand.

A TTB compliant wine label featuring necessary legal information.

Materials Matter: Choosing the Right Material for Your Wine Bottle Label

When it comes to wine labels, there are a lot of options to consider beyond just paper. The materials used can impact the look, feel, and durability of the label. Paper is a classic choice that offers a range of appearances from smooth to textured. Textured papers give labels a nice vintage, artisanal vibe. Smooth papers convey a cleaner, more modern look.

Another key decision is the coating or finish. Glossy varnishes make the colors vibrant and eye-catching. Satin or matte finishes have a more subtle, soft aesthetic. If the wine will be stored in damp environments like a cellar, extra durable laminate coatings can be applied to protect against moisture damage. 

The right materials can enhance the wine branding and convey the desired feeling. This is a good opportunity to get sample labels with different papers and finishes to see what works best for your particular wine.

Wine label gallery

Wine Bottle Design Considerations

When designing your wine bottle labels, it’s important to think about the actual dimensions and shape of the label. Wine bottles come in standard shapes like Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne style, as well as unique custom shapes like  asymmetrical hand-blown bottles.

Wine bottle shapes

The label shape can mirror the bottle or go for something distinctive like a diamond or circle. Blue Label can print any shape you can dream up. Just be sure to consider the actual label size needed to fit that area of the bottle.

At Blue Label, our preferred label artwork file is a Adobe Illustrator file or high-resolution PDF. This allows our team to verify label dimensions. You’ll get a proof via email, and we’ll make sure your artwork translates smoothly into the printing process.

When planning your designs, each bottle type has standard label sizes and shapes for each bottle dimensions:

  • 750ml Burgundy: 3.5″ x 4.5″
  • 750ml Bordeaux: 4″ x 6″ or 4″ x 4″
  • 750ml Champagne: 4″ x 4″

With the endless variety of wine bottle shapes and sizes, custom tailored labels make a big impact.

Make Your Wine Labels Stand Out from the Crowd

Now that you’ve got the crucial wine bottle info down, it’s time to add the touches that will make it pop off the shelf. Blue Label Packaging Company offers a variety of materials and finishes to help you create a custom wine label that will do your product justice.

There are plenty of ways to help you communicate the quality and style of your wine through packaging. If you’ve got a bold and complex Cabernet, a matte material seems like a nice pairing. A light, crisp Sauvignon Blanc? A glossy finish has a nice effect! Got an organic grape? An earthy craft paper is an excellent choice.

Once you’ve chosen your material, consider special treatments for a little something extra. Spot varnishes are a great way to highlight the label information you’re particularly proud of (e.g., a private reserve; a vintner’s selection) or a special design element. Also, details like hot foil stamping and embossed textures add a level of sophistication wine lovers will appreciate.

Your custom wine labels deserve the very best. Our facility offers the highest quality, the most flexibility, and the fastest processing, printing, and shipping times— five business days from the time you approve your artwork (because not everything gets better with age). Get in touch with us today to get the barrel rolling on your next wine labeling project. 

*after artwork approval

Making Waterproof Labels for Bottles: Factors for Water Resistance

After investing time and money to create great labels for your products, it would be a shame for them to peel off your container. Certain products are destined to encounter moisture, whether they sit in a cooler, sweat after being refrigerated, or encounter water during the application process.

While the majority of product labels don’t play well with water, there are measures that companies can take to protect their designs from a sad, soggy ending. Let’s break down a variety of factors that can help your labels stay strong and look great even after they’ve been exposed to moisture.

The Truth About “Waterproof” Labels for Bottles

Before we get too far, it’s important to address the proverbial elephant in the room – there is no such thing as a truly waterproof bottle label. Water and other fluids will impact even the most water-resistant bottle labels at some point. As such, you can’t guarantee complete protection with a simple label material.

While complete water resistance isn’t attainable, that doesn’t mean there aren’t means to protect your packaging as much as possible. There are several to make your labels as water and oil-resistant as possible, including the following considerations.

  • Label adhesive
  • Label material
  • Environmental considerations

Find an Appropriate Label Adhesive

Water, oil, and other wet substances can put you in a bind when you choose an adhesive for your labels. Even if your label itself is water resistant, a label adhesive needs to be able to withstand those substances. Everything from regular moisture to complete submersion can pose problems. With the wrong adhesive, you’ll be stuck with a label that’s falling off the bottle.

One drawback is that the presence of water may eliminate certain types of adhesives from your selection. For example, humidity and wet environments can pose problems for removable labels, so you may want to avoid them if you want a truly waterproof label.

Fortunately, there are moisture-resistant label adhesives designed to specifically combat this issue. There are a variety of factors that will impact exactly which adhesive works best – the amount of exposure, how often exposure is expected to happen, which types of fluids will pose problems, etc. Once that information is identified, a label printing expert can help you pair the right adhesive with your product.

A collection of custom waterproof labels for bottles.

Choose a Label Material

There are a wide range of label materials available, but the majority of them fall under one of two categories: paper or film. Both groups offer various benefits, but one type typically fares much better against water and other fluids than the other.

Paper is a great choice for companies looking for a versatile, cost-effective material, but there’s one big problem – paper has a tendency to disintegrate in water. There are specific styles of paper with a higher wet strength that can slow water penetration. However, there is no waterproof bottle label paper and even the most resistant paper substrates will become fully saturated over time.

If you need water resistance, we strongly suggest sticking with film stocks. Unlike paper, film stocks won’t absorb water, making them as waterproof as you can get for a bottle label. From shrink sleeves to roll labels, there are a few different film materials that are much better fits for products dealing with moisture.

  • Polypropylenes (BOPP) – A rigid film that features high tear resistance and is a great fit for beverages and other products that will encounter moisture.
  • Polyester (PET) – A film designed for maximum durability that is great for products used outdoors.
  • Polyolefin – An extremely soft and flexible film perfect for squeeze applications, such as bottles that will end up in the shower or other wet environments.

Regardless of your choice, the simple logic is that film is much better at resisting water than paper. As such, a film label is a great start for any bottles that will encounter moisture either before, during, or after application.

A selection of six beer bottles using water resistant bottle labels.

Plan Around Your Environment

When there’s water and other fluids, there are other potential environmental issues that can create problems for your label. There are a few main considerations that you’ll want to make when it comes to you where your products will go.

  • Your applicating environment.
  • Shipping and storage environments.
  • Where and how your bottles are used.
  • The product itself.

Your application process makes a major impact on your choice of adhesive, label material, liner, and more. That is especially true if your bottles will be wet going into the applicating process. A wet-apply adhesive is a must in these scenarios. You also may need to factor in your product as well. For example, acidic or oily products can wreak havoc if you don’t account for them in the planning process.

Proper shipping and storage is another factor that can be easily overlooked. All waterproof product labels should be stored in a temperature-controlled environment. Exact temperature and humidity levels vary based on your exact label, but too much humidity in a shipping truck or a warehouse will pose problems. Shrink sleeves are especially sensitive to humidity and other environmental factors, so make sure to keep them safe before application.

Finally, you need to factor in just where your bottles will go once consumers get a hold of them. If your products are going to encounter ice buckets, coolers, or other cold storage places, you’ll need something stronger than a standard adhesive. A more aggressive, freezer-grade label adhesive will be able to withstand these conditions.

Other products may have very different issues, such as a bottle of conditioner. Certain health and beauty labels will sit in the shower and encounter other cleaning chemicals. These products needs to withstand a hot, steamy environment along with oils and other substances. Sunscreen bottles need waterproof capabilities at the beach or pool, but they also should have some form of UV resistance.

You should also consider whether the product itself may impact the label. For example, the oil found in products like sunscreen can affect the application and integrity of a label. Water-resistant capabilities are key, but you should always consider what will happen if some of your own product will leak out and interact with your label.

A whiskey bottle using a waterproof bottle label paper.


Find the Right Label Printing Company

Whether you need custom waterproof labels for bottles, jars, or any other container, it’s essential that your packaging showcases the quality of your products and brand. At Blue Label Packaging, we have the equipment and expertise it takes to not only make your labels as water-resistant as possible, but also enhance your design to make a lasting impressions on customers.

Ready to invest in the perfect bottle labels for your business? Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about high-quality, water-resistant labels.

Professional vs. DIY Label Applicators: Which is Best for Your Business?

Stunning product labels come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Of course, they all need to go through the application process at some point.

There are a multitude of options for label application. Some businesses opt to handle application themselves through means that range from sophisticated machinery to the most manual tools of all – your hands. Other business turn to professional applicators, such as a mobile canner.

Simply put, it’s essential to identify the best applicator for your business. However, the most effective option depends on your exact needs. Let’s break down the different types of applicators that are available and which route makes the most sense for your needs.

Product labels being placed on a roll for future application.

The Different Types of Label Applicators

When you’re tired of applying labels by hand, there are two main routes your company can take – handling application internally and hiring an outside vendor.

There are plenty options available if you want to handle label application internally. DIY applicators range from tabletop devices to fully-automated machines. There are also applicators made for specific types of labels and containers. For example, a shrink sleeve applicator is vastly different from a machine made for wraparound bottle labels.

As you may expect, the more automated machines are typically more expensive. Those extra costs typically translate in added efficiency, with some automated machines applying more than a thousand labels per hour. However, even tabletop devices will speed up your process compared to hand application. That investment in applicating equipment will also produce more consistent results, effectively limiting application issues like bubbling and wrinkles.

If you aren’t interested in handling the label application process internally, an outside vendor can take on that work for you. Companies like mobile canners and bottlers will come to your brewery, distillery, or other type of business and set up temporary application lines. Other professional applicators have internal systems where you can have them label your packaging in their own facility.

How to Choose Between Different Label Applicators

Both DIY and professional label application are viable options. However, each route offers certain advantages and disadvantages. A big brewery or a small specialty foods company will have different pain points that may make one option more attractive than the other. As such, it’s important to weigh what matters most for your business.

Advantages of DIY Label Applicators

Long-term financial viability.

Your budget is arguably the biggest factor when it comes to choosing the right label applicator for your business. It’s no secret that investing in labeling equipment is a notable investment, especially if you opt for automated machines. Manual machines are more affordable, but less efficient and consistent. Your financial flexibility can dictate exactly what you can get or if you’d prefer to pay as you go for professional application.

Of course, that initial investment is a big reason why in-house label application is best for long-term savings. You invest that capital up front on equipment, training, and space, but you’ll make that money back over time.

Flexibility in terms of timing.

One of the biggest benefits of investing in your own applicators is that you don’t need to rely on outside schedules. Using a mobile canning company or some other professional label applicator means that you need to work around their timelines. If you have a filler-applicator in house, you dictate when it’s time to fill your containers and apply your labels.

Advantages of Professional Label Applicators

Capital and space.

While taking a DIY label application approach can save you long-term, they do require an initial investment. Professional applicators can help businesses that either aren’t in a position to make that investment or want to keep their cashflow flexible for the near future.

Professional label applicators also help businesses that struggle with space. It’s not uncommon that businesses simply don’t have room for permanent canning or bottling lines and other sizable equipment. Mobile canners and bottlers make it so that you only need to clear space for a day before it’s returned to a normal work area.

No extra labor.

Sometimes your business doesn’t have the staff to accommodate label application in house. It takes a lot of time to make your product, clean, work the floor, handle accounting, and complete every other essential job. With professional label applicators, you don’t have to worry about training people and dedicating their and your valuable time to yet another task.

Less responsibility.

There’s a lot of value in not having to incur the cost when something goes wrong. Professional vendors are responsible for any issues or other problems that occur with their equipment. Those issues can range from fixing application issues to cleaning up messes and maintaining machinery. If you don’t own the equipment, you won’t need to spend your valuable time addressing those issues.

A decorated spirits label applied with a DIY label applicator.

Make Sure Your Labels Match Your Applicator’s Requirements

Whether your invest in DIY equipment or hire an outside company, your labels will likely need to meet certain specifications.

As such, you’ll need to ensure that your equipment of professional applicator can accommodate certain label specifications. Details like roll sizes, container shape, and unwind requirements should all align with your choice of applicator. If they don’t, your labels will end up with visible issues – and that’s if they can even be applied in the first place.

No matter your choice of applicator, a good label printing company can help you quickly match your label specifications and set you up for success. Blue Label works directly with you to identify these criteria and quickly produce durable, eye-catching labels for your products. Your labels need to tell your story. Our team can make sure your story isn’t derailed by application issues and other problems.

Ready to invest in labels tailored for your exact needs? Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about your next label project.

5 Ways to Elevate Your RTD Beverage Packaging

Simply put, ready-to-drink beverages are a big deal. Sales for RTD beverages have grown notably year over year as people crave quality mixed drinks in cans and other convenient containers. Of course, that popularity makes it essential that your RTD packaging stands out from the crowd.

Eye-catching packaging can be the difference between your products flying off shelves or collecting dust. It’s critical that your hard seltzers, canned cocktails, or any other RTD beverages make a notable first impression on consumers. Here are five ways that your RTD packaging can promise an elevated beverage experience.

Three hard seltzer cans with attractive RTD beverage packaging.

Go Simple to Make a Big Statement

While craft cocktails can be complex creations, RTD beverages are meant to be just that – ready to drink. People want a quick, convenient way to enjoy a nice adult beverage. Your packaging should do its best to convey that type of message.

A minimalist design approach is a great way to make an impression. When people are looking to kick back with a quality drink, they don’t want or need an information overload on their cans. Using white space or opting for more modern fonts like sans serif will help you quickly and directly communicate everything people need to know, including the flavor, your brand, and more.

That sense of directness also gives your product a sense of transparency and authority. Every small detail is amplified, so you can really highlight key selling points like all-natural flavors or high-quality spirits. Simplicity also pairs well with any RTD beverages positioned as a health-conscious way to enjoy a few adult drinks.

Don’t Slack on Personality

Simple doesn’t mean boring. In fact, RTD packaging shouldn’t be afraid to be loud, proud, and fun.

Big brash colors are a great match for hard seltzers or canned cocktails meant for a day or night on the patio. Bright oranges, yellows, and greens are a perfect complement for any tequila seltzers or other drinks ready to make people appreciate a cold beverage on a warm day. Full color printing can help translate your aesthetic with bright, summery colors to capture your ideal brand look no matter the size of your company.

Stunning colors aren’t the only way to showcase your product’s personality. Different decorations can make a massive impact for the design of your containers. Finishes like matte or glossy laminates will add both elegance and durability to your RTD container. Meanwhile, a soft touch laminate will even make your label feel different, giving your drinks an added edge for intrigued consumers.

A peach bellini breeze from Figleaf Brewing Co with attractive RTD can packaging.

Maximize Your Materials

It’s important not to overlook just how much your materials impact the look of your RTD cans. When it comes to RTD labels, you’re mainly dealing with a film material that will work well in coolers, fridges, and fill lines. Of course, that still means you have plenty of options to optimize your design.

Shrink sleeves are one such eye-catching option. These labels allow you to add a “second skin” that conforms to the shape of the container. The effect gives your label an extremely professional 360-degree look akin to the Whiteclaws and Trulys of the world that’s extra impressive to consumers.

Sometimes your materials can help support your design in different ways as well. For example, you can utilize metallic labels to create a faux foil stamping that will not only look impressive, but also cost you less than the actual decorative effects. Holographic labels are another stunning material that can add a ton of pop to attract your consumers’ eyes.

Show Off All Your Different Products

People love options. Fortunately, you can leverage your packaging to showcase all your different products.

Whether you has an assortment of flavors or styles of RTD beverages, it’s important to give each product a distinctive, yet cohesive look. For example, you can use the same base design and give each flavor a distinct color – a bright green for a lime-flavored tequila seltzer just makes too much sense. These variations will not only give each product its own look, it’ll make for an eye-catching sight for the ever-popular mix packs.

Of course, you also need to balance variety with budget. Different products call for different labels, which can lead to added fees and minimum order requirements with traditional printing means. Fortunately, digital technology allows you to mix and match multiple orders into a single order to order exactly the amount of labels you need for each flavor and take advantage of the lower ‘per thousand’ unit cost.

A six-pack of with purple RTD packaging.

Work With the Right RTD Packaging Experts

It’s important to find partners who can bridge the gap balance quality, durability, and quick turnarounds for your business. That level of expertise and customer service is why companies turn to Blue Label Packaging for their product labels.

Our experts have worked with more than 1,000 breweries and distilleries and know what it takes to print refined, cost-effective RTD labels whether you’re expanding your current product line or transitioning to a new container. Better yet, we can promise turnaround times of five business days so that you get your labels when you need them.

Ready to invest in the perfect RTD labels? Contact us today to make sure your RTD beverages stand out from the competition.

What is a Release Liner and How Does It Impact Your Label?

There’s more to your labels than what your customers see. Every label is made up of multiple components that play a specific role. While most consumers will see your label material or decorative elements, there’s one key component that makes sure your labels get to where they need to go: the release liner.

What is a Label Release Liner?

To get to the bottom of a release liner’s meaning and role, it’s important to understand how a label is constructed. These are the four main layers of a label from top to bottom.
A breakdown of the different layers of a label, including the release liner.

As you can see, the release liner serves as the base layer for any roll of pressure sensitive labels. This release liner is a thin sheet with a silicone layer that allows adhesive to release the roll so that it can be applied to another surface. If it weren’t for the release liner, also known as a carrier, your labels would simply stick to each other or something else before you could transport it to the next application.

The Different Types of Release Liners

Like label materials, there are different types of release liners available for use. Each of these carriers have different advantages depending on your applicator and other product factors. While there are a variety of options, there are three types of release liners that are common for product labels.

  • PET (polyester)
  • Calendered Kraft paper
  • Polykraft paper

PET release liners

A PET release liner is made with polyester film to create a carrier that’s extremely smooth. A major advantage of PET release liners is that they don’t break as easily as a paper liner. That strength makes PET release liners a great choice for high-speed applicators.

Another benefit of PET release liners is that they’re great for wet applications. For example, beer cans are typically soaking wet by the time they reach the labeling line, so that added durability is a major positive for any adverse applicating environments. PET is also thinner than the usual release liner papers. As such, a standard 1.2 mm PET release liner will allow you to get more labels on a roll and take up less space during shipping and storage.

Calendered kraft paper release liners

While film release liners have their advantages, paper carries are still extremely common for labels in multiple industries. Super calendered kraft (SCK) papers are typically bleached white and are commonplace in the U.S. as many applicators are made to accommodate papers.

The reason why businesses commonly turn to SCK release liners extends beyond paper being an old standby for label carriers. A paper being “calendered” means that it’s polished, so an SCK is smoother than regular paper liners. That smoothness and the ability to work with the majority of applicators makes SCK a go-to option for product labels.

Polykraft release liners

A polykraft release liner is essentially a mid-point between PET and paper label carriers. Polykraft is a brown, unbleached paper that’s a little thicker and heavier than standard kraft papers. This extra heft and thickness is because polykraft has a very thin layer of polypropylene married to the paper.

The advantage of Polykraft is that the layer of polypropylene makes the material more stable and sturdy. These qualities help with moisture barriers while still allowing companies to invest in paper liners. As such, Polykraft is typically used in wine labeling and other industries that are used to paper release liners, but still need that added stability to deal with moisture.

Rolls of labels with different release liners.

How to Identify the Right Label Release Liner

While there are multiple label release liners available, there are a few different factors that can impact which one is best for your needs. To identify the right carrier for your labels, you’ll want to weigh the following considerations.

Your label applicator

The biggest factor in which release liner you should use depends on how you’re going to apply those labels. An applicator reads the gap between labels to know when the applicator should dispense a label. Once the sensor reads a gap, it will dispense a label so that it catches a can, bottle, or any other container. However, the wrong release liner can lead to label application issues.

Simply put, some applicators aren’t made to read clear liners. New applicators are built to accept clear release liners, which means PET carriers shouldn’t pose problems. However, you would need to opt for SCK, Polykraft, or some other opaque release liner if your application process isn’t made to handle clear carriers.

Environmental factors

The applicator isn’t the only potential challenge during the application process. You also need to make sure your release liner works with your applicating conditions.

Different application environments pose certain problems for your release liners. Wet conditions are the biggest issue, especially for paper carriers. If a beer can or some other container is soaking wet, that can cause carriers without enough moisture resistance to tear. As such, you’ll need to invest in a PET release liner or another solution that can hold up to your applicating environment.

Clear labels

Some liner issues are less obvious than others. While the carrier is removed before your labels are applied, it can still have a visual impact on clear labels if you’re not careful.

If you want to use clear labels, its best to use some form of film release liner. The reason for this is that running a clear label on a paper liner can make the label look cloudy. This cloudiness occurs because the label adhesive takes the shape of the carrier. Even a super calendered paper has small fibers that can impact the adhesive. Because of this, it’s best to use a PET release liner that has no imperfections and will enable true clarity.


Invest in the Perfect Labels from Top to Bottom

While they don’t end up on your products, different types of release liners play a pivotal part for your labels. That’s why Blue Label strives to provide the perfect labeling solution for your products. Our experts work with you to uncover any opportunities and potential issues to make sure every layer of your label is perfect for your needs.

Ready to invest in the right labels for your products? Contact us today to talk about your next label project.

Digital vs. Flexo Printing: Which is Right for Your Labels?

Quality labels play a pivotal role in any product. However, there’s more than one way to manufacture your custom labels.

Digital and flexographic label printing are both viable ways to make product labels, but it’s not always obvious why one would be better than another for your business. Let’s break down the differences between the two printing processes (and how you don’t always have to decide between the two).

Flexographic Printing vs. Digital Printing: How They Work

The differences between flexographic and digital label printing largely boil down to how the two processes work. Each method aims to accomplish the same task – print product labels. However, the way they go about this task is very different.

The flexo label printing process

Flexo label printing is the old-school approach where ink is physically pressed onto either film or paper. This process uses custom rubber printing plates to stamp your design onto the label material. These plates are attached to cylinders so that the flexographic printing press can make multiple imprints on a roll of labels. Larger projects will sometimes avoid the rubber plates and engrave the label design directly on metal cylinders instead to accommodate massive quantities.

The problem with flexographic printing is that its various costs can add up rather quickly. Every color will need its own plate for your design, which means you’ll need multiple custom plates for every design.

That number increases dramatically if you have multiple SKUs. Let’s say you need labels for four different SKUs and each of them needs four different colors. That’s 16 total plates that you’ll need to pay for if you go with flexographic printing.

There are additional costs associated with this flexographic printing. Time and labor is a factor as well. Flexographic printers need to align each plate to create a perfect imprint on each piece. This process isn’t short – some jobs can take days to set up properly. Testing these setups also requires a lot of waste material. It’s not uncommon that 15 percent or more of your material costs go toward waste accrued during flexographic setup.

So why would businesses turn to flexographic label printing if there are so many initial costs and delays? This method is well-suited to handle large-scale label printing projects. Larger quantities help amortize initial costs over a long print run of labels, which is why massive businesses, like Budweiser, use flexographic printing for millions of labels. However, that same scale is less likely to be realistic for small to mid-size businesses.

A digital printing press used for digital vs. flexo printing.

The digital label printing process

Digital printing eliminates the need for plates in favor of using technology. Digital label printing presses read art files that lay out your design and call out specific Pantone colors and other key instructions. The printer then uses an electrophotographic process to transfer images onto a material. HP Indigo printers use heated blankets to blend electronically charged particles into a smooth film. This process creates a defined image on the blanket, which in turn is transferred onto the label substrate.

Because of the lack of custom plates and lengthy setups, the digital printing process offers businesses a lot more flexibility and cost-saving capabilities. Because of how they’re made, flexographic presses will use a lot of spot colors. Digital presses do CMYK blending to achieve full color label printing without the need to source different inks for every hue.

Digital label printing is also a much more scalable option. By cutting out tooling and setup costs, digital printing can help accommodate your label needs with quicker turnaround times. That time savings means that you’ll get your labels sooner than you would if you had to wait for new plates any time you adjust your order.

While digital offers several advantages, there are some occasions when the flexographic printing technique is necessary. For example, plates are needed to apply flood or spot coats onto labels. In addition, digital printing technology hasn’t quite come far enough to accommodate more than a few select metallic, fluorescent, and pastel inks. Until those specialty inks are developed, you may need some form of flexographic process to enjoy those types of capabilities.

A digital label printer utilizing flexo label printing techniques for finishing.

Combine Digital and Flexographic Label Printing for the Best of Both Worlds

While both digital and flexographic label printing offer certain advantages, you don’t necessarily have to settle for one or the other. Digital label printing is adaptable enough to include flexographic into its finishing processes so that you can enjoy the benefits of both.

During the digital label printing process, printed labels go through a finishing machine to put on final touches such as decorative treatments or print protection. However, some digital label printing companies have flexographic stations incorporated into the finishing process to address specific needs like flood coats or fluorescent inks.

As with traditional flexographic printing, these added finishing processes will still require plates for any custom designs. However, the costs and time associated with tooling and setup are drastically reduced since you’re only making a single plate. Flood coats of white ink or label varnishes won’t require any plates either, as they require a solid stamp that’s already available in-house. In short, you’re still able to achieve the benefits of flexographic printing without all the extra investment or delays.

Find the Right Label Printing Partner for Your Company

Both digital and flexographic label printing have their advantages, but it’s important to find the right solutions for your product labels. At Blue Label, our digital label printing technology and flexographic finishing stations allow you to invest in the best, most cost-effective labels for your company.

We strive to do more than simply print labels. Our experts work with you throughout the ordering process to enhance your designs and identify potential issues before they become a problem. Thanks to our flexibility, we can deliver stunning labels that cut out costly tooling costs and lengthy turnaround times. Contact us today to have Blue Label get to work on your next label project.

How to Determine Your Label Unwind Position

The last thing you want is an upside-down label. It’s extremely frustrating to invest time and creativity in stunning labels only to have an improper unwind lead to application issues. Let’s break down how to figure out the proper roll direction and make sure your labels are correctly applied to your containers.

What is Unwind?

Unwind, also known as label roll direction, is the dimension or edge of the label that comes off the roll first. Labels come in long rolls that are fed through an applicator. As the roll runs through the machine, the labels will come off the roll in a specific direction.

If you hand apply your labels, the roll direction isn’t all too important – you’ll simply peel off the labels and place them appropriately on your container. The machine application process isn’t so simple.

Different applicators place labels onto containers in different ways – left to right, top to bottom, etc. Your unwind needs to accommodate your applicator so that the roll feeds your labels into the machine in the appropriate label wind direction every single time. If it doesn’t, you could end up with labels that are upside down or sideways.

A selection of label rolls with different unwinds.

How to Choose Which Unwind is Best for You

Improper label orientation is a major issue for any business. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to address the problem and determine your proper label roll direction.

When you don’t know which unwind is right for your business, it’s best to go straight to the source. Each label application machine will have specific instructions on the correct label roll direction. If you apply the label in house, you can refer to the label applicator’s instruction manual or contact the manufacturer. If you have a third-party applicator, they should be able to tell you which unwind is needed for your label rolls.

The Different Label Unwind Positions

There are a variety of unwind directions for labels. These unwinds are named after the edge of your label that will come off the roll first. You can use this handy label unwind chart to visualize the different roll directions.

A label unwind chart with the four different label roll directions.

The unwind direction for labels on the underside of a label roll.

It’s also important to remember that the labels can be placed on the inside or the outside of the roll depending on the applicator. Labels printed on the outside of the roll are considered “wound out” while labels printed on the inside of the roll are “wound in.” Because of this, there are eight possible label unwind directions for your setup. As always, you’ll want to double-check your applicator’s instructions before assuming that the labels should be printed and die cut on the outside of the roll.

Maximize Your Label Costs Associated to Unwind

The unwind isn’t the only way your applicator impacts your product labels. Applicators can require a specific roll size, also known as “Max OD” (Maximum Outer-Diameter). The roll size and unwind position have a direct impact on the efficiency of your label printing process.

The dimensions and positioning of your custom label can lead to unused roll space that will add to your total label costs if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s important to partner with a label printing company that help you maximize label space and mitigate any application issues ahead of time.

At Blue Label, we work directly with you to identify potential issues and provide cost-effective solutions to ensure you get the best possible eye-catching labels for your products. Contact us today to get your next product label project underway.

Label Application Issues: How to Prevent Common Label Defects

A good label makes an important statement to potential customers. Unfortunately, improper application can turn a promising opportunity into a bad look for your product. Label defects come in a variety of forms ranging from minor errors to complete failure. Typical issues include:

  • Wrinkles
  • Darting
  • Air bubbles
  • Cupping
  • Edge lift
  • Tearing during application
  • Adhesive not sticking

Whether it’s due to improper adhesives, applicator issues, or a harsh environment, one thing is certain: defects detract from your product labels. Each fault will negatively impact the appearance of your brand (and that’s if the labels are able to stick to your container in the first place). As such, it’s important to identify the source behind these issues and take steps to solve the situation.

A man examining printed labels for defects.

Potential Causes of Label Application Issues

There are several different reasons why a label would wrinkle, cup, or fall off entirely. Of course, each situation can depend on multiple factors, to name a couple: the type of product you sell or the material and adhesive combination chosen for your label. Once the issue is identified, your label manufacturer and applicator can make the appropriate adjustments to help ensure optimal label performance. To identify the source of your label failure, you’ll want to consider the following potential reasons for label defects.

The container

One of the early steps in identifying potential issues involves knowing your container. It’s important to know the dimensions of your container so that you can base your design around them. The downfall of not knowing your container’s dimensions is that your label could wrinkle or trap in air bubbles upon application. For example, a square label won’t properly apply to a tapered bottle without issue. By tapering your label to fit your dimensions, you can help prevent darting or wrinkles early on in the process.

If you need these dimensions, you should contact the manufacturer of your container for this information. If you use glass bottles, you may have already received something called a “mechanical,” which is essentially a spec sheet for your containers.

It’s also important to recognize that the surface of your container can impact label application. For example, lower quality glass may be pitted or more rigid than smooth. These little peaks and valleys on the surface of your container will trap air under your label upon application, which will result in a higher likelihood of visible bubbles.

The applicating environment and process

In addition to considering the container itself, it’s also important to weigh the condition of the container and the environment surrounding it during application. Environmental factors make a massive impact on which materials and adhesives are right for your labels. Factors like temperature, the presence of moisture, and potential contamination will directly cause peeling or label failure if you don’t plan for them.

Beer labels are a common example of this issue. If a brewery prefills the can and applies a lid, there’s a rinse in the process that makes the cans wet. This situation would call for some type of wet apply adhesive. These options aren’t bulletproof given the nature of water and adhesive, but it will be much more successful than a standard adhesive. If existing moisture is still an issue, you can add what’s called an air knife to blow condensation off the can and lessen the chances of label defects.

Of course, these issues can’t be addressed until you examine your applicating environment and share these details with your label manufacturer. Even small details may help you avoid lengthy troubleshooting. For example, you may need a different adhesive or material solution for a sour beer compare to a standard lager because the acidity from the fruit in the sour beer can cause oxidation between aluminum can and a metallic BOPP material.

Belt problems

Another area of potential concern involves the wrap belt on an applicator. In certain instances, the belt can create a static charge as it moves the cans forward. That static charge can tug on the label and make the label crooked or completely pull it off in the belt area. As this happens, whoever is at the end of the applicator will need to fix affected containers – and that’s if you have an adhesive that you can remove after application.

This static charge can be caused by a few factors. In some cases, there may be too much pressure on the belt. In other, there may not be enough pressure on the belt. Certain circumstances may also call for some form of anti-skid tape to limit the amount of friction and static on the belt. This process is especially helpful for labels with matte or soft touch laminations. These laminations are very hydrophilic, which can cause the wipe down pads to accidentally suck labels off containers. Adding anti-skid tape or even sandpaper will give the backing pad lower surface energy than the lamination, which in turn lowers the odds of accidental label removal.

Liner issues

In some situations, your liner label can be the source of application issues. Labels have either paper or clear plastic liners, but some applicators can’t use one type of liner and vice versa.

Your choice of liner doesn’t cause a lot of issues, but it does impact the die cut. When you cut out the shape of the label, you’re basically pushing down on that liner. You can push down harder on the clear liner because it’s plastic. If you push too hard on the paper, it can make a small hairpin split that’s hard to see. However, if that slightly split paper line is hooked up to an applicator, the pressure and tension used in that applicator can rip the liner and force you to stop production and splice the roll back together.

In this situation, the solution would be to opt for a clear liner as long as your applicator can handle a change. Each applicator has a sensor, but some aren’t set up to work correctly with clear liner. Imagine if you’re trying to scan something that’s clear – it doesn’t always register. In this case, you may need to get a special sensor to avoid potential tearing.

Improper storage

Another potential source of label defects stems from the way labels a stored before application. Certain environmental factors can impact the success of your labels, such as keeping them in a place that’s too hot, cold, dry, or wet. Typically, you want labels stores in a temperature controlled environment – the exact temperature and humidity varies based on your specific label, so make sure to get these details from your label printer if you plan on storing them before use.

While environmental factors can impact all labels during storage, shrink sleeve labels are particularly tricky. Shrink sleeves are made with special materials that make them more susceptible to potential damage prior to application. Excess heat, cold, or other uncontrolled environmental factors can cause shrink sleeves to warp or even melt, leading to distortion or complete failure. As such, these labels require refrigerated trailers for shipping and have particular storage needs to prevent avoidable waste.

Shelf life is another key consideration for potential defects. Typically there’s a one-year warranty on labels, so you don’t want to wait past that time because the adhesive can lose effectiveness if you let it sit that long.

A run of labels made with a collaborative digital label printer.

Work with a Collaborative Label Printing Company

The best tool for preventing label defects is communication. From air bubbles to wrinkles, Blue Label works with you to identify potential hazards and deliver solutions for your label problems. Our experts develop a collaborative relationship with our customers to understand the ins and outs of their label process to avoid issues ahead of time or troubleshoot defects over time.

Ready to work with a collaborative label printing company for your product labels? Contact us today to request label samples or talk to one of our experts about your needs.

Four Reasons Why You Should Consider Shrink Sleeve Labels

More businesses are turning to shrink sleeves for their products. According to a 2018 study, sleeve labels claimed 18 percent of the label market, the vast majority of which comprised of heat shrink labels that conform sleeves to the shape of your container. As a result, sleeve labels are now the third-largest labeling technology behind pressure-sensitive and traditional glue-applied labels – and this growth isn’t expected to slow down.

So why are more businesses utilizing shrink sleeves? These labels provide a variety of design and performance benefits depending on your product. Here are four big reasons why you may want to use shrink sleeve labels for your business.

360 Degree Design Capabilities

One of the most notable benefits of shrink sleeves is that they can provide where other labels are limited: complete container coverage.

While a pressure-sensitive label can be custom-shaped to your container, it can’t compete with a label that’s very nature is to conform to the entire container. This process allows you to brand your goods from neck finish to base, allowing you to adorn your product with a design that covers pretty much every square inch of your container instead of being limited to the main surface area.

A shrink sleeve label on a beer can.

Form Fitting Sleeves Highlight Custom Shapes

Containers come in all shapes and sizes. From squeeze bottles shaped for comfort and performance to custom packaging designed to intrigue consumers, shrink sleeves are a natural fit for products that don’t subscribe to standard shapes.

Since shrink sleeves conform to your container, they provide tremendous opportunity to accentuate certain features of your packaging, whether it’s an ergonomic grip, an extended neck, or some other eye-catching shape.

Extra Design Protection

If you’re concerned about scuffed or scratched labels, you’ll be a fan of shrink sleeves. Pressure-sensitive labels have ink printed on the outside of the label, which means that people may accidentally rub that ink off if you don’t use a laminate or some other form of protection. Shrink sleeves turn this process inside out to eliminate the need for a special shield.

Unlike other types of labels, shrink sleeves have your design printed on the inside of the sleeve. By doing this, you shield your design with a built-in coat of film that is resistant to abrasion and other potential damage. This process can help protect your design from potential damage caused by everyday use.

Potential for Built-in Security

Tamper seals are necessary for specialty foods and other products that require tamper-evident packaging. Shrink sleeves allow you to invest in quality labels and tamper seals at the same time.

While you can design and order separate labels that serve as product seals, you can extend your sleeve over your closure and add a perforation to create a built-in, tearable seal. Perforations will allow your users to tear away only the top over your shrink sleeve, helping you cut down on your application process. In addition, you can extend your label design so that it covers your closure if you don’t want a basic, clear seal.

An assortment of shrink sleeves before they're placed on containers.

Find the Right Labels for Your Products

Whether you need a label for bottles, cans, or a specialty container, shrink sleeves can be an attractive, effective solution for your brand. At Blue Label, we have the expertise and equipment necessary to provide you with quality shrink sleeves designed for your specific design and performance needs.

If you’re ready to invest in shrink sleeves or stick with tried and true pressure sensitive labels, Blue Label can help. Contact us today to have us print the perfect labels for your products.

The Benefits of Variable Data Printing for Cannabis and CBD Labels

When you operate in a thriving industry, sometimes you need an edge to help your products stand out from the crowd. As more cannabis and CBD products make their way online and in stores, it’s critical that people notice your products. Fortunately, digital label printing technology can play a key part in showcasing your goods.

Variable label printing is a powerful promotional tool that utilizes data to revamp the way you approach your labels. By utilizing spreadsheets and other file formats, this technology allows you to be creative in brand new ways to personalize your products and keep track of important information. These new capabilities can open your cannabis and CBD labels up to a whole new range of possibilities.

Flexible Label Design Modification

One of the wonderful advantages of variable data printing is that it can help you diversify your label design without recreating that design every single time. Essentially, variable data printing allows you to modify various elements for different labels. These elements can include features like:

  • Illustrations and images
  • Product names, quotes, and other text
  • Batch numbers
  • QR codes

Thanks to your data spreadsheet or other file format, you can create rules that allow you to customize these elements to add variety to your labels. For example, if you make CBD gummies and have a wide variety of flavors, you can utilize the same label design template and modify the color and text on those labels to match each flavor. This process allows you to turn a single design into personalized pieces for multiple SKUs with a little creativity and some beneficial technology.

Multiple product labels with different colors made using variable data printing.

Adjustability for Required Product Information

No matter whether you make something edible or topical, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to include certain product information on your label. Between the FDA, TTB, and any other regulatory acronym, different types of product labels need to include certain details to remain compliant with governmental standards. The existence of cannabis, CBD, and THC can add even more required information. Depending on your product, that can include the following:

  • The amount of active CBD and/or THC per serving
  • A supplement fact panel that includes all ingredients
  • Net weight
  • Manufacturer or distributor names
  • Whether the CBD used is full spectrum, broad spectrum, or an isolate
  • Batch or date codes

While necessary, these bits of info are a pain when they can change depending on your product. If your trying to consolidate your order or use the same base template, variable data printing allows you to customize each of these elements as you see fit. Does one hand cream contain more active CBD than another? Digital printing can help you modify that and other information as necessary to save you some time and frustration.

The Freedom to Be Unique

While variable data printing is great for modifying individual elements to customize base designs, it can also help you go a bit wild with your design. If you don’t want to limit your options to a few set choices, full variable printing can help you create a unique look for every single label.

Want to use a psychedelic, tie-dye background that’s different every time? Variable data printing can do that. Have a ton of photos, quotes, or other design elements available and want to randomly assign them for each label? That’s definitely doable. When you want to embrace being different, variable data printing gives you the means to do it without manually creating every single label.

Product Tracking

While a bit of chaos is fun, there are some aspects of your label that demand careful organization. Variable data printing can help you serialize barcodes to help you track products. It also can number labels systematically so you don’t need to tally everything by hand, which will save you plenty of time and hand cramps.

Three versions of cannabis product labels printed in the same order.

Multiple Designs in One Order

Another big advantage of variable data printing is order flexibility. Whether you can’t justify hitting certain minimum label requirements for a dozen different SKUs or you prefer smaller orders to stay ahead of any regulatory changes, digital technology gives you the ability to combine multiple label designs in a single order. This way you don’t need to sacrifice quality in order to reach certain quantities.

Not only does variable data printing allow you to churn out several label variations in one batch, it doesn’t slow down the process either. Once you have the data and design files ready, digital printing can get your labels ready right away so you can get your labels within three to five days, even if you utilized variable printing for multiple designs.

With the right equipment, technology, and experts in place, Blue Label can help you create the best possible labels for your cannabis and CBD products. Contact us today to talk to us about your label needs.