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.

Label Considerations for Squeeze Bottles and Other Containers

Whether you’re trying to brand a flexible pouch, a lotion bottle, or some other squeezable container, you need a label that’s flexible enough for the job. These types of products require a labeling solution that’s both rigid and conformable enough to keep its shape with every use. Here are three factors you should consider to make sure you squeeze the most value out of your product labels.

Use a Squeezable Label Material

When it comes to labels for squeezable containers, there’s one go-to option: an MDO film. An MDO is a machine directed orientation BOPP film that is preconditioned to being squeezed and stretched. Essentially, the fibers in MDO films are stretched in all directions. This makes it so the material doesn’t have nearly as much tension as typical materials. As such, the MDO is more likely to return to its original state when squeezed or wrinkled, whether it’s a semi-squeeze film used for a container with slight compound curves or full-squeeze film made for complex squeeze bottles that expand and contract with every use.

An MDO’s ability to balance rigidity and conformability makes it a natural solution for applications with containers or packaging that’s made to grip, squeeze, or contort in some way. The tradeoff for this conformability is that MDOs are a little thinner than other label materials. However, MDOs can still provide the same level of resistance to sun, abrasion, and other problem areas as it’s less flexible counterparts.

An example of an MDO film use for squeeze container labels.

Factor in Container Design

While MDO label materials go a long way toward preventing peeling, wrinkles, and other issues for contoured or squeezable containers, you still need to factor in the design of your container into your label. Labels for contoured containers still need to be adjusted to prevent application issues.

MDO films do offer more flexibility than other materials, but a rectangular label isn’t going to cut it for a non-rectangular packaging. To accommodate the contours of your packaging, design your label around the shape of your container. Tapering your labels will allow you to stay ahead of the curve and help your labels adhere properly to your container.

Plan Adhesives Around End Use

While you may think squeezable packaging may need stronger glue than less hands-on packaging, MDOs typically use less adhesive than common label materials. The reason for using less adhesive is because MDO films are thinner than other options. Less adhesive makes it so adhesive won’t ooze out as people squeeze the container.

While squeezable labels don’t need higher performance adhesives than typical materials, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to consider other adhesive factors. For one, you’ll want to figure out which adhesive is best for your container. Squeezable plastic containers can vary in surface energy, so certain materials may need a stronger adhesive than others. In addition, curved surfaces generally require a stronger adhesive than flat ones. The stretched out fibers of an MDO will help prevent the need to peel back.

You’ll also want to plan ahead for your applicating environment and end use. If your labels will need to deal with wet surfaces, extreme temperatures, UV light, or potential contamination, you may need to use a certain adhesive to accommodate those conditions and prevent label failure.

A white squeezable MDO material used in labels for squeeze bottles.

Invest in Squeezable Labels that Conform to Your Needs

If your containers are made to squeeze, it’s time to look for the best, most cost-effective labels for your products. At Blue Label, we’ll work with you to determine a labeling solution that both looks great and performs under pressure. From identifying the perfect adhesive to uncovering new ways to make your design shine, we can help your products stand out among the competition.

Ready to invest in a new batch of labels? Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about your project or request some label sample to check out materials for yourself.

3 Key Considerations When Designing Labels for Bottlenecks

A good bottleneck label can help set your product head and shoulders above the competition. Like a good tie for a nice suit, a bottleneck label adds an intriguing element to the overall look of a bottle. As such, it’s important to devote enough time to designing these companion labels. Here are some key factors to consider when designing bottleneck labels.

Use Your Extra Space Wisely

Bottleneck labels provide you with a very important gift: more design space. Once you have more design space, you need to figure out what you want to do with that space to showcase your branding and attract consumers. You could use it to showcase your logo, add additional information that couldn’t quite fit on your main product label, or use it as a decorative seal for spirits and other classy products.

Want to add a show-stopping pop to your bottleneck? Hot foil stamping makes your logo stand out on the bottleneck in a whole new way, or simply mirror the design on your main product label. You can also opt for a new twist on your branding, such as an alternate logo or variable bottleneck labels catered to specific versions or flavors of your products.

When it comes to adding information, you can utilize the bottleneck to showcase certain messaging. Have a company motto, saying, or some other language to intrigue buyers? A bottleneck label is a perfect spot for these types of branding efforts. You can even use the extra space to make intriguing health claims for food or dietary supplements, as long as they comply with FDA guidelines.

You can also use the bottleneck as a place to include certain regulatory info to free up space on your body label. This is particularly useful for alcohol and other heavily regulated products, although you need to make sure you follow the rules for mandatory label information placement. Whether it’s decoration or compliance, bottlenecks give you the space you need to do what you want to showcase your bottled product.

A spirits bottle featuring a bottleneck label.

Taper Your Bottlenecks (if Necessary)

The shape of a bottle plays a major role in how you design a label. That same philosophy extends to bottleneck labels as well.

The neck and body of a bottle can have different shapes. For example, a standard beer bottle has a cylindrical body, but the neck has a slight taper to it. Other containers, such as spirits or wine bottles, may have cylindrical necks as well as bodies. As a result, you’ll need to measure both the body and the neck to see if you should taper one or both labels.

If the neck of your bottle is tapered, you’ll need to adjust your design. A standard label shape placed on a tapered container will look uneven and can cause the label itself to crease or bulge. The tapering process is a bit tricky, so we’ve provided guidelines on how to taper labels in another blog post for you, just in case.

Factor in Bottle Conditions

Sometimes designing labels is like picking out an outfit – a snazzy dress shirt with no jacket isn’t going to help if it rains. If you want that design to shine, you better consider potential environmental factors so that you can protect it from damage. Water resistance is one typical consideration for bottle labels, but everything from sunlight to scuffs and scratches pose future problems for all parts of your bottle.

Protective coatings like laminates and varnishes help shield your design from outside factors that will cause your labels to warp, scratch, or fall right off the bottle. This extra level of defense can help you ensure that your label design stays looking great. A varnish can double as a decorative effect as well. For example, a spot varnish can add a gloss sheen to a specific element of your design, helping your bottle neck label stand out even further.

A digital label printing expert looking over labels for bottles.

Find the Right Printing Company

A great label still needs a printing company that can do your design justice. Not only is it important to find a printer that has all the technical capabilities required to bring your design to life, it’s also key that this company works with you to identify any specific issues and potential solutions to make sure your labels both look great and perform as expected.

Blue Label is ready to work with you to print the perfect bottle labels for your products. Contact Blue Label today to talk to one of our experts about your next label project and how we can help.

How to Taper a Label for Your Products

Are you wondering how to put a label on a curved surface and how to apply them straight? Designing for a flat surface is pretty straightforward. A straight edge will still be straight, a square will still be a square, etc. Curved or inclined surfaces are more difficult. Depending on the shape of your container, especially if it’s tapered, this can be trickier than you expect.

A container is tapered when it isn’t perfectly cylindrical and gradually changes in width. An easy way to tell if your container has a tapered shape is tapered is to compare it to something that’s completely flat or straight, whether it’s something like a rectangular box or a ruler. If you stand both items next to each other and the side of your container isn’t flush against something flat, it has some degree of tapering to it.

Why Can’t You Use Rectangular Labels on Tapered Containers?

Tapered labels can create some problems for even the most basic of label shapes. Straight lines appear uneven when placed on tapered containers, even if the change in width is very slight. This can lead to crooked label placement or noticeable creases or bulges that result in an unprofessional overall packaging design.

While it may seem easy to simply switch to a non-tapered container, these labeling challenges shouldn’t scare you away from utilizing uniquely-shaped packaging that stands out to your consumers. Even standard beer bottles feature a tapered neck, so you may not be able to avoid some form of tapering depending on your container.

You also may not want to change your container. Tapered shapes can attract eyes and create an exclusive silhouette for your brand. Instead of settling for standard containers, you can create a curved dieline that will allow your custom product labels to account for the gradual tapering of your container.

Labels that were tapered for custom-shaped bottles.

How to Adjust Your Label to Fit a Tapered Container

One option is to downsize your label so that the effect of the tapering isn’t as noticeable. However, this limits the amount of label space you have to showcase your brand, describe your product, and include any necessary regulatory information.

The other option is to tailor your label to better suit the shape of your container or tapered bottle. If you still want your label to look rectangular, you’ll need to create a curved dieline. You’ll need to do some math to figure out the right shape, but the process may not be as tricky as you think.

Step 1: Decide where your label should go

Before you can solve anything, you’ll need to acquire some information. First, figure out exactly where you want your label to stick to your container. Since the width of your container gradually changes, it’s important to measure exactly where a label needs to go or else your measurements could be wrong. This also means you should have an idea of whether you want a partial or full wrap for your label as that will greatly impact the width. Once you’re set, use a pen, pencil, tape, or some other item to mark where the top, bottom, and sides of your label should go.

Step 2: Measure your dimensions

Once you have your container marked, you’ll want to measure the following:

  • Width of the top of your label
  • Width of the bottom of your label
  • Height of your label

Regular rulers won’t be too helpful in this stage since you’ll need something that can curl around your container and measure the top and bottom parts of your label. If you don’t have a loose tape measure, contact your Blue Label representative and request a custom flexible ruler or you can download and print a paper ruler. Another is to wrap string around your container and mark or cut it to fit the right lengths.

Please note that if you measure completely around your container, those measurements will make for a full wrap label dieline. If you don’t want a full wrap label, you’ll want to factor in your desired gap into the measurements. Once you’re all set, you can use your measurements to create a curved shape in Adobe Illustrator.

Step 3: Use Adobe Illustrator to create a curved dieline

In order to turn your measurements into an actual curved shape, you’ll need to do some geometry. Fortunately, there’s a convenient online cone calculator that will do the hard work for you. All you need to do is plug in the height and widths from your container to generate the following measurements.

  • Arc angle
  • Radius 1
  • Radius 2

A cone with measurements used to taper product labels.

These numbers will allow you to create your exact custom container label shape in Illustrator. First, take each radius and create a pair of circles that share a common center (also known as concentric circles). Now you can use the drawing and transform tools to create a triangle that shares an apex point with the center of the two circles. The triangle should use the arc angle generated by the calculator and extend past the larger of the two circles. In the end, the two circles and triangle will intersect to create a curved dieline for your container.

Example dielines for rectangular and tapered labels.

Step 4: Identify an ideal rectangular shape

Even though you have a curved dieline, you still need to figure out how to warp your design to fit your container. To start, you’ll want to convert your curved dieline into an ideal rectangular shape.

Before you find your shape, make sure to add a bleed area that extends your design artwork at least 1/16” past the edges of your curved label dieline. This will add some extra insurance that your labels don’t have any accidental white spaces once they’re cut. It’s also important to add this now because you’ll need to measure the top and bottom chords of your label to identify your ideal rectangular shape. A chord is the straight line between two corners of a curved dieline.

Once you use Illustrator to find these measurements, you’ll then need to average the top and bottom length together. You can now build out your ideal rectangular shape with the measurements for the average chord length and your original height and use the Illustrator warp tool to curve your artwork.

Make Sure Your Labels Stay Ahead of the Curve

Preparing a label for a tapered container may seem like a lot of work, but it doesn’t mean you have to settle for something you don’t want. At Blue Label Packaging Company, our experts work directly with you to ensure that your tapered labels are catered to your needs. That way, you don’t have to sacrifice your container or other important aspects of your packaging. If you need a professional designer to help you create a specific look for your products, we can even point you toward our approved designer directory.

Ready to wow your customers with tapered product labels by using our custom label printing? Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about your label design and project.