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.

Common Labeling Mistakes to Avoid: Application Issues

Before your labels can wow anyone, you need to apply them to your products. However, improper application can make your labels stick out for all the wrong reasons.

Application issues come in many forms and lead to a range of problems. Misapplication could lead to tearing, wrinkling, flagging, or peeling. Other factors can wreak havoc with the actual application process itself. No matter the problem, you can take measures to prevent each problem ahead of time. Here are some notable reasons why you’d encounter label application issues.

Your Label isn’t Right for Your Container Surface

What you apply your labels to can play as much of a role in label issues than the application process itself. Each surface has its own challenges, which can call for a different adhesive or label material. For example, a glass wine bottle has a different surface energy and adhesive needs than a polyethylene pouch for candy. This means that you need to identify potential surface issues to ensure that your labels stay on your products during – and long after – the application process.

Custom product labels printed out for rolls.

The Applicating Environment Poses Problems

Even if you have the right label material and adhesive for your container, they may not be a good fit for your applicating environment. There are a variety of factors that impact label application. Certain adhesives won’t work nearly as well at different temperatures, which can be a major issue if application is performed in a hot or cold environment. As a result, you’ll want to take these conditions into consideration when selecting the right label adhesive.

There’s also potential for contaminants like dirt, dust, and moisture to prevent proper adhesion. The product itself can even pose a problem for the application environment. Spilled oil or soap won’t make it any easier for an adhesive to take hold. No matter the potential problem, it’s important to try and keep your containers and environment as clean as possible for application.

The Unwind Direction is Wrong

Even if you have the right label adhesive and your applicating environment is clean, you can still have major issues if your rolls aren’t oriented correctly. Since your labels are printed on rolls, it’s crucial that you consider both how those labels are printed on the substrate and how they’ll be applied to your container. If you don’t, you’ll likely end up with an incorrect unwind direction that results in improper label placement.

Simply put, the unwind direction is the orientation of your labels as they come off a roll. Depending on your container or application equipment, you will need a specific unwind direction. For example, one machine may dispense labels on the left side first or require your design to be turned 90 degrees for proper placement. It’s key that you take the application process into account and visualize how your labels are applied to your product. That way you can communicate the correct unwind direction to your printer so that you avoid issues before they happen.

Spirit bottle labels printed with the right unwind direction.

Your Label Rolls Aren’t Right for Your Equipment

Unsurprisingly, your applicating equipment could be the source of application issues. Certain machines only handle certain roll sizes. That means equipment designed to use 8-inch rolls won’t accommodate larger sizes. As a result, improper roll sizes can cause your application process to come to a complete stop.

Incorrect roll sizes are fixable, but it still requires your printer to resize and rewind them. In turn that costs you more time and money for an entirely preventable problem. Whether you use your own equipment or work with a co-packer, make sure you know what size rolls your equipment can handle. This size issue is typically referred to as “maximum outer diameter” or “max OD,” That way you can communicate these sizes to your printer and be proactive in preventing issues.

Work with the Right Label Printing Company

No matter the application issue you want to avoid, a good printer can help you find potential solutions to your label problems. That’s why Blue Label develops a collaborative relationship to work with our customers so that we understand their needs and identify ways to avoid issues ahead of time.

Ready to talk about your next custom product label project? Contact Blue Label today to get in touch with one of our experts.