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The Basics

Label Glossary – Understanding The Basics


Label Adhesive: The glue substance on a material for adhesion to create a pressure-sensitive “peel and stick” application. For example: Can be added on the back of the label. If the label is being applied to a window, it will go on the outside of the window. Can be added on the front of the label. If the label is being applied to a window, it will go on the inside of the window.

Adhesives Types: Permanent adhesive cannot be removed without either tearing the label or tearing the surface that the label is applied on. Ideal for most labels including box and shelf labels. Removable adhesive can be peeled off and reapplied. This is ideal for labels that are only used temporarily or will need to be removed later. Freezer adhesive is designed for application and performance below 32°F. Freezer grade adhesives are used on case-ready meats and on goods that have to withstand the cold and moist conditions of freezers.

Back-Score: A slit in the liner of a pressure sensitive label, used to assist in the removal of the face-stock from the liner.

Bar Code (UPC): One of several machine-readable codes used at retail, manufacturing, and shipping levels to identify products. A graphical bar pattern is printed on your label which can encode numbers and letters in a format which can easily be retrieved and interpreted by a bar code reader.

Bleed: The extra amount of printed image that extends beyond the actual label cut line that peels away.

Butt Cut Labels: A continuous roll of labels made with square corners and no spacing between labels. Each label is separated by a single cut between them on the liner. AKA kiss cut labels.

Roll Cores: The inner diameter of a roll of labels. The standard finishing is coreless. 1” and 3” cardboard cores are available upon request. Additional size cores can be ordered.

Corner Radius: The measurement that refers to the roundness or arch of the corner of a label.

Die: The tool that cuts the shape of the label.

Die Cut: This refers to a cut made in the face stock of a label construction by means of a hard or flexible die. Labels are shaped and customized by different die cuts.

Die Line: The outline of the die cut, illustrated on contract proofs.

Digital Label Printing: The process involving the creation, storage, transfer and reproduction of printed images in a digital format so as to allow fixed or completely variable information to be printed on a label without printing plates. Finished in roll or sheet form.

Exact Repeat: Usually means a label reorder to the exact specifications as previously followed without change.

Emboss: An image is pressed into the material to raise it above the normal level of the material.

Extended Life Labels: Manufactured to withstand harsh environments and rugged applications. Durable for 3-4 years.

Face/Label Material/Stock: The top layer of a label construction sometimes also called the substrate (example: paper, foil, polyester, vinyl, etc). This is what the adhesive is applied to.

Fanfold: Labels with perforations, folded into stacks.

Fanfold Length: The distance between each fold; the distance also determines the number of labels per fold.

Flagging: Evidence that the label size it too large for the container due to a bulge along the edge of your label.

Flexo (Flexography): A printing process utilizing flexible printing plates and roll-fed materials, to be finished in roll or sheet form.

FTP: Acronym for File Transfer Protocol. Enables large files to be transferred electronically from one location to another.

Foil Stamping: Using a die to place a metallic or pigmented image on paper. Can be applied with a hot or cold method.

Four Color Process Label Printing or CMYK: The acronym for the four color printing process. The use of four ink colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) to create an image, such as a photograph.

Full Bleed: When your color “bleeds” off the label. If your label design or background color is designed to cover the entire surface of the label edge. We require a 1/16″ (0.0625″) bleed around the entire label.

Lamination: Clear plastic coating that provides extra durability. Matte can be written on, shiny is a high gloss coating
and textured is used to add texture feel to labels.

Label Liner: The bottom layer of the label construction which is discarded after use. This is what the label and adhesive sit on. It is coated with silicone to enable the label to be pulled cleanly away from it.

Kiss Cut: A die-cutting operation that cuts through the face sheet to a liner, but not through the liner.

Machine Applied Labels: These labels are set up to meet the requirements of the machine that will be applying them. You will often need to confirm core size, rewind direction and maximum outside size.

Mandrel Hold: Only relevant when applying pressure sensitive labels to curved containers like bottles, or any time a container requires your labels be applied to a tight radius surface. When a label is applied to a curved container it will try to “flag”. Flagging is the term used to describe the multiple little bubbles or lifting along the edges of the label. With a good mandrel hold you should not have any flagging except if the label is too large for the bottle or container.

Opaque: An opaque label has a black or darkened adhesive on the backside to prevent the surface underneath the label from showing through. This can be used if the labels need to restricts copy from showing through the face stock.
Also used to cover other labels.

Outlined Text: Text that has been outlined in a vector drawing program such as Illustrator. The key difference is that it is NOT editable and does not require the font file to be submitted.

Pantone Matching System (PMS): An universal color standard, indicated by a number given to each specific color.
A proprietary color system for choosing and matching specific spot colors.

Plate: The raised surface, usually of photo-polymer or  flexible rubber that transfers ink to the substrate on a printing press to produce an image.

Pre-Flight: The first action when receiving electronic files from clients. This process analyzes files to determine if they meet our standards with necessary fonts, color information, images and size before we proceed in creating a proof.

Perforation Label Liner: Perforated lines between the labels and on the liner allowing them to be easily separated.

Registration: The quality of alignment of the different colored inks as they are applied to paper. If the inks can be seen to overlap improperly or to leave white gaps on the page, the printing is said to be “out of registration”, “poor register” or “mis-registration”).

Peeling: Curling or peeling labels occur when applied in wet, damp and cold environments. When the place you are applying to is dirty or greasy. Peeling or curling can occur when you don’t allow enough time for the adhesive to set before entering the label in unfavorable condition.

Pressure Sensitive Labels: A self-adhesive label which is easily applied to a surface by pressure. Repositionable Label Patterned adhesive that allows the label to be applied and reapplied to almost any surface.  Removes cleanly leaving no residue. Reverse Image is created by the label stock color showing through the ink coverage.

Roll/Rewind Direction: The orientation in which the finished label comes off the roll. Exact specifications must be supplied when an order is placed to ensure trouble free application.

Single Labels: Are individually cut and stacked.

Spot Color Label Printing: (One, two, three & up to ten color printing) The use of one ink for each color printed. Single colors are used when process color is not necessary. Separate plates are required for each ink color being applied to a material.

Static Cling Labels: No adhesive is necessary and adheres to glass or other smooth surfaces with static electricity.

Square Cut Labels: Also known as Butt Cut or Kiss Cut. These labels are cut exactly to size with no excess liner around the label. Order any size from ¼” x ¼” to 12” x 24”.

Substrate: Any material being converted on a printing press (example: gloss, matte, film, etc).

Tamper Evident/Resistant Labels: created in any combination of fashions to defeat removal after application or indicate evidence of tampering with package integrity. A weak face material so that (attempted) label removal results in its destruction.

Trapping: Overlapping printed areas of different colored inks to avoid the base material showing through.

UPC: Acronym for Universal Product Code. A bar code symbology generally used in point-of-sale applications.

Varnishes: A heat-cured coating on a face material for protection and/or decoration. There are several types of varnish coatings. UV (Ultraviolet) Coating is a chemical coating applied and cured at a very high gloss by ultraviolet light to a face material to protect image from the environment. Water based protects label from slight moisture, less durable than UV varnish. Matte is a dull varnish that can be written on. Spot varnish is only applied to the part of the label that you want varnished.

Vector Image: A vector file is a mathematical description of an image rather than pixels. It can be resized to any size and will not lose any image quality. It is the generic name given to any graphic created in applications such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.

Vignette (also Gradient): A printed color that slowly fades away or blends in to another color.

Waste (Matrix): The non-usable face material around the die cut edges of a label that is stripped away and discarded.The face material and adhesive layers of a die cut, pressure sensitive label that’s typically removed after die cutting.

Weatherproof Labels: These labels are laminated and can withstand heat, cold, water and sunlight for up to 1-1/2 years.

Wrinkling: When squeezing tube containers from the incorrect material being applied, such as a rigid or semi rigid polypropylene material or worse, a paper label material. In very rare cases a low tack adhesive may be the problem if ordered wrong. To avoid problems, use a fully squeezable white or clear film material with an adhesive specifically designed for tube applications.