What are labels, anyway?
A label is a part of packaging for a product or item so that those who are not the manufacturer or producer can have an understanding of the product or item.
In the printing and packaging world, labels are often called “package decorations.” This is because labels are often used to improve the appearance of the product packaging, not just convey information.
Many label printing companies will simply call them custom labels or stickers, which is what we do. We are a label printing company, and we love to help people craft beautiful labels to enhance their products.
Labels are different from tags. Tags are usually affixed to a surface by some means other than an adhesive. The labels that we print are pressure-sensitive. That means that the adhesive is activated by apply some pressure to the label against the surface to which you want to apply it. Stickers are made of the same materials and in the same process as labels, but instead of going on an end product, they are the end product.
If you would like to order some custom printed labels, here is a guide:
The first step to getting your labels printed is to create your design. You can use any method you would like. You can hand draw, paint, use a computer program to design the label. We recommend using a common program like Adobe’s Photoshop or Illustrator; but there are many other options available at various price points. If you create the design, or one of the design elements, by hand, you will more than likely need to scan that creation into a digital file. This is the easiest way for label printers to prepare designs for printing.
The second step is to make sure that the design elements fit into the size and shape label that you intend to purchase and use on your product or for your event. You can use this guide to measure the size of custom label that you need.
The third step is to get a quote and begin the ordering process. At Frontier Label, you can go to our Live Pricing page to get a quote that is accurate and updates with every change you make so that you can see how the price is affected by options and specifications. Some printing companies work differently from us, but we take payment during the ordering process before you get your proof. If you are not satisfied with the proof, you can simply cancel the order for a full refund minus the cost of the proof.
The fourth step involves a proof. If you order a proof, this is where you would approve or disapprove it. This process of receiving a proof and either approving or disapproving can happen several times if the artwork needs changes or is not set up properly. We advise calling for clarification in setting up your artwork if you have not done this before with a specific printing company. When the proof is approved, the process changes into production from preparation.
Here is a rough guide to how the printing and label converting process flows:
The first step is internal file preparation. For all companies this will look and proceed differently. For Frontier Label, the files are normally ready for print as soon as the proof is approved. Some companies using traditional methods of printing will have to spend time setting up trapping and other measures to ensure more accurate reproduction in printing.
The second step is the creation of the image plate. With traditional printing techniques, this can take days for plates to be ordered, created and shipped. The plates are necessary for the ink to be transferred to the material. With traditional rotary style presses, there is a roller that picks up the ink, and one that transfers the ink to the image plate. With our press, there is an electronic plate drawn on-the-fly. Part of the reason that digital printing is much faster than traditional printing is because the process doesn’t require physical plates to be created.
The third step is the image transfer from the image plate to the material. On a traditional press the image plate transfers the ink to the material. This process happens separately for every single ink color ordered. With inkjet digital presses, the writing heads in the press simply print the image linearly, like on a desktop inkjet. Each color has its own writing head set. On our press, the electronic plate is drawn, which picks up the appropriate ink layers and then transfers the ink to the material. This happens almost instantly.
The fourth step is for the inks to dry. Traditional presses require UV curing techniques or some other method to get the inks to dry before they can be laminated. This can take seconds or days depending upon the method. With digital printing, the drying happens in a matter of seconds for most processes.
The fifth step is for the material to be flood-coated or laminated. Some materials don’t require this sort of coating to protect the ink from scratches or smearing. Traditional printing processes often use a flood-coating technique where a wet varnish is applied to the labels and is then dried using UV or some other technique. Again, that could take seconds or days. If a special type of varnish imprint is needed, another plate must be ordered to accommodate that process. We use self-wound laminates which go on completely dry and don’t take any time to setup. This thin material protects from scratches, scuffs and smearing.
The sixth step is to convert the printed material to individual labels. This process is usually fairly identical between label converters. A die tool is used to stamp the shape into the material and the waste is removed from around the shape. This is how kiss-cut labels are made. The die kisses the material instead of cutting straight through. The pressure of the machine on the tool causes the material and laminate or varnish to pop apart precisely instead of being cut directly. There are other methods of conversion, but we won’t get into them here.
The seventh step is finishing. This is the part where the rolls are slip apart, cleaned up and the labels are rolled onto new cores. Some converters will rewind and splice rolls together no matter what. We will do splicing only if requested, so your labels come more quickly in general. We try to make sure that the rolls are clean and orderly when they are boxed up and shipped to you.
There you have it! A rough guide to the whole process of label printing.
We would love to help you with any custom label or sticker needs you may have. If you have any questions give us a call at 877-277-4682 or click the “Live Chat” link at the bottom of this page.