Another key element of label design is the shape and size of your label, and this week’s blog will give you some clues on how to make this easy. If you choose a “standard” die-cut label, you can eliminate laser cut finishing equipment down the line. There are many sizes commercially available, and die-cut labels can make for a simpler less expensive process. If you are cost conscience, pick your label shape as you are designing your label. You can often achieve that interesting shape appeal with design and color, and this will be a much more economical option.
Standard sized die-cut labels can be purchased on rolled or fanfold media. Letter-sized “cut sheets” might also be available and are a good choice for anyone printing only a few labels at a time. However, cut sheets often have excessive static cling, can be difficult to work with, and may be too cumbersome for any real production printing. If you don’t have equipment for working with rolled media, fanfold labels are easy to work with and make for an economical process. In fact if you aren’t using a finishing system or applicator that needs media to be rolled, fanfold labels can present a better, cheaper, simpler option. If you already have a roll unit, or require a larger production, rolled media will likely be much more convenient and efficient. Please see our blog Label Media: Should I choose rolled or fanfold labels? for further guidance.
Whether you used fanfold or rolled die-cut labels, the media will have a registration mark on the back that printing equipment reads to determine exactly where to place the label image on the media. However, if laser-cut labels is the way you wish to go, there are good solutions that include a label printing press with finishing laser. In this scenario a label of any shape is printed onto blank media, which is normally on a roll and has no marks of any kind. Special software is used to place a registration mark during the label printing process at a certain location with respect to each individual label or set of labels. This registration mark is printed along with the label(s) itself, usually on the edge of the page. When the printed media is then placed on the finishing equipment, the same software used to create the label with registration mark then drives the finisher to synch to the registration mark. Typically, the finisher will laser cut individual labels in their pre-programmed shape. This cut is usually called a “kiss-cut” since only the surface media, and not the label backing, is laser cut. The result is individual die-cut labels ready for the application process.
Both pre die-cut and laser-cut labels may optionally be “full-bleed” or “precise-bleed” or both. Full-bleed means that the graphic image goes all the way to the very edge of the media. Precise-bleed means that the graphic has some visual que, such as a border, that requires very precise placement for visual correctness. Full-bleed and precise-bleed can be very visually appealing and are usually used unless the label has a white image background.
If you are using die-cut labels and wish to create full/precise bleed labels, the printer must have very accurate image placement. A distance of 2/100ths inch is visible to the eye, but is usually an acceptable offset. Some labeling software applications allow for the concept of “overspray” where the graphic is extended a few hundredths of an inch at each label border. This makes up for any error in printer placement, but can cause problems if ink is sprayed onto the media backing and not the label itself. Alternatively, it might also be necessary to stretch the image slightly to ensure full coverage of the label, effectively achieving the same thing as overspray. Stretching is usually possible through the labeling application or is a function of the printer itself.
If you are using a finishing system that will cut the individual labels, bleed and precision should not be an issue when printing because finishing systems are designed to handle any variations in the label print by using the registration mark(s) printed along with the label image. An issue that might arise related to precision is unintended image stretch that might be introduced in the printing process. The simplest way to think of this is “Are the circles round? Are the Squares square?” Again it might be necessary to stretch the image during printing, either through the labeling application or on the print device itself. Be sure you are satisfied with the way the printed labels look before moving them to the finishing phase.
Finally, a word on branding. Your brand is something that should be consistent throughout your product labels. Be sure to allow space in your label template for your brand. As with other graphics, make sure your logo is print-quality and not only web-quality resolution. When printing labels, verify that the colors, particularly on your brand mark, are correct in your eyes. If not, there are color-correction applications that many printer and software vendors provide as part of their offering. Onyx Color Management is one example. These “color profiling” routines are printer specific and can be used to get your printing device to produce a specific color pallet that matches your needs and matches your company logo.
To conclude remember that while labels can be designed to be any shape and size, selecting a die-cut template for your labels can save you significant investment dollars. Still, when an interesting shape is needed to make your point, a variety of finishing equipment is readily available to help you achieve that perfect look and feel for your product label.