Resources » Pressure sensitive labels: almost everything you need to know

Pressure sensitive labels: almost everything you need to know

Wine & Spirits, Food and beverage products with labels

What is a pressure sensitive label?

It’s one of the most common label solutions in the consumer marketplace, accounting for 77% of U.S. demand. And once you know what they look like, you’ll spot them on almost every shelf in any major retailer.

The transparent label that lets you peek into your go-to household window cleaner? That’s a pressure sensitive label. Your favorite wine’s rich, textured label artwork? That’s one, too. Glossy paint can labels that show the exact color you’ve envisioned for your kitchen? Yep, pressure sensitive labels.

The pressure sensitive label’s broad compatibility with almost any container makes it ubiquitous across multiple market verticals, and its wide-ranging customizability — from embellishments to unique shapes and sizes — means endless design and branding opportunities for you.

UA Body custom beauty labels
In this article, you’ll learn all about pressure sensitive label solutions and your options for design, cost and other key details that can impact your decision making.

Do you already know what you want? Get a quote here.

Who uses pressure sensitive labels?

With the right strategic printing partner, pressure sensitive labels can suit almost any marketplace product and price point. You’ll find them on foodswine and spiritshousehold and consumer productsbeveragescannabischemicals, nutraceuticalsbeauty and personal care, and even durable industrial applications.

Who shouldn’t use pressure sensitive labels?

If you have a highly contoured container or packaging that must be squeezed by consumers, pressure sensitive labels are likely to wrinkle or bubble. The resulting appearance undermines your brand’s authority. In these cases, consider a 360-degree solution like shrink sleeves, whose flexible form can fit any function.

Woman in grocery aisle

How do pressure sensitive labels work?

Sometimes people mischaracterize pressure sensitive labels as “stickers” — a term that makes many of us who specialize in labeling and packaging shudder. But the misnomer is understandable. 

It’s true that these self-adhering labels peel and stick. They require pressure to form a bond to your container through application by hand or a machine labeling system. For your brand, this means skipping any extra steps that may involve heat, water or solvents to fully adhere your label to the container.

It sounds simple enough in theory, and oftentimes it is that simple. But label application must still be done correctly and with the appropriate equipment to avoid common problems like flagging, bulging and tearing.

Determining label roll direction

Pressure sensitive labels come in rolls. For hand application, roll direction is irrelevant. But machine application requires a compatible roll direction to ensure your labels present “right side up.” To understand your machine’s exact needs, work with an experienced label partner who can guide you through this process.

Related reading: Gain a better understanding of rewind direction, labels and rolls in this piece.

Bigger and better, done right

Every big-name label provider can print your label to spec. Most can meet your budget. And they all promise quality. But with Resource Label Group, you get more than just a printer — you get a partner.

What are pressure sensitive labels made of?

Four primary elements constitute a pressure sensitive label:

Common pressure sensitive label materials

For the label itself, choose from film, foil, paper or premium facestocks — all capable of hosting many types of inks. Resource Label Group can meet every expectation in a four-color process through flexographicdigital offset and hybrid printing.

  • Foil — If your top goal is to grab attention in busy store aisles, consider a custom foil label. These gleam on the shelf, exuding a high-end premium look. You’ll often see them on wine and spirits labels, beauty and personal care labels (think luxury lipsticks) or even promotional branding with removable, instant redeemable coupons (IRCs)
  • Paper — This material adds natural texture to labels for a handcrafted or even vintage effect. Design customizations can withstand high-heat printing, metalized foiling, any range of colors and other added customizations. Finishes can be completely customized for anything from gloss or metalized options. It’s also usually more affordable and sustainable than other materials. However, its relative fragility makes it a poor candidate for products exposed to environmental extremes and moisture. For household chemicals, condiments, refrigerated consumables or shower-bound items, avoid paper.
  • Premium facestocks — Want to really wow customers? Just because paper, foils and films are the most common options doesn’t mean they’re your only options. A skilled label provider can help you source unique material choices like pearlescent or diamond papers, and even some with velvet, wood or cotton textures. If you opt for one, be sure it advances your brand story as intended.
  • Film — Because it’s engineered from plastic or other synthetic materials, this material offers ripstop durability and moisture resistance. Its most popular form is biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP), more commonly referred to as BOPP. As a versatile, resilient, non-toxic and food-safe material, it’s beloved by brand owners in sectors like beauty and care, household, and food and beverage. You can purchase it in white, opaque, metallization or even clear — making it ideal for design aspirations like the transparent no-label look.
Three custom labeled bottles of Evolution beverage

Related reading: What’s new in product label materials?

When Taste of Nature needed 6,000 last-minute film pressure sensitive labels, we delivered a flawless product within a tight budget and timeline.

Friendly, fair and fast pressure sensitive labels

Designing pressure sensitive labels that stick

When labels detach from their containers, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. While most pressure sensitive labels use either acrylic or rubber-based adhesives, there’s no universal solution that works for everyone. 

The right formulation for you depends on your label facestock, container material, container shape and goals, from brand marketing to cost efficiency or others. For example, if you want to incorporate recycling efforts into packaging and labeling, eco-friendly solventless adhesives work well when paired with paper labels on glass bottles. 

But to reach a conclusion like that and safeguard against unhappy customers, your label provider should at least be asking the following questions:

  • Do you want a permanent or a removable label?
  • What’s your facestock material?
  • Will your product be exposed to extreme heat or other challenging conditions?
  • How complex are your container’s curves, radius and surface?
  • What are your sustainability goals, if any?
  • Can you send us a container sample?

Brand owners often misattribute adhesion failures to the label when the problem is the container. That’s where a packaging and labeling expert can help. You can learn more about troubleshooting label adhesive issues here.

Understanding the importance of label release liners 

Brands receive pressure sensitive labels on a roll, and release liners constitute the backing paper of the roll itself. A coating prevents a bond between the adhesive and the liner, which allows the label to easily peel away during application. Since consumers never see or touch these carrier sheets, they’re easy to overlook. But successful application hinges on label liner performance. Breakage, dust and other liner problems can create a domino effect that hurts production line efficiency and your label’s final look. 

Liner materials vary from traditional paper to polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The latter can offer big advantages to brands seeking supply chain stability amid market volatility or shifting labor conditions. If sustainability is central to your brand, you can also opt for organic, biobased materials that eventually break down into healthy soil instead of collecting in a landfill.

Label liner comparison: PET vs Paper

Pressure sensitive label coatings, finishes and varnishes 

The topcoat is the final step of the label engineering process. Specialty finishes aren’t always necessary, but they can accentuate your labels for enhanced shelf appeal and protect them from environmental hazards like moisture, sunlight, temperature variations and chemicals.

Appearance-wise, options range from high gloss to matte. The first delivers a bright, durable finish with eye-catching reflectivity. For example, high-gloss varnishes can make black inks appear even deeper. Matte finishes mute and soften your label design — a common technique for premium or luxury products. Semi-gloss is an excellent compromise between both goals. Brands also turn to tactile varnishes for finishes customers can see and feel. 

Related reading: How to use label varnishes to create a packaging experience that sells.

Bottle of Luckett Vineyards white wine label

How can pressure sensitive labels be designed?

As attention spans shrink, the demand for effective visual communication goes up. Pressure sensitive labels offer near-limitless options to do just that. Done right, your product will sell.

You can pick from a range of materials, coatings, size, shape and finishes to bring your label to life exactly as envisioned. Whether that means building depth, texture and shine, incorporating custom images, utilizing metallic inks or developing a label concept you haven’t even imagined yet, a collaborative, one-on-one consultation is the best way to explore your many options.

And by working with a skilled label partner who provides embellished label samples, you can see how your graphics and finishes will look and feel once printed.

How collaborating on modern designs with striking embellishment built a best-selling wine label.

 Read the Pelee Island Winery case study

Elevate your pressure sensitive label vision with complete customization

  • Embossed product labels — Brands can add custom designs, lettering, decorations or pattern effects with embossing techniques. These 3D elements like high-definition sculpting or raised-round effects create texture for tactile differences shoppers can see and feel. As with any label embellishment, per-label costs of tooling decrease as run sizes increase.
  • Foil stamping — Communicate prestige or highlight evocative label elements with a shimmering metallic sheen in any variety of tints. Whether you use hot or cold techniques depends on your face stock choice, but a skilled label partner can guide you through the best option for your goals.
  • Cutting-edge technologies — From anti-counterfeiting solutions to smart labels that encourage interaction from customers, pressure sensitive labels can meet your unique goals. If you are in industries like pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, wine and spirits or cosmetics, protecting your brand and product is especially important. Modern label technologies can help you do it without compromising your design vision.
  • Custom die cuts — Your label doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter. From circles to more fully customized cuts, die-cut tooling and digital laser converting capabilities let you create every complex shape imaginable. Just look at this one-of-a-kind, award-winning vermouth label. This process lets you get your desired label shape off your drafting board and onto your container exactly as envisioned.
Liquid soap bottles with custom die cut labels

If you have multiple products within one brand family, pressure sensitive labels allow you to carry that design across multiple SKUs and ensure their production in a single print run. When you work with a skilled label provider, you get a partner who can help you elevate your design and kick it up a notch with custom production technologies.

Related reading: 10 simple ways to enhance your product label.

More value for your budget

With Resource Label Group, you get more than just a competitive bid. Your dedicated team works with you to understand your long-term goals, reduce risk and leverage your label spend to optimize your budget.

How to save money on pressure sensitive labels

The most cost-efficient labels vary depending on your brand and goals. To ensure you get the best possible label for your budget, you need to partner with the right label supplier. They’ll walk you through decisions like:

  • Printing methods — You have three primary printing options: flexographicdigital or digital hybrid label printing. The best one depends on your order’s quantity and regularity, and your label’s dimensions and design requirements. Flexographic printing has pricy setup costs but can scale quickly. Digital presses have no set-up expenses but higher per-label prices. Hybrid combines elements of both, offering additional value in some cases. Ultimately, the most cost-efficient option depends on the individual details of your order.
  • Design choices — Just because your dream label has metallic elements doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start with a premium silver or golden facestock. Depending on your design customizations, you may be able to use foil stamping on paper — a far less costly material choice that can mean major savings on big orders. As your embellishments add up, tooling costs also increase. Be sure to always ask about alternative materials and techniques. 
  • Inventory management programs — These forms of vendor-managed inventory (VMI) work by depending on the vendor to store your labels for a set period of time until you’re prepared to receive a shipment. Combined with cost-efficient large runs that free up warehouse space, you’ll always have labels ready when you need them.

And if the hidden expenses of supply chain volatility keep you up at night, working early with your label provider is the best way to secure as many options are possible and optimize your budget. 

Related reading: Why pressure sensitive labels may be the most cost-efficient option for craft breweries.

Your customized label options are practically limitless, making them a near-perfect solution for brands with compatible products and containers. When you partner early with a label provider committed to understanding your goals, you’ll find a perfect-fit label.

Are you ready to collaborate on building a label that will help you stand out and drive sales?

Reach out to our team to start a conversation today.