One of the most common problems our customers have is not knowing which label type they need. The solution is easy if you follow the steps below.
What your gun prints on your label
It’s important to first decide what you want your label gun to print on the label. Think about what you are going to be labelling and note what the label is going to show. This is what you can change for each label you eject from the gun. We’ll refer to this as Machine Print
This could be simply the price e.g. £99.99
Date information such as best before, use by or manufactured on e.g. 01/01/2015
Perhaps a stock number, batch number or identifying code e.g. AZ123456
Industry specific information such as beef traceability or tracking info.
Nothing is actually a viable option. Perhaps you just want to attach a label which has your brand, or contact information. In this case you’ll have this information pre-printed rather than printed by your gun. We’ll cover this later.
How many lines are needed
One, two, three or more?
Now you’ve thought about the machine print you want to display, the number of lines on the label you need are how many pieces of information you need. If you want to show just the price then you only need a one line label. If you wanted to show the batch number and best before you need a two line label.
Try to use as few lines as you can, because the cost of both the labels and the guns will increase as you need more lines.
Label guns and labels generally have a maximum of three lines, anyone who needs more than this should look at label printers instead.
What the labels have on them before they go through the gun
So we now know what machine print we need, and how many lines we require. The third step is deciding is what the labels should have pre-printed on them. This serves two functions:
- Explains to the reader what the machine print means.
- Alters the style of the label, including branding.
Explaining the machine print
The primary reason to use pre-printed labels is to have a way of explaining what the machine print means. Without it, we could read a date on a label, but not know whether it was the use by date or the date of manufacture.
A one line label showing the price doesn’t need any pre-print. This is because the price is usually printed with a currency symbol by the gun.
A one line label showing a date needs to have the date explained. This could be for a use by date label on food, or a date of manufacture date on perishable goods.
A two line label showing a batch number and a price might need some pre-printed text to explain that it’s a batch number, but if you’re only using it in-house, then you’ll know what it means without having to display it. As the price currency symbol would be printed by the gun, you could actually use a plain label for this, saving you some money, at the expense of confusing some readers.
A three line label showing batch number, date of manufacture and a price would probably need some clarification to explain what each part meant. You may even want to consider using a label printer instead to make your labels clearer and smarter.
Altering the style of a label
Now you have all the functional parts of your label planned, you may want to add that personal touch. This could be a simple colour scheme, a company logo or simple artwork. This will depend on the products you are selling and your target customers. Don’t underestimate how much brand association is worth. Permanent labels will be on the product until the packaging is disposed of, and peelable labels are often removed by customers after purchase, giving you the focus of their attention on your label.
Colour schemes can vary greatly. The cheapest option is to just change the colour of the pre-printed text, so your “best before” would be pre-printed in red, or green, or any other colour you want.
You can also change the label colour, to great effect. You can have any colour you can think of, including fluorescent – though these cost a little more than standard colours.
Combine both printed colour and label colour to match your company’s brand colours for additional affect, or really draw customers in to a great offer with a bright and contrasting combination.
Company logos and artwork can be made to specification. Just remember that the label you are having designed is quite small, so any image you use should be clear and understandable at a glance. Simple borders or watermark style designs can add a unique twist to your label. Come up with some ideas and ask the supplier for proofs of your designs, so you can see exactly how your labels will look before you order them. This combines your passion and creativity with the manufacturer’s knowledge and experience.
Depending on manufacturer and label type (see below) you may also be able to choose a finish such as gloss, satin or matt. This explains how reflective the label is, from gloss being the shiniest to matt being the dullest.
Make your labels stick
We now know what our label will show, but now we need to decide which adhesive is supplied with the label. Typically there are three variants.
- Permanent adhesive doesn’t want to be removed shortly after being applied. When you try to remove a permanent adhered label, you will leave behind the back of the label. Ideally used for labels which the customer will not need to remove, such as showing date information. This also makes permanent adhesive ideal for preventing fraudsters from transferring labels between products.
- Peelable adhesive can be removed from most surfaces easily, even after being on the product for a long period of time. They do come off in one go and don’t damage the label, leaving very little if any glue behind. This is ideal for showing the price on items which would be purchased as gifts where the customer would want to remove it without evidence after purchase. Peelable labels last just as long on products as permanent labels do, they are just easier to remove.
- Freezer adhesive are somewhere between permanent and peelable at room temperature, but their true strength is their use in fridges and freezers. Below a certain temperature the adhesive hardens and becomes permanent, where normal label adhesive would become unreliable. Manufacturer specifications vary for which temperatures are suitable, so check with the individual supplier.
For most cases, a paper label is suitable, but there is an alternative. Plasticised outdoor labels are weatherproof. Use these if you’re going to be displaying the labels outdoors. They come with a specialised adhesive for resisting the elements.
Just be sure to use UV-resistant inks in your gun to stop the gun ink from fading in the sunshine.
Let’s give some real life examples now:
The High Street Shop
I am about to open a retail shop, and want to price each item. Most of my goods could be bought as gifts, so I need the labels to be removable.
The person above only needs one line of machine print. As they are only showing a price, there doesn’t need to be any pre-printed text, and the labels need to be removable for customer’s gifts, so this example best suits a 1 line plain label with peelable adhesive.
Packaged Food Retailer
I am self-employed making sandwiches and selling them myself. I already have stickers showing their prices, but I need a new label to show the use by date on the packaging.
In this example, the customer only needs one line of machine print – the use by date. To best show what this date means to the customer, they should add a line of pre-print – use by. As the packaging will be discarded after opening and the chance of the item being a gift is low, a permanent adhesive suits this scenario best.
The best label for the sandwich maker is a 1 line label, pre-printed use by and using permanent adhesive.
I run a family owned warehouse which produces goods. We’re about to open a small shop on the premises, but need to control our stock. We use an internal numbering system to identify our goods, and need to show the best before date too, as the goods are perishable. I’m concerned about unscrupulous customers swapping the labels around and deceive us.
The Factory Shop owner needs to show both a date and a number, meaning that the machine print requires two lines. To ensure they are clear, the owner decides to use two lines of pre-print on the label to explain what the date and batch number mean, in this case batch no and best before.
As there is a chance of label swapping being a problem, permanent adhesive is recommended. Unless the shop owner decides that his customers will want to gift their products, he should choose a two line label, pre-printed with batch no and use by using a permanent adhesive.
I’d also like to colour the label after my company’s brand colours – blue and red. I don’t know whether it would look better with a blue label and red text, or the other way around, what can I do?
For custom options like colour schemes, it is best to contact the supplier of the label and ask them to supply a selection of proofs. This way you can see exactly what the labels will look like before you buy.
I run a large garden store selling plants, ornaments and accessories. Most of my stock is kept outside, and I am fed up with my labels washing off. If I can find a label that’ll resist the weather, can it show our company logo on the label as well as the price? We use the image of a rising sun, I can send you a picture if you want.
The gardening retailer only needs to display a price in their machine print so they only need a one line label but if they want artwork shown on the label, they may be better off using a two line label. The best course of action to follow would be to send the supplier the artwork and ask for some proofs made. Then a decision can be made between different layouts and styles.
As the labels are being used outside, outdoor labels are highly advised to stop them from washing off, and don’t forget to use UV resistant ink in the gun to stop the price from fading. There’s a lot going on here, so discussing specification with the supplier is the best option to combine their knowledge and the retailer’s design.