PS labels vs. shrink sleeves: Which one should you use for decorating craft brews and spirits?

After finally perfecting your craft brew or spirit, it’s time to decorate its packaging. Fortunately, your decorating option is no longer limited to just direct printing (i.e., printing images and text directly onto containers). Direct printing typically requires a minimum order of at least 150,000 cans or bottles per SKU and long lead times. 

There are now more cost-effective and faster decorating alternatives you can choose from: pressure-sensitive (PS) labels or shrink sleeve labels. To help you choose which option is best for your needs, here’s what you need to know about both label types.

What are pressure-sensitive (PS) labels and shrink sleeve labels?

PS labels are decorative adhesive labels that require pressure for them to stick onto containers. On the other hand, shrink sleeve labels are thin, flexible pre-printed films that are placed over containers and applied with heat so that they would snugly hug the contours of the container. 

What are the pros of using PS labels for craft brews and spirits?


PS labels are the most popular labeling solution among manufacturers in New Jersey and the rest of the United States for several reasons.

For one, PS labels are highly customizable. They are available in various materials, such as:

  • Textured paper – This type of paper is a popular choice for wine labels since it provides a premium look.
  • Silver metallic film – This film works well with aluminum cans since it blends in with the silver of the can. If you want your product to have nonmetallic areas, you can print white beneath the design. And instead of using foil, you can use silver metallic film to create gold effects by printing yellow over the silver material. 
  • Clear film – This film offers a “no label” look, which looks chic on clear bottles. It also works well with aluminum cans since clear areas of the design let consumers see the silver of the can.

PS labels also have a wide range of full-color and specialty ink options, like inks that are scented, glitter, glow in the dark, or change color at certain temperatures. They also have plenty of finishing options, which can elevate the label’s design and help your product stand out on retail shelves:

  • Embossing – raises the surface of a chosen label area or pattern
  • Lamination films – put on top of the label to protect it from scuffing and moisture while offering a matte, glossy, leather, or linen look
  • Sandpaper coating – gives the label a rough texture 
  • Spot coatings – provide a visual contrast that highlights an element or creates a pattern or a 3D look

Second, applying PS labels onto containers is quick and straightforward, as it doesn’t require heat, water, or solvent. And when it comes to designing the label, PS labels do not have additional steps, unlike with shrink sleeve labels.

Finally, PS labels adhere well to containers that are used for craft beers and spirits, which are usually made of glass and aluminum, and have round, smooth surfaces.

What are the cons of using PS labels for craft brews and spirits?

Although a PS label can be tailored to fit various container shapes, it cannot completely cover the container. It cannot adhere to surfaces like an aluminum can’s base and lip and a glass bottle’s neck. 

Compared to shrink sleeve labels, PS labels are also more prone to getting torn or ripped off containers. Moreover, PS labels will fall off if their adhesive fails. Unfortunately, some PS label adhesives don’t work well in moist environments such as refrigerators, where craft beers may be placed. 

What are the pros of using shrink sleeve labels for craft brews and spirits?

Shrink sleeve labels can wrap around every contour and corner of various containers. They can work well with containers of any shape. Therefore, you can explore uniquely shaped containers that can grab people’s attention. In fact, an AC Nielsen packaging study found that consumers prefer shaped bottles with shrink sleeves over those with plain labels. Furthermore, women and early adopters are three times more willing to buy contoured bottles with shrink sleeves than those with plain labels.  

With 360-degree container coverage, you have more room for striking designs and useful information that can help customers better understand your product, messaging, and brand. This may entice them to purchase your craft beverage. 

In addition, shrink sleeve labels can withstand moist or humid settings like refrigerators. They’re completely waterproof since they’re made of plastic and do not require an adhesive to stick to the container. Shrink sleeves are also resistant to scuffing, abrasion, heat, chemicals, and UV light because their designs are printed on the reverse side of the film. This means your craft beer or spirit’s label will still look great when it reaches retail shelves.

What are the cons of using shrink sleeve labels for craft brews and spirits?

Compared to applying PS labels, applying shrink sleeves is more time-consuming, as it requires specialized equipment for cutting, seaming, and slipping onto containers. The labels then have to go through an additional shrinking process. 

Shrink sleeve labels are also usually 25% more expensive than PS labels. If shrinking is done by hand, then the costs can go even higher since manual labeling is laborious. 

Finally, unlike PS labels, it’s impossible to print directly onto shrink sleeve labels during application. This means expiration dates or any other container-specific information has to be printed on the bottom of the can instead. 

Which type of label should you use for your craft beer or spirit?

Your choice of labeling solution will highly depend on your design preferences, container (e.g., glass bottle or aluminum can), functional requirements (e.g., the label must withstand moisture), and budget. 

For instance, a wraparound paper PS label that would look sophisticated on a glass bottle may not work on an aluminum can. These cans are prone to getting dents, which means the paper PS label may get torn off. That’s why many craft brewers opt for shrink sleeves instead. 

If you need help selecting the labeling solution for your craft beer or spirit, turn to the labeling specialists of Pro-Motion. Get in touch with us today at 856-809-0040.

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