In the United States, pressure-sensitive labels (PS labels) are the most widely used labels for products. In fact, PS labels accounted for 77% of the total labeling demand in 2020.
There are a number of reasons why PS labels are so popular for product packaging. Not only are these labels quick and easy to produce, they are also suitable for a range of containers, such as those used for food and beverages, cosmetics, household goods, and cannabis products. PS labels can withstand extreme environmental conditions as well, making them an ideal labeling solution for many products across different industries.
Thinking of using PS labels for your products? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a pressure-sensitive label?
A pressure-sensitive label is a self-adhesive label that consists of three layers:
- First layer: Facestock – where artwork and text are printed on
- Second layer: Adhesive – enables the label to stick onto surfaces
- Third layer: Release liner – protects the adhesive until the label is ready to be applied
These three layers are sandwiched together during manufacturing to create a labeling material that can be printed on, die-cut, and applied onto product packaging.
In some PS labels, another layer called topcoat — either a laminate or varnish — is applied onto the facestock after printing. A topcoat is added to protect the design from abrasion or chemicals, enhance certain parts of the artwork, or add a glossy or matte finish to the entire label.
What are pressure-sensitive labels made of?
There are different types of pressure-sensitive labels based on the materials used in their three layers.
First layer: Facestock
The facestock’s material can be made of either paper, film, or metallic foil, making it compatible with a wide range of inks (e.g., water-based or UV ink) and finishes (e.g., white opaque or pearl finish).
Among the three options, paper is usually the most inexpensive one, which is probably why it’s the most used facestock material in the global PS label market. However, a growing segment of the global market is using polymer film, such as PE, PP, PET, and PVC, since it is more durable, allowing labels to withstand tough environments. But if you want a label with a shiny look, which can help make your product really stand out, then foil is a suitable facestock material.
Second layer: Adhesive
PS label adhesives are made using either rubber or acrylic as a primary base. Your choice of adhesive will largely depend on the container on which the label will be applied and the types of conditions the product will be exposed to.
Rubber-based adhesive works well on plastic surfaces, but because of its yellowish tint, labels using this adhesive may not look appealing on transparent packaging. What’s more, this adhesive tends to overflow, causing labels to have sticky edges. For general purpose applications, rubber-based adhesive is a good choice since it is more affordable than acrylic adhesive. However, since it is easily affected by UV light and oxidation, it is not suitable for labels that will be exposed to sunlight and/or extreme temperatures.
Acrylic adhesive, on the other hand, offers better UV light resistance and can withstand a wider range of temperatures as well as moisture. It also works well on a number of materials (e.g., glass, metal) except plastic. Unlike rubber-based adhesives, acrylic adhesives do not stick right away and require a longer setting period to obtain their maximum adhesion, but they are less prone to causing sticky edges.
Third layer: Release liner
The release liner is usually made of paper (e.g., siliconized paper, semi-bleached paper, craft paper), clear plastic film, or recycled content (i.e., 30% post-consumer waste). It is coated with special materials that make it possible to peel off the liner no matter how strong the adhesive is.
How do you apply a pressure-sensitive label?
After removing its liner, a PS label is pressed — no need for heat, solvent, or water — onto product containers. This can be done either by hand or using a label applicator machine, such as the Herma H400 Premium and Collamat® 7300. Using a label applicator can speed up the application process to mere seconds per label.
Related reading: How to choose a pressure-sensitive labeling machine
Semi-automatic label applicators like the Auto Labe Model 550 Semi-Automatic require an operator to load the containers and rolls of pre-printed PS labels and then use a switch, foot pedal, or sensor on the machine to apply the label. In contrast, a fully automatic label applicator like the Auto Labe Model 390 Automatic doesn’t need an operator to apply labels one by one after its initial setup.
There are also print and apply label applicators (e.g., CTM Labeling System 3600a-PA Series) that have an additional printing capability. Instead of drawing from a reel of pre-printed labels, these machines use and print directly onto blank or partially printed labels that are then pressed onto packages.
You need a reliable pressure-sensitive labeling services and equipment provider
In order to reap the benefits of using PS labels, they must be applied properly, and nobody does it better than Pro-Motion Industries.
We utilize top-of-the-line machines that are operated only by labeling experts. We also perform stringent quality controls throughout the entire labeling process — from pre-production evaluation to output sampling — to ensure every package is top-notch before it’s sent to the filler. In fact, we don’t only check a few samples for quality; we also hand-inspect every packaging that comes off the line.
Related reading: Labeling quality control: What is it and why does it matter?