Label Printing – The Basics

If you’ve ever shopped for custom labels in Calgary, you may have been overwhelmed or confused by the different options available. Today, we are going to break down the most common types of label materials used for custom label printing and simplify the decision making process.

A selection of custom-printed product labels for producers and manufacturers that haven't been stuck to product containers yet.

Label Packaging: Rolls vs Sheets

Unused Labels are typically packaged in one of two formats when leaving the print shop:

  • Roll labels consist of a long strip of labels, arranged in a single row on their backing paper, which is wound up onto a cardboard tube, much like a roll of toilet paper. These rolls can be fit into dispensers and labeling machines.
  • Sheet labels consist of a rectangular sheet of backing paper with the adhesive labels on top, lined up in rows and columns, much like a sheet of stickers.

Depending on your application, you will need to choose which one of these will be best. Both roll labels and sheet labels can give you vibrant colors and great print resolution, so there is no need to worry about print quality when choosing between these options.

For smaller volumes of labels that will be applied by hand, labels printed on sheets are generally best because the setup costs to manufacture them are low or non-existent. They can typically be printed and machine-cut to any shape and size without requiring additional setup or a custom-made cutting die. Labels on rolls can be applied by hand or machine, but often, the setup costs required to print them — using large digital label press and custom cutting dies — can be quite expensive, and the cost per unit will be high for small runs, so it is best to use labels on rolls for high-volume runs in which economies of scale overcome these extra setup costs.

Before ordering roll labels, make sure you consider the roll unwind direction required if you are applying them to your products using a machine. Depending on your machine setup, the labels will need to come off of the roll in a certain orientation so that the label will be applied to the product automatically right-side-up. Print shops can typically manufacture labels on rolls with any unwind direction — ask for a reference chart so you can choose the correct type for your label application machine.

Label Materials: Vinyl vs BOPP

Vinyl and biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) are the two most common materials used to manufacture product labels. Both materials are known for their durability and resistance to liquids. BOPP is typically printed in flexographic or laser based label printing machines, whereas vinyl is more commonly printed in solvent inkjet printers. BOPP film is more cost effective in high volumes, and is used to print labels on rolls. Vinyl material is more expensive by the foot but, due to its use with digital inkjet machines, takes less time to set up for printing and is used for printing labels on sheets. No matter which option you choose, you will be provided with waterproof labels that have vibrant colors and are appropriate for use on just about any product.

Label Finishing: Lamination

In certain cases, you may want to have your labels laminated. Lamination is a clear film that is applied to the surface of the label after it has been printed. Lamination films are available in matte or gloss finishes, which you may choose depending on the aesthetic that you are trying to achieve with your product. Aside from looks, lamination film provides an extra layer of protection between the inks printed on your custom labels and the outside world. When labeling items like strong cleaning agents, solvents or products containing oils, the label’s ink may be vulnerable to spills or smears and therefore a lamination film may be required. If you are unsure about this, ask your commercial printing shop for a sample label and spot test your product with it to ensure it does not damage the print. Lamination films add to the overall cost of the label, but are often well worth the money.


Pixel Imaging prints product labels on rolls and on sheets, using vinyl or BOPP. We are Calgary’s business-to-business label printing experts, and we can help you choose the correct products for your application. Call or text us today for a free consultation.