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Ask Yourself the Right Questions
To help narrow your search for the proper face stock, try answering these three basic questions first:
1. What are the conditions the face stock must withstand?
Understanding the end-use of the label is critical to knowing how specialized the material needs to be. Common indoor applications may be easily solved by a paper or plastic face stock, but what if your labels are going to be exposed to outdoor conditions? A special substrate, such as polyester, may be more appropriate. Extreme temperatures, weather, sunlight, grime, chemicals, and water are all external conditions to consider when looking for labels. In some cases where there are extra-rigorous conditions, it may be wise to consider adding an over laminate to protect the face stock and print.
2. Are color and transparency important?
Most face stocks are white to allow for easy-to-read printing with good contrast that facilitates barcode scanning. However, some plastic and polyester label materials also come in clear and metallized silver finishes, giving you the opportunity for either a “no-label” look or a metal tag-like impression.
Of course, you can often change the color of your label by simply having it tinted with what we call a flood coat ink. Whether attempting to create a more eye-catching image or to color-code for quick inventory identification, it’s important to consider which material color will work best.
3. What type of printing method and/or ink system will be used?
Label materials vary extensively depending on which printing technology is going to be used. For instance, digital printing with thermal transfer printers is perfect for variable information, whereas if you need a large number of multi-colored product labels with static information, you may want to use a more cost-effective method such as flexographic printing. For thermal transfer printing, you will also have to find the right ribbon to print on the face stock, because the ink formulas vary to compensate for the various qualities of face sheets. You need to verify which substrates are compatible with the printing method you choose.
Paper, Plastic, Polyimide, Shoot!
Label face stocks are grouped into two basic categories: Paper and Films. Films can be further broken down to include polyester, plastics like polypropylene, polyethylene, and vinyl as well as high-temperature specialty products such as Polyimide. The following chart categorizes face stocks, but it is by no means complete. It is designed to give you a general sense of which type of material may be most suitable for you. You may discover, after describing your label application to our Label Experts, that they may recommend another type of substrate.
|Common Uses||Indoor use,
shipping & packaging
|Shelf & Bins,
& bumper stickers
|PCB circuit boards
|Print Technology||DT, TT, LZ, FX, IJ||DT, TT, FX, IJ||TT, LZ, FX, IJ||TT, LZ, FX, IJ||TT, FX, IJ|
|Conformability||Low||Medium – High||High||Low – Medium||Low – Medium|
Printing Technologies: Direct Thermal (DT), Thermal Transfer (TT), Laser (LZ), Flexographic (FX), Inkjet (IJ)