From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

  (Redirected from Labels)
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Label (disambiguation).
Shirt with labels
A bunch of bananas with a label
A label with faux embossing

A label (as distinct from signage) is a piece of paper, polymer, cloth, metal, or other material affixed to a container or product, on which is printed information about the product. Information printed directly on a container or article can also be considered labeling.

Labels have many uses including providing information on a product's origin, use, shelf-life and disposal, some or all of which may be governed by legislation such as that for food in the UK.[1] Methods of production and attachment to packaging are many and various and may also be subject to internationally recognised standards.


Fire extinguisher with permanent and temporary labels

Labels are used for one or more of these -

They may be in the form of -


Permanent product identification by a label is commonplace; labels need to remain secure throughout the life of the product. For example, a VIN plate on an automobile must be resistant to heat, oils and tampering; similarly, a food label must endure until the food has been used.

Removable product labels need to bond until they are removed. For example, a label on a new refrigerator has installation, usage and environmental information: the label needs to be able to be removed cleanly and easily from the unit once installed.


Packaging may have labeling attached to or integral with the package. These may carry pricing, barcodes, UPC identification, usage guidance, addresses, advertising, recipes, and so on. They also may be used to help resist or indicate tampering or pilferage.


In industrial or military environments, asset labeling is used to clearly identify assets for maintenance and operational purposes. Such labels are frequently made of engraved Traffolyte or a similar material.[2] They are usually tamper-evident, permanent or frangible and usually contain a barcode for electronic identification using readers. For example, the US Military uses a UID system for its assets.


See also: Laundry symbol

Garments normally carry separate care/treatment labels which, in some regions, are subject to legislation.[3][4] Textile labels may be woven into the garment or attached, and may be heat resistant (so survivable in hot-air dryers and when pressed), colorfast (so does not bleed onto the garment), washable, leather or PVC/Plastic.

Textiles containing pesticides as an ingredient may also require government approval and compulsory labeling. In the USA, for example, labels have to state the pesticide registration number, statement of ingredients, storage and disposal information, and the following statement: "It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling”.[5] A label including a company name or identification number and a material content list may also be required.[6]


Mailing labels identify the addressee, the sender and any other information which may be useful in transit. Many software packages such as word processor and contact manager programs produce standardized mailing labels from a data set that comply with postal standards. These labels may also include routing barcodes and special handling requirements to expedite delivery.

Specialized labels [edit]

Stock types[edit]

Label "stock" is the carrier which is commonly coated on one side with adhesive and printed on the other, and can be:

Labels on a notebook.

The stock type will affect the types of ink that will print well on them. Corona treating or flame treating some plastics makes them more receptive to inks and adhesives by reducing surface tension.

See also: Printing


Labels can be attached by:

PSA adhesive types[edit]

Pressure-sensitive label adhesives are commonly made from water based acrylic adhesives, with a smaller volume made using solvent based adhesives and hotmelt adhesives. The most common adhesive types are:


A typical Label dispenser

Labels can be supplied:

Many labels are pre-printed by the manufacturer. Others have printing applied manually or automatically at the time of application. Specialized high speed label printer applicators may be used to apply labels to packages; these and other methods may subject to recognized standards.[8][9]

Some labels have protective overcoats, laminates, or tape to cover them after the final print is applied. This is sometimes before application and sometimes after.

Labels are often difficult to peel and apply. A Label dispenser can speed up this task.

Price guns[edit]

A price gun is a tool used in smaller retail outlets to label products with price stickers. While there are a wide variety of pricing gun manufacturers that offer different styles and features, most pricing guns operate in a similar manner, dispensing price stickers from a roll.[10] Larger outlets such as supermarkets with high volumes of stock tend to price the shelves, with individual pack prices indicated by barcode.

Using a pricing gun enables speedy price-marking or over-price-marking. The gun is held by the handle with the sticker dispenser pointed towards the item to be marked, the lever tabs held firmly from the upper cover, then the lever tab pulled gently.[11]

There are two types of tagging guns, fine fabric and standard. Fine fabric guns are used for delicate materials such as silk.


Aspects such as legilbility, literacy and interpretation come into play for users of labels. Depending upon country or region, international standards may be applied.[12] Where literacy may be an issue, pictograms may feature alongside text. Labels or printed packaging may include Braille to aid users with visual impairment.

Criticism of label readability is not uncommon; for example, Canadian researchers found that medicine labels did not consistently follow legibility guidelines.[13] In some countries and industries, for example the UK (food)[14] and EU (medicines)[15] label guidelines are not legally binding (the latter using phrases such as "The type size should be as large as possible to aid readers...") and thus are unenforceable. On the other hand, countries may stipulate legal minima for readability, such as the USA's FDA on nutritional information[16] and Australia/New Zealand's code for food labels and packs.[17]

Other aspects[edit]


Ink and base stock color choices commonly conform to the Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors. The Pantone system is very dominant in the label printing industry. Additionally specialty inks such as metallic, UV ink, magnetic ink, and more are available. Ink is usually transparent however it can be made opaque. It has been known for certain companies to patent "their own" color. Digital labels use process colors to replicate Pantone solid colors.

Environmental considerations[edit]

Labels can aid in recycling and reuse by communicating the material content of the item, instructions for disassembly, recycling directions, etc.

An eco-label related to sustainable seafood

An eco-label is used on consumer products (including foods) to identify products that may be less damaging to the environment and/or humans than other related products, such as sustainable seafood encouraged by Friend of the Sea.[18]

Based on the solid waste hierarchy, the quantity and size of labels should be minimized without reducing necessary functionality. Material content of a label should comply with applicable regulations. Life cycle assessments of the item being labeled and of the label itself are useful to identify and improve possible environmental effects. For example, reuse or recycling are sometimes aided by a label being removable from a surface. If a label remains on an item during recycling, a label should be chosen which does not hinder the recyclability of the item.[19][20]


Collecting labels is a worldwide phenomenon, from labels used on matchboxes and foodstuffs to printed packages. Collectors are attracted to labels both for their impact on artistic design and the history of retailing.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UK Food Labelling & Packaging". Retrieved 5 Mar 2014. 
  2. ^ Paula, K; Ashraf, A (January 4, 2013). "Asset Labels, Asset Sticker, Property ID, Property Labels: Asset Label Generator". Asset Labels Australia. 
  3. ^ "Clothes Captioning: Complying with the Care Labeling Rule". (November 2001). Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission (United States)
  4. ^ "Textile Industry Affairs: Writing a care label". Retrieved 5 Mar 2014. 
  5. ^ "SGS SafeGuard Bulletin". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  6. ^ "Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts". (May 2005). Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission (United States)
  7. ^ "Examples of printer label formats". Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  8. ^ ASTM D5375 Standard Test Methods for Liner removal at High Speeds from Pressure-Sensitive Label Stock.  ASTM
  9. ^ ASTM D6252 Standard Test Method for Peel Adhesion of Pressure Sensitive Label Stocks at 90 deg Angle.  ASTM
  10. ^ "How to Use a retail pricing tag gun « Tools & Equipment". Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  11. ^ "How to load a pricing gun". Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  12. ^ ASTM D7298-06 Standard Test Method for Measurement of Comparative Legibility by Means of Polarizing Filter Instrumentation.  ASTM
  13. ^ "Small font, all capitals makes prescription labels too hard to read". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Food Standards Agency - Clear food labelling - Guidance". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Eurpopean Commission: Guideline of the readability of the labelling and package leaflet of medicinal products for human use". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "FDA - Labeling and Nutrition". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "Food Standards Australia New Zealand". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "Sustainable Seafood Products Certification". Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Kovach, A; Brown, S (July 1, 2008). "Label recycling: a materials issue". Packaging Digest. 
  20. ^ Katz, S (July 2008). "Waste Recycling". Label and Narrow Web. 
  21. ^ Opie, Robert (1987). The Art of the Label. Simon & Schuster. p. 140. ISBN 0671654411. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]