A label (as distinct from signage) is a piece of paper, plastic film,
cloth, metal, or other material affixed to a container or product, on
which is written or printed information or symbols about the product
or item. 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, manufacturer (e.g., brand name), use, shelf-life and disposal,
some or all of which may be governed by legislation such as that for
food in the UK or United States. Methods of production and
attachment to packaging are many and various and may also be subject
to internationally recognised standards. In many countries, hazardous
products such as poisons or flammable liquids must have a warning
1.6 Specialized labels
2 Stock types
Pressure-sensitive adhesive types
5 Environmental considerations
6 Other aspects
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Fire extinguisher with permanent and temporary labels
Labels may be used for any combination of identification, information,
warning, instructions for use, environmental advice or advertising.
They may be stickers, permanent or temporary labels or printed
Permanent product identification by a label is commonplace; labels
need to remain secure throughout the life of the product. For example,
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.
Labels for food and beverages typically include critical information
pertinent to the contents or ingredients used in a product, and may
also call out to certain allergy risks such as the presence of gluten
or soy. The FDA also provides standards to regulate the information
provided on the labels and packaging of wine and spirits. These labels
include information like brand name, class and type designation, and
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. 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
See also: Laundry symbol
Garments normally carry separate care/treatment labels which, in some
regions, are subject to legislation. These labels typically
indicate how the item should be washed (e.g., machine washed vs. dry
cleaning), whether bleach can be used. 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. Printed labels are an
alternative to woven labels. Some upholstered furniture and mattresses
have labels that are required by law, describing the contents of the
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”. A label including a company
name or identification number and a material content list may also be
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 
Piggyback labels are made from combining two layers of adhesive
substrate. The bottom layer forms the backing for the top. The label
can be applied to any object as normal, the top layer can be a
removable label that can be applied elsewhere, which may change the
message or marking on the remaining label underneath. Often used on
Express mail envelopes. Other applications include price change labels
where when being scanned at the till, the till assistant can peel back
the price-reduction label and scan the original barcode enabling stock
flow management. These labels are also seen on magazine subscription
renewals, allowing customers to re-subscribe to the magazine with an
easy peel and stick label sent back. Also, as the retained label is
adhesive free it prevents customers from re-applying the cheaper
priced labels to premium products.
Smart labels have
RFID chips embedded under the label stock.
Blockout labels are not see-through at all, concealing what lies
underneath with a strong gray adhesive.
Radioactive labels. The use of radioactive isotopes of chemical
elements, such as carbon-14, to allow the in vivo tracking of chemical
Laser or printer labels are generally die cut on 8.5" x 11" (US
letter) or A4 sized sheets, and come in many different shapes,
sizes, formats and materials. Laser label material is a nonporous
stock made to withstand the intense heat of laser printers and
copiers. A drawback of laser labels is that the entire sheet needs to
be printed before any labels are used; once labels have been removed
the sheet cannot be put through the printer again without damaging the
printing mechanism. Inkjet label material is a porous stock made to
accept ink and dye from an inkjet printer. One of the more modern
inkjet label material stocks is waterproof printable inkjet material
commonly used for soap or shower gel containers.
Security labels are used for anti-counterfeiting, brand protection,
tamper-evident seals and anti-pilferage seals. These combine a number
of overt and covert features to make reproduction difficult. The use
of security printing, holography, embossing, barcodes,
custom printing and weak (or weakened) backings is common. They are
used for authentication, theft reduction, and protection against
counterfeit and are commonly used on ID cards, credit cards,
packaging, and products from CDs to electronics to clothing.
Antimicrobial labels. With the growth in hospital acquired infections
such as MRSA and E-Coli the use of antimicrobial labels in infection
sensitive areas of hospitals are helping in combating these types of
Fold-out labels, also known as booklet, multi-page or extended labels,
or lablets (combined label + leaflet). Where the pack is not large
enough for a single label to carry all the required information,
fold-out labels are often preferred to separate leaflets, which can
easily be lost. These labels are frequently seen on agricultural
chemicals and consumer pharmaceuticals.
Barcode labels A large proportion of labels produced today carry
barcodes, either for product identification, for traceability in items
such as freight packages, and on items requiring brand authentication
and protection. There are many different formats of barcodes found on
labels, but one of the most commonly distributed formats is the
International Article Number (EAN). This is the code used to identify
retail products worldwide, and is found on almost all consumer level
Label "stock" is the carrier which is commonly coated on one side with
adhesive and printed on the other, and can be:
Paper - a variety of papers and paperboards can be used as labels
Nonwoven fabric - for extra durability
Latex – a lithographic stock with some added latex allows the label
to be much more flexible and form around certain curved objects more
easily than standard paper;
Labels on a laptop.
Plastics such as acetate, vinyl, and PET film allow a variety of
features, such as greater strength, stiffness, transparency and
resistance to tearing. They typically require special equipment and
printing methods (ultra-violet curing is common) as they do not
normally print well with conventional ink. A bumper sticker is usually
a vinyl label with a very strong, durable adhesive and lightfast inks.
Embossing tape is "printed" by pressing raised elements similar to
printing type onto it, which produces raised glyphs that look white
due to discoloration of the plastic. A type known as 'destructible
vinyl' is commonly used for asset labels. It combines a very thin
frangible face stock with a very strong high tack adhesive, thus
making the label impossible to remove without damaging it. Engraved
Traffolyte labels are frequently used in industrial
situations due to their durability;
Aluminum foil and vapor-coated plastic films are often chosen
for the bright reflective characteristics;
Thermal – direct thermal label stock will change color (usually
black) when heated. A heating element in the shape of letters or
images can be used to create an image on the label. Custom labels can
be easily be made on location in this way. A disadvantage is
durability, because another heat source can ruin or obscure the image,
or it may fade completely over time;
Thermal transfer for applications that cannot use thermal (thermal
direct) label material because of heat source proximity or short label
life, a more widely used material is the thermal transfer label
printer. This material has the advantage of a much longer readable
life and does not fade with time or heat. Most major manufacturers of
thermal printers can be used for either thermal transfer (TT) or
thermal (DT) labels. A thermal transfer ribbon will be required to
print the labels. The cost of the ribbons + TT labels is similar to
that of the DT labels on their own;
Thermal transfer ribbon types:
Wax is the most popular as it has some smudge resistance, and is
suitable for matte and semi-gloss paper labels;
Wax and resin are smudge resistant, suitable for semi-gloss paper and
some synthetic labels;
Resin is scratch and chemical resistant, suitable for coated synthetic
None – labels can be printed directly on adhesive without using a
substrate. Labels made in this manner are extremely fragile, however,
and have been rendered virtually obsolete by other printing methods
such as silk screen;
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, coatings, and other substrates by reducing surface
tension and improving overall adhesion of the plastics.
An alternative method of labelling is weaving the text directly into
See also: Printing
Labels can be attached by:
Heat activated adhesives: for example, "in-mold labeling" can be part
of blow molding containers and employs heat activated adhesives. Hot
melt adhesives are also used.
Pressure-sensitive adhesives (also called PSA or self-stick) are
applied with light pressure without activation or heat. PSA labels
often have release liners which protect the adhesive and assist label
Rivets used to attach information plates to industrial equipment.
Shrink wrap for printed shrinkable labels placed over packages and
then heated to shrink them.
Sewing for fabrics such as clothing, tents, mattresses and industrial
Wet glue such as starch, dextrin, PVA or water moistenable gummed
Yarn, twine or plastic tie, usually referred to as a swing tag.
Static cling, where "stickers" have a static charge enabling them to
attach without adhesive to smooth surfaces such as glass.
Pressure-sensitive adhesive types
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:
Permanent – Typically not designed to be removed without tearing the
stock, damaging the surface, or using solvents. The adhesion strength
and speed can also be varied. For example, full adhesion can be nearly
instant, or the label can be almost removable for a short period with
full adhesion developing in minutes or hours (known as respositionable
Peelable – Adhesion is fairly strong and will not fall off in normal
circumstances, but the label can be removed relatively easily without
tearing the base stock or leaving adhesive behind on the old surface.
The adhesive is usually strong enough to be applied again elsewhere.
This type is frequently known as 'removable'. There are many different
types of removable adhesives, some are almost permanent, some are
almost 'ultra peelable'.
Ultra-peelable – Designed principally for use on book covers and
glass, when removed these adhesives labels do not leave any residue
whatsoever. Adhesion is weak and only suitable for light duty
applications. Normally these labels have very little adhesion to
anything once they've been removed.
Freezer or frost fix – Most permanent and peelable adhesives have a
service temperature limit of -10 degrees Celsius, whereas freezer
(otherwise known as frost fix) adhesives have a service temperature
-40 degrees Celsius and are suitable for deep freeze use.
High tack – A type of permanent adhesive that exhibits a high
initial grab to the application surfaces, and is commonly used at
higher coat weights to enable labels to adhere strongly to difficult,
rough or dirty surfaces.
A typical label dispenser
Labels may be supplied separately or on a roll or sheet. 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 be subject to recognized
standards. 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.
Aspects such as legibility, literacy and interpretation come into play
for users of labels, and label writers therefore need some degree of
professional writing skill. Depending upon country or region,
international standards may be applied. Where literacy may be an
issue, pictograms may feature alongside text, such as those advanced
CropLife International in their Responsible Use manual. Labels
or printed packaging may include
Braille to aid users with visual
Criticism of label readability is not uncommon; for example, Canadian
researchers found that medicine labels did not consistently follow
legibility guidelines. In some countries and industries, for
example the UK (food) and EU (medicines) 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
and Australia/New Zealand's code for food labels and packs.
Labels may affect the environment during manufacture, use, and
post-use. Choice of backings, coatings, adhesives, and liners can be
strong factors. Environmental regulations and guidelines can come from
many sources. Users of labels on packaging may consider some of the
sustainable packaging guidelines. 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.
For example, when labeled corrugated boxes are recycled, wet strength
paper labels do not hinder box recycling: the PSA adhesive stays with
the backing and is easily removed.
Paper backings without wet strength
may release their adhesives, potentially contaminating recycling
efforts. Labels can aid in recycling and reuse by
communicating the material content of the item, instructions for
disassembly or recycling directions. 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.
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.
Collecting labels is a worldwide phenomenon, from labels used on
matchboxes and foodstuffs (e.g., cheese), wine, to printed packages.
Collectors are attracted to labels both for their influence on
artistic design and the history of retailing.
Packaging and labeling
^ "UK Food Labelling & Packaging". Retrieved 5 Mar 2014.
^ "FDA Food
Label Requirements in a Nutshell". Retrieved 12 June
^ "Alcoholic Beverage Labeling and Advertising". Alcohol and Tobacco
Tax and Trade Bureau. 2017-03-24. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
^ Paula, K; Ashraf, A (January 4, 2013). "Asset Labels, Asset Sticker,
Property ID, Property Labels: Asset
Label Generator". Asset Labels
^ "Clothes Captioning: Complying with the Care Labeling Rule".
(November 2001). Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade
Commission (United States)
^ "Textile Industry Affairs: Writing a care label". Retrieved 5 Mar
^ "Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the
Textile and Wool Acts". (May 2005). Bureau of Consumer Protection,
Federal Trade Commission (United States)
^ "What is Kiss Cutting, What are Piggyback Labels?".
www.printindustry.com. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
^ "Examples of printer label formats" (PDF). Iidsolutions.co.uk.
ASTM D5375 Standard Test Methods for Liner removal at High Speeds
Label Stock. ASTM
ASTM D6252 Standard Test Method for Peel Adhesion of Pressure
Label Stocks at 90 deg Angle. ASTM
^ Gold, Karen (13 June 1992). If all else fails, read the
instructions. New Scientist.
ASTM D7298-06 Standard Test Method for Measurement of Comparative
Legibility by Means of Polarizing Filter Instrumentation. ASTM
^ "The Responsible and Effective Use of Crop Protection Products".
Retrieved 14 December 2014.
^ "Small font, all capitals makes prescription labels too hard to
read". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
^ "Food Standards Agency - Clear food labelling - Guidance" (PDF).
Retrieved 14 July 2014.
^ "Eurpopean Commission: Guideline of the readability of the labelling
and package leaflet of medicinal products for human use" (PDF).
Retrieved 14 July 2014.
^ "FDA - Labeling and Nutrition". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
^ "Food Standards Australia New Zealand" (PDF). Retrieved 14 July
^ Kovach, A; Brown, S (July 1, 2008). "
Label recycling: a materials
^ Katz, S (July 2008). "Waste Recycling".
Label and Narrow Web.
^ Jensen, Timothy (April 1999). "
Packaging Tapes:To Recycle of Not".
Adhesives and Sealants Council. Archived from the original on
2007-11-09. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
^ Gruenewald, L. E.; Sheehan, R. L. (1997). "Consider box closures
when considering recycling". J. Applied Manufacturing Systems. St
Thomas Technology Press. 9 (1): 27–29. ISSN 0899-0956.
^ "Sustainable Seafood Products Certification". Retrieved 17 May
^ Opie, Robert (1987). The Art of the Label. Simon & Schuster.
p. 140. ISBN 0671654411.
Yam, K. L., "Encyclopedia of
Packaging Technology", John Wiley &
Sons, 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-08704-6
Label Writing and Planning – A guide to good customer
communication, Chapman & Hall 1995, ISBN 0-7514-0361-X
ASTM D7932 Standard Specification for Printed, Pressure-Sensitive
Adhesive Labels for Use in Extreme Distribution Environments
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Labels.
Boston Public Library, USA. Produce Crate Labels, ca. pre-1950s
Die cutting (web)
Pressure sensitive adhesive
Country of origin
Cigarette warning label
EU energy label
Packaging and Labeling Act
List of food labeling regulations
Nutrition facts label
Radio frequency identification
United Kingdom food labeling regulations
Automatic identification and data capture
Packaging and labeling
Track & Trace