Printing Techniques

Flexographic & Digital Printing

There are a variety of ways to produce custom labels. Two of the most popular methods are flexographic printing also known as “flexo” or “offset” and digital printing.
Flexo printing can be used to fulfill most requests, and is most commonly used for one to four-color process jobs. The added benefits of flexo printing include the ability to add additional spot colors and produce high quantities at fast speeds. Flexo presses utilize plates made from rubber or plastic to transfer an image to a substrate, like a label stock.

Digital printing is commonly used for short run, full color labels. This process does not require plates, which makes it easy to implement changes or run multiple lots. Digital printing relies on CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key – black) full-color imaging only, and does not have the ability to produce single pantone colors or metallic inks. Digital printing is an excellent option for short runs with multiple designs.

Die Cut & Butt Cut Labels

Labels are created by using a die to cut the substrate/stock into a desired shape. A die is essentially made up of cutting blades that form the intended shape. When a label is die-cut, it typically means the label has rounded corners. A die-cut label is also any other special of custom shape, where a die is needed.
Butt-cut labels are labels with square corners that do not require a die. The labels are printed “butted up” next to each other, with little or no space between them.

Bleed vs. No Bleed

One question that often comes up when ordering custom labels is if the labels will bleed. When a label bleeds, it means the color goes all the way to the edge of the label. In order to accomplish this, there must be enough space between each label because the ink will literally bleed beyond the edge of the label. If the labels are printed with no space between and they bleed, the excess ink will run onto the next label, creating an unbalanced ink flow.

If a label does not bleed, there is white space around the edge of the label. For example, if you are printing a barcode on a white label, the ink is just in the center of the label, with white space all around. In this case, the color does not bleed.
If you are producing a label that will bleed, you must create the artwork with the color going beyond the edge of the label. Looking at the example below, you will notice that the bleed area is just beyond where the label is cut. This ensures that the color prints evenly and gives extra room for the labels to be cut without leaving a white border.

Artwork Resolution

In order to ensure optimum results, artwork created for print should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). Most artwork created for the web is only 72 dpi, making it difficult to clearly print images from a website. The more dots of color per inch, the higher quality the image. Notice the examples below. The low-resolution image is blurry and grainy, where as the high-resolution image is crisp and clear.

When creating artwork, be sure the initial canvas is set to at least 300 dpi, with 600 dpi being ideal. Creating high-resolution artwork from the beginning with make printing labels or other collateral much easier.

Converting Text to Outline

Converting all text in a design to “outline” is an important and usually overlooked step. When a design is created using a specific font, a printer must have the same font in their library in order to read the file properly. If they do not have the font, the text will be replaced with a different font, altering the design and possibly printing an incorrect final product.

When text is converted to outline, the text becomes a vector image. Vector art uses lines and end points to create the image. The converted image can then be seen as originally intended by a printer, even if they do not have the particular font in their library.

If using Adobe design software: select the text > from the top menu select type > then select “Create Outlines” this will easily convert the text to outline. Converting the text will ensure your labels are printed exactly as designed. If you are not able to convert the text to outline, make sure the printer has the same fonts, or send digital files of the fonts for the printer to add to their library.

If you have any questions about how to best print your labels, please contact us.