Clear Custom Labels for a "No Label Look"
Clear labels are a great option if you want a “no label look” or prefer that the contents of your product be the focus of your packaging. Glass bottles and jars or clear containers can look very sleek with a transparent film label, allowing the colors and textures of the interesting insides to be showcased on the shelves. Working with clear substrates can have some specific challenges so here are a couple things to consider when ordering clear labels.
What are you applying your clear labels to? Is it glass or plastic or metal? What color is the surface it will be applied to? Will they used indoors or outdoors or both? There are different clear substrate options depending on application, for example clear film or poly, which are thinner and would primarily be used for indoor product labels or clear vinyl, which is more durable and could be used for harsher applications like outdoor window decals. Clear substrates are often available in a variety adhesive strengths, such as static cling, removable, standard and hi tack, so knowing what conditions the label will be subject to is key to determining which stock is most suitable.
The actual sticking of clear labels can be a little tricky since the edge of the label is almost invisible and you want to avoid bubbles and wrinkles, which can be more noticeable on clear packaging. If you haven't already, you might consider investing in a label applicator, either desktop or machine for larger operations, as this will vastly improve the application procedure. If you are applying them by hand, make sure the surface is clean and dry and you might want to use a bit of tape or some other removable marker to help you line up the label on your packaging.
Not all clear labels are created equally clear! There are some clear stocks that all but vanish leaving only the print when you apply them and others that have a milky translucency that look somewhat frosted or like scotch tape after application. Often times what you’re seeing is the glue through the clear material, which will vary in visibility depending on quality, concentration and strength. A stronger adhesive can mean a thicker residue, so you might see a kind of silvering or bubbling effect when looking closely at the label in application. However, there are extra-clear stocks that stick extremely well to many surfaces so be sure to inquire if you’re concerned about transparency.
Ink is perhaps the most critical spec to consider before ordering clear labels. Many inks are water-based, therefore they are not entirely opaque and will allow whatever surface colors or patterns they overlap to be seen through them. Darker ink colors tend to mitigate translucency better, however most printers will recommend printing a layer of white first and then the other colors on top in what’s called a "white ink backup" to improve ink opacity. CMYK printing, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black, does not include white ink unless the printer specifically identifies white ink capability. If you’re applying a full color clear label that was printed CMYK to a blank, white surface than there shouldn’t be an issue, however in the case of colored or patterned surfaces, the hue or shade of the ink may change or you may see some lines from the pattern come through, which may or may not be desirable! When looking to print white or metallic copy on a clear label, it’s usually not ink that will be used but rather a resin or leaf, which impart greater thickness and opacity on the clear background.
A protective coating adds another layer of clear material on top of the substrate and it can be in the form of a lamination, varnish, clear coat or scratch guard. If the labels are going to be subject to moisture, high UV light or frequent abrasion, a lamination may be advised, however if the ink choice is a durable UV resin than no protective coating would be necessary. Varnish is more like ink that offers some protection and scratch resistance, but like all protective coatings, can change the finish of the label. Lamination and varnish are often offered in a few different options, such as gloss, matte, UV or sunscreen, all of which can impact the final overall look of your clear label.
As with any custom label project, a good place to start is to request samples! This will enable you to test the adhesive on your application, inspect the translucency of the material, review the ink options and decide which, if any, protective coating is necessary. And as always, don’t hesitate to give us a call and throw some questions at us!