Paper Labels or Synthetic Labels, How To Choose

Posted by David Coatney on

Every product requires a unique label. Determining the best materials to construct a label can be extremely overwhelming because the materials must support the many conditions the label will be exposed to. With evolving advancements in the printing industry, the variety of label materials has expanded significantly.

There are several key factors to consider when identifying the best label material for your specific application:

  • Product
  • Application Surface
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Shelf Life
  • Cost
  • Storage Conditions
  • Handling/Mechanical Exposure

Analyzing the many conditions your label will be exposed to is the first step in determining which label material is best suited for your product.

Pressure Sensitive Label Construction

If you deconstruct a pressure sensitive/self-adhesive label you will find 3 basic layers, the face stock, the adhesive, and a release liner. The face stock and adhesive layers are essential components of the label construction.  Both layers can be manufactured using different materials that affect the durability, resistance, and adhesive capabilities of the label. The face stock is the top layer of the label that accepts ink and is constructed with either paper or synthetic material. There are significant differences in the durability and cost of these two materials. Pressure sensitive adhesives create the label to surface bond without using solvents or heat to be activated. The three foremost label adhesive choices are permanent, removable, and repositionable. 

Paper Labels

Labels created with paper face stock have crisp, clear texts and images and can be printed in many colors with a variety of finishes (gloss, semi-gloss, and matte). Paper label material, constructed primarily from wood, is considered a versatile and affordable choice if application durability is not essential. Paper labels are commonly found on products that are consumed quickly and not exposed to extreme environmental conditions. Though visually appealing and cost effective, paper labels have limited resistance to tears, abrasions, heat, moisture, chemicals, and UV light.  Paper can be coated with a variety of laminates to improve durability but synthetic labels are the optimal choice for products exposed to harsh conditions and elements.

Synthetic Labels

Synthetic face stock is known as the most durable, flexible, and resistive material for pressure sensitive/self-adhesive labels. Synthetic label materials offer resistance to harsh environmental conditions and produce an outstanding surface for ink to adhere to. The main component in synthetic material is Plastic Polymers. There are several different types of Plastic Polymers available that allow manufacturers to achieve the durability and resistive properties required for specific label applications. Each type of polymer material performs differently when exposed to varying levels of harsh environmental conditions.

Key harsh conditions include:

  • Chemicals
  • Oils/Water/Moisture
  • UV Light
  • Extreme Temperatures
  • Outdoor Elements
  • Irregular Shaped Application Surfaces
  • Extended Product Lifespan
  • Rough/Heavy Handling and Mechanical Ware

To create the perfect synthetic label it is important to consider the levels or degrees of each condition your label will be exposed to. The different polymer materials listed below have unique properties that tackle specific and varying exposure levels. 

Synthetic Plastic Polymer Labels

Polypropylene (PP) also known as (BOPP) is the most common synthetic label material for short term applications.  (BOPP) offers durability and tensile strength to resist tearing, moisture, temperature fluctuations, chemicals, and UV that are not available in a paper label. Though polypropylene labels don’t have the extreme resilient properties found in polyester labels, (BOPP) labels are ideal for applications lasting 6-12 months with temperatures ranging from -40° to over 194°F. (BOPP) labels are suitable for a wide range of retail products including food and beverage, bath and body, cosmetic, cleaning, pharmaceutical, laboratory, and shipping.  As a more affordable synthetic option to polyester, polypropylene is an excellent substrate for strong, clear, white or metalized printed labels that remain legible and intact in a variety of conditions.

  • Polyester (PET) Designed for tough applications with superior chemical and UV resistance, this lightweight face stock resists temperatures up to 302°F and comes in a wide range of adhesives. These labels incorporate high strength to weight ratios and are ideal for application periods of up to 5-10 years. (PET) Performs best on flat surfaces, does not crease, can be clear or white, and is supplemented with very strong permanent adhesives
  • Polyvinyl Chloride or Vinyl is a flexible thicker plastic polymer material that is hard wearing, lightweight, and suitable for outdoor applications. Highly resistive to harsh weather and extended sunlight exposure, vinyl labels have conformable properties that enhance bonding and prevent lifting on curved and irregular surfaces, and packaging that may be handled or squeezed. This all-weather label face stock can endure 2-5 years of outdoor element exposure without being compromised. Vinyl labels come in a variety of colors and finishes (matte, gloss, and metalized). Often used for instruction/warning labels, bumper stickers and decals, vinyl performs slightly below polyester alternatives, but is a more economical option.
  • Polyimide (PI) face stock is more durable than vinyl making it ideal for label applications in high temperature industrial settings, where safety is a concern. This resilient, long lasting label material shares the same harsh environment resistive properties as (PET) but can withstand persistent temperatures of up to 572°F. Under these extended extreme conditions,  Polyimide labels conform to and maintain adhesion on irregular surfaces, remain white, and preserve critical printed data making them an ideal solution for labeling components and printed circuit boards (PCB) in automotive, aerospace, medical, electronic, and maritime industries.

Choosing the Right Label

When identifying the best label material for your job specific application it critical to consider all the conditions your labels will be subjected to. General purpose labeling verses specialized applications will reflect variations in costs and materials.  Mediajet is a great resource for all your labeling needs. With many years in the printing and labeling industry our experts can help identify of the most cost effective, high quality labels that will elevate your printing operation. 

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Net Orders Checkout

Item Price Qty Total
Subtotal $0.00

Shipping Address

Shipping Methods