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Tips For Printing Custom Labels: Avoiding Errors Before They Become A Problem

tips for printing custom labelsWhen printing custom labels, there are many things that can go wrong, but many issues can be resolved by clear communications with your print vendor and supplying the right types of graphic files.

Here are tips for printing custom labels and an overview of points to consider before placing an order with a label printing company…

Avoiding Printing Errors In Applications

Whenever a client places an order with us, we ask if the labels will be applied by hand or by machine. The reason for this is because if the label will be applied by machine, we need to know the direction that it comes off of the roll, and that the roll will be the right size for your machine. If the roll is the wrong size, it won’t fit on the machine, and if the direction is wrong, you will have labels applied incorrectly.

Machine Applications

While this doesn’t matter when it comes to hand application, extremely important with machine application. This is why we always double check for machine specifications before we start each job. If you are working with a co-packer, check with them regarding these specifications.

Avoiding Durability Issues

If a paper label will be exposed to moisture or oils, it needs to have a varnish or lamination on it. Without varnish or lamination, a label might fall off, get scratched, or the ink may rub off.

For this reason it’s always suggested to discuss the application of labels, meaning what they will be used for. How will the labels be applied? Will they be exposed to cold or hot temperatures? Refrigeration? Freezing? This will help us determine what type of varnish or lamination might be required.

Problems With Blurry Images

Clients often come to us with artwork that is downloaded from the internet, or low-quality 72 dpi images that they want us to print. Unfortunately, the quality is too low to expect a high quality label to be printed from a 72 dpi image. This often results in blurry images. All images must be 300 dpi for best quality results. When supplying images that are low-quality, you must expect a low-quality result. Occasionally, clients are okay with this if they are in a rush, however we always discourage it because it reflects poorly upon the product.

Vector files can be resized, blown up without any distortion. This is why we always suggest vector files. If original files are lost and all a client has to work with is a low-quality image, having a designer redo a design from scratch is an option. We offer this service as well.


The industry-standard in printing is CMYK. CMYK is made up of the four main colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. With those four colors, thousands of variations can be created by lightening or darkening any of those four colors.

Online, RGB is the default. This often results in clients submitting images in RGB. When we receive files that are in RGB, they need to be converted to CMYK, resulting in color changes. While these color changes are not drastic, they still affect the overall look.

Don’t Judge By Computer Screen

When looking at a computer screen, colors may appear to have a certain look, however every computer screen is different. It may look perfect on your laptop, but when looking on your mobile phone or desktop, it can look lighter or darker, blues may turn purple, reds may turn orange, etc.

Always keep this in mind when submitting art files. Print out color variations to see the differences before placing an order. However, even when using a home or office printer, color variations can still exist, so when exact color matching is required, either for branding purposes or for aesthetic purposes, go with the Pantone color system.

Exact Color Matching with Pantone Colors

For exact color matching, using Pantone colors are the industry-standard. When we receive a Pantone color number from a client, we can match it, so that the resulting color will be what our client expects.

It’s always a good idea to get a press proof when printing custom labels because they will be an accurate representation of the final product. There are additional costs involved in creating press proofs, however usually a cost that is well worth investing if color is important.

Outlining Text

What outlining text means is that letter is transformed into an image. Therefore, fonts are not necessary for a printer to work with a graphic file. Converting fonts to outlines is very important when working with illustrator as a graphic program. Otherwise, fonts need to be included. Converting type to outlines will also thicken the fonts so that they become more readable

When working in illustrator, simply select your text (CTRL+A if there are multiple layers), choose Type > Create Outlines on the menu.

In Photoshop, you can rasterize fonts by selecting a text layer, and right clicking on the layer name in the layer panel. Then select Rasterize Type.

UPC Codes

There are so many different types of barcodes, it can be easy to get confused. Make sure you are requesting the right type of barcode.

The usual UPC code is about 1.469” wide x 1.02” high, but the minimum size is 1.175” wide x .816”. 2.938” wide x 2.04” high the maximum size of a barcode. When changing size of barcode, always keep in mind the proportion. Always maintain the same aspect ratio. This can be achieved by reducing the width and height proportionally. Its also important to create a .125” border on the left and right of the barcode, so it will scan properly.

Including Proper Bleed

When we talk about tips for printing custom labels, this one is very common. Oh, how many times on a daily basis we deal with this issue. If any color ink reaches the edge of a design, it’s called “bleed”. It’s always important to have a minimum of one eighth of an inch bleed all around the design. The reason for this is because without that bleed, text or graphics might be cut off the edges.

Also it’s important to note that all text should have an additional 1/8 of an inch safety margin on the inside of the document. So if for instance, there is a 2 x 2″ label, the text should be within 1.875 x 1.875″, and the document should be 2.25 x 2.25″.

When Errors Have Already Occurred

So what do you do when errors have already occurred? Blockout labels AKA cover up labels are ideal to cover up mistakes. They include black adhesive on the back that block out what is underneath. So if it’s too late to avoid a mistake, at least there is a way to disguise it.

These tips for printing custom labels are comprehensive, and following these directions will result in faster turnaround times and less back and forth between yourself and your print vendor. Unnecessary delays will be avoided, and printing custom labels will be much easier and a more satisfying experience!

We have worked together on a number of projects over the years. They are very trustworthy, reliable and easy to work with. You cannot go wrong with Nova. I highly recommend them!

Mykola Yaremko Avatar Mykola Yaremko
September 21, 2023

Nova printing was great! They turned around a last minute sticker need and they turned out really well. Thanks team!

Molly Ross Avatar Molly Ross
July 31, 2023

Michael was a great help! I contacted at least 10 different businesses for a last-minute sticker request for a shoot. Got us our stickers on time even when other places said it would be impossible. They do great custom cuts on sticker sheets and have great quality prints at a reasonable price. Will be working with Nova again. Very satisfied!

Zain Mehmood Avatar Zain Mehmood
July 18, 2023
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