Exploring Types of Label Materials: A Comprehensive Guide

Label material

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Label materials play a critical role in a product’s presentation, protection, and functionality. They serve as bearers of brand identity and product information and contribute to the overall customer experience. The choice of label material impacts durability, appearance, cost, and sustainability, making it essential for manufacturers, designers, and marketers to understand the available options.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of label materials. We will cover various label material types and their unique features. By the end of this guide, you will have a complete understanding of the various label materials and be able to make informed judgements based on their product needs, brand values, and environmental considerations.

Paper Labels

Paper labels are widely used across various industries due to their affordability and versatility. They come in various finishes and adhesives and can be customised for different applications, such as food packaging and retail items.

However, the selection of paper labels should be based on the product’s specific requirements, such as exposure to moisture or the necessity for durability. 

Paper labels are categorised into two types – Coated Paper Labels and Uncoated Paper Labels. Let’s explore them in greater detail.   

Coated Paper Labels

Three types of coated paper labels

Coated paper labels feature a layer of coating that enhances their finish, providing a glossy, matte, or semi-gloss appearance. This coating not only improves the label’s visual appeal but also adds protection against moisture, dirt, and wear. 

Coated paper labels can be classified into Glossy Labels, Matte Finish Labels and Semi-Gloss Labels. 

The reflective surface of glossy labels makes colours appear more vibrant, ideal for attracting consumer attention. Matte finishes, on the other hand, offer a sophisticated, non-reflective look that is easier to read under various lighting conditions. Semi-gloss labels balance the two, offering a slight sheen without the intense reflection of a glossy finish. 

Let us discuss the different types of coated paper labels in more detail.

Gloss Paper

Gloss paper labels feature a high-shine finish that enhances colour depth and vibrancy. This glossy coating provides a visually appealing look and offers protection against moisture and wear. 

Gloss paper labels are widely used in the cosmetics industry, where products benefit from a standout, high-quality look. They are also prevalent in the marketing of luxury food items, such as chocolates and gourmet cheeses, where the sheen of the label contributes to the perceived value and quality of the product.

Gloss paper labels are further categorised into two subtypes – Cast Gloss Paper Labels and Machine Coat Paper Labels. 

Cast Gloss Paper Labels

Cast gloss paper labels are known for their exceptionally smooth and high-gloss finish, achieved through a casting process where the paper is cured against a polished surface. This process results in a label with a mirror-like sheen, superior clarity, and vibrant colour reproduction. 

Cast gloss labels are particularly resistant to scuffing. They offer excellent durability, making them ideal for products that require a luxurious and high-impact visual appeal.

Cast gloss paper labels are frequently chosen for high-end cosmetics and perfumes, where the packaging’s visual appeal plays a significant role in the product’s branding and customer attraction. They are also used in the automotive industry for car care products, where the labels need to reflect the quality and efficacy of the product inside.

Machine Coat Paper Labels

Machine coat paper labels are produced with a gloss finish applied during the manufacturing process directly on the paper machine. This method creates a uniform, glossy surface, enhancing the label’s visual appeal. 

Machine coat labels offer a balance between quality and cost. They are suitable for a variety of applications where a glossy finish is desired without the ultra-high sheen of cast gloss.

Machine-coated paper labels are a preferred choice for household cleaning products. They offer a durable and visually appealing label solution that stands out in a competitive retail environment.

Semi-Gloss Paper Labels

Semi-gloss paper labels offer a middle ground with a moderate sheen that enhances colour vibrancy without the high shine of gloss labels. They are an excellent choice for applications where a balance between elegance and readability is needed. 

Semi-gloss labels are durable and resist smudges and moisture to some extent, making them versatile for both indoor and product labelling.

Semi-gloss paper labels are commonly used on consumer goods such as beauty products, food packaging, and beverages. Their moderate sheen enhances the visual appeal of these products on the shelf while ensuring that essential information, like ingredients and branding, remains easily readable.

Matte Paper Labels

Matte paper labels possess a non-reflective finish that offers a sophisticated and elegant appearance. This type of label absorbs more ink, resulting in a softer and more muted colour presentation, which enhances a product’s perceived value. 

Matte labels are favoured for their ease of readability, making them an excellent choice for products that prioritise information clarity over shine. The texture of matte labels also adds a tactile quality that can elevate the consumer’s unboxing experience.

Matte paper labels are often used on premium wine and craft beer bottles, where a subtle and refined look is desired. They are also chosen for book covers and luxury packaging where a high-end, understated aesthetic is crucial.

Uncoated Paper Labels

Uncoated paper labels lack the additional coating found on the coated paper labels. This results in a natural, tactile feel often preferred for organic or artisanal products. These labels provide a more subdued appearance without the coating, allowing for easy writing or printing directly on the label’s surface. 

Uncoated labels are best suited for products that do not require the added durability of a coating and where a rustic or minimalistic aesthetic is desired.

Plastic Labels

Four types of plastic labels

Plastic labels are crafted from various types of plastics, each with unique properties that cater to specific needs. The inherent resistance of plastic labels to water, oil, and chemicals and their flexibility and adaptability to different shapes and surfaces make them ideal for products exposed to harsh conditions or those requiring a long shelf life.

Plastic labels’ adaptability extends to their aesthetic versatility. They can be transparent, opaque, glossy, or matte, allowing for a range of visual effects that can enhance brand identity. Advanced printing techniques can also be applied to plastic labels, enabling vibrant colours and intricate designs that resist fading over time.

Environmental considerations are increasingly important in the selection of plastic labels. Innovations in recyclable and biodegradable plastics address these concerns, providing options combining durability with sustainability.

Plastic labels are made of four types: polypropylene, polypropylene, vinyl, and PET.  

Polyethylene Labels

Polyethylene labels are recognised for their flexibility and resilience, making them a top choice for products that undergo squeezing, bending, or require a label that can conform to irregular shapes. This type of plastic label is inherently resistant to water and most oils, ensuring that the label remains intact and legible even in moist environments or when exposed to chemicals.

Polyethylene labels are extensively used in the health and beauty industry, particularly for products like shampoo bottles and body washes. Due to their durability against weather conditions, they are also preferred for outdoor applications, such as plant and garden product labelling. 

Polypropylene Labels

Polypropylene labels are known for their excellent chemical resistance and durability, making them a robust option for products that face harsh conditions. These labels do not absorb water, which ensures they maintain their strength and appearance even when exposed to moisture. 

Polypropylene is also resistant to fading and scratching, which helps keep the printed information and design looking new for an extended period. Its stiffness makes it especially suitable for applications where a more rigid label is necessary.

Polypropylene labels are employed across multiple industries due to their versatile properties. Within the food and beverage sector, they are particularly favoured for labelling containers that are subject to frequent handling or exposure to moisture, including water bottles and condiment jars. 

There are two types of polypropylene labels, Gloss White Polypropylene and Removable Gloss Polypropylene.   

Gloss White Polypropylene

Gloss white polypropylene labels offer a bright white, glossy surface that provides excellent contrast and sharpness for printed graphics and text. This variant combines the durability and resistance of polypropylene with a visually appealing finish, making it suitable for products that need to stand out on the shelf. 

Gloss white polypropylene is commonly used for beauty and personal care products, food packaging, and beverages, where moisture resistance and aesthetic appeal are key considerations. 

Removable Gloss Polypropylene

Removable gloss polypropylene labels feature a glossy finish that enhances visual appeal while offering the convenience of being easily removable. These labels are perfect for applications where temporary labelling is required without leaving residue on the product. 

Vinyl Labels

Vinyl labels stand out for their exceptional durability and flexibility, making them ideal for both indoor and outdoor applications. They are highly resistant to environmental factors such as UV rays, water, and extreme temperatures, ensuring they remain effective and legible for long periods, even in challenging conditions. 

Vinyl’s flexibility allows labels to adhere well to curved, textured, or otherwise complex surfaces for other materials to stick to. In practical use, vinyl labels are often selected for industrial products and outdoor equipment due to their ability to withstand wear and tear and exposure to the elements. 

Vinyl labels are also a go-to choice for automotive labelling, including bumper stickers and vehicle branding, because of their resilience to weathering and fading. Additionally, vinyl labels are favoured for safety and warning labels in construction and manufacturing settings, where visibility and durability are paramount. 

Destructive Vinyl Labels

Destructive vinyl labels are a type of security label specifically engineered to fragment or tear when tampering is attempted, making them an excellent choice for security purposes. These labels are ideal for warranty seals and asset tagging, where tamper evidence is crucial. Once applied, they cannot be removed intact, providing a clear indication of tampering. 

Destructive vinyl labels are particularly valuable for electronics, luxury goods, and sensitive documents, as they ensure the authenticity and integrity of the product or information.

Static Cling Vinyl Labels

Static cling vinyl labels utilise a unique non-adhesive property that allows them to adhere to smooth surfaces like glass or metal through static electricity. This feature makes static cling vinyl labels perfect for temporary applications, such as promotional displays, window decals, and removable product labels. 

Since static cling vinyl labels do not leave a residue upon removal, they are ideal for seasonal promotions or products requiring frequent label updates. They are widely used in retail environments, automotive service industries, and for informational labelling on appliances and electronics. 

PET and BOPP Labels

Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET and Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene or BOPP labels are highly regarded for their clarity, strength, and durability. These materials are resistant to water, oil, and most chemicals, making them suitable for various applications. 

PET labels offer a high degree of transparency. They are often used for clear labelling requirements, where the appearance of a “no label” look is desired. On the other hand, BOPP is known for its excellent clarity, toughness, and flexibility, making it an ideal choice for labels that need to maintain their appearance and integrity over time.

PET and BOPP labels are favoured for products like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Their use also extends to the pharmaceutical industry, where labels must remain legible and attached to the product throughout its lifecycle despite exposure to various conditions.

Foil Labels

Foil labels

Foil labels bring a distinctive shine and luxury feel to product packaging, setting them apart in the competitive retail environment. These labels apply a thin layer of foil to a paper or plastic substrate, creating a metallic finish that can range from bright and shiny to a more subdued, matte look. 

The reflective quality of foil labels catches the eye, making them an excellent choice for high-end products, special editions, and items requiring a premium presentation. The application of foil labels varies widely, based on hot foil stamping and cold foil printing techniques. 

Hot foil stamping involves pressing a metallic foil onto the label material using heat and pressure, resulting in a slightly raised texture and a luxurious feel. On the other hand, cold foil printing applies foil to a pre-printed adhesive design, allowing for more detailed and intricate patterns.

Foil labels have one subtype, Metalised Foils. 

Metalised Foil Labels

Metalised foil labels are created by bonding a thin layer of metal, usually aluminium, to a film substrate. This gives the label a shiny, metallic finish that mimics the look of solid metal. This process enhances the label’s visual appeal, adding a premium, eye-catching shine that attracts attention to the shelf. 

The reflective nature of metalised foil labels can be leveraged to create dynamic designs that change appearance under different lighting conditions, adding a unique visual element to the product packaging.

Metalised foil labels are particularly favoured for products in the beauty and personal care industries, where the packaging’s attractiveness is a key factor in consumer choice. They are also popular in the automotive and electronics sectors, where they can add a sleek, modern look to branding and product information labels.

Fabric Labels

Two types of fabric labels

Fabric labels are commonly made from materials like cotton, polyester, satin, or nylon, offering various textures and appearances to suit different product needs. They are sewn into clothing, accessories, and home textiles and provide essential information such as brand identity, care instructions, and material composition.

The choice of fabric for a label depends on the application and desired feel. Cotton labels offer a soft, natural texture ideal for organic or eco-friendly brands. Polyester labels, however, provide durability and resistance to fading, making them suitable for items that undergo frequent washing or outdoor use.

Let’s take a look at different types of fabric labels. 

Cotton Labels

Cotton labels are valued for their softness and natural texture, making them a top choice for items in direct contact with the skin, such as clothing, intimate apparel, and children’s wear. They convey a sense of quality and care, aligning perfectly with brands prioritising organic or eco-friendly values.

Polyester Labels

Polyester labels stand out for their exceptional durability and resistance to environmental factors such as water, UV light, and extreme temperatures. This synthetic fabric retains its shape and colour over time, making it an excellent choice for labels that need to endure harsh conditions or frequent handling. 

Polyester labels’ resilience makes them suitable for outdoor wear, activewear, and items that require frequent laundering. 

Polyester labels have the following subtypes.

Clear Gloss Polyester Labels

Clear gloss polyester labels offer a transparent, glossy finish that allows the product’s colour and texture to show through, creating a “no-label” look. This type of label is perfect for achieving a sleek, modern aesthetic on products where the appearance of the packaging is a key part of the brand experience. 

Polyester’s durability and moisture resistance make these labels ideal for beauty and personal care products, such as cosmetics and luxury bath items. They are also used on electronic devices and components, where labels must provide essential information without detracting from the item’s design.

Gloss White Polyester Labels

Gloss white polyester labels feature a bright, white, glossy surface that enhances colour contrast and readability. This type of label combines polyester’s strength and durability with a vibrant finish. They have a service temperature range extending from -29°C to 80°C. 

Gloss white polyester labels are commonly applied to food and beverage products, where they can withstand refrigeration and moisture while maintaining their visual appeal. They are also favoured for medical and laboratory settings, where the labels must resist chemicals and cleaning solutions, ensuring critical information stays legible over time.

White Matte Polyester Labels

White matte polyester labels are designed for situations that demand durability and a non-reflective finish. The matte finish minimises glare, enhancing barcode scanning and reading visibility in environments where reflection could impair legibility. These labels feature a permanent adhesive and can operate across a wide temperature range, from -60°C to 93°C. 

White matte polyester labels have remarkable tear strength and resistance to heat and chemicals. They are ideally suited for use in shipping and warehousing, where accurate scanning is critical under diverse lighting conditions. They are also favoured in the manufacturing sector, particularly in machinery and equipment exposed to harsh conditions. 

Silver Polyester Labels

Silver polyester labels have a sophisticated metallic appearance, making them ideal for products requiring durability and a premium look. They are constructed from 2 mils clear polyester and backed with a permanent adhesive. 

Silver polyester labels boast excellent tear strength and resistance to heat and chemicals. Their reflective surface adds an attractive visual element and enhances scanning and readability in various lighting conditions. 

Silver polyester labels are used for electronics and automotive parts, contributing to the product’s high-tech or luxurious branding.

Industrial Tags

Industrial tags are engineered for resilience, utilising materials such as Tyvek to withstand the rigorous demands of challenging environments. These tags are known for their superior tear resistance and immunity to water and chemicals. This durability is crucial, ensuring critical information remains accessible and intact, improving safety and operational efficiency in various industrial contexts.

Tyvek tags are particularly valued in sectors such as construction, where they can be attached to equipment and materials exposed to the elements such as dust and dirt. Tyvek tags also provide a robust solution for tracking assets during transport and storage, resisting handling and environmental exposure to wear and tear.

What are Label Adhesives?

Label adhesives are specialised glues that secure labels on products, packaging, or other surfaces. These adhesives are formulated to meet specific needs based on the application environment, surface material, and durability requirements. 

Selecting the right adhesive ensures that labels adhere correctly to their intended surfaces. Below, we have discussed the different types of label adhesives that are available.  

Types of Label Adhesives

The different types of adhesives include. 

  • Permanent Adhesives: Offer a durable bond designed to last as long as the product does, making them ideal for essential branding and safety information.
  • Removable Adhesives: Provide a secure yet peelable bond, allowing clean removal without residue, perfect for temporary labels and promotions.
  • Repositionable Adhesives: Allow labels to be adjusted or repositioned shortly after initial application. This is useful for applications requiring precise alignment.
  • Freezer Adhesives: Specifically formulated to perform in low-temperature environments, ensuring labels remain adhered to freezer products.
  • High-Tack Adhesives: Feature an aggressive adhesive quality that sticks to rough, textured, or difficult surfaces where standard adhesives fail.
  • Low-Tack Adhesives: Offer a light adhesive quality for applications needing a very gentle bond, ideal for delicate surfaces that could be damaged by stronger adhesives.


Understanding the range of label materials and adhesives is essential for choosing the appropriate labelling solution that aligns with a product’s specific needs. Materials such as paper, plastic, fabric, and foil bring unique benefits. They are suitable for various applications, environments, and design preferences.

By carefully considering the options and how they align with the needs of the product and brand, manufacturers can ensure that their labels convey essential information and enhance the product’s appeal and longevity. Whether prioritising durability, sustainability, or visual impact, the right combination of label material, adhesive, and coating plays a pivotal role in achieving desired outcomes.

We hope this article was useful. 

Thanks for reading! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Label Material for Outdoor Use?

Vinyl and polyester labels are best suited for outdoor applications due to their resistance to UV light, moisture, and temperature fluctuations. 

How Do Protective Coatings Enhance Label Durability?

Protective coatings such as laminates and varnishes shield labels from physical wear, moisture, and UV exposure, extending their lifespan. In addition to their protective function, coatings can enhance a label’s aesthetics by providing a matte or glossy finish that elevates the visual impact of colours and graphics.

Which Label Material Is Most Resistant to Chemicals and Moisture?

Polypropylene and polyester labels offer excellent resistance to chemicals and moisture. 

Can Labels Be Customised for High-Temperature Environments?

Yes, labels can be customised for high-temperature environments using materials like polyimide and certain metals, which withstand extreme heat without degrading. 

How Does the Choice of Label Material Impact Print Quality and Colour Vibrancy?

The choice of label material significantly affects print quality and colour vibrancy. 

Glossy surfaces, such as those on coated paper or synthetic labels, tend to produce sharper images and more vibrant colours. In contrast, matte surfaces provide a more subdued appearance but offer better readability under various lighting conditions. 

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