Label Application: What You Need to Know

Label Application: What You Need to Know

Labels are an essential part of everyday life. They provide important information about the products we buy and use; they can also be decorative. But what happens when labels don’t stick properly? Proper label application can be frustrating and costly, but it’s a common problem that can be easily solved.

There are many different types of labels available, and the best label for a particular application will depend on a variety of factors. The best label choice will depend on what product or material needs a label, the label’s environment, and the label’s desired appearance.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about label application, including common issues and solutions. We’ll also provide some helpful tips for choosing the right label application method and material, preparing the surface, and applying the label properly to ensure a good bond.

Label Application Methods

Hand Application

Hand Application is the simplest and most common method, but it can be time-consuming and prone to errors. To apply a label by hand, simply peel the backing off the label and stick it to the product. There are a few different ways to hand-apply labels. The method you choose will depend on the type of label and product you have. Here are a few of these options:

  • Direct application: It is most common to apply flat labels to flat surfaces with this method. To apply a label directly, simply peel the backing off the label and stick it to the product. The key to applying labels without bubbles or wrinkles is to apply them from one edge to the other, much like applying vinyl letters to a sign or a screen protector to a smartphone. Start by setting one edge and working across the label to prevent bubbles.
  • Roll application: Often, one applies long, narrow labels to curved surfaces this way. To apply a label using roll application, start by peeling a small portion of the backing off the label. Then, apply the label to the product and start rolling it on. As you roll, continue to peel the backing off the label.
  • Heat application: This is the easiest application method if you are working with a difficult surface, like one that is uneven or textured. To apply a label by heat application, use a heat gun to heat the product’s surface. Then, apply the label and press it down firmly.

For more information on Hand Applied Labels, visit our previous blog!

Hand applied label on top of product.

Machine Application

Machine application is the fastest and most efficient way to apply labels, but it can be expensive. There are a variety of different types of label applicators available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some common types of label applicators include:

  • In-line automatic applicators: These applicators are integrated into production lines and apply labels to products as they move along the line. In-line automatic applicators are the fastest way to apply labels, but they are also the most expensive.
  • Semi-automatic applicators: These applicators are stand-alone units that require an operator to load and unload the products. Semi-automatic applicators are less expensive than in-line automatic applicators, but they are also slower.
  • Top-down applicators: Top-down applicators commonly label bottles, jars, boxes, or product lids by applying the labels to the top of the products.
  • Round container applicators: These applicators apply labels to round containers, such as bottles and cans.  A belt rotates the round container and applies the label at the same time. The food and beverage industry often uses round container applicators.
Label applicator in production

Common Issues with Label Application

The most common issues people have with proper adhesion of labels to products are:

Surface Contamination

Dirt, dust, oil, grease, and other contaminants can prevent labels from adhering properly. It is important to clean and dry the surface of the product before applying the label.

Surface irregularities

Uneven, rough, or textured surfaces can make it difficult for labels to adhere properly. If possible, choose a label shape and material that works well on uneven or textured surfaces.  Non-uniform glass bottles can have uneven, semi-textured surfaces, and can be extremely difficult to adhere labels properly.  

If you are having difficulty applying labels to non-uniform glass bottles, you may want to consider using a machine applicator. Machine applicators can apply labels with more precision and pressure than hand application, which can help to improve adhesion on difficult surfaces.

If a surface is concave, convex, or wavy, as can be seen by holding a ruler on the surface, no label (even a custom shape) will work with 100% certainty.  If the surface is tapered like the neck of a bottle, a crested label shape can be used to make the label appear level after it is applied.

Custom shaped/tapered containers

Custom tapered labels are necessary for unevenly shaped containers because a standard label may not adhere properly. This is because standard labels are designed for flat surfaces, and unevenly shaped containers have curved or tapered surfaces.

When a standard label is applied to an unevenly shaped container, it will create wrinkles or folds. This can make the label look unprofessional and can also make it difficult to read the information on the label. In addition, the wrinkles and folds in the label can create weak points that can cause the label to peel off prematurely.

Custom tapered labels are designed to fit the specific contours of the container they are being applied to. This ensures that the label will adhere properly and will have a smooth, professional appearance. Custom tapered labels are also less likely to peel off prematurely than standard labels.

Here are some specific examples of unevenly shaped containers that may require custom tapered labels:

  • Bottles with necks
  • Jars with curves
  • Cans with tapered sides
  • Tubes with rounded edges
  • Any other container with a non-flat surface

For more information on tapered dies: Check out our previous blog!

Incorrect pressure and application temperature

Too much or too little pressure can affect the adhesion of labels. This is very common when using a label application machine. It is important to apply the label with the correct amount of pressure to ensure a good bond.

The temperature of the product and container can also affect the adhesion of labels. We recommend labeling your containers before filling them. This is because the labels can contract when the containers are cooled, leaving bubbles and wrinkles under the label. To avoid this, allow the labels and containers to acclimate for at least 24 hours in the same room between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help to ensure that the labels adhere properly and will have a smooth, professional appearance.

Incorrect storage conditions

Store labels in a cool, dry place. Storing labels in extreme temperatures or humid conditions can affect their adhesion.

Solutions to Label Adhesion Problems

Make sure the surface of the product is clean, dry, and free of contaminants before applying the label.

You can clean the surface of the product with a mild soap and water solution or with an alcohol-based cleaner like Isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly and cleanly because there are no additives. Denatured alcohol’s extra ingredients may leave a residue that interferes with adhesion. Be sure to dry the surface thoroughly before applying the label.

  • Use a lint-free cloth to remove any fingerprints or other contaminants.
  • A primer can help to improve adhesion on difficult surfaces.
  • A heat gun can be used to apply heat to the label after it has been applied. This can help to improve adhesion, especially on uneven or textured surfaces.

Use a Label Applicator

A label applicator can help to ensure that the label is applied with the correct amount of pressure, and is applied consistently. If you need to apply a high volume of labels, then you will likely need a machine applicator. Hand application is not practical for high-volume labeling.

Label application machine in production

Choose the right label material and laminate for your application.

When considering the labeling of your product, keep in mind the type of product, the environment where the label will be utilized, and the desired appearance of the label. At, we offer a variety of materials to choose from:

Plastic/Vinyl Substrates

  • White Plastic: White plastic labels are durable, water-resistant, and resistant to chemicals and abrasion. Best for label application of food packaging, consumer goods, shipping labels, and industrial products.
  • Metallic Plastic: Metallic plastic labels add a touch of luxury to any product. Used for Cosmetics, jewelry, and high-end food packaging.
  • White Vinyl: White vinyl labels are a durable and water-resistant option for many applications such as outdoor gear, food packaging, and industrial products.
  • Ultra-Clear Plastic: Ultra-clear plastic labels are ideal for applications where the label needs to be transparent or translucent. Food packaging, beverage bottles, and many cosmetic products benefit with clear label application.
  • Rainbow Holographic Plastic: Rainbow holographic plastic labels add a touch of fun and excitement to any product. Great for use on toys, party favors, and promotional items.
  • Removable Plastic: Removable plastic labels are a great option for products that need to be re-labeled frequently, such as shipping boxes, inventory bins, and retail displays. The adhesive used on removable plastic is less aggressive and allows for easier hand application since it can be repositioned.

Paper Substrates

  • White Paper: White paper labels are a cost-effective option for many applications like office supplies, food packaging, and shipping labels.
  • Avon Classic Crest: Avon Classic Crest is a durable and elegant label material that is ideal for use on cosmetics, jewelry, and high-end items.
  • Estate 4 Paper: Estate 4 Paper is a high-quality paper label material that is ideal for use on wine bottles, specialty food packaging, and high-end specialty items.
  • Terraskin: Terraskin is a sustainable label material that is made from recycled paper and vegetable starch. Businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact can use this textured material with success.
  • Kraft Paper: Kraft paper labels add a natural and rustic look to any product.  Food packaging, beverage bottles, and home décor are great solutions for this material.
  • Black Vellum: Black vellum labels provide products with an elegant and sophisticated touch. Businesses frequently use this water-resistant material for labeling wine bottles, craft beer bottles, artisan candles, high-end beauty products, and many other items.


  • Material Laminates: Finish your product label with laminates that will protect the exterior from moisture, sunlight, oils and solvents, fingerprints, scuffing, and friction. Polyester, propylene, and other laminates can protect your labels from affecting the adhesion onto your container. These laminates include Gloss, Matte, Linen, and Leather options.

In addition to the tips above, we also interviewed Ben Martin, a representative from Quadrel Labeling Systems, a leading manufacturer of label application equipment, to get their insights on label application. Here is what they had to say:

What are the most common issues your customers have with label application?

The normal thing you see is if labels are left out in the heat too long, the adhesive bleeds. The other issue is deep die-cut strikes. Those are the 2 main issues.

What are the best ways to prevent label application issues with Quadrel applicators?

We recommend when we sell a piece of equipment, not to leave your rolls of labels out. If it’s a hot production area, keep the labels stored in a cooler room. If someone seems to be having a problem with dispensing the labels, we do the “ol’ magic marker trick” where you turn the web over and mark over it with the magic marker where the die cuts are, and see if it bleeds through. If it does, then there’s your problem of why the label won’t release off the liner when it goes around the pill tip of the label applicator.

Can you provide some features and benefits of Quadrel label applicators?

We are a manufacturer in America and one of the largest around. We do all types of applications, anywhere from your top companies like Kroger and oil companies like Phillips 66.  All the way down to Mom and Pop businesses starting out. We have different levels of equipment from beginners to the higher speed lines.

Do you offer training or videos on how to use and maintain your label applicators?

We don’t usually do videos because we have so many different types of applications that we deal with.  What we do offer is: If you buy a piece of equipment from us, you can come up and visit our plant, or we try to get you into someone’s plant near you that has a piece of our equipment to see it running and learn about the equipment and how it operates. We also have field services that will come and install the equipment for you.

We hope this interview has been helpful. If you have any further questions about label applicators, please feel free to contact Quadrel Labeling Systems at

Label application is an important process that can affect the quality and performance of your products. By following the tips above, you can ensure that your labels adhere properly to your products. This will help to ensure that your products are properly branded and that important information such as safety warnings are clearly visible.

  • Use the correct material and application method: Consider the type of surface you are labeling, the environment in which the label will be used, and the desired lifespan of the label.
  • Apply the label evenly: Avoid applying too much or too little pressure, as this can affect the adhesion of the label.
  • Allow the adhesive to dry completely before handling the product: This will help to ensure a strong bond between the label and the product.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your labels adhere properly to your products and that they will last for a long time.

If you have additional questions about selecting the correct labels for your product, Contact Us today!

« Back to Latest Blog Posts