The “label stock” is the carrier which is commonly coated on one side with adhesive and usually printed on the other side. Label stocks can be a wide variety of papers, films, fabric, foils, etc.
Common types of facestock:
- Puffy – either water, gel, foam, or air-filled create a soft, raised sticker.
- Litho – one of the most common base stocks
- Latex – a litho stock with some added latex allows the label to be much more flexible and form around certain curved objects more easily than standard litho.
- Various plastics such as acetate, vinyl, and PET film allow a variety of features, such as greater strength, flexibility, transparency, resistance to tearing, etc. They typically require special equipment and printing methods (ultra-violet curing is common) as they do not normally print well with conventional ink. A bumper sticker is usually a vinyl label with a very strong, durable adhesive and lightfast inks. Embossing tape is “printed” by pressing raised elements similar to printing type onto it, which produces raised glyphs that look white due to discoloration of the plastic. A type known as ‘Destructible Vinyl’ is commonly used for asset labels. It combines a very thin frangible face stock with a very strong high tack adhesive, thus making the label impossible to remove without damaging it.
- Foil – has the shiny properties of a metal foil.
- Direct Thermal – Direct thermal label stock will change color (usually black) when heated. A heating element in the shape of letters or images can be used to create an image on the label. Custom labels can be easily be made on location in this way. A disadvantage is durability, because another heat source can ruin or obscure the image, or it may fade completely over time.
- Thermal Transfer for applications that cannot use Thermal (Thermal Direct) label material because of heat source proximity or short label life, a more widely used material is Thermal Transfer Label printer. This material has the advantage of a much longer readable life and does not fade with time or heat. Most major manufacturers of Thermal Printers can be used for either Thermal Transfer (TT) or Thermal (DT) labels. A thermal transfer ribbon will be required to print the labels. The cost of the ribbons + TT labels is similar to that of the DT labels on their own.
- None – labels can be printed directly on adhesive without using a substrate. Labels made in this manner are extremely fragile, however, and have been rendered virtually obsolete by other printing methods such as silk screen.