As a commercial print or packaging buyer, you understand the importance of product labels, or prime labels, in the success of your product. However, the process of getting product labels printed, shipped, and delivered on time can be complex and challenging. From ensuring the design is up to legal and print quality standards to navigating product label logistics, there are a variety of hurdles to overcome.
In this article, we provide a guide to troubleshooting product labels, covering everything from common issues to best practices for managing commercial product labels. So, whether you’re a seasoned print buyer or new to the industry, read on to learn how to navigate the world of product label printing with ease.
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Table of Contents – Troubleshooting Product Labels
Product Label Issues and Solutions – a Troubleshooting Guide
Why are my labels different colors from one label to the next?
If you find that color varies from one label to the next, there are a few potential causes to consider.
Inconsistencies in the color mixing or ink application process during the press run can result in slight variations in color between labels.
Mechanical dot gain can change throughout the printing run, which leads to variations in color.
Additionally, unless the company has a print standards system in place, the type of printing technology being used can affect color consistency across a batch of labels.
With the proper color standards and print methodology in place, there should be no variation in color across devices, whether digital, flexo, or offset. Nor should there be any variations among paper.
At Clear Print, we take great care to ensure that each label we produce is of the highest quality, with consistent color and design. Our team utilizes advanced printing technology and rigorous quality control measures to ensure that every label is identical to the next. If you’re experiencing issues with inconsistent color on your product labels, please reach out to us for assistance.
I’m having trouble figuring out my product label requirements. How can I get more information?
As we discussed in this related article on product labels, legal requirements for labeling products vary by product type, by country, and by state.
For example, food and beverage products in the US must list the ingredients, nutrition information, and any allergens present in the product. Health and beauty products must list the product’s ingredients, usage instructions, and safety warnings. At the state level, for example, California’s Proposition 65 requires warning labels on products that contain certain chemicals.
To ensure that your labels comply with all legal requirements, you should consult government resources and industry organizations that provide information on labeling regulations.
Some sources for legal requirements for labeling products include:
► US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations – Title 21 for regulations on food and drug labeling
► Federal Trade Commission – Fair Packaging and Labeling Act Regulations for regulations on consumer commodities
► Consumer Product Safety Commission – Labeling Requirements Overview covers a wide range of products.
► European Commission website has information on EU policy, law and regulations.
► World Health Organization and Codex Alimentarius for guidance on food and product labeling in other regions around the world.
Note that many products are subject to regulation by more than one agency. Before printing your labels, make sure that all requirements are covered.
My lead times are too long? How can I get labels produced faster?
If your lead times for label production are too long, there are several solutions to consider.
First, review your current internal production process and identify areas where you can improve efficiency. Look for bottlenecks. Streamline the design process and optimize your internal production workflow starting with these bottlenecks.
If your labels are currently printed with a foreign vendor, move the printing closer to home. There are numerous logistical and production risks in overseas outsourcing that can contribute to longer lead times.
Another option is to work with a printing company like Clear Print that specializes in faster turnaround times. We use advanced printing technology and match the right technology to the needs of the label project to get it delivered on time.
Clear Print also has a proven track record of delivering high-quality labels quickly.
My finished label doesn’t look like my original artwork, the colors are different. What happened and how can I avoid reproduction issues?
One possible cause is that the color profile or other color settings used while designing your files aren’t set up correctly.
For example, if the cyan and magenta values are too close together, blues may turn purple.
Problems can also arise when spot colors (PMS colors) are used in the design process but the files are output for CMYK.
Another common problem is improper handling of grayscale images can lead to color differences from the original artwork.
Images must also be set to the right size and resolution.
It’s important to check that the color profile and settings used for the initial design are compatible with the printing process being used for the label. At Clear Print, we use a rigorous print methodology to ensure that colors are consistent across all devices and substrates.
There is a typo on my product labels. How does that happen?
Typos are often missed for two reasons.
Typos are typically the result of human error during the proofing process. It’s easy to miss a small typographical error, even if the file has been read multiple times by a single person. Get a second set of eyes on each proof, and review thoroughly.
The fact is that while electronic file preparation is efficient, each time a file is changed and saved means there is also a possibility for software error. That’s why it’s important to review and double-check all proofs thoroughly at every step leading up to and including the final OK.
Why do product labels cost more in the US than overseas?
First, it’s not necessarily true that product labels cost more in the US. When you factor in the total costs of foreign production, the US costs frequently come out much lower.
Such hidden costs include:
🚩 Shipping delays. Low cost means your job is probably shipping by boat. A missed loading date can mean days or weeks added to a schedule. And using air freight to expedite can quickly cancel out any cost savings.
🚩 Language barriers that slow down production and cause mistakes.
🚩 Cultural barriers—not every culture has the same sense of urgency as we do in the US.
🚩 Quality control problems—foreign vendors often don’t use any methodology or print quality system in their production process, hence the lower production cost.
🚩 Time zone difficulties mean you don’t get same day responses to questions. Small delays during production can add days to a schedule.
🚩 Customs problems. It is almost impossible to expedite a shipment that’s held up in US customs due to improper paperwork.
🚩 Unexpected tariffs or taxes which can arise at any time without notice, especially with countries like China with whom the US has a contentious relationship.
Be sure to factor in the total costs of production and the added risk of printing with a foreign vendor.
After I received my product labels, I was told they were in violation of federal label requirements, even though my printer said they were OK. Who is liable?
Ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring that product labels comply with federal, state, and local regulations falls on the manufacturer of the product.
Also, it’s likely that you, as the buyer or manufacturer’s representative, assumed liability when you signed off on a label proof to OK the label for printing.
Of course, it always is wise to talk to an attorney regarding significant legal questions of liability, and to do so before you commit the label to production.
It also helps to collaborate with an experienced label printing vendor such as Clear Print. Expert vendors, although they can’t provide legal advice, can point out potential regulatory issues with your product labels and point you in the right direction.
Why don’t my labels adhere to my container?
If product labels are not adhering properly, it’s likely that the wrong adhesive is being used for that application. For example, refrigerator and freezer labels require special adhesive to stand up to cold and moisture. The adhesive must also be correct for both the label substrate and type of container.
The container’s shape and size can also affect label adherence. For example, a container with compound curves may need a specially shaped label to adhere properly.
How do I spec a label which will be exposed to various soaps or solvents or water?
If you need to spec a label that will be exposed to various soaps, solvents, or water, there are several factors to consider to ensure that the label will be durable and able to withstand exposure.
First, consider label material (substrate) itself. Labels exposed to harsh solvents or chemicals may need a synthetic material, such as polyester or polypropylene, which is more resistant to these types of substances than paper labels.
Label substrates can also be made more impervious to harsh environments with coatings, laminations, and varnishes.
Second, consider the adhesive used to attach the label. For labels that will be exposed to water or other liquids, you may need a water and chemical-proof adhesive to ensure that the label stays firmly in place.
Third, consider the type of ink used to print the label. For example, solvent-based inks are more resistant to solvents and chemicals than other types of ink.
Fourth, it’s important to conduct testing to demonstrate that the label meets your specific requirements for durability and resistance to exposure. This may involve subjecting the label to various solvents or liquids to see how it holds up over time.
Finally, consult with an experienced label printing company like Clear Print to review your product label needs.
By considering these factors and testing the label thoroughly, you can be sure that the label you spec will withstand exposure to a range of soaps, solvents, or water, ensuring that it remains legible and in place throughout its useful life.
What can cause a label to wrinkle after it’s applied?
There are several potential causes for a label to wrinkle after it’s applied.
One possible cause is improper application. If the label is not applied smoothly and evenly, it can cause wrinkles or bubbles to form during the application process. This can happen if the surface is not properly cleaned or if the label is not applied with correct and even pressure.
Another possible cause is poor quality adhesive or the wrong adhesive. If the adhesive on the label is not strong enough or is not compatible with the surface it’s being applied to, it may not adhere properly and can cause the label to wrinkle or lift.
Warm ingredients when poured into flexible jars may cause them to expand slightly. If labels are applied before the jars fully cools to room temperature, they may wrinkle.
The environment can also play a role in causing labels to wrinkle. Exposure to extreme heat or cold, moisture, sunlight, or harsh chemicals can cause labels to warp or wrinkle over time.
To avoid issues with wrinkling labels, check that labels are applied smoothly and evenly, with enough pressure to ensure proper adhesion. Select high-quality labels with strong adhesive that are compatible with the surface they will be applied to.
Store and handle labeled products properly to avoid exposure to extreme environments that could cause warping or wrinkling.
It’s best to collaborate with your label print vendor and fulfillment company in advance to prevent potential problems.
My product fulfillment company [co-manufacturer] says they’re having problems applying my labels. Why is that happening and how do I fix that?
If your product fulfillment company is having problems applying your labels, there are several potential causes to consider.
One possible cause is that the labels are not properly sized or positioned for the product. If the labels are too large or too small, or if they are not positioned correctly for the type of container used, this can make it difficult for the fulfillment company to apply them correctly.
Related to that is that your labels may be trimmed inconsistently. If they are different sizes, this can cause a problem with automatic product labeling and filling equipment. Die cut labels will guarantee that all labels are indeed the same size.
If your labels are rectangular and are guillotine cut, they must meet the fulfillment company’s tolerance for +/- size variations. For example, they may require that labels be +/- 1/32” in size, but your labels are =/- 1/16”.
Another possible cause is that the adhesive on the labels is not strong enough or is not compatible with the surface of the product. This can cause the labels to lift or peel off during application, making it difficult for the fulfillment company to achieve a smooth, even application.
Another potential cause is that the label substrate is incompatible with the container. A curved flexible package will require a different label stock than a solid plastic container.
To fix such issues with label application, be sure to work closely with manufacturing and the label vendor to identify the root cause of the problem. This may involve adjusting the label size or position to ensure a better fit on the product, or selecting a different adhesive that is more compatible with the product surface.
You’ll want to work with a labeling specialist like Clear Print to evaluate the label design and printing process to produce labels that meet the highest standards of quality and consistency. With careful attention to detail and advance collaboration, you can be sure that your labels are applied correctly and efficiently, providing a professional, polished look for your products.
My label vendor keeps shipping labels that get damaged in transit. They tell me it’s a shipper’s issue and to take it up with them. How can I prevent this from happening?
If your label vendor is shipping labels that repeatedly get damaged in transit, there are several potential causes and solutions to consider.
One possible (and the most likely) cause is that the labels are not being packaged properly for shipping. To prevent damage during transit, labels must be properly packed, protected, and secured for the shipping method being used. This may involve using protective packaging materials, such as bubble wrap or foam, to cushion the labels and prevent them from shifting during transit.
The labels themselves need to be uniformly wrapped or shrink-wrapped, as opposed to “bulk packing” loosely in a carton.
Double boxing is another way to avoid damage, especially if cartons are being shipped individually via a parcel carrier rather than bundled together on a pallet. In double boxing, the labels are wrapped, then packed in a box. That box (or multiple boxes) are then packed inside a larger box.
Another possible cause is that the shipping company is simply not handling the label shipment properly during transit. To address this issue, select a shipping option that offers greater protection and security.
For example, if you’re currently shipping individual boxes, try palletizing the shipment. When palletized properly, delicate goods are more likely to survive the rigors of shipping.
If that fails, try working with a different shipping company.
If you are working with a label printing vendor far from home, another option is to use a vendor closer to home. A nearby vendor can often use their own trucks or vans for local deliveries, straight from their plant to your door.
For example, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, Clear Print can deliver to you or your co-manufacturer without the hassles and risks of long-distance logistics and shipping.
Barcodes on my product labels aren’t working consistently. Why does that happen and how do I fix it?
If you’re experiencing issues with barcodes or QR codes on your product labels not working consistently, there are several potential causes to consider.
One possible cause is a problem with the printing process. If the barcode is not printed correctly, it may not scan properly. This can happen if the printing resolution is too low or if there is an issue with the ink or label material.
Another possible cause is an issue with the barcode itself. If the barcode is not designed correctly or if the data encoded within it is inaccurate or incomplete, it may not scan properly. This can happen if the barcode is not created using the correct symbology or if there is an error in the data encoding process.
To fix issues with barcode function, it’s important to first identify the root cause of the problem. This may involve working with your printing partner to ensure that the printing process is optimized for barcode readability.
You may also need to work with a barcode specialist to ensure that the barcode design and data encoding are optimized for accuracy and consistency.
With the right approach and attention to detail, your product label bar codes will work as designed. Here at Clear Print, we can help with label barcodes and QR codes on any print project.
The paper on one of my product labels is slightly different colors or shades. Why does that happen, and how can I fix it?
If you’re finding that the paper on your product labels is slightly different colors or shades, there are several potential causes to consider.
One possible cause is variation in the paper itself. Depending on the manufacturing process and the source of the paper, there may be slight variations in color or shade between different batches or rolls of paper. Lower grade papers have more variation in color and hue. Stick with premium grade papers to avoid this issue.
Another possible cause is variation in the printing process. If the presses are not calibrated correctly or if there are inconsistencies in the ink or coatings application, this can result in slight color variations between labels.
A proper color management system like we use at Clear Print will prevent color variations in ink and coatings.
A version of one of our company’s product labels started showing up on a competitor’s products. How can I stop them from stealing my label design?
The first step in protecting brand assets and intellectual property is to trademark and/or copyright your proprietary designs. You can start the trademark process here. The final step in the trademark process is registration of the trademark.
Once you’ve successfully registered, the next step is to collect samples of the copied design. You may need an attorney to send a cease-and-desist letter to ask them to stop using the design and remove copied designs from the market.
If they refuse, then legal action is required. If copied designs are from foreign sources, you can lodge a complaint on the platforms where the products are sold. Amazon and eBay, for example, have a process to fight counterfeit products.
US Customs & Border Protection also has a page for trade violations reporting. If the claim is valid, customs will work to prevent further importation of goods that are in violation of US laws.
However, if your design is considered “generic,” you probably won’t get a trademark, and you’ll have difficulty preventing copying of the design.
I get my label printing done overseas and have problems getting the jobs shipped and delivered on time, no matter what they promise. How can I avoid that?
The best way to avoid delays with overseas vendors is to use domestic vendors. While the actual foreign print production cost may be lower than what you pay domestically, the total cost of foreign outsourcing is often much higher than domestically produced labels.
Overseas outsourcing adds several layers of risk that can add substantially to cost, often without notice.
As mentioned earlier in this article, some of these hidden costs can include:
- Shipping and logistics are always more complex when sourcing from overseas—delays are inevitable.
- Language barriers and differences in communication style can lead to production, scheduling, proofreading and editing errors.
- Cultural barriers such as different attitudes towards punctuality and deadlines, which can lead to issues with scheduling and meeting expectations.
- Quality control problems—some cultures have a different understanding of quality and its importance, which can lead to issues with product specifications and acceptance.
- Time zone issues add complexity.
- Customs problems—customs works at one speed so if there is a backlog, you’ll have to wait.
- Unexpected tariffs and taxes (from importing and exporting countries.)
- Different business practices (e.g. some countries expect “gifts” or bribes for better service.)
- Intellectual property violations—some countries look the other way or worse, even encourage, theft of intellectual property.
One job that goes wrong—think reprints and lost or unhappy customers—can wipe out all the savings from years’ worth of previous jobs.
Conclusion – Product Label Troubleshooting Guide
In conclusion, troubleshooting product labels can present a range of challenges for commercial print buyers. From issues with color consistency and adhesion to problems with shipping and intellectual property theft, there are many potential obstacles to overcome. However, by working closely with experienced printing partners, staying up to date on industry best practices, and being vigilant about protecting your brand assets, you can ensure that your product labels meet the highest standards of quality and consistency, while helping to drive sales and build brand recognition in today’s competitive marketplace.
If you need help with a product label printing issue, call us at 818.709.1220 and we’ll troubleshoot the issue with you.
Or, if you’d like a price on your current product label project, send us your label printing specs here.