Label Dictionary

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Adhesive – A substance capable of holding materials together by surface attachment.

Adhesive: Cold Temperature – An adhesive that adheres to refrigerated or frozen surfaces (generally +35 degrees F or colder). This is especially formulated for cold storage, frozen foods, and cold outdoor applications. This adhesive has performance limitations in extreme, sub-zero temperatures, and should be tested very carefully. In warm conditions, this adhesive has a tendency to bleed from the edge of a label, which can cause fan folded labels to block or stick together.

Adhesive: Permanent – A pressure sensitive adhesive characterized as having relatively high ultimate adhesion to a wide variety of surfaces. The label either cannot be removed intact, or requires a great deal of force to be removed. This is recommended for normal label applications where a label is not removed after it is applied. Although not a guaranteed to be permanent and non-removable in every application, it was developed to be as permanent as possible on a wide variety of surfaces.

Adhesive: Removable – A pressure sensitive adhesive characterized by low ultimate adhesion. The label can be revoked from most surfaces without damaging the surface or leaving adhesive residue or stain. This is ideal for applications requiring temporary use. This adhesive is not guaranteed to be removable in all cases. With prolonged periods of application, it may have a tendency to set.

Adhesive Residue – The pressure sensitive adhesive left on a surface when a label is removed.

Application – 1) Placement of a label on a surface. 2) The conditions under which a label is to be used; the life cycle of a label.

Application Temperature – Temperature of a label material at the time of application. All adhesives have a minimum application temperature rating. We recommend testing in minimum and maximum application temperature situations.


BackingSee: Liner, Release Liner.

Bar Code/Bar Code Symbol – A specific pattern made of lines and spaces, of varying width, which represent alpha or numeric data in machine-readable form. The most general format for a bar code consists of a lead margin, a start character, data or message characters, a stop character, and a trailing margin. See: Picket Fence, Step Ladder.

Bleeds - Bleed: Printing that goes to the edge of the sheet after trimming

Butt-Cut Labels – Rectangular, square-cornered labels in continuous form that are separated by a single knife cut to the liner. Typically, the matrix is not removed.


Caliper – The thickness of a sheet of paper or plastic measured in units of one thousandth of an inch. The measuring units are called mils or points. See: Thickness.

Camera-Ready Art – Black and white or color-separated artwork supplied in its final form for printing preparation. Typically, it requires no modification other than photo enlargement or reduction. See: Line Art.

Carbonless – A pressure sensitive paper that does not use carbon.

Coat Weight – The amount or weight of coating per unit area. This is expressed in various units, including grams per square meter or pounds per ream. The term applies to adhesives, primers, varnishes, and lacquers.

Coated paper – Clay coated printing paper with a smooth finish.

Cold Temperature AdhesiveSee: Adhesive – Cold temperature.

Color separations – The process of preparing artwork, photographs, transparencies, or computer-generated art for printing by separating into the four primary printing colors.

Colorfastness – The ability of a pressure sensitive label to retain its true color under normal conditions and/or to resist change in color when exposed to light, heat, or other influences.

Copy – All furnished material or disc used in the production of a printed product.

Core/Core Size – Refers to the diameter of the cardboard core in a roll of labels.

Crop – To cut off parts of a picture or image.

Curl – The tendency of paper to bend or warp, either by itself or because of a coating or laminate.

Cyan – One of four standard process colors. The blue color.


Die – The tool or device used for imparting or cutting a desired shape, form, or finish from a given material.

Die Cut – The actual shape of a pressure sensitive label made by the cutting edge of a die.

Die Cut Label – Pressure sensitive labels on a release liner where the matrix, or waste between the labels, has usually been removed.

Direct Thermal Infra Red (IR) – Fully IR scanable direct thermal paper for high speed imaging with print contrast and decode verification. Scans up to 900nm with high-speed imaging.

Direct Thermal Near Infra Red (Near IR) – Scanable direct thermal paper for high speed imaging with print contrast and decode verification. Near IR scans the 670-680 nm range.

Direct Thermal Printing – A specialized printing technique that uses rapidly heated pins, which selectively activate a heat-sensitive coating inherent in the face material, thus forming the desired copy or images.

Dispenser – A device that feeds pressure sensitive labels, either manually or automatically, in pre-determined units. Dispensers in a box form can serve as containers for a roll of labels.

Dot gain or spread – A term used to explain the difference in size between the dot on film vs paper.

Dot Matrix Printing – An economic and versatile method of printing that produces images by printing tiny dots of ink closely together. First, a computer sends data, which determines the arrangement of pins that are to be fired against a ribbon. These pins are in horizontal and vertical rows on the printing head. As the printing head moves back and forth across a page, the pins fire, forming an image. See. Impact Printing.

D.P.I. – Dots per inch; a measure referring to dot resolution in images created by dot matrix, laser, and thermal printers and imprinters.

Dwell/Dwell Time – 1) The time during which a pressure sensitive material remains on a surface before testing for adhesive permanence or removability. 2) The time during which a thermal printhead remains in contact with the surface of a material during printing.


EDP/Electronic Data Processing – Data processing by electronic equipment. Pressure sensitive labels produced for imprinting on this equipment incorporate in-line hole punching (pin-feed).

Edge Lift – The tendency of the edge of a label to rise off the substrate. This condition occurs most frequently on small diameter, curved substrates. Resistance to edge lift is dependent on the bond strength of the adhesive and the flexibility of the face material.


Face Material/Face Stock – Any paper, film, fabric, foil, or plastic material suitable for converting into pressure sensitive labels. In a finished construction, the face material is bonded to an adhesive layer and carried on a liner. It is the functional part of the construction.

Face Slit – Slits in face material of a pressure sensitive product, usually for the purpose of facilitating removal.

Fan-Fold/Fan-Folded Labels – Pressure sensitive labels on a continuous backing that is perforated, then folded back and forth along the perforations, so as to create a flat pack.

Film – Plastic face material made from synthetic high molecular weight polymers. Examples are: polyester, polyethylene, polyolefin and vinyl.

Flag – A marker, usually made of strips of colored paper, placed in rolls of pressure sensitive materials during printing or converting, to designate a deviation from standard – such as a splice, defect, or a specification change. It can also mark a specific length.

Flexography – A rotary web letterpress method of printing characterized by raised-image, flexible rubber plates and fast-drying inks.

Flood – To cover a printed page with ink, varnish, or plastic coating.

Fluorescent Paper – A paper coated with a pigment, which reflects light in such a way that it has a glowing appearance or effect.

Food Contact Adhesives – Adhesives meeting the specified sections of the Food and Drug Administration Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations cover direct food labeling as well as incidental contact. Special product recommendations are necessary for specific applications.

Four Color Process Printing – Printing and reproduction of full color images using the four process printing colors – yellow, cyan, magenta and black – to create an image with an indefinite number of resultant colors.


Gloss – A shiny look reflecting light.

Grain – The direction in which the paper fiber lie.


Hairline – A very thin line or gap about the width of a hair or 1/100 inch.

Halftone – Converting a continuous tone to dots for printing.

Hard copy – The output of a computer printer, or typed text sent for typesetting.

Hickey – Reoccurring unplanned spots that appear in the printed image from dust, lint, and dried ink.

High Gloss Paper – A cast-coated gloss paper that features high strength material and excellent ink receptivity.


Image area – Portion of paper on which ink can appear.

Impact Printing – A printing method that uses a hammer striking a ribbon to transfer ink onto a material. See: Dot Matrix Printing.

Impression – Putting an image on paper. 

Imprinting – A technique in which copy is applied to blank or previously printed labels with a secondary printing device, such as an imprinter, computer printer, or bar code printer.

Ink fountain – The reservoir on a printing press that hold the ink.

Ink Jet Printing – A non-impact printing process in which fluid ink is projected from a nozzle directly onto a material to form the desired image.


Kiss die cut – To cut the top layer of a pressure sensitive sheet and not the backing.


Label – The functional portion of a pressure sensitive construction comprised of the face material and adhesive, cut into various shapes.

Label Adhesion – A common misunderstanding about pressure sensitive labels is that they can be applied with success to any surface.  There are some surfaces, which do not readily accept a pressure sensitive label. To ensure good adhesion, most surfaces must be clean and dry (free from silicone, dust, oil, foreign substances). We recommend you test a sample of the label material and adhesive on the designated surface prior to placing a final label order.

Line Art – Black and white artwork that can be reproduced as is. See: Camera Ready Art.

Line copy – High contrast copy not requiring a halftone.

Liner – A paper or film that is a carrier for pressure sensitive labels. Typically, it has a silicone coating to allow easy removal of the label. See: Backing, Release Liner.


Machine Direction – the direction of paper in its forward movement through a paper handling machine or printing press.

Magenta – Process red, one of the basic colors in process color.

Makeready – All the activities required to prepare a press for printing.

Matrix – The face material and adhesive layers of a pressure sensitive construction surrounding a die cut label which is typically removed after die cutting. See: Waste.

Matte finish – Dull paper or ink finish.

Matte Litho – A litho paper with a satin finish (between high gloss and dull finish) that is ideal for bar code printing.

Memory – The property of a material that causes it to shrink or return to their original dimensions after being distorted, die cut, or subjected to temperature change. For example, vinyl has more memory than polystyrene.

Micrometer – Instrument used to measure the thickness of different papers.


Negative – The image on film that makes the white areas of originals black and black areas white.


Opacity – The measure of the amount of light that can pass through a material.

Overrun – Copies printed in excess of the specified quantity. (Printing trade terms allow for + - 10 % to represent a completed order.)


Perforation – Refers to a series of small incisions made in a material to facilitate tearing or folding along a pre-determined line. They are measured in TPI’s (ties per inch).

Pica – Unit of measure in typesetting. One pica = 1/6 inch.

Picket Fence – A bar code symbol characterized by vertical bars and spaces. See: Bar code.

PMS – The abbreviated name of the Pantone Color Matching System.

Point – For paper, a unit of thickness equaling 1/1000 inch. for typesetting, a unit of height equaling 1/72 inch.

PostScript – The computer language most recognized by printing devices.

Pressure Sensitive Label – A self-adhesive label that is the die cut, usable part of a pressure sensitive material that has been converted through roll-fed production equipment. The end product can be produced in rolls, sheets, or fan-folded stacks.

Pressure Sensitive Material/Pressure Sensitive Stock – The combination of face material, pressure sensitive adhesive and release liner from which pressure sensitive labels are made. Commonly knows as a ‘sandwich’.

Prime Label/Primary Label – Usually a descriptive, decorative product label; the label is typically on the front of a container.

Print Resolution – The quality of print; the level of detail achieved by a printer. Measured in dpi, typical capabilities are 203 dpi for a Thermal Transfer printer and 300 dpi for a laser printer. Resolution is especially critical in bar coding.

Process Blue – The blue or cyan color in process printing.

Process Colors – Cyan (blue), magenta (process red), yellow (process yellow), black (process black).

Process Color Separation – The act of decompressing a color graphic or photo into a single-color layers. Each color layer is then printed separately, one on top of the other to give the impression of infinite colors.


Registration – The exact placement of successively printed images and/or successively die cut pressure sensitive labels.

Release/Releasing – 1) The act of freeing or separating a pressure sensitive label from its liner. 2) The force required freeing a pressure sensitive label from its liner.

Release Coat – The silicone coating on a liner that allows pressure sensitive labels to be easily removed or dispensed.

Release Liner – The component of the pressure sensitive label material that functions as a carrier for the label. Usually silicone coated, it readily separates from the label when the label is removed for application. See: Backing, Liner.

Removability – A term applied to pressure sensitive labels to describe the force or condition under which they can be removed from a substrate. A removable label would be one in which little or no damage occurs to the substrate or the label upon removal.

Reverse – The opposite of what you see. Printing the background of an image. For example: type your name on a piece of paper. The reverse of this would be a black piece of paper with a white name.

Roll Labels – Pressure sensitive labels that are packaged in continuous roll form.


Scanner – Device used to make color separations, halftones, duo tones and tri tones. Also a device used to scan art, pictures or drawings in desktop publishing.

Screen – is a process of taking a solid image and making it into dots.  The size of the dots regulates how light or how dark the image will be printed.

Shelf Life – A period of time (usually 12 to 15 months) during which a product can be stored under specified conditions and remain suitable for use.

Skid – A pallet used for cases of labels.

Smudge Resistance – The quality of a paper or plastic to resist the smearing of ink immediately following printing or imprinting; directly related to the absorption level of the paper.

Splice – A method of joining paper or plastic webs within a pressure sensitive roll to produce an operational continuous web.

Spoilage – Planned paper waste for all printing operations.

Spot Color Separation – Used to separate color that is not to be mixed.

Spot Varnish – Varnish used to highlight a specific part of the printed sheet.

Step-and-repeat – A procedure for placing the same image on plates in multiple places.

Step Ladder – A bar code symbol characterized by horizontal bars and spaces. See: Bar Code.

Substrate – The surface to which a pressure sensitive label is applied or adhered.


Tack – The property of a pressure sensitive label, which caused it to adhere to a surface instantly with a minimum of pressure and contact time.

Thermal Transfer Printing – An imprinting method that uses heat and pressure to melt a wax-based ink onto a label.

ThicknessSee: Caliper.

Tints – A shade of a single color or combined colors.

Transfer Tape – A coating of pressure sensitive adhesive applied to a liner that is release-coated on both sides. This allows a user to apply the tape to a surface and remove the liner, leaving only the adhesive on the surface.


Under-run – Production of fewer copies than ordered. See: Over Run.

UV coating – Liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light. Environmentally friendly.


Varnish – A heat-cured coating of one or more materials applied to a face material for protection and/or decoration.


Washup – Removing printing ink from a press, washing the rollers and blanket. Certain ink colors require multiple washups to avoid ink and chemical contamination.

Waste – A term for planned spoilage. See: Matrix.

Web – A continuous sheet of pliable manufactured material.

Web press: – The name of a type of presses that print from rolls of paper.

Web Width – The measurement of the web that is perpendicular to the machine direction. It usually refers to the width of the liner or carrier.

Wrinkling – the puckering or creasing of a pliable material that can result from environmental and/or manufacturing conditions.


Yellowing – A defect characterized by a gradual color change in the original appearance of white paper; the development of yellowish or brownish hues.