Our guide to the benefits and drawbacks of different label shapes and sizes.
Self adhesive labels come in a range of different shapes and sizes – but did you know there are benefits and drawbacks of using particular shapes and sizes? Here's our top tips to get the most out of each one.
Label Planet's Guide To Rectangular Labels & Square Labels
First, we’ll take a look at rectangles and squares.
Rectangular labels and square labels have TWO key benefits over other label shapes:
- They are much simpler to design and print accurately.
- They tend to be standard label sizes.
Rectangles and squares are pretty basic shapes, which means that your design doesn’t have to take into account any unusual shaping. In fact, the most shaping that you might find on rectangular labels and square labels is at the corners; some labels will have radius or curved corners (rather than a pointed corner). Whether you use rounded or square cut corners is usually a case of personal preference; some believe that the rounded corner offers a more decorative and pleasing appearance. Rounded corners also have the practical benefit of being easier to remove from their backing sheets (and some square cut layouts can be problematic – see below). Rectangles and squares offer you plenty of space to add designs, which means that they’re great for more practical purposes (such as displaying product information, address information, and instructions for use) as well as decorative purposes.
Standard label sizes have a number of practical benefits because they are manufactured in huge volumes on a regular basis. This means that these label sizes are more likely to be stocked (so they’re easier and quicker to get hold of), are more likely to be available in a wider range of material and adhesive options, and may also be cheaper products to buy compared to other label shapes.
The main drawback is the layouts used for rectangular and square labels; they are often designed to have as little waste material as possible. There may be no (or very narrow) gaps around or between the labels. This can cause two kinds of printing problems.
Most standard printers cannot print all the way to the edges of an A4 sheet, which creates an “unprintable area”. If your labels sit within this area, your design must not use this space.
Some printers offer “Edge-to-edge” or “Borderless” printing, which prints the full area of an A4 sheet. If you do not have this option, you need to ensure your design doesn’t use the unprintable area. A quick way to determine this area is to print an A4 document with a colour background that fills the page. Any area that remains unprinted is the unprintable area.
The other problem is coloured backgrounds and borders. It is quite difficult to align EVERY design perfectly onto EVERY label using standard printers. When a design doesn’t quite align perfectly, strips around the edge (or edges) of a label go unprinted. This is called white edging because most labels are white in colour, which creates unprinted white areas.
The easiest way to overcome this issue is to oversize designs so they bleed over the edges. When (some of) the edges of your labels are touching, however, tyou end up bleeding your design over the edge of one label onto another.
You can only use this technique with a single colour background or border (or a pattern that is easy to match). This way, you bleed over onto an adjoining label BUT the colour is the same so you cannot see the overlap.
- As rectangles and squares give you so much space to fill, it’s a good idea to think carefully about the layout and alignment of your design so that your labels don’t end up lopsided or content-heavy in certain areas. Space out the elements of your design to create a clean and uncluttered finish.
- If you wish to add a full coloured background and/or border, you need to use a single colour to avoid problems with white edging and overlapping designs.
- Take special care with label layouts where the blank labels sit very close to or at the edges of your A4 sheets.
Label Planet's Guide To Round Labels & Oval Labels
Perhaps the key benefit of round labels and oval labels is that they are a more decorative option. Circles and ovals are especially popular for use as decorative stickers, badges, and tags. They also have a practical benefit in that they have to have gaps all the way around each label; this means that there is (usually) plenty of “bleed area”, which makes it easier to add full colour background and borders to your designs – without the problems of white edging occurring.
Unfortunately, the main benefit is also the main drawback as the curved shaping of round labels and oval labels makes them more difficult to design and print accurately. Most printers are limited in the accuracy of positioning they can produce, making it difficult to align every design perfectly – the problem with round labels and oval labels is that their shaping can make any very slight misalignment all the more obvious. This is especially problematic if you want to add a border (which is a popular choice for round labels and oval labels).
Label templates can also prove to be a little trickier to work with – especially Word templates. While PDF templates show the outline of circular labels and oval labels, Word templates are not sophisticated enough to do the same. Instead, a grid made up of squares or rectangles is used to indicate the relative position of each label. Each round or oval label will fit inside each square or rectangular cell of the table, so that its outermost points touch the four sides of the cell. This compromise does mean that you may need to do a few test prints onto paper and make adjustments on a trial and error basis to get the best possible alignment.
An additional drawback is that round and oval label sizes are not as commonplace as rectangles and squares, which means that there may be limited options in terms of the stock, material options, and support available. In particular, you may struggle to find label templates and printing advice – although at Label Planet, we supply label templates for ALL of our label sizes and you’ll find plenty of tips for working with round and oval shapes on our website.
- We recommend using a centralised design to create a balanced appearance for your sticky labels.
- Avoid borders if you can BUT if you wish to include one, we recommend making it as thick as you can (without impacting your overall design) so that it is easy to overlap all the way around the edge of each label.
- Designs containing coloured backgrounds (and borders) should be slightly oversized, so that they overlap each label making it impossible for white edging to appear.
- While you should ALWAYS test print ANY label template, we particularly recommend test printing round label and oval label templates to ensure that the alignment of EVERY label on your sheet is acceptable.
Label Planet's Guide To Large Label Sizes Versus Small Label Sizes
Technically speaking, there aren’t really strong benefits or drawbacks for different label sizes because you should obviously choose a size that will a) fit onto whatever item you need to label and b) give you enough room for the design and/or text you want to add. Larger labels will obviously give you more space to work with but if a smaller size works better for your application then you simply need to use a smaller size. Try measuring the surface area available on your items to determine the largest size you could possibly use, check one sizes are available to you, and then select one that will neatly contain your design AND look good on your labelled items.
One thing to think about is the option of using multiple smaller labels rather than one larger label. While many people are tempted to simply include EVERYTHING on one label, this can be a cluttered and unpleasing way to label items. You end up plastering a larger label over your items and your design may end up cramming in a lot of your information. Why not consider using a number of smaller labels to break up your information and create a cleaner, more pleasing set of labels. For example, if you are creating product labels for jars of food, instead of trying to find a huge, long label you can wrap around each jar, why not use a “front” label and a “back” labels (or even a “lid” label) to space things out.
There are two key drawbacks to mention:
- Large labels can be slightly trickier to apply; we’ve all the experience of a label starting to roll up or crease as we apply it – which is a much more common issue with larger labels compared to smaller ones.
- Smaller labels can be slightly harder to align accurately. There are more labels on a sheet, which means that any slight misalignment in each row and/or column of labels will be replicated down/across the sheet, which has an accumulative effect on the alignment of your sheet of printed labels. This simply means that you will need to take more time and care preparing label templates for smaller sizes – and you may need to use a bit of trial and error (and test prints!) to get the best possible alignment for EVERY label on your sheet.
Take some time to consider how much information you need to include on your labels to determine if you can get away with using one label or if multiple labels would be better. We recommend making a quick sketch of your design on paper so you can estimate how much room you need and try out a few alternatives before committing to spending time designing and printing a label template. Take care with smaller label sizes and always, always, always do a test print first to check for any potential issues or problems before printing onto your labels directly.