Beginner’s Guide of Choosing Label Substrates


The aesthetic appearance of the label is meaningless if it is printed on the wrong material, which might make the product unappealing to the customer.

Choosing the suitable substrate for your label might not be as easy as you think. There are millions of possible combinations of face materials and adhesives, and selecting the appropriate one is critical to the performance of your label. Before buying your labels, there are many factors to consider: application, performance, aesthetics, and cost. The following are some considerations that should assist you in determining the kind of substrate required to get the most out of your label.


The surface on which your label will go on is crucial in determining the appropriate materials for the label. Is it made of polyethylene, glass, aluminum, cardboard, or wood, or with many other polymers? Each adhesive has a unique response to the surface’s energy. What is the temperature at the vicinity of the labeling? Extremes of cold, heat, or humidity may also affect how well an adhesive adheres to a surface. Is your product contaminant-free at the time the labeling is applied? Consider the possibility that the container contents were spilled and not completely wiped clean before application. 


Additionally, you must consider how your label must operate after reaching the retail shelf or the consumer’s house. Is it a cold wine bottle or one that has been resting in a tub of ice? Is it necessary for it to be detachable so that the consumer may remove it without leaving behind any residues or resistance? Will, the product be squeezed in the same way as a lotion or shampoo container is squeezed? These are all crucial questions that need answering before placing your order for labels. There is a range of papers or films that may be used to address any of these circumstances. However, it is important to evaluate all your options before the product hits the store.


What are your intentions for your label? Do you want a shiny, smooth finish? Or do you prefer a subtle, matte appearance? Consider adding some textured emboss or hot stamp to your design. Again, a range of substrates is available to assist you in conveying the brand and the message to your customer. From textured paper stocks to metalized materials or holographic that pop on the shelf, the key is understanding what you want and how you would like your product to show up. Here are some of the popular label options you might want to consider.


Everything described above has a cost associated with it. An extremely aggressive adhesive applied to a vinyl face material or a repositionable adhesive applied to a metallic substrate will be more costly than a general-purpose permanent adhesive applied to a paper face. However, printing, applying, delivering, and selling an incorrectly performing item might be far more expensive than doing it correctly the first time. Cost is always a factor in packing options; sustaining a solid profit margin requires keeping unit costs low. 

Label prices are considerably more manageable if you deal with the printing process. Begin by asking for a sample pack and gathering ideas for the design of your label. Then, discuss with them your alternatives for obtaining the most excellent pricing, quality, and performance for your product’s packaging. Simply because several factors are involved in picking a substrate does not mean the procedure has to be stressful.

Varieties of Substrates

While synthetic and paper are the two most common materials, each has a variety of options. One feature that both synthetic and paper substrates have in common is a broad range of thicknesses. It allows the label to be flexible enough to be mounted on curved surfaces or hard enough to stick correctly. Let us explore the differences between synthetic and paper materials in further detail.

Paper Substrates

Paper substrates are generally utilized for indoor labels since they have a very short life expectancy and are resistant to moisture, chemicals, severe temperatures, and abrasion. Paper substrates, on the other hand, can be coupled with synthetic lamination for further durability. Additionally, topcoats like varnishes or hydrophobic coatings may be added to increase the durability of paper. If a secondary printer is required to customize your label, then the paper is often the best option—although secondary customization is also achievable with synthetics. Paper is available in coated and uncoated surfaces and has a more vibrant color range than synthetic substrates. Paper substrates are often less expensive than synthetic substrates, giving them the most excellent value for much less demanding applications. Numerous paper substrates are recyclable, making them more environmentally friendly. However, once an adhesive is put to the substrate, it is typically not biodegradable.

Synthetic Substrates

Synthetic substrates are often employed in the majority of outdoor applications and interior applications that are subjected to a range of demanding circumstances. The majority of synthetic substrates are transparent, metallic, or white.


Polycarbonate is the top-of-the-line synthetic substrate because it is resistant to moisture, numerous chemicals, and abrasion. It may persist for years without fading when exposed to UV radiation for a lengthy period. Polycarbonate is available in matte, gloss, and satin finishes and maybe embossed to form buttons. Due to their durability and aesthetics, polycarbonate films are commonly utilized for control panels and displays. Typically, polycarbonate films with a thickness of 5-10 mils are used.


Polyester is a rigid yet stiff material that can generally withstand almost five years of outdoor use.


Vinyl substrates adapt nicely to curves and have a life span of seven years or more outdoors.


Polypropylene is resistant to moisture and has a wide range of temperatures, making it a desirable material for consumer items such as plastic soft drink bottles. Polypropylene has a useful life of around six months to two years. It is used in a variety of indoor and short-term outdoor applications. Polypropylene films are often less expensive per unit area than other types of films.


Choosing the appropriate substrate for a particular application requires a grasp of the conversion and end-user processes. The application’s success is based upon an awareness of these aspects and pairing a product to specific requirements.