Are you looking for a label material guide that can help you ensure that you get the most suitable material for your product? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here, we aim to list down the different label materials you can choose from along with their pros and cons and other important tips when finding the perfect labels for your small business.

Picking the right label is crucial to make sure that the label fulfills the task you expect it to. Maybe using paper labels is very tempting because they are cheap and you can save a lot of money. But, selecting alternative options that can do a better job can benefit your business more than you think.

For instance, there are labels that are designed for professional applications or for certain environmental conditions. Not all label materials are suited for every application. Each material has its own unique characteristics and qualities to ensure efficiency and achieve the look you want. To help you understand more about label materials, we will discuss the most important things you need to know here. Let’s start with paper labels in the next section.


What Kind of Paper Is Used for Labels?

Paper – the most common type of label material used in many consumer products today. Paper facestocks are specifically designed with different characteristics to match the look you want to achieve. Common papers used for labels include the following:

  • Estate
  • Metalized
  • Linen
  • Felt
  • Textured
  • Semigloss
  • Gloss

Film vs. Paper Labels

There are generally two substrate types used in product labels: film and paper. To help you choose which material is best for your application, below is a summary of the pros and cons of each material:

  • Available in transparent options
  • More flexible
  • Weather-resistant
  • More expensive
  • Vintage and authentic look
  • Various colors
  • Great printability
  • Low weather resistance capabilities


Film Labels

These types of labels are made from synthetic materials so they are more flexible and durable materials compared to paper.


  • Available in transparent designs that give a sophisticated “no label” look
  • Clear matte label versions with frosted finishes provide a stylish look
  • They are flexible so they can conform to any surface
  • More resistant to water, cold, heat, oil, chemical, tearing, and fading
  • Ideal for heavy-duty applications


  • More expensive but they can help save money and time if durability is what you are aiming for

Recommended Applications

  • They are ideal for irregularly shaped containers and those that are to be squeezed like shampoo bottles
  • Crystal clear or clear gloss materials are perfect for tin containers and see-through applications
  • Ideal for moisture-rich conditions or outdoors, frequently used products, and long-term labeling 
  • Perfect for chemicals, refrigerated food and beverage products, bath and body products, and cleaning products

Below are the common film face stocks you can find in the market:

Film Face Stock



  • More flexibility
  • Durable enough for outdoor applications


  • Also known as BOPP label materials
  • The most common film labels for short-term applications
  • Relatively cheap
  • Most are clear labels but can also be metalized or white
  • High tear resistance
  • Oil and water-resistant
  • Ideal for personal care products, beverages, etc.


  • Extremely flexible and soft
  • Ideal for squeeze applications and flexible packaging


  • Heat-resistant
  • Ideal for extreme temperatures


  • Also known as PET label materials
  • Malleable material
  • Often used in curved surfaces such as bottles


  • Designed for tough applications
  • Scratch and tear-resistant
  • Perfect for corrosive and hazardous products, frozen food, outdoor items, and long-distance transport

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Paper Labels

These labels have paper base layers but can come in different coatings, thicknesses, and colors too.


  • It can produce the famous vintage, weathered, or handmade look
  • They come in a wide array of colors from pastels to fluorescent
  • They offer great printability as they can withstand extreme heat during printing and can hold ink well to produce sharp prints


  • Shorter lifespan
  • Not resistant to tearing, time, water, light, and other environmental conditions
  • More likely to fade and turn yellow when exposed to sunlight
  • Although their durability can be improved by using varnishes or lamination, they still won’t be as durable as films

Recommended Applications

  • Suitable for indoor and short-term applications only
  • Shipping and barcode labels
  • Non-perishable goods like canned food, spices, tea, etc.
  • Household and beauty products like bar soap, cigars, candles, wax melts, etc.
  • Door hangers, business cards, product, and gift tags
  • Crafts, warning signs, and home or office organizations

Below is a list of common paper face stocks you can choose from:

Paper Face Stock



  • Designed for inkjet label printers
  • Easily absorbs ink
  • Prevents smudging by drying quickly


  • Designed for laser printers


  • Paper labels with a higher shine


  • Shiny but not fully glossy
  • Clean and crisp reproduction of artwork
  • Ideal for indoor use
  • Highly versatile labels that can be used for product packaging and craft stickers

Direct Thermal

  • Heat-sensitive
  • It is heated to change the colors

Thermal Transfer

  • Designed for label printers using thermal ribbons
  • The printer heats the ribbon to melt it which transfers the writing onto the label

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Label Material Types to Choose From for Your Product

Aside from the two main label material categories (paper and film), labels are also categorized according to other features like transparency, type of finish, and resistance to environmental factors as listed below:


Opaque Materials

  • They prevent transmission of light
  • Ideal for covering up mistakes, correcting label information, recycling old materials or packaging, preventing existing designs from showing, and others


Transparent Materials

  • They prevent transmission of light
  • Ideal for covering up mistakes, correcting label information, recycling old materials or packaging, preventing existing designs from showing, and others
A sheet of clear BOPP lip gloss labels


Matte Finish

  • Allows you to add color splashes or use white spaces as parts of your design
  • Makes labels easier to read
  • The most affordable versions are plain paper
  • Popular among businesses for labeling any product like fast-moving goods, stationery, and consumables


Glossy Finish

  • Smooth coating for a bright and shiny finish
  • Decorative and professional appearance
  • Most glossy labels are made from paper which improves the paper’s dust and water resistance capabilities
  • Most suitable for special events or occasions including company brochures
  • Ideal for label designs with sharp images and vivid colors
  • Also good for products that will be stored in freezers, shower rooms, and other demanding environments


Waterproof Materials

  • Most common in bathroom and kitchen products like food and beverages as well as cosmetic products
  • Great for outdoor labeling like garden centers, sports equipment, signages, and more


Splash Proof Materials

  • Glossy paper labels are perfect examples
  • Limited protection against dirt and water damage (light splash and a little bit of dirt)
  • Good alternatives for waterproof materials if you want more affordable options
  • Most can only be used with laser printers or handwriting

Roll Labels vs. Sheet Labels

You should not only focus on label material but also on the label format which of course, will depend on how you are going to print your labels. We discussed the differences between fanfold labels and roll labels in our previous blogs. Now, let us also compare roll labels and sheet labels and their suitable applications here.

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Roll Labels

  • They come on rolls (continuous label strips attached to liners and wound around spools instead of flat sheets)
  • No backing material on the label’s outer edge
  • Cost-effective ways of ordering labels in bulk
  • Go for label rolls if you are going to order labels worth $250 and above
  • Ideal for longer runs and labeling machines
  • Great for applications that require speed and limited spaces where color is not crucial
  • You can use cheaper dispensers if you don’t have label applicators
  • If you don’t have any labeling machine and are only using your hands, you can put them on any rod for easy peeling and unwinding
  • Perfect for applications using unique labels like name tags, shipping labels, barcodes, and others

Sheet Labels

  • They come on flat sheets in a wide variety of colors and materials
  • They can be used with standard laser or inkjet printers
  • They provide a more professional look especially if you are focusing on appearance and are printing in full colors
  • Perfect for hand application and for small businesses who are just getting started
  • Most suitable for labels containing the same information such as return address labels
  • Recommended for seasonal products and on-demand label printing as well as for products that frequently change regulations (like cannabis labels) and ingredients

In relation to roll and sheet labels, you can also read our blog on choosing between permanent tags and peelable labels.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Label Material

There are some things to consider before choosing your material. Along with the look and feel you want to convey, there are many other factors to think about. It is important for your label to stick to your product’s packaging and deliver its intended purpose which is to communicate information effectively and draw the attention of potential customers.

Although we’ve included the recommended applications of each label material above, below is a summary of the factors you need to consider when choosing label materials for your product:


The Product Container’s Color

Your label should be easily readable and visible. If you use a label that blends with your container’s color, the label will be hard to read. Choose a label color that contrasts the container color. For translucent or transparent containers, the perfect choice would be clear labels.


The Product’s Shape

You also need to consider the container’s shape because not all labels can easily conform to any shape. The container’s shape can strain the label material so choose something that can bear that strain. For instance, film labels are more flexible than paper labels and are recommended for oddly shaped containers.


Conditions in Which Your Labels Will Be Exposed To

Consider the temperature, moisture, and other conditions your label will be going through. How long do you want it to last?

In general, below are the recommended labels for different environments:

    • Paper Labels – Dry and warm environments
    • Laminated labels – cold, frozen, or refrigerated environments
    • Polyester film labels – High temperatures


Application Surface

The type of surface you are going to apply your label is crucial in deciding the type of label material and adhesive you are going to choose. Why? Because labels react differently with different materials and surfaces. Below are what we recommend for different container materials:

    • Paper labels with permanent adhesives – uncoated or cardboard containers
    • Polyolefin labels – plastic and squeezable tubes
    • Polypropylene labels – cosmetic products


Method of Application

Lastly, labels can either be applied by machine or by hand. For instance, if you are going to apply by hand, choose a label material that you can easily hold and stick to surfaces like paper labels. On the other hand, clear labels are delicate and no bubbles should form during the application process so you might need a labeling machine.

Find the Perfect Labels for Your Products and Packaging

Choosing the perfect label for your product is important to make sure that you create not only an appealing but also an effective label design. So to help you pick the right one for your product, below are the most common product types along with the most suitable labels for each of them:


Food Labels

Food labels should be accurately labeled and visually inviting to attract customers easily. To achieve this goal, below are what businesses commonly use:

    • Gloss or semi-gloss paper
    • Polyester
    • Vinyl
    • PVC
    • Acrylic
    • Polypropylene


Freezer Labels

Freezer labels fall under two main categories: wet and dry conditions. For dry conditions, paper materials that are designed for dry or cold exposure are recommended. For wet conditions, synthetic materials that are meant for wet or cold exposure are more suitable like vinyl, polyester, polypropylene, and polyethylene. In addition, here’s a guide to choosing the right freezer labels you can read.


Beverage and Beer Labels

For beer and beverage products, choose label materials that can protect your product while providing an enticing look that differentiates your brand from the others. Materials that are often used for soda, cider, beer, and others are the following:

    • Black or natural paper label colors
    • Textured paper labels
    • Water-resistant paper labels
    • Estate #8 paper
    • Holographic film
    • Metalized film
    • White or clear films
    • Wood veneer
    • Foil


Meal Delivery

For meal delivery applications, the packages are often thrown away so it is not practical to go for expensive label materials. Just go for cheap paper labels that can still provide an attractive look to your products.


Pharmaceutical Labels

Pharmaceutical packaging laws are more stringent compared to pharmaceutical labels but this doesn’t mean that you should just pick any label that works. You must also choose a low migration label material to prevent product contamination. Below are our recommendations:

    • Gloss or semi-gloss paper labels
    • PET films and BOPP films (films are great for tight containers like syringes, ampoules, vials, and test tubes)
    • PET films are ideal for applications requiring high clarity, chemical resistance, and temperature resistance

You can also read our blog on the importance, types, and alternatives to pharmaceutical packaging.


Peel and Resealable Labels

Peel and resealable labels are becoming popular nowadays and are commonly used for dry food goods and personal care products. They are portable and easier to open. Moreover, they are designed for food-based reseal products and hard-to-hold wipe applications to allow for additional graphics or text. Below are other uses of peel and resealable labels:

    • Pharmaceutical and nutraceutical containers
    • Pre-packaged food
    • Recipe suggestions
    • Product details and usage instructions
    • Product safety warnings
    • Antiseptic and wet wipes

How to Choose the Right Materials for Your Printer?

Let’s end our discussion with how you should choose the right label material for your printer.

Basically, you should always make sure that the label material you will be choosing is compatible with your printer. This information is often written on your printer’s manual so make sure to check it before you buy your labels. Sometimes, labels are also marked with details regarding printer compatibility like Inkjet Only or Laser Only.

Not all printers can support multiple label materials and some labels are more suited for specific types of printers. Although most label papers can work for both Inkjet and laser printers, some are designed to work only for a single type of printer and are not interchangeable. Different printers support different label sizes, shapes, and thicknesses too so make sure to check your printer’s specifications and recommended label printing guidelines.

One convenient way on how you can make sure that your label will work well with your printer is by searching online and checking what type of printers work best with your labels. This way, you can avoid wasting money due to unusable labels.

If you don’t own a label printer yet and want to buy one, you can read our recommendations below:

Wrapping Up

Now that you know your label material options, make sure that you decide thoroughly which can fulfill your requirements best. Aside from external conditions and the type of container where you are going to apply the label, consider your label printer too because label printers can only handle specific label types. For more label guides, check out our other related blogs below:

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