Even the best-planned, most attractive label designs can become problematic when it’s time to print them. Keep these factors in mind when planning your next label project, counsels Greg Galeles, Manager of Plant Purchasing and Art Coordinator for T&L Graphic Systems:
Q: What should customers keep in mind regarding label design?
Galeles: Type should be simple in color. Black is best. A single color is fine. Multiple colors of type that would require a four-color printing process can look fuzzy and can be hard to read when printed.
Fonts should be easy to read. The type should not be so close together that it would be easily fill in. If your artwork includes screens with gradients, you should avoid gradients that go to zero value (fully transparent), especially into a large blank space. The longer the transition to zero, the harder it is to reproduce during printing.
Q: When it comes to artwork, what type of image files do you prefer to work with, vector or bitmap?
Galeles: Vector files are sharp and clean at any size. But they also have several other advantages that are specific to label printing. Color is easier to control. Sometimes it’s better to convert a color to a PMS solid color rather than run it as a four-color process.
Adjustments, bleeds and traps can easily be made to the file to take advantage of the flexo printing process.
In addition, vector files are more stable and are less likely to have compatibility issues from computer to computer. They are always high resolution.
Q: Who usually designs the label at the client company? How often do you get involved in designing labels for clients?
Galeles: We are not graphic artists. We do not design labels. From time to time, we have designed labels and product lines in the past, but they have been very simple in nature.
I have been in the graphics industry for 34 years in several capacities. In addition, our art department staff has a great understanding of what designs will work in the flexo process and what will not give favorable results before we go to press. We can help and advise our clients and even modify their designs within reason to help ensure that the finished product meets their expectations.
Q: What are the most common problems you encounter with client artwork? What are some simple fixes to these challenges?
Galeles: Low-resolution files under 600 dpi are usually problematic. Sometimes it may only be a small art element like a Facebook logo. People take graphics from the web to use for artwork and they are usually only 72 dpi – low resolution. These images will reproduce as fuzzy and illegible; they are almost always unusable for label designs and printing.
Fonts can also be challenging. Nobody can carry every font. Some designs have special creative fonts. The customer needs to convert them to paths or include the fonts when sending the art file.
Drop shadows do not always reproduce as well as our customers think they will. When they use creative effects like drop shadows, these effects don’t always print the same way as they appear on the monitor. Drop shadows are very rarely just black, forcing us to run jobs with them as four-color processes.
The next problem with effects is that they do not scale proportionate to the object. When customers have a logo that contains elements like shadow effects, and they have a logo that is ½” x ½” in size, the drop shadow may be equal to 25 percent of the size of the logo. Increase that logo to 2” x 2” and that drop shadow effect may only be 6 percent of the logo. In other words, the drop shadows become inconsistent at different image sizes. This is not always noticeable on the monitor, but it’s definitely obvious when printed.
Photos are great but they should not have extreme highlights or burn outs. Those spots in a photo that bleach to white will never look good printed flexo or any printing process. For best results, avoid images with lots of bright areas and lots of dark shadows.
Now that you have a better understanding of label application issues, why not download our new guide, How to Create the Perfect Label: The 5 Most Important Questions to Ask.
Derek Mcdoogle says
My friend has been wanting to open a new business and is thinking about what kind of labels to make. You stated that even the best-planned, most attractive label designs can become problematic when it’s time to print them. I didn’t realize that labels could be so hard to make. Do most label makers offer to help with the designs as well? It seems consulting with a professional might be helpful.
Doug Danosky says
Derek, yes they do. They work closely with their customers to select the right combination of label material, release material, ink, coatings, etc. to ensure the labels will hold up well and look great throughout their life cycle.