The most fundamental part of label printing is to prepare the artwork correctly. This means the label design must be the right size but it should also include bleed and crop marks.
Labels are commonly rectangles but they can also come in circles, ovals, triangles or even custom shapes. They also come in different sizes. Label printing companies like ours will print as many labels as possible on a sheet or across the web so that the label material is maximised to there is minimal waste of the label stock.
Whether the label is die-cut or digitally cut to the right shape, bleed and crop marks are what enable your labels to be printed at the exactly the right size. Bleed and crop marks are just as important for labels as they are for general printing.
Bleed refers to extending the actual artwork being provided by your graphic designer so that it is larger than the actual size of the label. Most labels are printed on white stock but clear labels are also an option. Unless you are printing your labels in very large quantities, then your labels are likely to be printed digitally, i.e. straight from a computer image without the need for plates or film. It means that full colour labels will usually be the same price as one or two colour labels. The popularity and relatively low cost of full colour labels means that quite often your artwork will have a background colour other than the colour of the stock, usually white. If you want this background colour to reach the edge of your label then you will need to provide artwork with bleed.
The Role Of Die-Cutting In Label Printing
Even though the die-cutting, whether it be digital or with pre-made dies to fit the shape of your label, is extremely accurate, it is not perfect. For example, if you had a rectangular label with dimensions of 60mm x 40mm and your artwork has a solid background colour of green and was provided as a rectangular label of exactly 60mm x 40mm, then in a perfect world, the labels would be cut exactly around the edge of the rectangle. Inside the rectangle, i.e. your printed label would have a green background and outside the rectangle, there would be a white colour, the colour of the label stock.
However, if the printing or the die-cutting was out by just a small fraction of 1mm, then on one or more of the edges of the rectangle, some, if not all of the labels would have white showing on the outside of the label. Perfection in printing is just not possible so this is why the artwork needs to be modified.
This modification process is called bleed. It is called bleed because the label artwork including the background colour of the label, bleeds off the page in general printing terms or in label printing terms bleeds off the dimensions of the label. In other words, bleed is the process whereby the artwork provided is larger than the size of the label. The bleed is the area to be trimmed off by the cutting equipment of the label.
The amount of bleed is typically 2-5 mm. At Renton’s Labels, we prefer 3mm in bleed. If you are unsure about how much bleed to add to your artwork, more is always better than less.
Why Crop Marks And Cut-lines Are Also Important In Label Printing
Before the artwork is printed, there is one more important thing that is needed. The artwork must indicate to the label printing machine and also the finishing machine such as a digital die-cutting machine exactly where to cut the labels. Crop marks, also known as trim marks, are lines printed outside the label artwork provided. It indicates exactly where the die-cutting or digital cutting needs to take place so that the label printed is exactly the right size.
Crop marks are all that is needed for rectangular or square labels, but aren’t much help for circular or irregularly shaped labels. For perfect circles, the artwork can be provided centred in a square the same width and height as your circle plus any bleed. This can be hard to visualise, so a cut-line is often used to show the edge of the label.
Cut-lines are a thin line used to show the edges of the label that are not printed, and are most often provided as pure cyan or magenta to help differentiate the cut-line from the actual printed artwork. Cut-lines are even more important for irregularly shaped labels such as ovals or completely custom shapes. In this case, the cut-line is used to tell the finisher where to cut the label. It is extremely important to not flatten your artwork when providing it with a cut-line so that it can be separated from the printed artwork. If you are unsure how to provide your artwork un-flattened, you should contact us or your designer.
There are just so many things to consider when it comes to the design of product labels and other label printing. It is important that your graphic designer uses bleed and crop marks or cut-lines when submitting label artwork to be printed. If you do not have access to graphic designers or want to minimise your list of suppliers, then you are welcome to let our graphic design team help you. We will definitely prepare a label design that has bleed, crop marks and cut-lines in the right places but can also show you how to increase your sales by having better designs for your printed labels.