Label Layers Revealed

by Maverick Label | January 21, 2020

Or The Anatomy of a Label

Parts of a label

We know you're dying to know all about label layers! All our labels with adhesives are pressure-sensitive labels, and these types of labels have the same basic layers in common.

The main label layers for pressure-sensitive labels are the face stock, the adhesive, and the release liner. You also have the additional “finish” option of a top coat. And, of course, your artwork and product information fits in there, too!

(Our non-adhesive labels include things like parking hang tags, magnetic labels, and tie-tags. They don't include adhesive or the release liner, and material choice is generally very limited.)

Face Stock

Face stock is the label material. It can range from paper to metal, with all sorts of polyester, polypropylene, and vinyl materials as well. We even have magnetic face stock! What material you want will depend on what you plan to use your labels for.

Lexan label before and after printing
Lexan® label material (clear) and label when printed

The face stock holds the ink colors, text, and artwork you send us. Generally, we print this on the upper surface of the face stock. The color of the face stock can play a part in your artwork. We have a wide array of colored materials, as well as holographic and foil films and inks.

We also have one material (Lexan®) where we print on the underside of the material and then add the adhesive, with release liner, afterward.

On these labels, any artwork or text is sandwiched between the material and the adhesive. This adds a large amount of protection to the printed label, and also allows for "adhesive free" areas in the label.

People usually want this process for industrial and heavy equipment applications; most other labels don’t need this sort of protection or adhesive-free areas. If you want a bit more protection for your product labels, a regular varnish or laminate is usually sufficient for most applications.


Silver poly material and labels
Silver poly labels before and after printing

Most of the materials we use to make your labels come with the adhesive already applied. This means you need to consider how you will use the label before deciding on a face stock material. Some applications and surfaces require a stronger adhesive than others.

We have a number of different adhesive types, ranging from super strong (elephant grip, for example) to none at all (static cling or magnetic labels). Some of our labels are removable, while others are great for hard-to-stick places like curved surfaces or slick LSE plastics. The aggressive adhesives and magnetic materials are available on our “short run” equipment line (where your minimum order is one label).

Regardless of strength, all our adhesives are clear and do not affect the color of either the label face stock or the substrate where you put the label.

For more information on our specialty adhesives and the product lines for each, check out our Adhesives series. Want more detail? See the chemistry of pressure-sensitive adhesives on Wikipedia. We found it fascinating!

Release Liner

The release liner varies with the face stock and adhesive used, but generally consists of a material coated with silicone. This slick surface allows you to easily and cleanly remove the label from the sheet, roll, or piece, and keeps the labels from sticking to each other. It is mostly commonly white or blue, but can be other colors.

Top Coat - Optional Label Layer

As a last label layer, you can opt to add a laminate or vanish as a top coat. This adds a bit of water or oil resistant to the face stock, or a bit of shine. We offer top coats that range from spot varnish - applied to only certain areas of the label, it adds sheen and subtle highlights - to full coats of laminate or varnish. (Want more info on the differences between these? See “Varnish or Laminate - Which Do You Need?”)

Domed label layers

Another, fairly radical “top coat” possibility is a domed label. These labels are pretty cool. A clear, thick layer of polyurethane is added over the completed label. This dome is weather and UV resistant, and the polyurethane adds luster to the label as well.

Domed labels do take a little longer to ship to you, as the dome has to cure or harden before the labels can be packed up and sent out. These labels are best for very flat surfaces, as they are no longer very flexible once the dome hardens.

If you want to know more about any of our label materials, laminates, or adhesives, or have questions about which combination is right for your application, our customer care reps can help you out. They are available via chat from any of our web pages (M-F 6AM-5PM Pacific), phone (800-537-8816; same hours as chat), or email ([email protected]).