Unwind Direction & Other Roll Label Terms

by Maverick Label | October 17, 2019

We process a lot of labels on rolls, both spot color and four-color (CMYK). People sometimes have questions about some of the roll label terminology we use on our quoters and landing pages, like unwind direction. So here's a short primer of terms you might see when ordering labels on rolls.

Unwind Direction

The first, slightly confusing, roll label term is unwind direction. This refers to how the labels are oriented on the roll. There are four unwind directions, used in two different styles of roll label, for a total of eight ways to have your roll labels made.

The four directions are described by which part of the label comes off the roll first, so you have top off (label faces away from the roll’s end), bottom off (label faces the roll end), right off, and left off.

Unwind direction #1 - from the top
"Top Off" is option #1 on our quoters
Unwind direction #2 - from the bottom
"Bottom Off" is option #2
Unwind direction #3 - from the right side
"Right Off" is option #3
Unwind direction #4 - from the left side
"Left Off" is option #4

Roll Winding

In addition, there are two ways that the labels can be wound on the roll. The most common way is “wound out,” where the label face is on the outside of the roll. All the above examples are wound out. Rolls can also be wound in, with the labels on the interior of the roll and the backing on the outside. 

Because it is by far the most commonly requested, the quoters on our roll label pages - multi-purpose (spot color) and process (CMYK or 4-color) - only offer the “wound out” style. We can also do "wound in." If you want that style, you can contact Customer Care directly from the page to order that.

If you’re using a machine to apply your labels, check its specs for the unwind preference. If you are hand applying the labels, the unwind direction is not as important, but one might be more convenient than the others, depending on your environment. Consider your work space and labeling setup before you decide. Note: You can also leave the default option of “Makes no difference for my order” selected, and we will determine an unwind direction for you.

Roll Dimensions

roll dimension questions

We have two optional fields on the quoters, one that applies to machine application (maximum roll diameter) and one for hand application (labels per roll).

For machine-applied labels, you probably want the largest roll that your machine can handle (to minimize how often you need to reload). So you’d enter the maximum diameter, according to your machine specs, in the first field. We can make rolls that are between 8” and 16” inches in diameter.

(Want to see a labeling machine in action? Check out the Nita Sentient Labeling Systems YouTube page. I don't know much about labeling machines, but those are some pretty cool videos!)

If you are hand applying the labels, it may be more efficient to have multiple, smaller quantity rolls, so several people can be labeling your products simultaneously.  Use the second optional field here to enter the number of labels you want per roll. This is most commonly between 500 to 2,500 labels per roll, but can be as little as 250 per roll. 

So, for example, if you're ordering 1,000 labels, and enter 250 per roll in this section, you'll get four rolls. Assuming you have the people available for label application, you can apply them four times as fast!

Core Size

Our standard core size is 3” in diameter. Most people prefer the 3” size, so it is the default on the quoter. We do also offer 1” and 0.75” cores. The smaller sizes are more geared to specialty uses.

Perforation / Pieces

Most roll labels are designed to be peeled off the roll and applied immediately. If you have a different idea in mind, say giving out labels to customers for their use, we do offer a couple of options.

In our multi-purpose roll label program, you can ask for perforations between each label on the roll, making it much easier to remove and hand out one or two labels at a time.

In our process color roll program, you can also request pieces for many of the shapes and sizes. (These do not ship as a roll; they will come as individual labels.)

Because of the extra work involved, there is an additional charge for both perforations and pieces. 

Tips on Storage

label roll storage

Unless you’re actively using the labels, rolls should not be stored on their sides - not only can this put pressure on the core or the labels, but it also makes them vulnerable to rolling right off the shelf!. If you have more than one roll, you can just stack them up. If it’s humid, you may want to protect them with a plastic bag. Don’t store them in direct sunlight, near a heat source, or in a warehouse without air conditioning. Heat and extreme cold are not good for the adhesive. Your labels may not be as sticky a year or two from ordering if your rolls are not stored properly.

You can also hang your rolls on pegs, especially if you go through rolls fairly quickly. We use both wall-mounted and free-standing metal peg racks to store our rolls of material on the Production floor, for instance. Make sure any pegboard or hooks used are in a clean, dry area with a minimum of disturbance.

There, now you know a little bit more label terminology!