Label Definition -  Definitions for the Clothing & fabric Industry

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Learn more about clothing labels and other types of labels used in the apparel industry. 

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A label is any kind of tag attached with adhesive to something so as to identify the object or its contents. Labels come in many forms and can be differentiated by the type of base material, called stock, that they are printed on, and by the adhesive type that they use. The most common type is made with a paper stock and a colloquial term for it is a sticker. Labels have many uses, from product identification to name tags.

Stock types

  • Litho - one of the most common base stocks
  • Latex - a litho stock with some added latex allows the label to be much more flexible and form around certain curved objects more easily than standard litho.
  • Various plastics such as acetate, vinyl, and mylar  allow a variety of features, such as greater strength, flexibility, transparency, resistance to tearing, etc. They typically require special equipment and printing methods (ultra-violet curing is common) as they do not normally print well with conventional ink. A bumper sticker is usually a vinyl label with a very strong, durable adhesive and Lightfast Inks.
  • Foil - has the shiny properties of a metal foil.
  • Thermal - direct thermal label stock will change color (usually black) when heated. A heating element in the shape of letters or images can be used to create an image on the label. Custom labels can be easily be made on location in this way. A disadvantage is durability, because another heat source can ruin or obscure the image, or it may fade completely over time

The stock type will affect the types of ink that will print well on them.

Corona treating or "zapping" makes a substrate more receptive to inks.

Adhesive types

  • Permanent - Typically not designed to be removed without tearing the stock or using solvents. The adhesion strength and speed can also be varied. For example, full adhesion can be nearly instant, or the label can be almost removable for a short period with full adhesion developing in minutes or hours. This is considered the most popular and cheapest option by many self adhesive paper manufacturers.
  • Removable - Adhesion is fairly strong and will not fall off in normal circumstances, but the label can be removed relatively easily without tearing the base stock or leaving adhesive behind on the old surface. The adhesive is usually strong enough to be applied again elsewhere.
  • Semi-permanent - aka repositionable - Adhesion strenghtens fully after application (approx. 48-72 hours), allowing the label to be removed easily if placed incorrectly and still be a permanent label.
  • Freezer permanent- special type of removable adhesive that remains fully permanent under certain temperatures. This is useful for labeling objects that are to be stored in a freezer for any length of time.


Ink and base stock color choices commonly conform to the Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors. The Pantone system is very dominant in the label printing industry. Additionally specialty inks such as metallic, UV ink, magnetic ink, and more are available. Ink is usually transparent however it can be made opaque. It has been known for certain companies to patent "their own" color.


Special labels:

  • Piggyback labels are made from combining two layers of adhesive substrate. The bottom layer forms the backing for the top. The label can be applied to any object as normal, the top layer can be a removable label that can be applied elsewhere, which may change the message or marking on the remaining label underneath. Often used on Express mail envelopes.
  • Blockout labels are not see-through at all, concealing what lies underneath with a strong adhesive.
  • Holographic stickers are used for authentication and protection against counterfeit. They can be used on ID cards, credit cards, products such as CD/dVD's, etc.
  • Radioactive labels The use of radioactive isotopes of chemical elements, such as carbon-14, to allow the in vivo tracking of chemical compounds.


"Stickers" are very widely used when an object requires identification with a word or idea. Brand stickers may be attached to products to identify those products as coming from a certain company. They may also be used to describe characteristics of the products that would not be obvious from simple examination. They are frequently distributed as part of promotional, advertising, and political campaigns; for example, in many voting districts in the US, stickers indicating an individual has voted are given to each voter as they leave the polling place, largely as a reminder to others to vote. Other methods of underground forms of voting for your favorite graffiti artists' current productions are by an open form of appreciation such as clapping while passing such a sticker (a smile and a kind reminder to a fellow appreciater throughout the day is common place as well).

Stickers placed on automobiles, called bumper stickers, are often used by individuals as a way of demonstrating support for political or ideological causes. Identification of vehicle registration and last service details are two examples of stickers on the inside of most car windscreens.

Barcodes are frequently used on many products as a convenient way of identification.

Clothing & Fashion Industry Definitions
fabric & Textile Industry Definitions
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Dye & Dyeing Industry Terms
Embroidery Industry Terms
Textile fiber Definitions
Sewing Terms & Definitions
yarns & yarn Industry Definitions
Miscellaneous Apparel Industry Terms
The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (  2/6/06

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