Glossary of Terms

When it comes to labels, it’s almost its own language. Don’t let the constant evolution of materials, methods, technology be overwhelming. Use our Label Glossary of Terms to help familiarize yourself with wonderful world of labels! Our team will walk you through the possibilities and answer your questions to provide a seamless design and order process. 


Acrylic Adhesive

Pressure sensitive adhesive that utilizes acrylic polymers.


Refers to the adhesive property of a label, or how well it sticks to a surface.


Refers to the substance applied to the sticky side of a label that allows attachment to a surface.

Adhesive, All Temperature

Permanent general purpose adhesive used for pressure sensitive label applications where a range of temperatures exist, approximately -65°F to 220°F.

Adhesive, Cold Temperature “Chill”

Permanent adhesive used for pressure sensitive label applications where freezing temperatures exist, approximately 35°F and colder.

Adhesive, Permanent

This adhesive offers a high adhesion to a surface. These pressure sensitive labels may sometimes be removed with effort but are typically not removable.

Adhesive, Pressure Sensitive

This refers to the capability of an adhesive at room temperature to bond to different surfaces it comes in contact with when pressure is applied to the label.

Adhesive, Removable

An adhesive used for pressure sensitive label applications where good adhesion is required, but can be removed from most surfaces. Some adhesive residue may transfer depending on the surface that the label is applied to.

Application Temperature

This is the recommended temperature of a label at the time it is applied.


This machine is used to automatically dispense and apply labels to the product.



Also referred to as liner, backing paper, carrier sheet, or release liner, this is the material that the pressure sensitive label is laminated to. It is coated with a release to allow the label to be removed.


This is the dark printed lines of a barcode symbol.

Bar Code

A series of vertical bars and spaces arranged in various patterns to represent digits or characters that can be read by a bar code reader.

Bar Code Reader

A unit that uses a laser to read barcode information.

Bar Length

The height of the bar in a barcode.

Bar Width

The dimension across a bar or the left to right width of the bar in a barcode.


This is the extra area required when print coverage continues past the trim edge or die cut of a label.


This is a popular label material made of plastic. It stands for Biaxially-Oriented (BO) Polypropylene (PP). Biaxially-oriented refers to the production process that stretches the film over two directions, making it stronger and more transparent. 

Butt Cut Labels

Method used to create a continuous roll of rectangular labels using a single knife cut to separate the labels.



Also known as the liner material for pressure sensitive labels.


In a barcode symbol it is a series of bars and spaces that represents numbers, letters or punctuation.

Check Digit

This is the number within a barcode symbol that uses a mathematical formula to confirm the readability of the scan.

Chemical Resistance

Refers to how much exposure to chemical agents a pressure sensitive label can withstand.

Clear Area

Also known as a quiet area or quiet zone, it is the empty space to the left and right of a barcode symbol which is necessary for scanning.


Also referred to as four color process, this method of printing uses cyan, magenta, yellow and black (k) inks in screens to produce full color images. The light reflected off the dots of the screen on the printed material is “processed” by the eye to perceive millions of color variations.

Cold Stamping

UV-curable adhesive is printed on the substrate in the shape of the design that is to be foiled.  The foil is then pressed onto the material and is stripped away where no adhesive was printed.


A manufacturer who produces pressure sensitive labels and tags as well as other forms of packaging from rolls of paper or film.


The inside rigid cardboard that the label is wound on to.  Typically in sizes of 3” or 1”.

Corner Radius

The measurement of the arc of a rounded rectangular corner on cutting dies.

Crop Marks

Thin lines used at the outer edges of artwork to designate the trim area.


On a flexographic press, these are the machined rolls to which printing plates are mounted.



Similar to embossing except the art or lettering is depressed when compared to the remaining label.


This is when the liner is separated from the face stock on press during manufacturing of the label.


A tooling used to cut a specified shape from the label or tag. These can be used to cut only the face material or completely cut or punch out the material.  Dies are made to cut specific material/liner combinations.

Die Blades

Sharp blades used in rotary dies to cut or sheet material on the press.

Die Cut

Labels cut to shape using a die.

Die Cut Label

A pressure sensitive label that has the face stock cut using a die and the waste matrix typically removed.

Die Lines

A line drawing showing the actual outline of the diecut shape.

Digital Printing

Digital technologies imprint images directly to media without reliance on plates.  Digital printing also delivers crisp, high resolution images and in some cases can enable a printer to more efficiently respond to requests for smaller quantity runs.

Digital UV Inkjet

A Digital UV Inkjet printer propels tiny droplets of ink onto paper, plastic and other substrates in order to form an image through the use of an ink delivery system, also known as a print head.

Direct Thermal

A material that does not require a ribbon for printing. Heat is applied directly to the label, and a chemical reaction on the face stock causes the label to darken where heat is applied.


A machine that feeds pressure sensitive labels by removing the liner and making the label ready for application.


Edge Lift

This is when the edge or corner of the label tends to release and lift from the surface it is applied to. Small curved surfaces are most prone to this occurring; the strength of the adhesive and flexibility of the material also are factors.





This is when art or lettering is raised as relief when compared to the remaining label. Embossing consists of a male and female plate that forces the material to conform to the image on the plate, creating relief.


Usually a small dark rectangle printed at the edge of a label or on the liner used to activate a sensor for registration to the product or additional variable data printing units.



Any material that can be used for pressure sensitive labels: paper, film or foil, that is laminated to the liner. Also referred to as face material.

Face Slit

This is when the face material is cut to the liner for ease of label removal. Also referred to as face split.


Polymer based face materials. These can be made from acetate, polyester, polypropylene, polyethylene, vinyl or other specialized materials.


Refers to the final appearance of a pressure sensitive label. These can be gloss, satin, matte, soft touch or uncoated, as well as a combination of these on a single label

Flexible Die

A type of cutting die that is machined into a metal flexible sheet which is then applied to a magnetic cylinder forming the rotary cutting die. Also referred to as a magnetic die.

Flexographic Printing

A relief method of printing using flexible polymer printing plates, rotary die cutting, inline embossing, fast drying inks, as well as other finishing options.

Flood Coat

The process of covering the entire web with ink, or primer or adhesive using a flood roller vs. A printing plate.

Fluorescent Paper

Paper that has been pre-coated with fluorescent ink prior to printing.


A thin metal sheet that can be used as the face material, hot stamping material or lamination.

Foil Paper Laminate

Referred to as metallized paper foil, this is when foil is laminated on top of a paper material to create a new face material suitable for printing.

Food Contact Adhesives

These adhesives meet approved guidelines designated by the FDA for use in certain circumstances where food safety is a concern.

Four-Color Process

Also referred to as CMYK, this method of printing uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K) inks in screens to produce full color images. The light reflected off the dots of the screen on the printed material is “processed” by the eye to perceive millions of color variations.

Freezer Adhesives, also called “chill”

These adhesives are recommended where application and use is below the freezing point.


Gloss Varnish

A top coating that is applied to the label that produces light reflection.

Gloss Laminate

A clear face stock applied to the pressure sensitive label to enhance the durability of the label while producing a light reflection.


Hang Tag

Usually a non pressure sensitive tag with a fold, used in retail and is attached to the product.

Heat Resistance

Refers to the ability of a label material to withstand adverse effects of heating conditions.

Hot Stamping

A die of the design to be foiled is mounted above the substrate and is then heated.  The hot stamp foil, a metalized PET film with a heat activated adhesive, runs between the die and substrate.  When pressure is applied from the die onto the material, the foil is fixed to the substrate’s surface.  Because pressure is a main ingredient to hot foiling, the foil has dimension and a distinct feel.



Inside diameter.


This is the transfer of the ink from the printing plate to the face material, also refers to the amount of pressure applied by the print cylinder against the face material.


Method of overprinting variable data onto a label using another printing machine such as a thermal transfer printer.



Kiss Cut

When the die cuts only through the face stock and not the liner.


Knife Cut Labels

Method used to create a continuous roll of rectangular labels using a single knife cut to separate the labels. Also known as butt cut labels.



Refers to the die-cut face material and its adhesive.

Label Stock

Refers to the rolls of label material (face material, adhesive and liner).

Labeling Machine (also applicator)

A unit that peels back a pressure sensitive label’s liner, exposing the adhesive and applies the label to a product.


A label stock created by combining two or more pressure sensitive materials onto one web.


Refers to the clear protective film layer applied as a topcoating for pressure sensitive labels. Can have a gloss, matte, soft touch finish.

Lay Flat

A label material that when finished does not curl.

Lift Tab

An area of the label, usually a corner, which has the adhesive eliminated to allow for easier removal. Frequently used extended content, two-sided and peel labels.


Also referred to as backing, it is the material that the pressure sensitive face material is laminated to. It is coated with a release to allow the label to be removed.

Lithographic Paper

A paper label material that has a coating on one side that is suitable for lithographic printing.


Machine Direction

Also referred to as the web direction, this is the direction of the forward movement of the material through the press.

Magnetic Die

Also known as a flexible die, this is a type of cutting die that is machined into a metal flexible sheet. It is applied to a magnetic cylinder forming the rotary cutting die.


This refers to all of the procedures done prior to actual print production to prepare the press to the job’s specifications.

Master Roll

This refers to the unslit and untrimmed roll of label material after the initial manufacturing stage.


Stock that has not been converted.

Material Splice

On a roll it is where separate material are joined with tape to form one continuous roll.


Once the label has been die cut, the matrix is the part of the face stock that is not intended for use. The matrix is generally removed around labels.

Matte Varnish

This top coating has little or no reflective properties and adds protection to the printed label surface.


This is the nature of some materials to want to return to its original shape after being distorted.

Metalized Film

This is a film that has been coated on one side with a thin metal foil.

Metalized Paper

This is a paper that has been treated to receive thin coating of metal (aluminum).


Unit of measurement used for thin materials. 1 mil=0.001 inch=100 gauge.




The outside diameter of a completed roll of labels.


This occurs when adhesive flows out the ends of the die-cut labels or sheets and may feel sticky.


This is the degree of light that can pass through a material or a materials ability to block light from passing through it.

Opaque Ink

This is non-transparent ink can overprint other colors without having its color properties affected.


This is when a clear film lamination is applied over the printed surface for protection or visual appeal. Can be matte or gloss finish.



These are small slits made into the face material or completely through the label stock to promote folding or tearing along a designated path.


Refers to the ability of a label’s adhesive to hold on to the material to which it is applied and the degree of difficulty of removal of the label from that material.

Permanent Adhesive

This adhesive has excellent bonding ability to a variety of surfaces under most conditions.


This material used for plate making is photosensitive and once processed forms a durable relief that ink is then applied to.


Essentially is a removable label on a label that once applied to a product facilitates the removal of the top label, leaving the bottom label still attached.


In flexographic printing it is what transfers the printed image to the material.


A durable film with excellent resistance to adverse conditions, available as clear white and metalized.


This plastic film is “squeezable” and has good low temperature performance.


This soft plastic film is “squeezable” and has good conformability.


This plastic film is not squeezable but has good durability.

Press Check

This is a special appointment made by the client to be present during the initial period of the production run to give final approval while the job is on press.

Press Proofs

These are printed lengths of material ran on press and submitted to the client for approval prior to the final production run.

Pressure Sensitive Label

Self adhesive label products that have been converted from pressure sensitive label stock. Rather than applying glue to a container and applying the label to the glue area, pressure sensitive labels have the adhesive “printed” onto the back of the label, like a sticker.

Pressure Sensitive Label Stock

Comprised of the face material, adhesive and release liner this is the base material from which pressure sensitive labels are converted. A diagram of the construction is available in our Label Learning Hub section.

Primary Label

This is the label that is associated with identifying the product. Also referred to as Prime labels.


This is a coating applied to a label face material to improve ink impression properties.

Process Printing

Also referred to as CMYK, this method of printing uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K) inks in screens to produce full color images. The light reflected off the dots of the screen on the printed material is “processed” by the eye to perceive millions of color variations.

Protective Coating (Topcoating, Overprint Coating)

This varnish or laminated film coating protects the printed inks of a pressure sensitive label.




This refers to the precise alignment of the printed impression for each color or other components such as embossing, foiling and the die-cut of a label.

Register Marks

These special marks are used as cross hairs to register two or more printed colors during printing.

Release Coat

This is the coating on the release liner that allows the pressure sensitive face material removal.

Release Liner

Also referred to as the backing, this is the material that the pressure sensitive label is laminated to. It is coated with a release to allow the label to be removed before being applied to the product.

Removable Adhesive

This type of adhesive permits relatively easy removal of a pressure sensitive label from most surfaces.


Used to describe the ability of a label to be removed from the surface it is applied to.


Refers to the printed length of cylinder based on one complete revolution.


Refers to the adhesive that remains on the material that remains once a pressure sensitive label has been removed.


In Images it refers to the pixels per inch in the across and down dimensions of the screen. This plays a role in the output to print concerning the sharpness of the image.

Reverse Printing

Easiest to understand in the context of clear film decals placed on the inside of a window to be right-reading from the outside of the glass. Print is done on the back of the label then coated with adhesive.

Rewind Direction

This is the orientation of the copy printed on the label as it is unwound on roll labels.


This refers to Red, Green, and Blue, the three colors of the light spectrum that can be mixed to produce any other color. For printing purposes, it is recommended that images or artwork created in RGB mode be converted to CMYK prior to label artwork submission.

Roll Label

These are pressure sensitive labels that are wound in the form of a roll.

Roll OD (Outer Diameter)

This refers to the diameter of the complete roll. This does not apply to sheeted or fan folded labels.

Rotary Press

This is a press that utilizes a roll to roll configuration to print on web fed materials.



Refers to a partial cut or crease in a material to facilitate bending, folding or tearing depending on the depth of the impression.

Service Temperature

This is the range of temperatures that a pressure sensitive label will endure after the initial 24 hour period of being applied to a substrate.


This refers to the process of cutting the web of pressure sensitive label material into finished sheets on the press.

Shelf Life (Storage Life)

This refers to the period of time that a pressure sensitive label can be stored and still remain usable. Most materials have a shelf life of one year.

Smudge Resistance

This is the ability of the printed surface avoid smearing.

Solvent Resistance

This is the resistance of a pressure sensitive label to certain chemicals.

Static Cling

This non-pressure sensitive material has the ability to adhere to a smooth surface such as glass without the need of an adhesive, permitting easy removal. Also referred to a window cling and can be clear or white material.


Another name for the face label material that is printed on, also referred to as the product or material that the pressure sensitive label is applied to



Refers to the amount of stickiness of a pressure sensitive label.

Tactile Varnish

A tactile varnish has a distinct feel, different from a smooth varnish or laminate. Examples of tactile varnish include rough (think sandpaper) or and high friction (think plastic wrap)


Refers to the converted product that is only partially attached to product. Hang tags and merchandise tags are some examples. Typically not pressure sensitive.

Tamper-Evident Label

A type of pressure sensitive label whose properties cause the destruction of the label when it is removed to show that product was tampered with.

Thermal Printing

This method of printing uses heat to activate certain areas of a heat sensitive material causing it to turn dark and produce an image.

Thermal Transfer

Similar to thermal printing however instead of imaging directly to a heat sensitive material, it uses a heat sensitive ribbon to transfer an image to an appropriate substrate.

Thermal Transfer Paper

This is face material that has been specially treated to receive the image imprinted by a thermal transfer ribbon.


Refers to the uncut area of a perforation. Also used with special shape through cut die-cuts to keep the label attached to the web.


This is the range of standards by which labels can be produced.


This is a general term referring to cutting dies, butt cutters and knives used to cut labels.

Top Coating (also called Varnish)

This refers to the final protective coating applied to a printed label.

Transparent Label

This label material allows light to pass through it and permits objects to be seen clearly through it.


Ultra-Violet (UV) Resistance

This is the ability of a material and or inks to endure exposure to sunlight without excessive adverse effects.

UV Curing

This is the method of curing inks or adhesives using ultra-violet light.

UV Inks

This set of inks has very opaque properties and is cured using ultra-violet light.

UV Varnish

This type of varnish is used as a top coating to protect the printed surface and is cured using ultra-violet light.



This is the top coating that protects the printed surface, available in several finishes including matte, satin, gloss and hi-rub, printed before die-cutting.


This plastic material is generally more pliable than polyesters and has excellent chemical, oil and some solvent resistance.



Refers to the roll of material that is fed through the various stages of the press.

Web Direction

Also referred to a machine direction, it is the direction of the forward movement of the material through the press and plays a role in the rewind direction.

Wrap-Around Label

This is a type of label that extends all the way around the surface it is applied to.