Embossed label on a wine bottle.

Embossed Product Labels: Tactile Marketing

While choosing font and high-quality graphics has a big influence on customer perception, so does the feel of the label. (This is especially true of products sold through brick and mortar retail.) When consumers pick up the container, they can learn as much about the product’s segment from its feel as they can from your font and graphics choices.

Embossed stickers and labels give you an eye-catching, high end way to highlight text and graphics, as well as subtly change background colors. So, how can you implement embossing in your labels for maximum impact, and what do you need to consider for label designs and application? Let’s take a look.

Giving Your Labels a Unique Look and Feel

Does label texture influence buying habits? Thanks to a study conducted by Santa Rita Estates, Avery Dennison and Mind Insights, we finally have a definitive answer.

While looking to update one of their product lines, the winery worked with Avery and Mind Insights to measure the effect of texture on brand perception. This study, published by the Journal of Retailing, found that texture influences customer’s concrete perception of the product by causing them to associate the brand’s qualities with the bottle and the bottle label. In other words, it has a similar effect on brand impression as fonts and graphics, telling consumers about the product’s segment.

With online sales making up a small percentage of the liquor market, it’s easy to see why embossing is such a big trend.

Buyers pick out a bottle, among dozens of others on liquor store shelves, and are actively encouraged to handle the product to read the back of the label to learn more about the product. This makes touch a major part of the buying process. Adding texture with embossed labels to wine labels, for example, gives sellers one more way to differentiate their products from competitors in this hectic market.

Embossing doesn’t just affect a product’s feel, though. Advancements in embossing and label printing technology offer new ways to enhance the look of labels. Combining embossing with print and foil labels helps designs stand out, both physically and visually for pressure-sensitive labels. Add to that techniques for applying varnish to small areas of the label, and you also get a way to add subtle details to blank spaces. Put these elements together, and you can create embossed labels that have increased visual and textural appeal that makes products look more premium.

How Does Embossing and Debossing Work?

With embossing and debossing, the first step is to have two plates made: the die and counterdie. The counterdie presses into the paper, pushing it into the hollow spaces on the die.

Debossing just switches the position of the die and counterdie – the face of the label is pushed in instead of out. Setup costs for embossed labels vary, depending on the size of the label stock and the complexity of the design. However, it’s generally in line with setup costs for die cut labels.

There are multiple methods for creating embossing labels. A blank emboss simply changes the shape of the label while a registered emboss presses the label on areas that already have ink or metallic foil. (This requires high print and press accuracy to ensure the graphics and embossing line up.)

Along with classic printing and foil application, spot UV varnishing techniques have become popular in recent years. This process uses UV light to fix varnish to the label, creating contrasting finishes. Pairing this with embossing adds a subtle pop to blank spaces on the label.

Combination embossing applies a foil to the paper stock label material during the embossing process, which is cheaper than separating these two processes. However, the entire embossed area is also foiled. This is a great option for borders and logos, but it only allows one foil color to be used on detailed graphics.

Embossing typically raises the surface of the label by just 1/64 inch, but by making small changes to the shape of the die, it’s possible to increase the illusion of depth. A multi-level emboss uses plates with several distinct levels, allowing for an increase in total height without distorting the paper. Using beveled edges along outlines increases shadow and contrast, giving the appearance of depth. Rounded and chisel (roof) dies create patterns that don’t have a flat shape. These patterns are mostly used for lettering details or borders on custom labels.

Embossing Vs. Foil Stamping

Foil stamping is a similar procedure but with a very different end result when compared to embossing. Also known as hot foil, the process uses heat and pressure to imprint lettering or an image onto the front of heavy paper stock. Foil stamping is frequently seen with gold foil, although custom foil designs can be created with full color, and even combined with embossing for an even more dramatic effect.

Considerations for Adding Embossing to Your Label Design

Simple is usually better. Complex designs can look fine on a computer screen or a flat print, but when you roll labels across a bottle or apply them to odd-shaped packaging, the design template may distort. It’s important to get proof of the completed label from the design service, especially when using registered embossing.

Limit use to small details for more impact. It’s tempting to have an entire logo embossed, but since this is a single stage process, this approach lowers detail. Instead, it often works better to focus on a specific design detail. For example, if you want to emboss a round logo, embossing the edges helps the logo stand out, and gives the label surface a distinct feel. Some labels also apply embossed patterns to blank spaces to add visual interest by creating subtle elements without changing the label color.

Sometimes you can save money by using embossed for elements that can be shared product lines. For example, if you emboss borders or your company logo, you can use these elements for multiple products, and if you want to change the look between products, you can use various inks or finishes on these elements. For example, if you make a beverage in multiple flavors, you can change the embossing colors to match each flavor. This lets you use a single die set for multiple products, and establishes a consistent design language across the brand.

Where Can I Use Embossing?

Embossing has no effect on label application. Labels are embossed during the printing process before the adhesive and backing are applied. This keeps the backing separate from raised areas, so your labeling equipment can get a clean peel. However, if you want to use our print and apply applicators to add information like lot numbers to your labels, the print area needs to be separate from embossed areas to avoid distortion.

Embossing is possible but extremely difficult on plastic labels like BOPP. These labels are commonly used on products that face moisture and temperature extremes (such as refrigerated and frozen foods), as well as beauty products used in the shower. However, you may be able to use paper labels in their place with the right choice of protective coatings. Some printers may be able to simulate embossing by applying thicker ink layers. However, there is no simple way to get the right look. The thickness of the ink film varies widely depending on how well the label absorbs the ink and the amount of pigment in the ink. Change any of these factors, and both the color and thickness of the print changes.

We Can Help You Get the Look You Want for Your Products

If you’re ready to upgrade your labeling, contact CTM Labeling Systems. We have a wide range of labeling equipment that can be tailored to your packaging needs, and our local distributors are happy to work with you and set up a labeling solution that fits your production needs.