Different bottle shapes with blank labels.

Labeling Different Bottle Shapes: How Glass Bottle Curvature & Taper Affects Labels

If you didn’t already know, bottle shape affects the label area that can be utilized. Curvature and taper interfere with label placement and require different strategies to avoid flagging and skewing.

So, how do you determine where you can apply labels to your bottles, and how can you modify your designs to make them work with different curves? When labeling different bottle shapes, there are several; things to consider, such as types of bottles and label materials – let’s take a look.

The Anatomy of a Bottle

Most glass bottles are made using a press-and-blow method. The first mold gives the glass gob a miniature version of its final shape. When the gob enters the second mold, the air pushes the glass out to fill the cavity. This process makes it easy to form complicated shapes. Both stages use two-piece external molds that unfold to release the glass. While plastic bottles need surfaces to have a slight angle to release from their molds, glass bottles can have flat, vertical sides.

Although there are many different custom bottle shapes on the market, their designs ultimately fit into four main sections.

Four Sections of Glass Bottles

    • Body – The body is the widest and usually longest part of the bottle. This section is commonly straight and round. Confusingly, “rectangular” bottles have a tall, round body, even though there are rectangular bottles with flat sides.
    • Shoulder – The shoulder area transitions between the wide body and the narrow neck.
    • Neck – This slender area between the finish and the shoulder reduces the amount of air left in the bottle after packaging. It also reduces contact between the liquid and air inside the bottle.
    • Finish – This is the opening of the bottle. The finish has threads to support either a cap or a cork.

The body offers the largest label area because you can typically apply labels on every section. Pressure-sensitive labels cannot be applied to complex curves, but labeling glass bottles on a single-angle surface is possible with the right design. For example, our vertical trunnion roller labeling system can configure up to five labels per bottle. These include neck labels, body labels and tamper-evident labels that wrap around the finish and neck.

The finish part of the bottle typically doesn’t have a shape that works with labels. However, labels can be wrapped over the cork or cap and onto the finish and neck as an anti-tamper measure. When labeling glass bottles, a neck label can be laid over the anti-tamper label to keep it in place.

Adding overrun space is a must for consistent application. By adding an ⅛ to ¼ inch gap between the edges of the bottle section and your labels, you have some wiggle room in case there are slight variations in bottle shape, label shape or application. This type of application error is most common in DIY and manual labeling applications.

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Wine Bottle Labeler

Are you a winemaker looking for a labeling machine designed specifically for wine? Try our wine bottle labeler. It has options for wrap-around, front labels, back labels, and cover labels.

When it comes to wine label designs, there are a few regulations that should be followed, including specific guidelines for labeling a product as white or red wine and even varietal wines. (Varietal wines with a single grape variety must name that variety on the product label.)

Water-Resistant Labels

Another consideration is whether or not a water-resistant label is needed. White wines and champagnes are often chilled (sometimes on ice), inadvertently exposing the label to moisture.

Water-resistant labels protect the label from easily falling off in these conditions. That’s why water bottle labels almost always utilize water-resistant labels — have you ever seen a paper label on a plastic water bottle? Not likely! Ultimately, the best label to choose depends on your product and its intended use.

Label Sizes for Flat Surfaces

Determining label sizes for flat surfaces is easy – simply find one or more labels that apply to the surface and don’t overlap with the curved and angled edges of the bottle. If you’re ordering a new custom bottle design, be sure to check the dimensions with the manufacturer. It’s common for glass beer and soda bottles to have ridges near the ends of the body. This limits label space to the area within these ridges.

To get the maximum label length for bottles you have on hand, measure the width of the bottle and multiply this number by pi. This gives you the bottle’s diameter. Alternatively, you can measure the side of the bottle with a fabric ruler.

CTM Labeling Systems can help you determine the perfect bottle design so that product label application isn’t a headache. We will work with you to find the right labeling system for your needs, no matter how complicated the system may seem.

Designing Custom Labels for Angled Surfaces

On tapered surfaces, the label needs to be curved to compensate for the different diameters between the top and bottom of the application area. This matches the label shape to the bottle shape, so it doesn’t skew. It also keeps the label graphics from looking distorted. If you wrap a rectangular label around a tapered surface, straight lines will look like they’re tilted.

When designing custom labels for angled surfaces, measure the bottle at the top and bottom of the taper. (This is used to calculate the adjustments needed to get the right fit.) As the taper angle increases, the label’s shape has to twist to accommodate it, going from a rectangle to a C-shape. The print on the label also needs to be skewed, so it looks straight on the bottle. You can use this online cone calculator to find the angle you need for your label design. Most design software, including Adobe Illustrator, has tools built in to apply this angle to graphics, which makes it easy for your designer to create a flat design, then curve it to fit your label.

There are also ways to design around angled shapes to get a more standard shape. A short label that only covers one side needs a much smaller curve than one that wraps around the bottle. Likewise, there’s less difference between the top and bottom width of a narrow label. A round or oval label also looks correct on an angled surface and won’t skew when applied. Oval labels are used on many different bottle shapes with large conical areas, like the sides of a Chianti bottle. Some designs use hybrid labels, combining flat and round elements. If you’re already paying for custom die-cut labels, adding these design flourishes doesn’t drastically impact your total label cost.

If you’re using a common bottle design, there are probably off-the-shelf labels that are sized and angled correctly for your application. For example, most craft beer and bottlers choose to use Industry Standard Bottles (ISBs.), which have a standard size and shape, so beer bottle labels are readily available.

Get the Labeling Equipment That Fits Your Products

Don’t rely on DIY label applications; automatic (and semi-automatic) labeling systems make the process easier and faster, making it a more high-quality process in a fraction of the time.

When you’re labeling different bottle shapes, CTM Labeling Systems has the machines you need for reliable, consistent label application. Reach out so we can put you in touch with a local distributor who finds solutions for your production needs. Contact us today!

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