Should your business utilize a pressure sensitive label?

Pressure Sensitive Labels: Makeup and Advantages

Pressure sensitive labels (PSLs) are a major part of the product labeling industry, and that section of the industry is only going to get bigger. Mordor Intelligence estimates the domestic market for these labels will grow 25% over the next 5 years. This growth is being spurred by improvements in print technology and is making these labels a viable alternative to other printed products, giving both large and small companies access to high quality graphics. So, how do these labels fit into your business, and why should you consider them? Let’s take a look.

There’s a reason these labels make up 80% of the label market: flexibility. Each label reel is made of 5 components that can be altered to fit almost any application. 

Liner: The backing that covers the adhesive until the label is applied.

Release Coat: This creates a barrier between the liner and the adhesive, so that the label peels and applies cleanly.

Adhesive: The glue that attaches the label to the container.

Face Stock: The label itself. This is usually made of paper, plastic or foil. Graphics and text are printed directly on this layer.

Top Coat: The outer layer that protects the face stock from damage. 

By picking the right components for your label, you can use them on almost any container. With the right adhesive, the label will stick to glass, plastic, metal, rubber and wood. These labels also have structural flexibility, so they can wrap around almost any shape. Adhesives can be permanent, temporary (for removal), or made to withstand specific environmental hazards. And, using the right combination of face stock, top coat and adhesive, a label can be made to work with rough, dusty and humid surfaces, too.  

This label technology also offers faster setup times and lower initial investment than alternative labeling systems. A pressure sensitive label applicator doesn’t need to use heat, solvent, water or separate adhesive to label containers, which takes many of the variables out of application and requires less equipment than other labeling methods. 

Print and apply systems let you customize pressure sensitive labels for each container, adding information including shipping addresses, serial numbers and expiration dates. These labels are also compatible with high definition printing engines, letting you add fine text and graphics that would smear or blur on other types of labels.

How Do Machines Apply Pressure Sensitive Labels?

The label applicator can use one of three methods to press labels onto containers.


Also called a “wipe-on” applicator, a brush or roller applies pressure to the label, forcing it onto the container. This is the simplest application method, and works well for some merge applications where label placement may be a factor. For example, on a round bottle, there’s no need to orient the label to a specific side, just top to bottom. 

Air Blow

This method uses a vacuum to hold the label in place. Once the container is in position, a solenoid activates a blast of air that pastes the label onto the container. This allows for extremely precise application. Air blow systems are usually used to apply labels onto the sides or tops of the containers.

Tamp Blow

A pneumatic cylinder gets the label near the container. From there, it operates just like an air blow labeler. This type of labeler can be used on flat surfaces or recessed areas, such as the tops of clamshell containers. Once the label is close to the container, the air blast pushes that label down into the recesses.

PSL Advantages Over Other Types of Labels

Facilities considering PSLs usually compare them against two other labeling technologies. But, while these other types of labels may be a better fit for a few use cases, their disadvantages put them behind labels with pressure sensitive adhesives.

Cut and Stack Labels

These labels have glue applied to them before application. Printing prices for these labels are low, however, the paper has to be thin, making it susceptible to physical damage and moisture. Glue application adds complexity to the labeling machine and that application isn’t consistent. This often results in edge peeling. Cut and stack labels are rarely seen outside canned goods and other products kept exclusively in low moisture, low UV environments. 

Stretch and Shrink Labels

These plastic labels are wrapped around the container, then heated in a tunnel to conform to the container’s shape. This gives them the ability to cover containers with complex shapes. Label manufacturers require large minimum orders for these labels, while high-resolution digital printing on these plastics is expensive. Also, even the slightest variations in heat cause problems with uneven forming and tearing. (This mostly limits their use to high-speed labeling on large volumes of glass and plastic bottles.) With the right setup, a PSL labeling machine can get similar coverage on flat and angled containers. 

Use Cases for Pressure Sensitive Labels

While PSLs can be used on almost any container, there are specific applications where these labels excel. 

Small Runs

By swapping out spools, you can easily switch between product labels, even if the labels or containers are different sizes. This lets you use one machine for several small product runs. Semi-automatic labelers like our Tabletop Wrap Labeler allow hand loading after final inspection of each container, saving space and ensuring accuracy. 


High-definition printing support and easy application make pressure sensitive labels perfect for prescription information. Destructible vinyl labels can’t be removed in one piece, letting users know at a glance if a container has been opened. 

Beverage Can Labeling

While labeled cans must be ordered in huge lots, brites are readily available by the pallet from manufacturers. By adding individual labels, small scale breweries and beverage manufacturers can get the cost and protection advantages of cans without the cost and scale. Moisture-resistant labels stay on cans that sit in refrigerated cases. 

Dusty Environments

In facilities that grind spices, mill components, or use fine materials, dust is unavoidable. Using PSLs lets you skip external container cleaning, speeding up production and saving money. 


High-speed print and apply systems make it easy to add identifying information to each container. This helps you keep track of containers as they move through your inventory system and through the supply chain that gets your products to customers. A corner wrap labeler like the 3600a-PA covers two sides with a single label, making the container scannable and readable in different orientations. 


Bright foils and high definition paper prints add style to containers at a low cost. This makes these labels a popular option on wines, candies and other luxury goods.

Get the Equipment You Need for Pressure Sensitive Labeling

If you’re looking for labeling solutions that fit your production needs, contact CTM Labeling Systems. Our local distributors are ready to help you to set up a labeling system that works with your choice of labels and your production system.