Pressure Sensitive 101


Pressure Sensitive Labeling 101


When it comes to product packaging, labels may seem like a small piece of the puzzle. But the truth is labels are vital to your overall product packaging. The information on a label has the power to track inventory, build your brand image, navigate a package to its destination and communicate product contents, instructions or warnings to the consumer.


Understanding the process behind developing labels is an important step to ensuring your product packaging delivers value. One of the most commonly used processes is pressure sensitive label construction. This is a popular choice because it creates labels that provide shelf appeal, high functionality, cost efficiency and easy application. Read on to learn more about this trusted process and the technology behind it.



What is a pressure sensitive label?


A pressure sensitive label, commonly referred to as a “sticker,” has a sticky adhesive that requires pressure from your finger to stick to the substrate. These are a straightforward solution for labeling your product, since pressure sensitive labels don’t require heat, solvent or water to be applied. Labels can come packaged in either a roll, fanfolded, or in sheets.


There are four components to a label:

  • Top Coat or laminate (optional)
  • Facestock
  • Adhesive
  • Release Liner




The facestock can come in a variety of finishes, both coated and uncoated. By selecting the right facestock, the pressure sensitive process can be used to create a uniquely attractive and versatile final product that fits your labeling needs. Below are a few instances of how pressure sensitive labeling can be employed to develop specific types of labels:


  •  Thermal Transfer Labels

    • Thermal transfer labels consist of a material that requires a thermal transfer ribbon for printing. Using a thermal transfer printer, heat is applied to the ribbon which transfers the ink onto the labels. This facestock is ideal for products that need more temperature resistance and a longer shelf life than a standard direct thermal product.


  • Direct Thermal Labels

    • Direct thermal is either top coated for resistance to environmental conditions or non-top coated for dry applications. Direct thermal darkens when heated and is applied directly to the facestock. There is no need for a thermal transfer ribbon. The best way to quickly tell if a label is thermal transfer or direct thermal is to scratch the facestock with your nail. If the label is direct thermal, the scratch will result in a dark line.


  • Laser Labels

    • Laser labels require heat and pressure to fuse a powered toner or “ink” to the material being printed on. Laser labels are printable using standard laser or inkjet printers. Laser labels are used for on-demand printing applications. Companies such as 3PLs, manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacies and office supply outlets use laser and inkjet labels for different applications ranging from shipping and address labels, to patient identification and prescription labels. They are also ideal for CD and DVD labeling.


  •  Film Labels

    • A film facestock is a non-paper material that is usually waterproof, heat resistant, and chemical resistant. Film label facestocks provide far greater durability than that of paper labels and are used in a wide range of markets including industrial, retail, food and healthcare to name a few. Examples of films are polypropylene, polyester, polystyrene, polyethylene and vinyl.


Release Liner

The release liner of a label usually consists of a white kraft paper that is treated with a silicone coating in order to provide easy removal of the label.



Pressure sensitive adhesive is a non-structural adhesive that provides instant tackiness to a variety of surfaces and requires minimal pressure to stick to a surface. The lasting power of a label adhesive is dependent upon tack (stickiness of label) and strength of adhesion. Common adhesive types include permanent, removable and freezer.


What are some applications of a pressure sensitive label?


Pressure sensitive labels are all around us, from the quart of oil you use in your car to the bottle of shampoo you use in the shower. The largest—and still growing— market for pressure sensitive labels is the food and beverage industry, followed by household chemicals , health & beauty, transport & logistics, , retail, pharmaceuticals, consumer durables automotive and electronics.



There is more to labels than meets the eye. Keep up with our blog posts to ensure you feel confident and ready to tackle any label challenge. For more descriptions of industry terms, refer to our label glossary.


Need help determining the best labeling solution?

We have a dedicated team of label experts ready to help find the best label solution to fit your customer’s need. Give us a call at (866) 516-7300 or email us at