Shrink sleeve labels can help products to stand out on the shelf and overcome design challenges posed by highly contoured containers. But it’s important that you’re working with experienced labelling professionals when opting for this solution.


Shrink sleeves are a relatively new type of label and are quickly gaining use for many products. They’re printed on a digital or flexographic press, with text on the inside of the shrink sleeves, then slipped over a container and tightened around the container using heat (heat-shrunk). The label then conforms to the surface of the container.


Shrink sleeves provide some of the most standout design possibilities and often reduce costs and turnaround times. They’re full-body labels that wrap around the entirety of a container, offering 360 degree branding and messaging on the product. Many brands turn to shrink sleeves to enhance the vibrancy of their designs and achieve one-of-a-kind labels. Shrink sleeves can be printed digitally, eliminating the need for printing plates and making them economical for short runs while ensuring the finest printing quality.


As a consumer, you see shrink sleeve labels on containers you purchase and use every day. The shrink sleeve label’s ability to conform to the container shape, and provide printed label graphics and content over a larger area of the full container, make it an increasingly popular labelling choice for consumers and consumer goods companies alike. Chances are, you’re seeing more and more of them on the shelves of your local grocery store. And that’s likely making those shelves a lot more eye-catching.


Finding the right fit with shrink sleeve labels


Whether its eye-popping colour or intricate designs, shrink sleeve labels are capable of approaching the level of artwork. With the right software and the right design professionals, shrink sleeve labels make products in any market stand out. 


From a container design standpoint, shrink sleeve labels deliver significant aesthetic advantages. The ability to utilise full-container decorating is one such benefit. This makes significantly more space available to convey the information you think the customer should know. Since the sleeve label can often cover the complete container, the entire package is available for product graphics and branding, giving your marketing department more space to convey key brand messaging.



Having the entirety of the container available for labelling information also prevents manufacturers from relying on other, potentially less aesthetically pleasing labelling techniques. Small print and cluttered label design can be effectively addressed through use of the added space provided by use of a shrink sleeve label. 


They also make possible a range of functional label features that, with other label types, might cause manufacturers to pursue less attractive options. Shrink sleeves can be designed to accommodate tamper-evidence features, for instance, or designed for product multi-packs and with added promotional elements for on-shelf display.


Development of new enhanced shrink sleeve materials also opens options for container shape. Materials with controlled shrink rate, and higher shrink levels enable effective label decoration of more complex shapes. Trigger spray bottles often used in household cleaning applications are a particularly common example of a marriage of a complex container shape with a compelling shrink sleeve label design. Today, the range of available shrink sleeve materials opens the use of shrink sleeve labelling to an ever widening range of contoured containers. 


Design considerations for shrink sleeve labels


Effective label design requires specific software technology and trained design staff to optimise label appearance, and to avoid design problems in the layout of artwork on the shrink sleeve. Designers must compensate the graphics for the level of shrink depending on the location of graphics on the bottle. Design elements placed on a narrow portion of the bottle must be compensated to account for the large amount of shrink. 


Without proper location of graphics and text and the integration of the label seam into the label design, or without the proper placement on to the container, serious design flaws could result. The final “lay-flat” size of the completed sleeve is also a critical step to ensuring effective placement and overall appearance of the applied, finished label. 


Experienced label designers should work closely with the brand’s packaging team to help ensure proper size, seam placement and graphics compensation for design elements to ensure the label achieves the intended look after shrink. Unexpected and potentially unattractive results can be avoided by working with designers that have experience with sleeve technology.  


Working with a label expert can also insure selection of the proper shrink sleeve material for your container design and label application equipment. Proper material selection is an important step in avoiding processing inefficiencies and ensuring smooth packaging operations. The right material choice will also ensure that the label shrinks right and provides the appearance necessary to drive product sales to your customer. 


So, while shrink sleeve labels can help your product stand out on the shelf and overcome design challenges posed by highly contoured containers, it’s important to carefully choose the labelling professionals you work with using this solution.