Labels in the Making: Cut and Stack Edition

by Lilly Blum

Picture it. It’s a sunny summer day and you’re drinking your favorite bottled brew. The graphics on the front of the bottle catch your eye as you enjoy your beverage. Chances are you’re looking at a cut and stack label.

While you may have experienced a few brewery tours and have an idea of how brewers perfect their craft, do you know how the label was made? While we leave the beer making to the experts, they leave the label making to us!

Getting Press Ready

It all starts with artwork! Your artwork conveys your brand’s message to your consumers and entices them to pick up your product. The first step in making cut and stack labels is sending your artwork to Inland’s Prepress department. This is where your graphics are broken down into individual colors. The prepress team makes sure your graphics come out clean and have amazing color.

Prepress also uses your graphics to create press plates. Inland’s prepress department transfers your graphics onto a plate. We mentioned before that your artwork is broken down into individual colors, that way each color being used for your label gets its own plate.

You can do a single SKU run where only one label is printed at a time or a combo run! Running in combination is when multiple SKUs are printed on the same press sheet to make the printing process more efficient and create less waste. Once your plates are made they are loaded into the press and are ready for the printing process to begin!

engraved plate for printing

Offset printing plate

Putting Ink on Paper

Once your graphics and plates are ready, it’s time for our favorite part – printing! First, the rolls of material your labels will be printed on are loaded into the press. Cut and stack labels have endless material options including white, metalized, and craft papers, and white, clear, and metalized films giving you the flexibility to choose what works best for your brand.

As the material makes its way through the press, the first stop is the cut star. The cut star takes the roll of material and cuts it into sheets based on the job specifications and efficiencies. Once the material is cut into correctly sized sheets, it’s time to add the ink to bring your artwork to life!

Each color of ink is loaded into ink stations and rolled onto the print area of the plate. The ink is applied one color at a time (check out an example!). After each color is printed, the last stop in the process is the coating. A coating is a protective layer put over the ink to keep it from rubbing off or being damaged. The freshly printed labels then spend 24 – 72 hours drying so the ink is completely cured before heading to the next step.

Finishing

Finishing is the last phase of the printing process and is where cut and stack labels get their iconic name. As we mentioned earlier, each sheet has rows of a single label or rows of different labels, so the printed sheets need to be cut down to size. But, before we do any cutting, we have the most important step –  jogging. During the jogging process we agitate stacks of printed sheets until they are settled into neat stacks. This process ensures that our labels can be accurately cut.

Now that we have perfectly lined up sheets, they are cut first horizontally and then vertically to create a stack of square or rectangular labels. You can even use a custom die to give your labels a unique shape to help differentiate your products! The label stacks are then bundled, and either shrink wrapped or put in a bag and then boxed up to prepare them for shipping. Doing this step preserves the quality of the labels and prevents them from curling. The bundles of cut and stacked (sound familiar?) labels are then shipped to your facility, ready to adorn your products.

Labels boxed and ready to be shipped

Inland has decades of experience in the cut and stack business and offer cost savings and quick turnaround times. Their ability to work on food products, beverage, water, beer, and more, make them a great option for many brand owners. Contact us to see if cut and stack labels, or our other label and packaging offerings, are right for you!

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