Shrink Sleeve Printing vs. Traditional Labeling: What's Best For My Business?

shrink sleeve vs labels illustration



Shrink Sleeve Printing Information


Are Shrink Sleeve Right for my Products?

The decision on what type of labeling material to use for your product can be tough. It is important to look at all options available and pick the substrate that not only fits your budget, but also your product. Shrink sleeve can be a worth-while investment for a labeling choice as brand competition only continues to grow.

The added benefit of choosing shrink sleeve is the 360° designable area of the package. This means more design room to catch a potential purchaser’s attention.

Choosing shrink sleeve packaging over traditional labeling has been shown to increase desire to purchase by up to 3x, according to a study by AC Nielson.


Have an Odd Shaped Container? Not to worry!

That is what shrink sleeve does best! The great thing about shrink sleeve is its material tolerance to conform to practically any shaped container or packaging material. This is also a great option for situations where your product is exposed to higher amounts of heat or humidity. Shrink material has been shown to have a better adherence than a labeling adhesive in known harsh environments.

We would suggest one of our alternate labeling solutions if you are using packaging that tapers downward. As the shrink sleeve is heated it begins to contract, making the likelihood of slipping greater on a downward tapered package.

Our Proofing Process

Just like traditional labeling, shrink sleeve requires a proofing process. To receive an accurate quote several measurements must be taken from your package to calculate printing and finishing costs. The best way for us to get these measurements accurately is for you to send us a sample of your container. With your container we use specialized computer software to develop a 3D model and grid that measures several print variables. These variables help us create accurate print ready artwork for your product.

If you're using a standard 12 or 16oz can for canning things like beer, soft drinks or juices, we have prebuilt art templates that you can use to create your artwork.

Artwork Limitations

Creating outstanding artwork for shrink sleeve can be an involved process. It is important to account for the distortions that will take place when your artwork goes through the application process. It can involve some compromise on imagery and text placement to provide an exceptional product. Our specialized computer software pre-distorts your artwork and alerts us to any areas that may be troublesome.

As with any print application there are limitations to the material. Due to the shrinkable nature, it is suggested you orient your barcode or UPC vertically instead of horizontally. This will improve the scannability of your barcode. It is also important to try and position your barcode on the portion of your container that is the least curved for scanning as well.

We can offer a printed prototype for an additional charge if you would like to see the finished product before the entire print production takes place.

Reverse Printing

An added benefit of shrink sleeve is the reverse printing process. This means that the artwork is printed on the interior of the sleeve, giving your product additional resistance to abrasion and handling throughout the lifetime of your product. Our digital printing process means less overhead costs for you. An added bonus is there are no added fees for print plates. On-the-fly changes saves you money and directly involves you in the printing and proofing process. Short run printing keeps your inventory right where you need it. With no more printed than what you actually need. Contact one of our Custom Label Specialists today to discuss our competitively priced ordering tiers.

Pine Mountain Brewing Shrink Sleeve Can


Materials used for Shrink Sleeves

There are several material types commonly used for shrink sleeve applications. The material that is correct for you depends largely on your budget, the complexity of your container shape, and your preference on material recyclability. The two most commonly used materials for shrink sleeve are:

    • PVC - Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is the most commonly used material in the shrink sleeve printing industry. Relatively inexpensive as compared to other shrink materials, it offers exceptional print quality, image clarity, low shrink temperature, and resistance to scuffs and environmental elements. PVC while most cost efficient is less environmentally friendly than other shrink materials.


    • PETG – Polyproplyene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG) features excellent print clarity and an added bonus of a higher strength tolerance than other shrink materials. PETG has a higher shrink percentage, which you may benefit from if your packaging contains a large amount of curved surfaces. You can expect high gloss and weather resistance from PETG as well. Although the most expensive, this material is both pasteurizable and recyclable.

Here's information about the shrink sleeve material that we carry in stock for our custom shrink sleeve label printing. If you require a specialty shrink sleeve material, just let us know. We have established relationships with many shrink sleeve material suppliers in the industry and can source any material you need.

    • Clear PETG High Shrink Material: The shrink sleeve material we use is a transparent PETG sleeve that is high quality and durable. We can knock out portions of your artwork so the container can be seen through the material, or we can print a flat white layer behind your artwork, giving the shrink sleeve an opaque appearance. Common uses for this type of shrink are food and beverage, liquor, wine, beer, water bottles, sports drinks, nutraceuticals, retail applications, and many more.

Applying Your Shrink Sleeves to Your Containers

Unlike the traditional labeling process, shrink sleeves contain no adhesive for the application of the label. Specialized machinery is required to seam and place the shrink sleeve on the product. It then goes through an additional process to heat the shrink sleeve evenly to form fit your container.

With the cost of shrink sleeve application machinery being a substantial investment, you can request the services of a copacker who will apply your sleeves if you choose not to purchase the necessary equipment.

Additionally, if you are using standard 211 12 or 16 ounce aluminum cans, we can provide the shrink sleeves applied to the cans. We have application equipment and a steam heat shrink tunnel designed to service the craft beverage industry.

Have more questions? Contact one of our Custom Label Specialists today and we will be glad to assist you during the entire process of creating and printing your shrink sleeve.