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When & How to Use White Layers in Label Printing & Design

white layers in label printing

For digital designs, what you see is what you get. You create a .jpg, and that’s how it will show on a screen—barring any CMYK/RGB swaps and not exacting for variances in screen coloring. 

However, when it comes to print products, especially the advanced crafted premium labels like we work with at Labeltronix (an AWT Company), there’s a lot that goes into turning a digital design into a printed label. 

One tool we use is white layers. White layers offer us versatility for perfecting colors, finishes, and overall look for premium labels. They help create opacity so every element on the label displays exactly as expected.

For white layers to be effective, the designer and printer need to work together to make sure they aid in creating the final product. 

When to Use White Layers in Labeling

Because white layers help create opacity, they are used in a variety of applications for crafting labels. Here are the most common uses at Labeltronix.

Metallic & Holographic Overlay

For holographic and metallic elements, we use white layers to determine where a substrate will show through (and not show through). Anywhere there’s white in the white layer, the substrate (metallic, holographic, etc.) will NOT show. You can also adjust opacity to play with intensity. 

Dark or Black Paper

When you want a sleek, dark look for your product, you may want a black background. Instead of printing the black background onto white paper, you can use a black paper, like our midnight vellum. By using a black paper, when labels age or get scuffed, the look you intended still remains. If you print black ink on white paper, any scuffs will reveal the white paper below.

To print on dark paper, you often need a base white layer (or several layers) to go beneath where your artwork will be printed. By applying white layers to the dark paper, ink added on top of the white layer will display correctly and give your label the look you want to achieve. 

This concept also applies to other colored materials, like craft paper. You don’t want the color or material of the label paper to affect the color of the ink when it’s printed, and white layers make that possible. 

Two-Sided Labels

Clear bottles open up the possibility of two-sided labels, where you can see the “inside” label through the bottle. Printing this type of label is complex and, you guessed it, requires white layers. 

Two-sided labels are actually printed on one side using layers and mirroring. The artwork has to be carefully designed, laid out, and prepared for press. White layers are used first to create a base on top of the clear material and second to help separate the “inside” and “outside” label graphics.

white layers on two sided spirit labels

How to Use White Layers

Understanding how to use white layers in your Photoshop, Illustrator, PDF, or other file type can take time. Designers should work closely with the label printer to identify where white layers are required. Here are a few tips that apply across the board. 

Understand What to Include & Exclude

The goal of the white layer will impact which graphics you should include in the white layer. In some instances, white layers are used to exclude certain graphics, while in other cases, white layers are used to show what needs to be included. Take time to learn how white layers are used for your label materials.

Naming Conventions 

If you’ve ever been in a messy .psd file, you know how important layer naming conventions are. In our case, we use “PMS White 1” and “PMS White 2”—with those exact spacing and capitalization conventions—to identify white layers. Our system recognizes these names as separate plates on our press, and makes sure the white layers do what they were intended to do.

Preview in Overprint

In order to see the effects of the white layers, you have to view the file with the OVERPRINT feature selected. Depending on the system you use, this feature is available in different menus:

  • In AI, it’s under View
  • In PC Acrobat, it’s under Edit, Preference
  • In MAC Acrobat, it’s under Preferences, Page Display

using overprint white layers on labels

Designers can adjust the opacity of the white layers to change coloring and effect. 

Review the Proof

At Labeltronix, we use advanced technology to provide proofs that visually show the end product. For example, if you’ll be printing on a black paper, the digital proof will show the black paper simulated on the background. When the label is printed, however, the black background will not print. 

Digital proofs can give a realistic preview of what a label will look like. However, sometimes, customers want a press proof to see the final product printed out. Press proofs are an added expense and can add to turnaround time—production, mailing, and review—but in some cases, that’s worth it. 

Know Your Needs

If you need specifications on using white layers for one of your labels, please contact us. We’ll send detailed instructions based on your materials, goals, and needs.

When in Doubt…

Our label printing experts are here to help make sure your label is crafted to your exact specifications. We can help make sure you have the information you need to properly configure design files and intelligently review proofs. 

Want to see for yourself some labels that used white ink layers? Request a sample.

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“HeArt of the Dragon”: Rebellium Wines Community Collaboration Project

This project, spearheaded by Blake Barrios, a talented artist and proprietor of Rebellium Wines, was not just about creating beautiful labels. It was about empowering local youth and supporting community initiatives. Blake’s vision to mentor these teens and guide them through creating a mural, which was then used as the wine label design, was truly inspiring.

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white layers in label printing

For digital designs, what you see is what you get. You create a .jpg, and that’s how it will show on a screen—barring any CMYK/RGB swaps and not exacting for variances in screen coloring. 

However, when it comes to print products, especially the advanced crafted premium labels like we work with at Labeltronix (an AWT Company), there’s a lot that goes into turning a digital design into a printed label. 

One tool we use is white layers. White layers offer us versatility for perfecting colors, finishes, and overall look for premium labels. They help create opacity so every element on the label displays exactly as expected.

For white layers to be effective, the designer and printer need to work together to make sure they aid in creating the final product. 

When to Use White Layers in Labeling

Because white layers help create opacity, they are used in a variety of applications for crafting labels. Here are the most common uses at Labeltronix.

Metallic & Holographic Overlay

For holographic and metallic elements, we use white layers to determine where a substrate will show through (and not show through). Anywhere there’s white in the white layer, the substrate (metallic, holographic, etc.) will NOT show. You can also adjust opacity to play with intensity. 

Dark or Black Paper

When you want a sleek, dark look for your product, you may want a black background. Instead of printing the black background onto white paper, you can use a black paper, like our midnight vellum. By using a black paper, when labels age or get scuffed, the look you intended still remains. If you print black ink on white paper, any scuffs will reveal the white paper below.

To print on dark paper, you often need a base white layer (or several layers) to go beneath where your artwork will be printed. By applying white layers to the dark paper, ink added on top of the white layer will display correctly and give your label the look you want to achieve. 

This concept also applies to other colored materials, like craft paper. You don’t want the color or material of the label paper to affect the color of the ink when it’s printed, and white layers make that possible. 

Two-Sided Labels

Clear bottles open up the possibility of two-sided labels, where you can see the “inside” label through the bottle. Printing this type of label is complex and, you guessed it, requires white layers. 

Two-sided labels are actually printed on one side using layers and mirroring. The artwork has to be carefully designed, laid out, and prepared for press. White layers are used first to create a base on top of the clear material and second to help separate the “inside” and “outside” label graphics.

white layers on two sided spirit labels

How to Use White Layers

Understanding how to use white layers in your Photoshop, Illustrator, PDF, or other file type can take time. Designers should work closely with the label printer to identify where white layers are required. Here are a few tips that apply across the board. 

Understand What to Include & Exclude

The goal of the white layer will impact which graphics you should include in the white layer. In some instances, white layers are used to exclude certain graphics, while in other cases, white layers are used to show what needs to be included. Take time to learn how white layers are used for your label materials.

Naming Conventions 

If you’ve ever been in a messy .psd file, you know how important layer naming conventions are. In our case, we use “PMS White 1” and “PMS White 2”—with those exact spacing and capitalization conventions—to identify white layers. Our system recognizes these names as separate plates on our press, and makes sure the white layers do what they were intended to do.

Preview in Overprint

In order to see the effects of the white layers, you have to view the file with the OVERPRINT feature selected. Depending on the system you use, this feature is available in different menus:

  • In AI, it’s under View
  • In PC Acrobat, it’s under Edit, Preference
  • In MAC Acrobat, it’s under Preferences, Page Display

using overprint white layers on labels

Designers can adjust the opacity of the white layers to change coloring and effect. 

Review the Proof

At Labeltronix, we use advanced technology to provide proofs that visually show the end product. For example, if you’ll be printing on a black paper, the digital proof will show the black paper simulated on the background. When the label is printed, however, the black background will not print. 

Digital proofs can give a realistic preview of what a label will look like. However, sometimes, customers want a press proof to see the final product printed out. Press proofs are an added expense and can add to turnaround time—production, mailing, and review—but in some cases, that’s worth it. 

Know Your Needs

If you need specifications on using white layers for one of your labels, please contact us. We’ll send detailed instructions based on your materials, goals, and needs.

When in Doubt…

Our label printing experts are here to help make sure your label is crafted to your exact specifications. We can help make sure you have the information you need to properly configure design files and intelligently review proofs. 

Want to see for yourself some labels that used white ink layers? Request a sample.