Labels are the perfect way to add extra information to something, particularly service labels, PAT testing stickers, or when a date needs to be added to something. Unfortunately not all labels are created equal when it comes to writing information on them, as different finishing options and materials used to achieve certain properties can have a negative impact on how print-receptive they are. Use this guide to find out more about the range of different label materials to write onto, and what may work best for your application.
Labels compatible with Pencils and Crayons
The best label material for writing on with pencils and crayons is definitely matt paper. As with standard paper sheets, uncoated paper is very print-receptive and works with anything from pencils to pens and markers.
One thing to watch out for paper labels is whether the label has a varnish or not, as a flood varnish coating (whether it’s gloss or matt) will cover the entire label with a layer between the actual paper and where you’re trying to write. This can be particularly problematic when using pencils. Coated papers can also be tricky to write on for the same reason.
Labels compatible with Ballpoint Pens and Biros
Ballpoint ink pens can often be more successful for writing onto labels than pencils, but still encounter similar issues with a flood coat varnish - the main difference is that with additional pressure, some ink can still be seen scratched onto the surface. Like with pencils, a matt label is much better than a gloss label.
Gloss synthetic materials such as gloss polypropylene is definitely a material to avoid with ballpoint pens. This material is not receptive to ink, with it smudging off and hardly leaving any remnants of written text.
However, matt synthetics such as matt polypropylene or matt polyethylene are great options for durable labels, as they have all the benefits of synthetic labels while still being compatible with ballpoint pens. This is because the matt texture is able to hold ink much more successfully than a gloss synthetic surface. We think that matt polyethylene in particular is an excellent print receptive material thanks to its smooth and soft surface.
Labels compatible with Permanent Markers
Permanent markers have the ability to write onto a range of non-synthetic labels and synthetic labels (both base materials and laminates). As permanent markers have a much thicker tip than biros or pencils, the ink is able to be transferred much more successfully.
Some laminates can provide issues with marker pens due to how they are manufactured, resulting in ink being unable to dry to the surface and wiping off easily. However, this disadvantage could turn into a big advantage if you’re looking for a dry-wipe label that needs to have information frequently changed or updated.
Durable Write-On Labels
Just because a label needs to be written onto, doesn’t mean that it can’t be durable. A very popular option for adding extra durability to a label, particularly in a way which protects writing, is by using a write and seal laminate. This is a specialist option in which a plastic layer is only part stuck to the base material, enabling you to write onto the label material, such as paper. Then a backing paper can be removed and the rest of the laminate adhered to the label, creating a highly durable seal.
What is the best label to write on?
So what is the best label material to write onto? There are a range of options for any application and use-case, with some providing a more bespoke solution, but typically we recommend one of two options.
If your label needs to be durable, we would suggest a write and seal matt synthetic label. This label combines the durability of synthetic materials with the ability to use regular pens, but even more durability is added through the ability to further protect the print with a part lamination. This is a great label option for electrical and mechanical testing, or even just for labelling items which could be subject to friction and rubbing.
If your label isn't being exposed to any sort of harsh conditions, and is just being applied to a normal surface such as a box or paper sheet, then a standard matt paper is likely to meet your needs well. These labels can cope with typical office use, and are quick, easy and cost effective.