Understanding Label Orientation (Labels on Rolls)

When it comes to buying blank label rolls, you’ll want to pay special attention to the label’s orientation on the roll. Each label has a width and a height — such as 2” x 4” — with the width being the first number and the height being the second number. Thus, a 2” x 4” label is 2 inches wide on the roll and 4 inches tall – or long as it wraps around the label roll. See the label roll image below as used in most label printers.

Figure 1 Label rolls are typically placed in label printers in this position. The labels are fed through the printer with the width as the leading edge.
Figure 1 Label rolls are typically placed in label printers in this position. The labels are fed through the printer with the width as the leading edge.

Standard Label Sizing

First, you need to know how labels are sized. Blank labels are always sized according to the following convention: Width x Height. Thus, if you see a label described as a 2” x 6” label, that means the label is two inches wide and six inches tall. This is an industry standard. (See the roll image above)

When ordering blank labels or custom labels, you should also follow this convention. You should also be aware of how the label’s orientation affects the label application process.

The Difference between Similarly Sized Labels on a Roll is Orientation

Let’s say you need a label that is four inches by three inches. Which should you get, a 4” x 3” or a 3” by 4”? While a 4” x 3” label is similar to a 3” x 4” label, there’s an important distinction as far as how the labels are oriented on the roll. With the 4” x 3” label, the label’s width is 4 inches across the width of the roll and its height is 3 inches. With the 3” x 4” label, the label is 3 inches wide across the width of the roll and 4 inches tall.

Look at the image of a typical label on a roll above. The width is the measurement spanning across the width of the label roll and the height is the measurement off the label on the roll as it winds around the label roll.

Why Label Orientation Matters

If you intend to hand apply your labels, label orientation isn’t crucial as you can adjust your print settings and rotate the label accordingly when applying it to your product. However, if you will be using a label dispenser, label applicator or a machine to apply your labels to your products, label orientation is critical. Your label orientation on the roll must match that of the label applicator. Otherwise, your labels will be applied sideways!

For example, look at the image of the label exiting the printer below. Notice the label orientation as the labels emerge from the printer. Now look at the image of the label applicator and wine bottle. Notice the orientation of the label being applied. See how the two label orientations match? Remember, the label roll feeds the label applicator, so the orientation needs to be an exact match.

Figure 2 Printer with label roll installed. Notice how the width of the label is the leading edge.
Figure 2 Printer with label roll installed. Notice how the width of the label is the leading edge.

In this example, the 4-inch width of the label is intended to become the 4-inch height of the wine bottle label because the wine bottle must be laid on its side in the applicator. This type of scenario causes a lot of confusion. However, if you were to purchase 3” x 4” wine labels on a roll and then place that roll in the label applicator, the 3-inch width becomes the 3” height of the label once applied to the bottle. See the applicator image below. The “width” is the label width on the roll your purchased.

Figure 3 Label roll in label applicator being applied to a wine bottle. Notice how the width is once again the leading edge and in the same position as the labels on the roll.
Figure 3 Label roll in label applicator being applied to a wine bottle. Notice how the width is once again the leading edge and in the same position as the labels on the roll.

Tips for Choosing the Right Label Orientation

If you plan on using a label applicator with your finished labels, it’s important to visualize your printed labels being applied onto your product.

Will your product be placed in the applicator sideways, like the wine bottle in the example above? If so, the width of the physical label on the roll will ultimately become the height of the label. When designing and printing the label, you will need to rotate the design accordingly.

When ordering custom labels or determining which blank labels to buy, it’s important to pay attention and choose the product with the correct width and height for your needs. For example, choosing a 4” x 3” or a 3” x 4” (or a 2” x 6” versus a 6” x 2”) would depend on how the label will be applied to your product.

We are committed to helping you order the correct blank labels from us. If you need any help understanding which label orientation is right for your product, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

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