Making Plastic Labels

Excuse me if this is a little too long and detailed, if you already know all of this then that is good but consider that some people may not.

It is sometimes useful to make a plastic label to stick somewhere. I have made many of these labels and they are really simple to make at home with a modest amount of equipment and time.

First you need a design. I am not going to tell you how to do this because you already know. Draw your design in a software application of your choosing. Next you need to print it out on acetate sheet in reverse (i.e. a mirror image). This is because you want the acetate on the outside of the label to protect the print.

If the software you use allows reversed printing then that is good but if it doesn’t you will need to print your design to a .PDF file as a reversed image. There is a free PDF printer called PDF Creator which allows reversed printing. It is hidden away in the properties behind the 'Advanced’ button under ‘Postscript Options’.

Be aware that PDF Creator defaults to ‘Fit to Page’ so for instance an A4 page on the software I use will be printed at 97% of it’s actual size, this is fine for some labels but not for most. Set the print to ‘Actual Size’ to get the image to be the size you expect.

Once you have an image printed on the acetate sheet in reverse you need to stick it on a backing sheet and then cut it to size.

There was a company called Mega Electronics which sold very good backing sheets for labeling but they went out of business due to the pandemic. The best replacement I have found so far is from Amazon.

Printers vary, if you have printed the acetate using an inkjet printer then the label will not be colour fast and may suffer from moisture ingress from the edges if the label is in a wet environment. It will also be more difficult to stick down without getting air bubbles stuck behind the acetate.

So the procedure for an inkjet print is to cut a piece of backing sheet just a little larger than the label and then peel off one side of the backing sheet exposing the sticky. Ensure the acetate is free of dust then place it gently on the sticky backing sheet with the printing in the centre then rub it down with your thumbnail or an ink roller from the centre outwards. Then cut the label to size.

For a laser printer the ink is waterproof and the dyes are much more resistant to light so they don’t fade as much with time.

You can use the same procedure as for an inkjet printer but there is a better (but more messy) way. This is to use a tray (with raised sides), put a small depth of water in the tray and drop a tiny amount of detergent into the water, just enough to break the surface tension. Just touch the nozzle of the detergent bottle then dip you finger in the water. Cut a piece of backing sheet to size and immerse it in the water, the water must cover it. Then place the acetate sheet in the water over the backing sheet and push it down onto the backing sheet. Then force out the water and bubbles of air by pressing in the middle and gradually working the water out towards the edge. An ink roller definitely helps this process very much. This way you get no air bubbles and the water gradually disappears.

If you have used the water process then you need to leave the label for about a day to dry out and stick well. Don’t use the water process for an inkjet print because the ink will run.

You will almost always need another sheet of coloured plastic because the backing sheet from Amazon is translucent. The backing sheets from Mega were made in different colours but they are no longer available. So stick the label onto a piece of coloured sticky back plastic. This extra layer makes the label a bit thicker but I have no way around that at this time.

Cut the label to size once it has dried and there you have a plastic label ready to go.

When you want to use it just peel off the protective sheet from the other side of the backing sheet or the sticky back plastic and stick your label where you need it.

I use this for front panel labels for electronic equipment but I have also used it for labels for drawers and doors and containers.

The largest size I can do is A4.

I hope this helps someone.

If anyone knows of any supplier of sheets of coloured plastic (especially White) with adhesive on both sides then please let me know.

Just don’t use em anywhere you don’t want to ruin the paint or remove the finish :grin:

Of course there are white backers with adhesive on both sides. Print mount comes to mind. Again though, that stuff is so aggressive you aren’t going to press errant air bubbles out with a hand roller.
We put it on with a mounting press.

But more power to you if you want to do this. I’d just call a local sign shop and get them printed UV, Gerber Edge or solvent onto white stock. Saves time for other things.

Working the UK we use Labels Direct but I’ve never been asked for labels with adhesive on both sides.

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The OP wants the double sided adhesive to apply to the clear print. On side to stick to the ink (always an iffy proposition with wax type laser toner) and one side to stick to the surface they want to ruin.

The label doesn’t have sticky on both sides the sticky is to stick to the acetate, the sticky on the other side sticks to the surface on which you want to stick the label, the front of the label is acetate.

Getting custom printed labels tends to be very expensive in my experience.

The labels are meant to be permanent but if you do ever want to remove one the best way to deal with the sticky left behind is to dissolve it with a light oil.

The other point about the interaction of adhesive with print is valid, with a laser printer there are no problems if the printing doesn’t take up large solid areas, i.e. text where most of the space is blank and only a small area is covered in toner. Where you will get a problem is with a large area covered with a solid colour.

With an inkjet printer the adhesion is good over the whole label whatever the printing is like but there is another problem, the ink diffuses into the adhesive so the edges eventually become fuzzy but this takes about three to five years to become noticeable unless you use a magnifying glass.

This method is still useful for quick labels where you don’t want to spend much money.

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