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Beer and beverage label printing? This is how it’s done

Labels Beer and beverage label printing? This is how it’s done


by Danny Mertens

Not one label is the same - different applications require different digital technology, which is precisely why printing is such an exciting business. Pharma, food, wine & spirits, durables, health & beauty or industrial chemicals: every label comes with its own aesthetic and functional requirements. In this article, we focus on beer and beverage label printing, a niche of label printing that requires a specific approach in order to get the desired white opacity level and look & feel of the end product.

Dry toner and UV inkjet

The no-label look, a capability provided by clear-on-clear label materials, has transformed beer labels into a strong growth market for the self adhesive label market, at the expense of wet-glue labels, which lost a significant market share. The growth of the clear-on-clear adhesive labels is driven by the fact that they provide more capabilities regarding aesthetics, variation in look & feel etc. In the following paragraphs, we tell you exactly which printing technology you need to achieve the best result with these labels.

Dry toner and UV inkjet are great for beverage label printing

Beverage labels can be divided in two types:

1) craft beer labels

  • paper-based labels
  • natural or coated paper facestock
  • 4 color printing

2) premium labels

  • clear on clear material
  • BoPP facestock
  • high white opacity is required to make the color standout

Regardless of the type, Xeikon recommends both dry toner and UV inkjet printing technology for a number of reasons.


1) Substrates

Two factors determine if a printing technology is suitable for a certain substrate: adhesion (if and how well the printed image stays fixed to the substrate) and pigment penetration (if and how well the ink or toner penetrates the substrate). For beverage labels, adhesion should be high in different conditions (in a refrigerator, outdoor, in an icebucket…), while pigment penetration should be avoided at all cost as this reduces color strength and implodes the color gamut.

The two common substrates consist of paper or BoPP facestock. Due to its chemical affinity dry toner is a great choice for both paper and BoPP facestock. It can be used without any coating or primer and still achieve good adhesion and no pigment penetration. UV-curable inkjet, due to its low viscosity (6 times lower than UV flexo), can penetrate paper so it is recommended to use a primer. This will improve the UV curing process and ensure a proper image quality. For BoPP facestock you need to ensure a high enough surface tension to ensure a proper spread of the UV inkjet ink.

2) White opacity

For premium beverage labels (clear on clear labels) a sufficient level of white opacity is required. The opacity of white is determined by the concentration of pigments, pigment particle size and the layer thickness that can be achieved. Dry toner scores well on both accounts as the technology allows for thick toner layers. White dry toner combines the highest pigment load with the largest particle size, offering white layers of an opacity that is higher than that of liquid toner, in a single pass.

For UV-curable inks used in single-pass inkjet systems, the pigment particle size should be small enough to avoid nozzle clogging. Also, the required viscosity of the inks does limit the maximum possible pigment load. However, inkjet inks are capable of achieving an opacity comparable to that of screen printing, provided the printhead features a low native resolution, producing a large-sized droplet, which allows for high ink lay-down.

3) Look and feel

Dry toner gives a matte impression which, by applying a varnish, can give a glossy impression. When offset quality is required this technology is preferable. UV inkjet gives a very high gloss and tactile impression, which can appeal to certain people. The image details are not as sharp as dry toner but this is not necessarily a requirement (‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’). The appearance of both technologies is not influenced when the labels get in touch with the water (condense) on the outside of the bottle.


Considering to print your beer and beverage labels digitally, in line with the market demands? Then a dry toner or UV-inkjet digital press is your best option. The Xeikon PX3000 combines our trademark quality, versatility and speed with the possibilities of inkjet. The Xeikon CX3 is our top of the line choice for dry toner printing.


End-use label application Dry toner UV inkjet
Food xx not recommended
Beverage xx (offset quality) xx (tactile look and feel)
Wine & Spirits xx too challenging a material
Pharma xx (finest detail in print) Xeikon CX3
Durable / Industrial Varnish or lamination required xx (durability)
Health & beauty xx (offset quality) xx (tactile look and feel)
Chemical Varnish or lamination required xx (durability)

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More on food label printing? Would you like a more in-depth look at the different digital printing technologies?

For our complete digital label press line-up, visit our label pages.

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