Your Label Design Questions Answered

Webinar Label DesignBy David Cole

An expertly crafted label is a joy to behold, which means award-winning designer David Cole is responsible for a great deal of joy indeed. He graciously agreed to answer your label questions following our recent free webinar “Designing Labels: Tips that will Stick with You.” Check out his thoughts below, and a recording of that popular webinar right here.


Do you create some of the illustrations or strictly just design?
I do some and I hire out for some; depends on the style I need – whether I can do it or not. There’s a world of illustration styles and I can only do a few of them proficiently. For anything outside of my skillset, I hire someone who specializes in the style I’m looking for.

Is there a better natural stock to use for refrigerated bottles?
I haven’t tested them all. Might be some that work better than others. Varnishes and laminates will help the natural stocks survive moisture. There are many options and some printers have proprietary techniques to improve the moisture resistance of even natural fiber stocks. But only looking at a specific stock and a specific usage and testing it will really tell. Your printer can cut off some blank label stock for you to try and compare if you are really attracted to something in particular.

What does BSMP stand for?
Bright Silver Metalized Paper. This is a natural fiber paper with a subtle fiber texture and white back as opposed to Mylar film, which looks very similar but is ultra-glassy smooth and is silver on both sides (and is polyester, not paper).

I noticed you have a silhouette cameo. Is that for fun or for prototyping labels?
Labels are easy and small enough to cut out by hand that it doesn’t really help with that. I bought it for making folding carton mockups with complicated die-lines, folding flaps, etc. I do lots of packaging outside of just labels. But now that I have it, I do sometimes use it for fun stuff like cut-out vinyl stickers, spray-paint stencils and goofy stuff like Halloween party decorations.

Shouldn’t label printers be the experts on all that?
Not sure what this is referring to. But regardless, the answer is YES! Talk to your printer and they can handle A LOT of this stuff for you. I just prefer to know as much about this stuff as I can so I can have as much control as possible, make informed decisions and break the rules intentionally when needed.

Did you try Fiberstone (stone + plastic)?
Never heard of it I’ll check it out. Thanks.

Why do you prefer flexography over offset printing?
I don’t prefer one over the other. They serve two different needs. Flexography is for printing roll labels. Lithography is for printing cut sheets (business cards, brochures, etc.). Lithography is great unless you need a roll label. Then it won’t help you much.

Webinar Label Design


What are some popular labels that you have designed?
Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s Bourbon is getting the most attention currently. I have a lot of other projects in progress for some big name distillers which are sure to be recognizable and have national distribution, but none of them are public yet.

Webinar Label Design

Webinar Label Design


What is the embossing quality that can be achieved on metalized paper?
The weight of the paper is the biggest factor when embossing. Thicker paper can emboss deeper. The metalized paper that I’ve used is about 60 lb. weight (pretty light), and it seems to me that it embosses as well as other papers of that weight, although I haven’t made a careful comparison.

Which 3D software was used to create these examples? They look great.

I would love to know if he also chooses the bottle shape and size for his clients or just does the labels for existing bottles. If he chooses or designs the bottle, does he have recommendations for vendors that create the bottles.
Sometimes the bottle shape is already determined, sometimes I get to select a stock bottle, and sometimes I get to design a new bottle from scratch myself. I have some sourcing reps in China that I use for manufacturing new molds. For selecting stock bottles there are a lot of glass companies out there – too many to list – but here’s a few with whom I’ve worked. A list like this will keep you plenty busy: O-I Glass, Universal Packaging, Phoenix Packaging, Saxco, Estal, VetroElite, Crafters, Global Packaging, Bruni, Vetreria Etrusca, Saver Glass, and Tricor Braun.

Webinar Label Design


What is the best resource for finding a roll label printer to work directly with?
If you don’t have a personal recommendation and Google isn’t getting you there, I might try talking to a winery or local manufacturer and asking them who prints their label. They have no reason to be secretive about that. You might also try to meet your local Neenah rep and see which shops they supply. And they might just be able to get you a swatchbook while they are at it. Most people are happy to help and connect you with their professional partners. Also, many of my printer relationships came from working with a new client who already had a label printer for their existing products. I always ask who their current printer is in case they have loyalty to them, and it never hurts to have another connection.

Can you recommend good digital label printers in Chicago and New York areas?
I don’t know any, sorry. But Tari and Caz (listed below) have printed for me for clients in New York, Kentucky and Arizona, among others. Labels are small and easy to ship. I’ve conducted remote press checks via email and text with iPhone photos, and the results have been fantastic.

Any recommendations for a good printer in or near Seattle?
I have some great partners in Seattle. Much success with Elite label ([email protected]). I also have a good relationship with Trysk Print ([email protected]). There are also many others who are good at what they do, although I haven’t worked with them as much (or recently) as Tari and Caz: Labels West is great. Also Richmark, Advance Label, Union Bay Label.

Webinar Label Design


Nobody asked, but I have to add this:
I should mention that Matte Litho and Linen paper stock DO have their place and purpose. Especially Matte Litho, which is very useful for grocery items. I’ve just had it offered to me as an equivalent to uncoated paper (which it is not) for premium spirits or wine projects one too many times. It’s not the same! But by all means… for a great many other products, it’s just fine. It’s cheap, which is nice. I’ve used it before and have no complaints when it’s used for the right projects.


David ColeDavid Cole is founder of David Cole Creative. For more than a decade, he’s created standout boxes, bags, wrappers, point-of-purchase displays, and labels for clients such as Boudreau’s Bitters, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Canon Whiskey & Bitters Emporium, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, EMP Museum, E. & J. Gallo, Julep Cosmetics, Luxco, Modernist Cuisine, Beam Global, Starbucks Coffee, and Woodinville Whiskey Co.

  1. Amy Winters 5 years ago

    I travel to a lot of places because it is what I do for work and I was interested in how printed labels get designed for businesses. As I was reading through your article you answer several different questions, and I noticed one in particular about find a label printer to work with, you state that if you can’t google it to find a local manufacturer and ask who prints their labels. Thank you for taking the time to answer so many questions about the design and printed labels.

    • Aaron Berman 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Amy – they really do mean a lot to us 🙂

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