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March 12, 2021

Printed or Woven: Which Label Is Best For Your Business?

By: Peter Gregory

Dashes Graphic

If you’re about to order your first batch of clothing labels, the first question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you should get woven or printed labels. Don’t worry — you’ve come to the right place! Here at GB Labels, we’ve been in the label making business for decades. We’ve produced literally millions of both woven and printed labels over the years and we know everything there is to know. 

In this article, you’ll learn the fundamental differences between woven and printed labels. We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of both types of label, and we’ll give you a handy downloadable checklist that you can print out and keep. 

Just read on and you’ll never get stuck on the woven/printed question ever again! 

Difference between Woven and Printed Labels

In the garment labelling industry, designers use both printed labels and woven labels. Both labels have their strengths and weaknesses — it all depends on what you need the label to do. 

The fundamental difference between the two types of label is this:

  • With a printed label, the design is ‘printed’ onto one side of a blank woven label using ink.
  • With a woven label, the design is built in to the fabric itself using different-coloured threads. 

Here’s a close-up of how your pattern might look on a printed (P) versus a woven (W) label. As you can see, you can get a much higher definition on a printed label — the downside is that the ink can rub off over time. A well-designed woven label will still look crisp to the naked eye, but you can’t pack in hundreds of different colours:

Printed Labels: your design is applied to the surface of a ‘blank’ woven label
Woven Labels: your design is an integral part of the fabric itself

Woven vs Printed: The Pros and Cons

I’m a narrow fabrics weaver by trade, so I’m always going to be slightly biased towards woven labels, but I’ll try to stick to the facts here and give you an impartial review of both:

Woven Labels: Great For Texture, Poor For Complex Details

In the hands of an expert designer and weaver, you can get a truly beautiful woven label, packed with fine vivid detail, with an incredible texture. You have to work with the limitations of the weaving process to get the result you want, however, and that puts some people off. 

You’re best off sticking to no more than 3-5 different colours on a woven label. A woven label starts to get bulky and lose some of its definition as the number of colours and the amount of fine details increase. 

You need to be slightly flexible with fonts on a woven label. The precise kerning, serifs and curvature of your font may need to be adjusted slightly to match the warp and weft of the woven label. 

A woven label’s design will never ‘rub off’. The coloured threads that make up your label’s design run through the fabric itself, so your label will look sharp for its full lifespan. 

Woven labels add a touch of luxury to any garment. They’re tactile, finely constructed and beautiful. If you’re trying to impress your wearer, there’s no better option.

Woven labels have two sides: a ‘good’ front side where the pattern looks perfect, and a ‘messy’ back side where any stray threads can be seen. Because of this, you should always fold or border-stitch a woven label. 

Woven Labels can take a little longer to produce. The looms we use (based in south west Wales) are in high demand and there’s almost always a queue of work for the loom to get through.

Printed Labels: Great For Detail, Poor For Texture

Printed labels are great for cramming lots of colours and high-definition detail onto a label. Because you’re using ink (printed onto a blank satin-woven surface), there’s nothing stopping you from adding every colour of the rainbow to your label if that’s what you want to do.

Pretty much pixel-for-pixel, the design you created on your computer screen will match the design you get on your printed label. 

Another good thing is that printed labels add no bulk to a design. This makes them a popular choice for things like wash care labels on fast fashion items. You can cram on lots of wash care instructions, in any language you need, and the wearer of your product won’t feel a difference. 

Printed labels do rub off over time. The ink we use in our printed labels is of the highest industrial grade, but there’s no avoiding the fact that the more you rub or wash a printed label, the thinner the ink becomes. If you need a really durable design that lasts for the whole lifespan of the garment, a woven label is your best option. 

Printed labels can look a little cheap to some consumers. If you’re designing a high-end garment like a wedding dress or suit then a printed label could drag down the overall premium feel of your product. If you’re in branded merchandise or fast fashion where that’s less of a concern, then it’s not really a problem. The only luxury item which breaks this rule is underwear — you’ll often find premium underwear uses printed labels, purely because it’s the smoothest, thinnest, softest option. 

How to pick the best option for your business:

Every project is different — there will be times when a woven label is the best choice, times when you can only go printed, and times when both options are available to you.

We’ve come up with a quick checklist to help you decide which label type you need. Just scroll down to see the checklist, or download a print-friendly version here

Still Can’t Decide? Let Your Design Make The Choice For You!

Don’t worry too much if you’re still on the fence. The decision about whether your label should be woven or printed should really come from the design itself. If you have a high-definition design, go printed, and if you want lots of luxurious texture, go woven!

We can send you a sample pack which includes both options so that you can see and feel both options up-close. Just fill in our sample pack request form and we’ll take it from there!

Thanks for reading!


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