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Pressure Sensitive vs. Shrink Sleeve Label Application

by Donna Wolfe | Jan 11, 2024

There is an ongoing and rigorous debate about which label technology is best. Both Pressure Sensitive and Shrink Sleeve label applications have their place. The choice between the two really depends on your needs and how each piece of machinery aligns with your company’s brand and brand packaging strategy. This article highlights some of the main differences between the two label applications. You can also download the infographic for quick reference. 

Pack Formats

Packaging formats play a big role in determining which label technology will work best for your needs. Pressure Sensitive Labeling works only with flat panel shaped packaging, while Shrink Sleeves work well for more complex shapes, allowing for full body decoration on curved items.

Integration Ease

Floor space and ease of integration are also key considerations in labeling application decisions. Pressure Sensitive labeling machines utilize a smaller footprint-- they take up less space-- and are easy to integrate into existing packaging lines.  Shrink Sleeve labeling machines require a larger operating space, to accommodate the shrink tunnel requirements.

Shelf Appeal

Both shrink sleeve and pressure sensitive labels provide strong shelf appeal for your products. Shrink sleeve application enables full-body decoration, giving brand owners the best opportunity to utilize color and shape to make their products stand out from any angle on shelf. Pressure Sensitive labels utilize embossing, high resolution printing, and 3D graphics to help products stand out in unique ways.

Capital Expenses

While there are different ranges of expense for each application based on quality, speed, and durability, on average Pressure Sensitive labeling machines cost less than their shrink sleeve counterparts.  This is due to the two-stage process required to apply and shrink a shrink sleeve label. In general pressure sensitive labels cost less per label than shrink sleeves.  It is important to evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to help determine which labeling option works best for your organization.

Tamper Evident/Security  

If your packaging requires tamper evident or security labeling, both Pressure Sensitive and Shrink Sleeve label applications can create a tamper evident seal. The Shrink Sleeve label application is the easier method to integrate tamper evident labeling. You can have a small machine dedicated to tamper evident labeling added to a production line. While for Pressure Sensitive applications, it needs to be integrated within the PS labeler and would need to be planned from the initial purchase of the labeler.

Operational Requirements

Another consideration when choosing between Pressure Sensitive and Shrink Sleeve label applications is the type of production line you are running. Shrink Sleeve applicators require accumulation handling for intermittent (start/stop) production lines. This requirement is driven specifically by the need for a steady state of product flow into and out of the shrink tunnel to maintain a high-quality product presentation.

Temperature Sensitivity

Depending on your manufacturing environment, Pressure Sensitive labeling may be the most effective labeling solution for you. Pressure Sensitive labeling applicators can perform in a variety of different temperature states. An environment where condensation occurs may require some additional equipment to dry the container prior to Shrink Sleeve product decoration.


Your company’s sustainability strategy may also impact your choice of label and labeler. Pressure Sensitive Machines can accommodate all preformed materials (PP, PET, glass, cardboard, etc.) offering numerous labeling options that impact sustainability in various ways. Shrink Sleeve labels on the other hand can be easily removed by the consumer and discarded to allow for container recycling without concern for label recyclability.

In Conclusion

In the end, there are numerous considerations to keep in mind when choosing between Shrink Sleeve and Pressure Sensitive Labels/labelers. The choice often comes down to your company’s specific needs. BW Integrated Systems has put together a quick reference infographic for you.

If you need assistance in choosing what application works best for you, contact us.